Is an Islamic Reformation Possible?

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Is an Islamic Reformation Possible?
by Fjordman

The profiled ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali has launched a new book, “Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now.” I have not yet had the opportunity to read this book. Instead, I will refer to her essay Why Islam Needs a Reformation, published on March 20, 2015 in The Wall Street Journal.

Hirsi Ali emphasizes Mecca Islam over Medina Islam, but it is not clear whether the two can be separated. The traditional view of abrogation further stipulates that the later, more violent and intolerant teachings of the Medina period cancel out the somewhat more tolerant Koranic verses of the Mecca period. Of course, that is if you believe traditional Islamic sources. An increasing number of serious historians question whether Mohammed as he is described in Islamic sources has ever existed at all.

Hirsi Ali stresses that Muslims must reform their view of the imperative to wage Jihad, or holy war. For Islam to become a true religion of peace, Muslims must reject the imposition of religion by the sword. That is certainly true. The concept of Jihad is unique to Islam among all of the world’s major religions. It is one of the things that make Islam uniquely aggressive and dangerous.

One of Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s challenges is that she still harbors some Leftist instincts. This sometimes causes her to make dubious parallels between Islam and other religions such as Judaism or Christianity. There are significant differences between the Bible and the Koran, and I say this as an agnostic who does not believe in any religion. Yet, at the very least, Hirsi Ali had the personal integrity to leave Islam. This makes her a more serious writer than Irshad Manji, who tries to create her own personal Gucci Islam.

Can Islam be reformed? As I suggested in one of my previous essays, if “ reformation “ is taken to mean a return to the supposed purity and golden age of the religion’s founder, then we may be witnessing an Islamic Reformation right now. It began with the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, which then spawned al-Qaida and eventually the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The problem with many of those who state that we need an Islamic Reformation is that they have not always thought through or clearly defined exactly what they mean by a “reformation.” They sometimes make an analogy between Christian Europe 500 years ago and the Islamic world today, a comparison that is historically flawed and intellectually lazy. The religions involved are not the same. The societies are very different, and the global situation differs greatly as well.

That being said, there is at least one parallel between Christian Europe in the sixteenth century and the Islamic world today that has some validity: Both societies are undergoing an information revolution. With the introduction of Gutenberg’s printing press in the 1450s, the number of books in circulation in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries showed a massive increase. Martin Luther and those who followed him could spread their message much more effectively than reformists such as Jan Hus (John Huss) could do just a few generations earlier. The printing press helped facilitate the Christian or Protestant Reformation.

We have experienced a comparable information revolution in recent decades. This involves different media, from satellite TV to digital radio. However, the trend has accelerated after the introduction of the Internet as a mass medium.

There is an unfortunate tendency among some Westerners to view hard-line Muslims as “cavemen.” We think of videos showing Osama bin Laden in a cave. We forget that we can see such videos because they were filmed with modern camera equipment. We should not underestimate our enemy. The truth is that radical and militant Muslims have for years been quite good at using modern Western communications technology to spread their message.

Cassette tapes are now outdated. Yet in the 1960s and 70s, they were a cutting-edge technology. You could use them to make your own recordings, which you could not easily do with gramophone records (vinyl LPs). This helped create a micro-media revolution. It is worth recalling that in the 1970s cassette tapes were skillfully used to distribute sermons by the Ayatollah Khomeini throughout Iran. This helped Khomeini and his followers gain control over the country after the 1979 uprisings and establish an Islamic State there.

Some decades later Sunni Muslims have established their own Islamic State (ISIS). Once again, we can see that radical and militant Muslims can be quite skillful at employing modern tools of communication. Even more than al-Qaida before them, supporters of ISIS have been very active in using social networks such as Facebook and Twitter to get their message across.

In their digital Jihad, the Islamic State target their professionally produced videos at specific audiences. They also benefit from an influx of foreign fighters who can spread propaganda in English, French, German and other languages. By March 2015, it was estimated that the Islamic State and its supporters produced as many as 90,000 Twitter posts and other social media responses every day. They are not cave dwellers, at least not technologically speaking. Their ethics is a very different matter.

