Can Islam Reform Itself?


One searches vainly for glimmers of hope in the Islamosphere.  Is there light to be found?  Not as imagined by our credulous media, still swooning over the so-called  “Arab Spring.”  Not as conjured up by naive reporters gushing effusively in the early days of Tahrir Square, even as protesters were shouting “Allahu Akbar” and calling for the conquest of Jerusalem. 

No we seek rather legitimate signs that somewhere in the Muslim world, progress toward a more enlightened future is unfolding. 

Are there any?   

For no matter how you dress it or attempt to conceal it, there does seem to be a steady stream of unpleasantries emanating from Islamic precincts, wherever, it seems, sufficient concentrations of Muslims are found. 

On any given day, for example, we learn of yet another harvest of blood curdling acts committed against innocents by individuals and groups of Islamic background, acting, as they tell it, at the behest of their religion. 

Honor killings, beheadings, genital mutilation, execution of apostates, shootings, stabbings, massacres, all seem to merge in the daily, work-a-day world of Islamic fanatics.   

One wonders why extremism and intolerance follow this religion, why they appear as endemic and widespread as they do?  What explains Islam's difficulty in abiding those of other beliefs, or, for that matter, its own co-religionists?  Are there peculiarities to this faith that render it different?  And is the problem "radical" Islam or Islam itself?

Is Islam, in other words, intrinsically expansionist and supremacist, and ultimately incapable of coexisting peacefully in a diverse world of many faiths and cultures?  And, is it not the case, that as long as Islam persists in its current dispensation, absent deep and sweeping reform from within, there will always be a state of war in the world, declared or undeclared, hot or cold, open or covert, between Islam and the other civilizations, in particular, its greatest adversary, the West, by now a worn, limping shadow of its former self?

Can Islam tolerate a world that is both Islamic and non-Islamic or will it inevitably perceive the world as divided between the Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) and the Dar al-Harb (House of War) with conquest of the non-Islamic portions its ultimate aim?

We acknowledge, as etiquette and decency compel, that all Muslims do not fall under the rubric of terrorist or sympathizer or supremacist, but would also be remiss to ignore the aggressive tendencies that prevail within too many of Islam’s adherents, including its various groups, organizations, sub-state cartels, and sovereignties.

We can also no longer refrain (out of some misguided sense of decorum) from acknowledging unfortunate truths, to sacrifice clarity on the altar of diplomatic nicety or deny the obvious for fear of offending those who exist in a perpetual state of outrage.

Recent phenomena within the Arab/Muslim universe provides evidence for the concerns raised by many over the long term prospects of global comity in the presence of an assertive Islamic faith possessed of a long, collective memory of triumphant invasion, conquest, and empire.  A religion that seems very much convinced of its superiority and, in general, not inclined toward quaint Western notions of tolerance or compromise.  

When left to their own devices, absent the heel of a dictator or despot, genealogic or otherwise, Muslims have a pronounced readiness to vote in theocrats even more repressive and extreme than the secular tyrants they displace.  Further, the minority religions that exist within Muslim majority nations, soon then find themselves under siege, enduring threats, intimidation, persecution if not outright violence and death.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, we have had an opportunity to observe the "people," so to speak, in their tendencies and preferences; not the behavior or advocacy of a radical elite or Jihadist avant-garde, but the average Muslim citizen in his choices when presented with a slate of political candidates reflecting the full spectrum of interests from liberal, western style democracy to hard-core militant Islamism, and the results have not been encouraging.

Indeed, one by one, Arab nations have voted in totalitarian, Islamist states, in Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco, and, soon, Libya.

Tunisia, for example, is the Arab World's most secular and westernized state, and yet, in the wake of the "Arab Spring," the Islamic party, Ennahda, won handily.  In Egypt, in recent elections, the Muslim Brotherhood (through its Freedom and Justice Party) and Nour, or Party of Light, an even more puritanical party than the Brotherhood, have garnered between them two thirds of the parliament.  The largest secular party, on the other hand, managed a mere 10%.  The Justice and Development Party in Morocco, also Islamist, won a majority in recent elections there.  In Libya, following the death of Gaddafi, Abdeil Jalil, leader of the National Transitional Council, called for the establishment of Sharia law.

Pre-Arab Spring, in 2006, the Palestinians, in their elections at the time, overwhelmingly supported Hamas, a Muslim Brotherhood offshoot and terrorist organization.

Turkey under popular third-term Islamist Prime Minister Recip Erdogan has embraced Hamas and moved steadfastly into the Iranian axis while abandoning Israel and NATO.

When given a choice, Muslims overwhelmingly vote in favor of Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia law over liberal democracy.  

It is also disheartening to observe the treatment of non-Muslim minorities living in Muslim dominated states; indeed, Christian communities, especially, residing in Muslim nations or near large Muslim concentrations, are among the most threatened peoples in the world. 

