[Nasional-e] [Nasional] Reformation for Muslims

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Thu Dec 5 05:12:02 2002

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  Reformation for Muslims
  Thomas L. Friedman NYT  Thursday, December 5, 2002

Ferment in Iran

WASHINGTON What is going on in Iran is the most promising trend in the
Muslim world. It is a combination of Martin Luther and Tiananmen Square - a
drive for an Islamic reformation combined with a spontaneous student-led
democracy movement.
This movement faces a formidable opponent in Iran's conservative clerical
leadership. It can't provide a quick fix to what ails relations between
Islam and the West today. There is none. But it is still hugely important,
because it reflects a deepening understanding by many Iranian Muslims that
to thrive in the modern era Muslims need an Islam different from the
lifeless, anti-modern, anti-Western fundamentalism being imposed in Iran and
propagated by the Saudi Wahhabi clerics.
What is going on in Iran today is precisely the war of ideas within Islam
that is the most important war of all.
Osama bin Laden and all his acolytes can be killed, but others will spring
up in their place. The only ones who can delegitimize and root out these
forces in any sustained way are Muslim societies themselves.
And that will happen only when more Muslim societies undergo, from within,
their own struggle for democracy and religious reform. Only the disenchanted
citizens of the Soviet bloc could kill Marx; only Muslims fed up that their
faith is being dominated by anti-modernists can kill bin Ladenism and its
offshoots. This struggle in Iran is symbolized by one man: Hashem Aghajari,
a former Islamic revolutionary and now a college professor, who was arrested
on Nov. 6 and sentenced to death - triggering a student uprising - after he
gave a speech on the need to rejuvenate Islam with an "Islamic
Aghajari's speech was delivered on the 25th anniversary of the death of Ali
Shariati, one of the Iranian revolution's most progressive thinkers.
For years, he said, young people were afraid to open a Koran. "The religious
leaders taught that if you understand the Koran on your own, you have
committed a crime. They feared that their racket would cease to exist if
young people learned [the Koran] on their own."
He continued: "We need a religion that respects the rights of all - a
progressive religion, rather than a traditional religion that tramples the
people ... One must be a good person, a pure person. We must not say that if
you are not with us we can do whatever we want to you. By behaving as we do,
we are trampling our own religious principles."
Aghajari concluded, "Today, more than ever, we need the 'Islamic humanism'
and 'Islamic Protestantism' that Shariati advocated."
While Iran's clerical leaders "apparently do not recognize human rights,
this principle has been recognized by our constitution ... The [regime]
divides people into insiders and outsiders. They can do whatever they want
to the outsiders. They can go to their homes, steal their property, slander
them, terrorize them and kill them because they were outsiders. Is this
Islamic logic? When there is no respect for human beings?"
Aghajari refused to appeal his death sentence, saying his conviction was a
farce. But on Monday his lawyer appealed on his own. Aghajari's fate now
hangs in the balance. Watch this story. It is the most important trial in
the world today.

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