I have seen Twitter accounts by supporters of the Islamic State quietly disappear. There is an ongoing effort by Western governments and intelligence agencies in cooperation with social networking companies such as Facebook and Twitter to close down accounts used to promote ISIS and Jihadist propaganda via the Internet. Despite these efforts, new such accounts keep popping up. This proves that the media outreach program of the Islamic State is quite active and has many enthusiastic supporters. All over the world, a disturbing number of Muslims support the Jihadist atrocities of ISIS not in spite of, but because of its extreme brutality. That includes many Muslims living in Western countries. From Sweden via Britain and Germany to France, students at Western schools travel to the Middle East to fight for the Islamic State. This shows that Jihadist digital propaganda can be effective and reach its intended target audience.

The equivalent of Martin Luther’s writings being distributed across Europe in the sixteenth century is a member of ISIS posting pictures of beheadings on Twitter or Facebook today. This comparison may be disturbing, but it is unfortunately quite plausible.


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36 thoughts on “Is an Islamic Reformation Possible?

  1. Reformation …. enlightenment…. Their definition does not mean anything unless fortified by examples.
    In the ancient past people believed that diseases and mental illnesses were cause by demons or stars or …. etc.

    Microscope and other devices helped us know the real reason. They also discovered that the kidneys, or lungs can get diseased, as well as the organ called brain, which results in madness, something people could not even imagine. People were shocked at their own stupidity and the difficult way of discovering facts, and connecting things the right way.

    Thus people changed their minds and beliefs. And instead of being harsh towards the mad people to get them rid of demons, they became gentle and kind. Because no one wants to be mad of his own accord.
    This change of mind can correctly called reformation or enlightening.

    Can we blame the people who were not enlightened for their dark opinions? That was the norm.

    But Europe at least recognized Saracens as their deadly enemy.

    Today Europe has thrust itself in a hell of darkness worse than the darkest age on earth: They have become so mentally blind that they not only recognize their enemies but they fall romantically in love with their virtues and tenets.
    Losing one’s countries to the enemies we import is anti-reformation, anti-enlightenment.
    The whole Continents has plunged itself in a pool of crap, enslaved itself , and it is proud of its achievements and peerless values.
    Europe the laughing stock of Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

  2. I always hoped that the Internet would make people smarter and more knowledgeable, and overall I think it has resulted in a net gain, but it hasn’t solved the main psychological problem people have: constant denial of anything that seems too difficult to deal with.

    The only sect of Islam that I have found that resembles what people in the west would call reform (meaning less fanaticism and fascism rather than more) is the

    “At the end of the 19th century, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian proclaimed himself to be the “Centennial Reformer of Islam” (Mujaddid), metaphorical second coming of Jesus and the Mahdi (guided one) awaited by the Muslims and obtained a considerable number of followers especially within the United Provinces, the Punjab and Sindh.”

    So it seems like someone has to be recognized as the Mahdi or something or mobs will immediately kill them for heresy. Even if mobs don’t kill them, some other non-local Muslims will. Any significant following will be subjected to persecution. (The Ahmadiyya are prohibited from entering Mecca because by law in Saudi arabia they would be infidels.)

    Ahmadiyya leaders also have the problem that they refuse to clarify the fact that their own beliefs don’t represent all of Islamic belief or even the majority. So instead they talk about Ahmadiyya Islam as just Islam, leading the ignorant to believe that all Muslims are Ahmadiyya muslims.

    So we already have historical reform movements that can be studied, and we can see how they get persecuted or subjected to genocidal tactics.

    • Nimrod: ” constant denial of anything that seems too difficult to deal with.”

      Ordinary people/ citizens, drunk, druggies, teenagers, workers, laborors, cannot deal with difficult problems like Islam when our “elected” governments are our deadly enemies. These governments are sicking muslims on us. Only governments take decisions to solve or create problems. Today’s elected governments are satanic. They suck muslima’s toes and spit it on indigenous people.
      The problem is the diabolical way the “democracies” think. The only goal democracies aim for the last 50 years seems to to be give weapons to islam to defeat us.
      This is not an illusion. This comes from observation of the royal treatment of Arabs/muslims by the abject debased west.

      • What do you want then? An “enlightened” dictatorship? That has proven to be about as reliable as a roulette wheel.

