[Nasional-e] Re: [Nasional] An Islamic Reformation By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN - NYT 4
Thu Dec 5 05:12:07 2002
> Op Ed New York Times
> December 4, 2002
> An Islamic Reformation
> By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
> What's going on in Iran today is, without question, 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 they, and
> other Muslims, need an Islam different from the lifeless, anti-modern,
> anti-Western fundamentalism being imposed in Iran and propagated by the Saudi
> Wahhabi clerics. This understanding is the necessary condition for preventing
> the brewing crisis between Islam and the West — which was triggered by 9/11
> — from turning into a war of civilizations.
> To put it another way, what's going on in Iran today is precisely the war of
> ideas within Islam that is the most important war of all. We can kill Osama bin
> Laden and all his acolytes, 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, whose name you should know:
> Hashem Aghajari, a former Islamic revolutionary and now a college professor, who
> was arrested Nov. 6 and sentenced to death by the Iranian hard-liners —
> triggering a student uprising — after giving a speech on the need to
> rejuvenate Islam with an "Islamic Protestantism."
> Mr. Aghajari's speech was delivered on the 25th anniversary of the death of Ali
> Shariati, one of the Iranian revolution's most progressive thinkers. In the
> speech — translated by the invaluable MEMRI service — he often cited Mr.
> Shariati as his inspiration. He began by noting that just as "the Protestant
> movement wanted to rescue Christianity from the clergy and the church
> hierarchy," so Muslims must do something similar today. The Muslim clergymen who
> have come to dominate their faith, he said, were never meant to have a monopoly
> on religious thinking or be allowed to ban any new interpretations in
> light of modernity.
> "Just as people at the dawn of Islam conversed with the Prophet, we have the
> right to do this today," he said. "Just as they interpreted what was conveyed
> [to them] at historical junctures, we must do the same. We cannot say: `Because
> this is the past we must accept it without question.' . . .
> This is not logical. For years, young people were afraid to open a Koran. They
> said, `We must go ask the mullahs what the Koran says.' Then came Shariati, and
> he told the young people that those ideas were bankrupt. [He said] you could
> understand the Koran using your own methods. . . . 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."
> Mr. 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 [Iranian 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?"
> Mr. Aghajari refused to appeal his death sentence, saying his whole conviction
> was a farce. But on Monday his lawyer appealed on his own. Mr. Aghajari's fate
> now hangs in the balance. Watch this story. It's the most important trial in the
> world today.