Reflections from East Asia

In East Asia, 'Arab Islam' and moderate Islam are clashing. In India, orthodox thinking is flourishing--and that's a good thing.

Continued from page 2

This is the equation that the United States needs to understand. There is an intense debate--a kind of a battle for faith--in the Muslim world. The so-called "moderates" are absolutely marginalized, as in the case of the Muslim intellectuals in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta who are trying to promote a pluralistic society with dialogue and good faith. They've been receiving death threats through fatwas.

If America is able to reinforce the position [of the moderate Muslims of the world] through respect, seminars, conferences, actions that will strengthen them in society, then in the long term they will prevail. Because Islam essentially is the religion of balance and good faith and compassion. But if America continues with abuses such as those at Abu Ghraib and fails to improve the situation forIraqis, then the literalists will prevail because they will have the ammunition to argue that America is on the warpath against Islam, and therefore we must support a jihad against the enemy of Islam--the United States.

INDONESIA · INDIA · PAKISTAN · JORDAN

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Three Schools of Thought

New Delhi, India, April 1, 2006
 
The Islamic debate regarding a moderate versus orthodox Islam was personified here in a very unique way through visits to three places: Aligarh Muslim University, which was founded under British traditions; Ajmer, a city rich in Sufi tradition; and the university in Deoband, which is the center of conservative Islamic thought in India.

Aligarh has always been dear to me because it follows in the traditions of Pakistan founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah--the students there are quite Westernized, wear coats and ties, and have a very modern education as well as moderate Islamic studies. Deoband is the complete opposite--more like a madrassa education, with all male students wearing traditional Islamic dress. Until very recently, English was banned at Deoband, and only religious studies was offered. Now they do have some non-religious courses, like computer science, and also offer English.

Hailey and friends
Author Hailey Woldt and friends

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