Friday, December 7, 2007

The Qur'anist Movement: an interview with Thomas Haidon

KoranBy Jamie Glazov

Frontpage Interview's guest today is Thomas Haidon, a Muslim commentator on human rights, counter-terrorism and Islamic affairs. He is active in the Qur'anist movement and works with a number of Islamic reform organisations as an advisor. He has provided guidance to several governments on counter-terrorism issues and his works have been published in legal periodicals, and other media. Mr. Haidon has also provided advice to and worked for United Nations agencies in Sudan and Indonesia.

FP: Thomas Haidon, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Haidon: Thank you, it's a pleasure to speak with you.

FP: So what's going on with the effort of moderate Muslims to reform Islam? It doesn't seem to be getting very far. How come? There appears to be a failure of moderate Muslims to make any real ground in developing a counter-jihad strategy. Why is this?

Haidon: The current Islamic reform movement, if it can be called a movement, is incoherent. Collectively the efforts of moderate Muslims to reform Islam have been highly disorganized, and generally ineffective. In general, Moderate Muslims reformers have been unable to move beyond the rhetoric towards developing real, theological solutions and alternatives to Islamism. As a foundational starting point, there is no precise definition of moderate Islam or moderate Muslims, only characteristics and assumptions.

In 2002 and 2003, a number of mid-size moderate Muslim organisations were established which sought to advocate for a moderate vision of Islam. Unfortunately, these groups have all but faded from existence, and generally exist in name only. There are a number of reasons for this. The primary reason is that these groups failed to develop effective strategic approaches and theological platform to combat Islamist ideology. An organisation that merely points out problems or symptoms of a problem without proffering effective counter-solutions will not have a sustainable future. These groups have done little to convince traditional Muslims that the path to reform is necessary. The case for reform has simply not been made well enough.

Modernising and reforming Islam is arguably one of the most complex and pressing policy questions confronting civilization. The task is formidable: to develop a strategic reformist framework that provides a theological response to Islamist ideology. Solutions and answers have to be robust and comprehensive. I have seen a number of Islamist scholars and non-Muslim commentators who have completely discredited Islamic reformist platforms. Merely saying Islam needs reform won't make it so.

Other reformers have made a number of tactical errors that have hindered their progress. A strategic approach to Islamic reform necessitates "playing the game" to a degree. By becoming a perceived "darling" of the so-called "right", Muslim reformers will never gain acceptance in the wider Muslim world. Admittedly, it is a difficult balance to achieve. Effective reformers must try and strike a balance, and not appear to be so aligned with Western interests that they disenfranchise traditional Muslims. There has to be an element of gradualism. Some well intentioned reformers have ignored this. While this notion may seem a bit unpalatable to your readers it is necessary for a sustainable reform.

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Source: FrontPage Magazine

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