Usama Hasan, an imam attached to the Quilliam Foundation, argues in the Times that Islam is steadily adapting to modernity. It has been doing so since the nineteenth century, when the Ottoman Empire launched certain reforms. Islam should not be judged by a few marginal hiccups in this process.
‘Isis follows a fundamentalist and selective reading of scripture which is ahistorical and heretical. They are linked to Islam and the Koran in the way the Ku Klux Klan and Anders Breivik are linked to Christianity and the Bible.’
This is not helpful. For extremely reactionary Christians have not gained power in a large proportion of the traditionally Christian world. He soon admits that this is what has happened in Islam: in recent times, ‘fundamentalist [Muslim] regimes…have reinstated some…abhorrent practices. These regimes include those of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, northern Nigeria — and now Isis.’ Hmm, that’s a bit less marginal than a few isolated nutters with guns.
Why not a bit more honesty? Why this reheating of vagueness and complacency, and false equivalence with Christian-influenced extremism? Honesty might look like this: ‘Islam needs to make a clear break with its theocratic past and present. A very distinctive “reformed Islam” must emerge which very clearly denounces the theocratic tendency.’
Let us be less tolerant of vague claims that the vast majority of Muslims already affirm modern democratic values. Let us demand some clear distinctions.