'Something major is happening'

Are we witnessing the beginnings of an Islamic Reformation?

BY: Deborah Caldwell


First came the shock of the terrorist attacks. Then came an avalanche of Muslim leaders denying Islam has anything to do with terrorism. Then a queasy silence. Now, two months later, something potentially historic: the beginnings of an Islamic Reformation movement in the West.

Six Tenets of Reformist Islam
  • Gender equality
  • Mosque-state separation
  • Nonliteral Qur'anic interpretation
  • Interfaith dialogue
  • Embracing modernity
  • Emphasis on the arts
    Read more about the tenets.

  • How to Be a Progressive Muslim
    How Islam relates to our here and now.
    By Farid Esack

    An assortment of moderate and liberal Muslims--scholars, writers, artists and poets, men and women, many of them young--have begun organizing, writing and speaking about "modernizing" or "reforming" Islam.

    "Something major is happening," says

    Farid Esack

    , a top liberal Muslim scholar and activist.

    Ingrid Mattson, a Muslim who is professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary, argues that this movement may some day even become as powerful as the Iranian Revolution in 1970 that toppled the Shah of Iran and brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power.

    What is the movement trying to accomplish? While it's hard to generalize, these activists mostly want Muslims to embrace modern scientific and social changes. They argue for greater equality between men and women; peaceful coexistence with people of other faiths; an end to anti-Jewish rhetoric; a less literal reading of the Qur'an; and acceptance of American ideals of freedom and tolerance.

    It's impossible to say how many of the nation's 2 million to 6 million Muslims sympathize with reformist ideas, but there are many small signs that a broad movement is underway.

  • Last week, Salman Rushdie wrote a piece that ran in The Guardian and the New York Times describing "the need for a reformation in the Muslim world." In the article, he claimed that a groundswell of reformers is demanding Muslims take responsibility for their own problems.

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