Watch Mustafa Akyol at TED, arguing for “Islamic liberalism.”
Change within Islam
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[Originally published in The New York Times]
FOR years, foreign policy discussions have focused on the question of whether Islam is compatible with democracy. But this is becoming passé. In Tunisia and Egypt, Islamists, who were long perceived as opponents of the democratic system, are now promoting and joyfully participating in it. Even the ultra-Orthodox Salafis now have deputies sitting in the Egyptian Parliament, thanks to the ballots that they, until very recently, denounced as heresy.
[Originally published in Contending Modernities]
Philip Jenkins’ September 2011 piece, “9/11: Did the Qur’an really make them do it?,” was an eye-opener on the touchy issue of religion and violence. For me it was also a reminder of an anti-Semitic piece of propaganda I found in an Istanbul bookstore years ago.
[Published in The Daily]
Since 9/11, much ink has been spilled on the troubles of the world of Islam. The problem was painfully obvious: There were only a few functioning democracies in the Muslim world, and simply none among the Arabs. Some even presumed a fundamental contradiction between Islam and democracy. Islam, they argued, could only produce dictatorial regimes.
But there was a serious flaw in this argument. Most of the Middle Eastern dictators — Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia, Bashar al-Assad of Syria — were secular, not Islamic, figures. In fact, the Islamic groups in these countries, such as the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and its various franchises, were often brutally suppressed by the secular autocrats in question.
[Originally published in Hurriyet Daily News, with readers’ comments]
There was an interesting headline in this weekend’s papers. Khalid al-Zafarani, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, told the Associated Press that he and some of his colleagues were working to found “a political party with the same program of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP].” They would copy not just the policies, but also the very name of the Turkey’s AKP, Mr. al-Zafarani explained in Cairo, since they were inspired by the party’s achievements.