Salman Rushdie On Islamic Reform

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The controversial author speaks out about the need for change within the Islamic community. Now, I don’t know if he’s really going to make that much of a difference within Muslim communities, but it’s good to hear more voices saying that people need to wake up and acknowledge the terrorists in their own midst.

FromThe Washington Post comes Salman Rushdie’s take on the situation:

When Sir Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain, admitted that “our own children” had perpetrated the July 7 London bombings, it was the first time in my memory that a British Muslim had accepted his community’s responsibility for outrages committed by its members. Instead of blaming U.S. foreign policy or “Islamophobia,” Sacranie described the bombings as a “profound challenge” for the Muslim community. However, this is the same Sacranie who, in 1989, said that “Death is perhaps too easy” for the author of “The Satanic Verses.” Tony Blair’s decision to knight him and treat him as the acceptable face of “moderate,” “traditional” Islam is either a sign of his government’s penchant for religious appeasement or a demonstration of how limited Blair’s options really are.

This passage in particular really made me think.

It should be a matter of intense interest to all Muslims that Islam is the only religion whose origins were recorded historically and thus are grounded not in legend but in fact. The Koran was revealed at a time of great change in the Arab world, the seventh-century shift from a matriarchal nomadic culture to an urban patriarchal system. Muhammad, as an orphan, personally suffered the difficulties of this transformation, and it is possible to read the Koran as a plea for the old matriarchal values in the new patriarchal world, a conservative plea that became revolutionary because of its appeal to all those whom the new system disenfranchised, the poor, the powerless and, yes, the orphans.

Muhammad was also a successful merchant and heard, on his travels, the Nestorian Christians’ desert versions of Bible stories that the Koran mirrors closely (Christ, in the Koran, is born in an oasis, under a palm tree). It ought to be fascinating to Muslims everywhere to see how deeply their beloved book is a product of its place and time, and in how many ways it reflects the Prophet’s own experiences.

However, few Muslims have been permitted to study their religious book in this way. The insistence that the Koranic text is the infallible, uncreated word of God renders analytical, scholarly discourse all but impossible. Why would God be influenced by the socioeconomics of seventh-century Arabia, after all? Why would the Messenger’s personal circumstances have anything to do with the Message?

Definitely read the whole thing. It’s well worth your time.

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