In Nigeria, Iraq, Egypt, Pakistan, the Philippines, Somalia, Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Indonesia, the Sudan, and elsewhere, Christians are persecuted, hunted down, and slaughtered, sometimes in the tens of thousands.

In Nigeria, radical Muslim group Boko Haram has killed more than 500 Christians in the past year.  More than a year ago, some 58 Christians were massacred in a church in Baghdad.  Pakistani Christians are persecuted over their nation's scandalous "blasphemy" rules, which carry a death penalty.  There have been an estimated 160,000 casualties in the Philippines in the last ten years from such Jihadist groups as Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf.  In Indonesia, the terrorist group Laskar Jihad has killed as many as 10,000 Christians.  Jemaah Islamiya, another Jihadist group, seeks the creation of an Islamic caliphate in South East Asia where it has been active; it has been responsible for myriad terror attacks on Christians and others including the Bali bombings of 2002.  In the Sudan, the Khartoum regime has waged jihad against Christians in the south, killing some 2 million and displacing another 5 million.  In Saudi Arabia, no expression of Christian faith is permitted: no bibles, prayers, crosses, literature, or churches. 

As Caroline Glick reports, Christian populations in such regions are dwindling rapidly, as they abandon their ancient homelands rather than face ongoing threats to life and property.

Ten years ago under Saddam Hussein, there were 800,000 Christians in Iraq, today 150,000.  In 1994, when Yasser Arafat was restored to the Palestinian territories and the Palestinian Authority instituted under his rule, Christians made up 80% of Bethlehem; today, in the city of Jesus's birth, only 20%.  Lebanon in 1946 was majority Christian; today less than 30%.  The Christian population in Turkey has fallen from 2 million in 1918 to under 100,000.  Syria has gone from almost half Christian to under 4%.  Jordan formerly boasted a Christian population of 18%; today only 2%.

But this is not unlike the nearly one million Jews who were forced to evacuate their communities in the Arab world, where they, in some cases, had lived for more than 2000 years, with the creation of the state of Israel. 

Nor is it unlike the 4000 Thai Buddhists that have been killed by Muslim insurgents the last seven years in Muslim dominated southern Thailand, even as tens of thousands of Thai leave the region, in a forced mass migration

Nor is it unlike the experience of Hindus in India who have been victims of numerous terror attacks, most dramatically in Bombay in 2006 and 2008, and an attack on the Parliament in New Delhi in 2001. 

Nor is it unlike the violence against adherents of the various sects of Islam including the massacre of Ahmadis in Pakistan and Indonesia. 

Can Islam reform itself or coexist with non-Muslims?

It is an open question.







  • John Huether

    February 19, 2012

    Thanks for your excellent, thought provoking article.

  • Richard Potts

    February 19, 2012

    Islam is intrinsically far more radical than people want to think or willing to admit. When Muslims are in the majority those who are not Muslims better be ware! Just ask the Armenians. President George Bush called Islam a "religion of peace". History belies that statement. Islam has always conquered by the sword and modern Islam is no different. The term radical Islam is used to make one think that there is a moderate majority. Not so,the radical is the majority of Islam. There is no interest in reform, because radical is the norm in Islam!

  • Debbie Lawyer

    February 20, 2012

    Thank you, Dr. Moss for this article. I admire the time and effort you give to keep informed about this turmoil in our world, and that you freely share with others. Have you ever in your writings about the radical nature and history of Islam been threatened or harrassed? I have many friends who serve as missionaries around the world and live in countries that are increasingly dangerous because of Muslim's violence. Keep writing and may God bless your efforts.

  • Debbie Lawyer

    February 20, 2012

    Thank you, Dr. Moss for this article. I admire the time and effort you give to keep informed about this turmoil in our world, and that you freely share with others. Have you ever in your writings about the radical nature and history of Islam been threatened or harrassed? I have many friends who serve as missionaries around the world and live in countries that are increasingly dangerous because of Muslim's violence. Keep writing and may God bless your efforts.

  • Harvey Chaimowitz

    February 20, 2012

    We see this kind of bullying in groups all over the world, though usually without the horrific violence. But who knows how far the other groups would go if no government body were there to stop them? For example, in Israel, ultra-religionists attack secular Jews as violently as they can get away with. Fortunately, government and it's police are there to put a lid on this violence. Here in the U.S., ultra-Christian groups have no tolerance for seculars and even attack other Christian groups, as in the case of the Evangelical attack on Mormonism. Blaming all Muslims is similar to blaming all Italians for the Mafia, which preyed mainly on fellow Italians, who then got the blame by non-Italians who suspected all Italians of criminal mentality. Let's not forget how these violent Muslims also attack first and foremost their fellow Muslims. Also, how can we forget so quickly that before Osama bin Laden, we never spent time worrying about Muslims. Years would go by with not a peep out of them and not a worry from us. So let us focus on the violent ones and intolerant ones among us, of all persuasions and never, never drop our guard against terrorism by anyone.

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