Why doesn't the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion go to Muslim reformers?

It is far past the time when religious reformers in the Muslim world should be honored.

The Templeton Prize is an award presented by the Templeton Foundation. The foundation was created in 1972 by a billionaire investor. The name of the prize was recently changed to the unwieldy ´Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities".  A wide range of people have been given the prize, including evangelists, a physicist, social reformers, pacifists, the Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, priests and the Dalai Lama.

Here is a modest proposal.

Muslim extremism is on the rise around the world, resulting in violence, protests, and murder. People have called for a reformation in Islam that would check the extremists. Among them have been Ayann Hirsi Ali, a heroic women who has faced death threats for pointing out the misogyny and genital mutilation that is practiced in swaths of the Muslim world. Also, Asra Q. Nomani has written a must-read Washington Post column (hat tip: Lauri Regan) about efforts by others in the Muslim community who have tried to combat the abuse of Islam. She writes of the dangers faced by those who want to reform the religion and who want to stop the extremism:

You have shamed the community,” a fellow Muslim in Morgantown, W.Va., said to me as we sat in a Panera Bread in 2004. “Stop writing.”

Then 38, I had just written an essay for The Washington Post’s Outlook section arguing that women should be allowed to pray in the main halls of mosques, rather than in segregated spaces, as most mosques in America are arranged. An American Muslim born in India, I grew up in a tolerant but conservative family. In my hometown mosque, I had disobeyed the rules and prayed in the men’s area, about 20 feet behind the men gathered for Ramadan prayers.

Later, an all-male tribunal tried to ban me. An elder suggested having men surround me at the mosque so that I would be “scared off.” Now the man across the table was telling me to shut up.

“I won’t stop writing,” I said.

It was the first time a fellow Muslim had pressed me to refrain from criticizing the way our faith was practiced. But in the past decade, such attempts at censorship have become more common. This is largely because of the rising power and influence of the “ghairat brigade,” an honor corps that tries to silence debate on extremist ideology in order to protect the image of Islam. It meets even sound critiques. (snip)

During the past decade, a loose honor brigade has sprung up, in part funded and supported by the OIC through annual conferences, reports and communiques. It’s made up of politicians, diplomats, writers, academics, bloggers and activists. (snip)

Alongside the honor brigade’s official channel, a community of self-styled blasphemy police — from anonymous blogs such as LoonWatch.com and Ikhras.com to a large and disparate cast of social-media activists — arose and began trying to control the debate on Islam. This wider corps throws the label of “Islamophobe” on pundits, journalists and others who dare to talk about extremist ideology in the religion. Their targets are as large as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and as small as me.

There are many terror-linked Muslim groups in America who insult, intimidate, censor and threaten Muslim reformers. They get craven colleges to cancel appearances and honorary degrees.

There are other brave reformers, of course, who are fighting lonely battles. They include Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a target of these efforts to intimidate fellow Muslims -- and a contributor to American Thinker.

Another recipient might be Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi who acknowledged that there was an ideology problem in Islam and said, “ We need to revolutionize our religion” -- a brave speech that merited almost no attention in most major media outlets in the West, more focused on the fictional Islamophobia and providing cover and rationales for terrorism and murder committed by Muslim radicals ( or “activists” as “journalist” Christiane Amanpour depicted the Paris killers on CNN )

Major figures and leaders in Islam justify murder, gloat over beheadings, torture and hang gays, children and women and spread terrorism. They are backed by billions in oil money. Then there are those lonely figures who battle these forces as they try to reform and modernize Islam.

The board of directors of the Templeton Foundation should offer support to them, as we all should.

It is far past the time when religious reformers in the Muslim world should be honored.

The Templeton Prize is an award presented by the Templeton Foundation. The foundation was created in 1972 by a billionaire investor. The name of the prize was recently changed to the unwieldy ´Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities".  A wide range of people have been given the prize, including evangelists, a physicist, social reformers, pacifists, the Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, priests and the Dalai Lama.

Here is a modest proposal.

Muslim extremism is on the rise around the world, resulting in violence, protests, and murder. People have called for a reformation in Islam that would check the extremists. Among them have been Ayann Hirsi Ali, a heroic women who has faced death threats for pointing out the misogyny and genital mutilation that is practiced in swaths of the Muslim world. Also, Asra Q. Nomani has written a must-read Washington Post column (hat tip: Lauri Regan) about efforts by others in the Muslim community who have tried to combat the abuse of Islam. She writes of the dangers faced by those who want to reform the religion and who want to stop the extremism:

You have shamed the community,” a fellow Muslim in Morgantown, W.Va., said to me as we sat in a Panera Bread in 2004. “Stop writing.”

Then 38, I had just written an essay for The Washington Post’s Outlook section arguing that women should be allowed to pray in the main halls of mosques, rather than in segregated spaces, as most mosques in America are arranged. An American Muslim born in India, I grew up in a tolerant but conservative family. In my hometown mosque, I had disobeyed the rules and prayed in the men’s area, about 20 feet behind the men gathered for Ramadan prayers.

Later, an all-male tribunal tried to ban me. An elder suggested having men surround me at the mosque so that I would be “scared off.” Now the man across the table was telling me to shut up.

“I won’t stop writing,” I said.

It was the first time a fellow Muslim had pressed me to refrain from criticizing the way our faith was practiced. But in the past decade, such attempts at censorship have become more common. This is largely because of the rising power and influence of the “ghairat brigade,” an honor corps that tries to silence debate on extremist ideology in order to protect the image of Islam. It meets even sound critiques. (snip)

During the past decade, a loose honor brigade has sprung up, in part funded and supported by the OIC through annual conferences, reports and communiques. It’s made up of politicians, diplomats, writers, academics, bloggers and activists. (snip)

Alongside the honor brigade’s official channel, a community of self-styled blasphemy police — from anonymous blogs such as LoonWatch.com and Ikhras.com to a large and disparate cast of social-media activists — arose and began trying to control the debate on Islam. This wider corps throws the label of “Islamophobe” on pundits, journalists and others who dare to talk about extremist ideology in the religion. Their targets are as large as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and as small as me.

There are many terror-linked Muslim groups in America who insult, intimidate, censor and threaten Muslim reformers. They get craven colleges to cancel appearances and honorary degrees.

There are other brave reformers, of course, who are fighting lonely battles. They include Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and a target of these efforts to intimidate fellow Muslims -- and a contributor to American Thinker.

Another recipient might be Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi who acknowledged that there was an ideology problem in Islam and said, “ We need to revolutionize our religion” -- a brave speech that merited almost no attention in most major media outlets in the West, more focused on the fictional Islamophobia and providing cover and rationales for terrorism and murder committed by Muslim radicals ( or “activists” as “journalist” Christiane Amanpour depicted the Paris killers on CNN )

Major figures and leaders in Islam justify murder, gloat over beheadings, torture and hang gays, children and women and spread terrorism. They are backed by billions in oil money. Then there are those lonely figures who battle these forces as they try to reform and modernize Islam.

The board of directors of the Templeton Foundation should offer support to them, as we all should.