  3. Speaking as a professional swindler of the young–oops, public high school history teacher who wishes to keep his job–I get so sick of all this talk about the Reformation as if it were a precursor to the anything-goes-PeeCeeEmCeeism of today; even though I must pretend such was the case when someone higher up is monitoring my teaching.

    Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin, Martin Bucer, John Knox, Nicholas Ridley, William Tyndale, and the like were not post-modern liberals, but people who stood firmly on the revealed Word of God in the Old and New Testaments. People who hold on to their beliefs (such as myself) are routinely castigated as **UGH!fundamentalists!** in the MSM, teachers’ lounges, and other public fora of the land. But I am happy to identify with this tradition, and confess that it is the Christ who appears in the Scriptures who saves us, not membership in the right organization or the dutiful chalking up of “good deeds” (which are at best only filthy rags–Isaiah 64:6).

    The advice of a Martin Luther or Jean Calvin to Muslims would not be, “loosen up and roll over and dutifully play dead whenever your cultured despisers tell you to–just as our faithless heirs are currently doing”, but “You need to turn from your false revelation to believe in the Jesus Christ revealed in the Old and New Testaments.”

    For me, the real reformation in Islam is going on in a few immigrant communities in the West or in some places in Kabylia (influenced by returning guest workers, I understand) where, for the first time in centuries, there is an indigenous Christian witness drawing people in.

    • Are you allowed to teach how Marxism affected non-Communist countries or are you forced to teach that Marxism only affected Marxist-Leninist and Marxist-Maoist countries?

  4. I am skeptical about a Muslim Reformation. For one thing, Martin Luther did not turn his back on the Bible and Jesus. He was rebelling against the corruption of the Vatican. For a true reformation to occur, Muslims would have to repudiate the Medina verses of the Koran (and the principle of abrogation in the process) as well as the person of Mohammad in acknowledging his atrocities. I don’t see this happening. That would strip away the very core of Islam itself. The only way out is apostasy.

    • I think in the beginning that Luther, as an Augustinian monk, thought that the Church could be reformed. I wish he’d been right since the impulse toward fissioning seems to go on and on. Like tempered glass in a door – it continues to break into ever smaller fragments.

      I have no issue with reform; I just don’t think it works. Which is why America found itself in a Revolution, and now *that* seems to be dissolving too.

      Perhaps things stale-date eventually…or at least the perennial truths may still be there, but they require new iterations to keep up with the changes in language, culture, etc.

      • You seem to be implying that “fissioning” is unacceptable; that the one-size-fits-all approach to religious worship is the only true way.

        I should point to toward India, where, it has been said, that there are approximately one billion religions… In other words, each person has his or her own private and personal approach to the Godhead. Thus Hinduism is essentially independent from church-based dogma. While not perfect, it seems to work.

        Perhaps Christianity (and Judaism for that matter) have to delve more deeply into the meaning of the Godhead and delve somewhat less deeply into control of social issues. The former will no doubt affect the latter in many ways.

        • Perhaps you only read the first part of my comment, i.e., what Luther *thought* he was doing in the beginning.

          I also said:

          I have no issue with reform; I just don’t think it works.

          and further down:

          Perhaps things stale-date eventually…or at least the perennial truths may still be there, but they require new iterations…

          My comment was tentative and meant to be reflective of what goes on, not what goes on with me.

          In America there are thousands of small, stand-alone Christian churches, splinters of splinters. It is probably the way Christianity is meant to be on one level since our culture is a restless transient one. Or at least part of it is. Another part is settled and unmoving. People attend their parents’ churches or some variation thereof.

          • Your first paragraph definitely implies that “fissioning” was, unfortunately not what Luther had in mind. In other words it seems he had ideas other than “fissioning”.
            Of course, not being an expert in such things, I don’t have a clue what Luther had in mind.
            Having said this, I strongly believe that small “splinter” entities (whether they be religious or government ones) are far more manageable, and, more importantly, more personal, than large, relatively impersonal hierarchies that create cast-in-stone dogmatic rules.

          • Sorry – that last “anonymous” reply was from a different machine. This was from me once again.

