..."as soon as the Islamists come to power: All islamist regimes end up in dramatic failure. That some Islamists today turn violent and even suicidal, is only an indication of their failure to realise their plans. Eventually Muslims will have to wake up to the reality that they are no longer the masters of history, but a deprived and underdeveloped minority in the global community. Only when Muslims face this reality, they will be able to proceed."
Iran has its reasons for taking the British hostages.It is clearly not to impress the West. Is it possible that it is for their bigger goal of rallying Islam behind them? Iran is after all the bastion of Islamic purity. This article from Radio Netherlands
"Muslim reformers intellectually dishonest"
by Michel Hoebink
Muslim modernist reformers are intellectually dishonest. Many are merely using religion as a means to mobilise people for their modernisation projects. That is the bold claim made by secular Syrian thinker Sadiq Jalal al-Azm. But he nevertheless admits that reform of Islam is badly needed.
He jokingly calls himself the 'official atheist of the Arab world'. Since the publication of his book Critique of Religious Thought in 1969, Sadiq Jalal al-Azm is one of the most prominent secularist thinkers in the Muslim world.
The now retired professor of European philosophy at the University of Damascus belongs to a generation of western-educated intellectuals who, contrary to their expectations, gradually saw the Muslim world turn more and more religious. Being an atheist became increasingly dangerous, but Sadiq al-Azm never felt the urge to leave.
He divides his time between Damascus and Beirut and universities in Europe and the US. He also spent a few months in the Netherlands, at the NIAS research institute in Leiden. In the Netherlands, he is a well-known figure because some of his work has been translated into Dutch and in 2004 he was awarded the prestigious Erasmus prize, together with two Muslim modernist thinkers: the Moroccan Fatima Mernissi and the Iranian Abdolkarim Soroush.
What is the difference between you and modernist reformers such as Fatima Mernissi and Abdolkarim Soroush?
"People like Mernissi and Soroush pretend to reform Islam from the inside. They reform Islam as good Muslims. The group to which I belong does not do this. I want to reform the thinking of Muslims too, but I never pretended to do this from inside Islam or as a Muslim. I never made a concession on this matter."
So they are pretending?
"Since the 19th Century, modernist thinkers have been haunted by rumours that they are not real believers, that they merely use religion as a means to mobilise people for reforms. And they even say so themselves: Until today, many of these reformers argue that, if you want to convince the people, you have to speak to them in their 'own language', that is to say: in religious terms.
This may be a valid argument, but it also reveals the instrumental way in which they think about religion.
I admit that it is easy for me to criticise them: I am a man of ideas, a public intellectual who is sometimes called upon to give his supposedly studied judgement on matters of public interest. I'm not involved in organising people and directing movements and so on.
Let me put it this way: In my view there is a division of labour in this effort of modernising Muslim societies.
Both approaches are valid. We need people who work on the inside and we also need people who work from the outside. But personally I think there is a certain intellectual dishonesty in this claim to reform Islam from the inside."
Can Islam be reformed at all?
"I think so, but it requires a departure from the literal text of the Koran. That's a radical step, because the Muslim masses cling to the idea that the Koran is literally true. But it is obvious that the literal text of the Koran simply cannot be applied in modern society.
Take for instance the corporal punishments prescribed in the Koran. Radical Islamists want to impose them, but they are a minority.
The majority of Muslims have split personalities on this matter: They insist that this is the penal law of Islam and at the same time they admit that it is inapplicable. What I propose is to resolve this contradiction and officially state that the shari'a corporal punishments are obsolete.
The problem is that most of my colleagues who claim to reform Islam from the inside do not address this problem, probably because they fear it will alienate them from their audiences. Modernists such as Fatima Mernissi keep playing this game of quoting texts of Koran and Prophetic Traditions in support of their case, implicitly assuming the literal truth of these texts. And if they do not find anything that supports them, they twist and torture the meaning of the text until it suits their demands.
But what about more radical reformers such as Nasr Hamid Abu Zayd who look at the Koran as a historical text and admit that it can no longer be literally applied?
People like Abu Zayd are more honest in asking the question: What can the Koran mean to us today, in light of modern scientific knowledge? But what annoys me is that they keep speaking in the name of the 'real Islam.' Historically speaking, Muslims are divided among hundreds of groups who all claim that they possess the 'real' or 'true' Islam.
As a critical intellectual you can't seriously claim that you possess the 'real Islam'. All you can say is: This is the way it makes sense to me personally."
Some people believe that religion is on the rise again in the whole world, and especially in the Muslim World.
"I think the process of secularisation is irreversible, in Europe and the US but also in the Muslim world. The present so-called revival of religion is just some sort of last spasm, a desperate effort to cling to something that in fact has already disappeared. In the Muslim world, Islamists present themselves as an alternative for western culture, but they do not really have an alternative: Their slogan 'Islam is the solution' is an illusion. Islam simply cannot solve the problems of the 21st Century.
That becomes clear as soon as the Islamists come to power: All islamist regimes end up in dramatic failure. That some Islamists today turn violent and even suicidal, is only an indication of their failure to realise their plans. Eventually Muslims will have to wake up to the reality that they are no longer the masters of history, but a deprived and underdeveloped minority in the global community. Only when Muslims face this reality, they will be able to proceed."