Exposing Moderate Islam

In a recent article in the Indian Express, columnist Tavleen Singh writes how the film “Khuda Kay Liye” (For God’s sake) inadvertently exposes the myth of moderate Islam. She writes

“…The message of the film, in its essence, is that Islam is a great religion that has been misunderstood and that the United States is a bad, bad country and all talk of freedom and democracy is nonsense. Alas, this is not how we infidels see things.

What interested me most about the film was that in seeking to show Islam in a good light, it accidentally exposes the prejudices that make moderate Muslims the ideological partners of jihadis…”

and in conclusion

“If ‘moderate’ Muslims believe that the West is the real enemy of Islam and that the free societies of modern times compare poorly with the greatness of Muslim rule in earlier times, then there is little difference between them and the jihadis. As we infidels see it, the problem is that Islam refuses to accept that in the 21st century there is no room for religion—any religion—in the public square. Other religions have accepted this and retreated to a more private space. Islam has not.”

This analysis of religion in general and Islam in particular is as refreshing as it is rare. The ‘moderate’ followers of any religion are those who do not follow the religion in all aspects of their life. To the extent that they still believe in the sanctity of their religion, its prophets and its scriptures, they must sympathise with those who follow their religion fully and consistently. That is what makes them ideological partners of the religious fundamentalists.

Disclaimer: I have not watched the film and cannot say whether the message of the film is indeed what Tavleen Singh says it is.

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7 Responses

  1. Good article.

    Ideological partners maybe, but still not the ones who roam the streets with weapons (Hindus and Muslims) or pass laws that are basically an imposition of their religion on others (Christians, Hindus and Muslims).

    Moderates can be divided into two general categories – those who would give up their religion if only they thought about it for five minutes (like I did), and those who will stay in it no matter what but don’t want to become too religious. Got to see who we are talking about.

  2. [...] dean wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe message of the film, in its essence, is that Islam is a great religion that has been misunderstood and that the United States is a bad, bad country and all talk of freedom and democracy is nonsense. Alas, this is not how we infidels … [...]

  3. Again, we spend most of our time explaining the effects rather than pondering on the cause. The real question is, Why is Islam intolerant towards other religions? Why is the jehadi movement sustaining itself, even after knowing that the results from the movement are completely questionable?

    The answers to all these questions lie in the past and we need to look into the times when it all started.

    Islam is a religion born out of unrest and apartheid. The genesis of the religion was by force and Mohammad himself had declared a number of jihads to kill the khafirs (Persians and Jews at that time). Successors of the Prophet waged wars, annexed land, burnt scriptures and forced people to convert, all in the name of spreading the word of God.

    Contrast this with Jesus, who even after being impaled and crucified, asked God to pardon the sins of the perpetrators, saying they were innocent and do not know what they are doing.

    The point I’m trying to make is, if in my ten previous generations, my forefathers had killed their elder brothers to come to power, I would no longer look at killing my brother as a sin, but increasingly start looking at it as my birth right. That is exactly what is happening today.

    When the father of the religion has taken up to arms to send his message across, the children and their descendants start believing that it is their right to take up arms for the cause, if the cause appears genuine.

    The point is , you can’t understand Islam by being a Christian or a Hindu. Neither can an Islamist understand what it is being a Hindu. Although being in the same physical world, religions have created distinct ideological worlds. The terms like ‘fundamental’, ‘moderate’, ‘good’, ‘bad’ get blurred in this sea of ideologies.

  4. aristotlethegeek,
    Some moderates might reject their religion if they thought about it. But so long as they don’t, religious principles will continue to guide their thoughts and actions. Whether a principle is accepted explicitly or by default, the effects are the same.

  5. Silver Arrow,
    From my admittedly limited knowledge of history, I would argue that organized religion has always been violent. Look at wikipedia articles on crusades and inquisition. Look at the activities of organized Hindu movements (demolition of the Babri mosque, post-Godhra riots, general vandalism to resist Western influence) in recent times.
    I am also not sure what you mean when you say that religion has created distinct ideological worlds. Traditions in different religions might look different on the surface, but if you look deeper most religions are really the same. As the original article by Singh correctly identified, “The problem is that Islam refuses to accept that in the 21st century there is no room for religion—any religion—in the public square. Other religions have accepted this and retreated to a more private space. Islam has not.”

  6. K.M., are you linked to the Obloggers distribution network?

    http://www.google.com/reader/shared/user/02510836286699598014/label/OBloggers

    Your thoughtful, well-written posts deserve wide distribution.

    You can contact Kendall J (his weblog is The Crucible and Column) to get on the list for distribution. You can mention my name, if you like. I added my own weblog, “Making Progress,” two weeks ago.

  7. Burgess Laughlin,
    Thanks for the tip.

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