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SECULAR MUSLIMS: Does Islam need reformation?

March 25, 2007

MOHAMMAD ILYAS, M.D., Jacksonville


Over the last two decades, we have seen a vast number of efforts to reform Islam so it would be more compatible to Western values.

Several small, proclaimed reform movements are trying to correct the assumed wrongness of Islam and call for an Islamic reformation.

These self-proclaimed secularists represent only a small minority of Muslims. The majority of Muslims, not only in the United States but worldwide, have different opinions. Yet, the media, governments and neoconservative pundits pay more attention to the secular minority.

The secular Muslim agenda is promoted because these ideas reflect a Western vision for the future of Islam.

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, many people, including high-ranking officials in the Bush administration, have prescribed to a preferred remedy for Islam: Reform the faith so it is imbued with Western values - the privatization of religion and outsourcing democracy.

The rulers in Muslim countries who are secular are labeled good Muslims. The problem with this prescription is that it is far from reality.

Consider the facts: Islamic renaissance has spread across the globe in the past 60 years from the East to West.

In Egypt, it is hard to find a woman on the street who does not wear a head scarf.

Islamic political groups and movements are on the rise. Even in the United States, more and more Americans are curious about Islam, particularly the young. Some are embracing Islam.

In Europe and the United States, where Muslims have maximum exposure to Western culture, they are increasingly embracing Islamic values.

In Britain, a growing number of Muslims advocate creating a court system based upon Islamic principles.

What all this means is that Western hopes for full integration by Muslims in the West are unlikely to be realized, and the future of the Islamic world will be much more Islamic than Western.

Instead of championing the loud voices of the secular minority who are capturing media attention with their conferences, manifestos and memoirs, the United States would be wise instead to pay more attention to the far less loquacious majority.

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