Is it time to look beyond the idea of liberal Islam?

#1
https://aeon.co/essays/is-it-time-to-loo...eral-islam

EXCERPTS: We live in a liberal world. In some senses, liberalism enjoys a global victory. Even its opponents often make their case based on essentially liberal ideals of a society built on political liberties or free trade to best maximise individual freedom. In the vital details, liberalism comes in many guises. As the grounds for revolution or a midwife to empire, over the past two centuries it has shaped how we see ourselves and the world.

While Europe’s empires may have worn liberalism like a badge of civilisation, liberal values were often taken up more vigorously in the lands they colonised, including in the Muslim world. Debates about ‘liberal Islam’ are almost as old as the ideology of liberalism itself. From the Aligarh movement in 19th-century British India to the al-Nahda, or renaissance, in the Arab world, Muslims have sought to synthesise Islam and liberalism to advance Islam’s civilisational progress.

The ‘Christian’ West might have established liberal societies, but it has struggled to produce liberal citizens. The resurgent fascistic movements in Europe and North America today seeking to restrict the freedoms of others are distinctly Christian and Western identity movements. On the other hand – and for largely historical rather than metaphysical reasons – Muslims have struggled to establish liberal states. Yet, by and large, within the liberal societies of the West, Muslims have been exemplary citizens, claiming their rights and pursuing their interests rather than focusing on persecuting others. Why then can the projects of Muslim liberals – who see liberalism in Islam – seem so quixotic?

Liberal Muslim reformists see no contradiction between Islam and core liberal commitments to freedom, tolerance, human rights and the rule of law. It is true that many of them might not advocate a strictly secular state. But there is nothing exceptional about this. The positions of many Hindu, Jewish or Christian liberals also allow various kinds of state recognition of and support for religious groups and values. Muslim liberals are similarly a mixed bag, from the Qatari-based Egyptian scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi to Ed Husain and Maajid Nawaz, the founders of the Quilliam Foundation, a British counter-extremism think tank. Despite disagreements, they share fundamental challenges to the flourishing of their agendas. These challenges have often been characterised by detractors as a way of highlighting Islam’s supposedly inherent backwardness, anti-Westernism, and a desire in Muslim societies to revive a certain idealised vision of medieval glory. Yet it is decidedly an Islam of the nation-state, not an Islam of the caliphate, to which Muslim liberals aspire.

[...]

Islamists are often accused of ‘double-speaking’, of invoking liberal language only to mask their true intent, which is allegedly to achieve the power to enforce shari’a. Muslim movements across the world, from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to the Nation of Islam in the US, have been so accused. It’s an allegation that has less to do with conspiracies by Muslim movements than with the ambiguous and multi-textured nature of liberal concepts, as well as with the inherent limitations of liberal Islam. After all, for Islamists, liberal ideas and concepts must be accommodated to Islam, lest one risks diminishing or annihilating Islam’s essential or ‘authentic’ character. Nowhere have political Islam and secular liberalism come into closer cooperation than in Tunisia. Rached Ghannouchi, founder of the Ennahda Party in Tunisia, has led this syncretic project; and its existential conundrum remains unresolved.

The problem of finding the ‘Islam’ in ‘liberal Islam’ is among the most fundamental of liberal Islam’s dilemmas, and also points to its seeming retreat from spirituality. Like the militants it opposes, liberal Islam’s proponents tend towards idealising a legalistic polity. By aligning a righteous society with the precepts of shari’a, spiritualism is rationalised by the law in technocratic ways. This is evident in the enthusiasm of Muslim liberals for Malaysia, despite laws that have suppressed its dissenting Muslim and Christian minorities. The juridical affinities between shari’a and liberalism might surprise some, but they shouldn’t. When viewed with the regulatory logic of the liberal state in mind, which seeks to engineer freedom through managing constraint and incentive, the affinity seems less unusual.

Muslim reformists negate history by forgetting their own past, even as they seek to remember an authentic one

As in their attempts to make shari’a liberal-friendly, some Muslim liberals also encounter Islamic history through liberal eyes. Influential thinkers of the 19th and early 20th century – from Syed Ahmed Khan in India to Muhammad Abduh in Egypt – assimilated modern notions of science and reason to Islamic intellectual history to aid Islam’s civilisational progress in relation to the West. To get around the criticism that the West historically imposed an alien liberalism on Islam, Muslims have also sought to reclaim the very idea of freedom. This has had mixed results.

[...]

unless we interrogate the intellectual premises of liberal Islam more vigorously, away from the fallacious arguments of Islamophobes, no amount of support for an ‘Islamic Reformation’ or ‘moderate’ Islam, however well-intentioned, will lead to meaningful change and empowerment, nor solve the current quagmire of militancy.

MORE: https://aeon.co/essays/is-it-time-to-loo...eral-islam
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#2
(Jan 4, 2018 06:55 PM)C C Wrote: The ‘Christian’ West might have established liberal societies, but it has struggled to produce liberal citizens. The resurgent fascistic movements in Europe and North America today seeking to restrict the freedoms of others are distinctly Christian and Western identity movements.

What utter bullshit.
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#3
(Jan 4, 2018 09:31 PM)Syne Wrote:
(Jan 4, 2018 06:55 PM)C C Wrote: The ‘Christian’ West might have established liberal societies, but it has struggled to produce liberal citizens. The resurgent fascistic movements in Europe and North America today seeking to restrict the freedoms of others are distinctly Christian and Western identity movements.  

What utter bullshit.

I agree.

The author of this thing, Zaheer Kazmi, is a PhD in 'political theory' and a professor in the UK.

My response is that if Kazmi can't understand the changes that contemporary European and American politics are undergoing, without trying to cram them into extremely-perjorative 1930's stereotypes and falsehoods, then why should anyone believe that his views have any value when he's talking about 'Islamic liberalism'?

My response to this essay that CC posted is that it's incoherent. (At least the excerpts posted are. Maybe it makes more sense in its entirety. I'm not interested in reading it.)

'Liberalism' isn't defined. Unfortunately that word has several very different and inconsistent uses. And 'Islamic liberalism' probably introduces an entirely new usage, or probably more than one.

Here's the closest thing to a thesis statement: "unless we interrogate the intellectual premises of liberal Islam more vigorously, away from the fallacious arguments of Islamophobes, no amount of support for an 'Islamic Reformation' or 'moderate' Islam, however well-intentioned, will lead to meaningful change and empowerment, nor solve the current quagmire of militancy".

The swipe at 'Islamophobes' apart, I can probably agree that if the idea of 'Islamic liberalism' is to be a viable alternative to Islamic fundamentalism in Muslim communities (and from where else will changes in those communities come?), that it needs to be better defined and its assumptions and implications better understood. Kazmi probably could have said it in fewer words.
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#4
The biggest problem is that reformation never relies on external forces. It's wholly internal. So things like Islamophobia are completely irrelevant to Islamic reform...unless someone's postulating some convoluted contrivance like "internalized Islamophobia". As far as having an internal impetus for reform, polls show that Muslims are overwhelmingly fundamentalists. IOW, "Islamic liberalism" sounds like a leftists pipe-dream.
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