      • From my readings (in German as well as English), Luther *did* believe that the Church could be reformed from within. The sales of indulgences, especially when the proceeds were for political gain, were anathema to his sense of morality and ethics. Short form follows:

        He had become a monk, rather than the lawyer whose education his father had paid for, in return for a prayer during a 1505 storm that his life be saved. Thus Luther became a monk out of “a constrained and necessary vow,” not a vocation. But he became and remained a diligent Augustinian brother.

        He visited Rome in 1510, and was shocked by the licentiousness there among men of the Church. This and personal spiritual questions tormented him for several years. When he posted the Theses at Wittenberg on October 31, 1517, they were an invitation to other theologians for knowledgeable thought. Unfortunately, due to the fairly recent invention of movable type, many more copies of the Theses were circulated than Luther had anticipated, and all “heck” broke out for about four years.

        At last, in 1521 (Diet of Worms), Luther had a chance to express himself to a large and important audience. He described how he had wished to “save the Church from herself,” and spoke against the papal bull of excommunication/heresy against him. He stated that, if anyone could convince him of his error “by Scripture or by evident reason,” he would recant, but otherwise “he could not go against his concience which was bound by the Word of God” (quotes from Encycl.Brit.). (Hier stehe ich, ich kann kein anders. Gott hilf mir. >> Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me.)

        Historical evidence supports the contention that Luther was pushed out of the Church; that he had not intended to violate Her integrity. But the hand of man intervened, and we all know what happened.

  5. I too hoped we would become smarter. Kenya has showed their tribal instinct. Kill Christians. I hope [intemperate suggestion redacted]. They c#lled out Christians and killed them.Did the murderers care. The best and the brightest in Kenya killed. Shouldn’t Obama born there say something. Those 170 Christian lives on Good Friday mean nothing to Obama.

    • Obama is related to Kenyan Muslims. I suppose the real question is, is he more concerned with Kenyans, Muslims, or only himself?

      • Obama’s putative daddy was a Communist Kenyan Muslim. His more-than-likely dad was an actual card-carrying Communist American atheist. Obama mythologizes from both of them. Which is why he had “dreams” in the sentence dealing with his father, and why it was crucial enough to be the title of his make-believe book.

    • The only thing we as Christians can do is pray for their souls, and maybe even rejoice that their souls are now one with God and Christ. And, they should be applauded: they had the stones to say “Yes, I am a Christian” even when they knew they would be killed for it.
      It doesn’t change the monstrosity of the acts, but I find a small comfort in it.

      • Anne, I don’t think that Christianity should just let the heathen come into America, take everything, and make us slaves. Christians founded this country and we have defended it very ably until Obama got into office. We need leaders with character and the will to apply the proper steps to prevent our downfall.

  6. In Islam, there can only be a ”reformation” of the Islamic State / al-Qaida variety, which means no enlightenment whatsoever. Those who dabble in the notion of ‘reformation’ of Islam are not serious people, or if they were (once considered) serious people, they only diminish themselves with such foolish talk. Muslims have the benefit of hindsight, in reviewing the history of the West’s reformation and enlightenment and see where it has led them, the very societies that orthodox islam rejects. That fact alone is proof enough that any talk of ‘reformation and enlightenment’ for Islam, is a product of desperation, and not of sound reasoning.

  7. “Of course, that is if you believe traditional Islamic sources. An increasing number of serious historians question whether Mohammed as he is described in Islamic sources has ever existed at all.”

    Since a putative reformation of Islam has to be done by Muslims, it doesn’t much matter what Western historians (or Western anything, for that matter) think. The question then becomes, can Muslims evolve sufficiently so that they can approprpiately appreciate what Western historians and philosophers have developed, which if actually applied to Islam, would radically force it to evolve (if not self-destruct)? What would it take for this to happen? The idea that this is a viable prospect at all must be based on some premise that Islam has some tenable, viable, coherent substance to work with. I don’t see how anyone who has been learning about Islam for years can possibly believe Islam is capable of any “reformation”. Not all bad ideas are amenable to corrections or tweaking. Not all bad cars or machines can be fixed. Sometimes a car, or machine, or idea is so fundamentally flawed, it must be scrapped — lock, stock and barrel. If Islam isn’t one of those, I don’t know what is.

