Salman Rushdie calls for a reformation...
Rushdie had an important op-ed in the Washington Post on Sunday.
The Sacranie case illustrates the weakness of the Blair government's strategy of relying on traditional, essentially orthodox Muslims to help eradicate Islamist radicalism. Traditional Islam is a broad church that certainly includes millions of tolerant, civilized men and women but also encompasses many whose views on women's rights are antediluvian, who think of homosexuality as ungodly, who have little time for real freedom of expression, who routinely express anti-Semitic views and who, in the case of the Muslim diaspora, are -- it has to be said -- in many ways at odds with the Christian, Hindu, non-believing or Jewish cultures among which they live.
In Leeds, from which several of the London bombers came, many traditional Muslims lead inward-turned lives of near-segregation from the wider population. From such defensive, separated worlds some youngsters have indefensibly stepped across a moral line and taken up their lethal rucksacks.
The deeper alienations that lead to terrorism may have their roots in these young men's objections to events in Iraq or elsewhere, but the closed communities of some traditional Western Muslims are places in which young men's alienations can easily deepen. What is needed is a move beyond tradition -- nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadist ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows to let in much-needed fresh air.
It would be good to see governments and community leaders inside the Muslim world as well as outside it throwing their weight behind this idea, because creating and sustaining such a reform movement will require above all a new educational impetus whose results may take a generation to be felt, a new scholarship to replace the literalist diktats and narrow dogmatisms that plague present-day Muslim thinking. It is high time, for starters, that Muslims were able to study the revelation of their religion as an event inside history, not supernaturally above it.