    I detect in many Western analysts & observers a latent anxiety, afraid of the prospect that flows from such a devastating realization, that the worldview of 1.3 billion people around the world is so deleterious, so rotten to the core, it cannot be repaired. The implications of what this might mean is too frightening for them; so they opt to indulge in wishful thinking instead. Frankly, I prefer wishful thinking that is childishly fanciful to fantasies proposed with sophisticated sobriety in a spirit of quantum ignorance. At least the former doesn’t waste our time with the tedious necessity for endless projects of deconstruction.

    • The answer to “Can Islam reform?” seems to almost be no. What people are talking about by “reform” isn’t really reform, it’s progression to something more open, less bigoted, and less violent.

      We have some historical evidence to go on. The founder and leaders of the Ahmadiyya have been trying this since the 19th century, and their conversion rate over that huge amount of time is 1%. That’s pretty sad. If a Muslim were to join the Ahmadiyya theyd get executed for apostasy at worst, or persecuted and not allowed into Mecca at best. I suspect that has something to do with the lack of popularity. We also have other groups such as Sufis and other heretics who will get killed off by Wahhabi reformers.

      So the question of whether Islam can “reform” (actually: progress/modernize) has already been answered: it can happen for about 1% of the muslim population. As that group gets any larger they get killed off by orthodox reformers.

      I think part of the problem is that most of us are foolishly assuming that Islam is a religion when it isn’t. As Dyphna pointed out once, it’s really a jurisprudence and political system disguised as a religion because of terms like god and prophet. However the religious trappings are nothing more than lies to justify someone’s position as absolute dictator. There’s nothing in Islam about spiritual understanding or communicating with a God or gods, that is all reserved for Mahomet the cult dictator.

      • Robert Spencer has documented time and time again that various Ahmadiyya spokesmen tend to defend Islam and attack the Counter-Jihad. So the best that can be said for that minuscule movement is that its members are severely suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, defending the monster (Islam) that has been oppressing and massacring them.

        • I agree, it is as though they are living in denial of the fact that the whole Muslim population isn’t Ahmadiyya, as though wishful thinking would just make their wishes true.

          It is evidence of failure of the sort of reform people here are imagining.

    • There is an old saying,”
      don’t through the baby out with the bathwater.” In the case of islam, there is no baby in the bathwater. Simply put.

  8. It’s true that improved media technology were catalysts for the Protestant Reformation as well as in the rise of modern Islamic fundamentalism. In both cases, the faithful have been afforded direct access to the original content of their religions’ texts. For Christians, the masses could now read the Bible. Among other things, they learned about how the Jews supposedly victimized the early Christians; they were exposed to the Gospel John, 8:44, in which Jews are called liars are are forever cursed as he children of the devil. They could read Luther’s “The Jews and Their Lies”. Along with the advent of modernity in Europe, Protestantism increased anti-Semitism, especially in Lutheran countries like Germany.
    In like fashion, Muslims can now read all the aggressive, blood-curdling passages in the Koran and Hadiths, hate infidels, and possibly become jihadists.
    The answer to this religious literalism is not to restrict the internet, but to publish more in order to spread diverse, critical views of traditional beliefs. The gauntlet has been thrown down to the counter-jihad: Spread the word, or die.

    • Very twisted representation of Christianity Jewdog. Israel has NO better friend than the modern Fundamental Christian.

      • You are correct. It is the triumph of Christianity’s spirit of brotherhood over the blood libel against the Jews in the New Testament. European Christians are still largely hostile to Israel, however.

  9. Islam can be reformed by outlawing the political aspects of it because that is what makes it different from other religions. There are benign aspects which when practiced can make Islam resemble spiritual religions such as the religions it derives from: Judaism and Christianity. Sharia Law must be outlawed also, of course. The provisions of it and the Koran that run counter to our Constitution must be banned. We have the right to do this to protect our form of government.

  10. Who in our governments in the Free World will ever say Enough is Enough over the slaughter of Christians? The desecration of history? The barbarous actions of IS against muslims. Who? Is this a joke? Are we not watching the barbarism of be headings, crucifixions, torture, murder. Who will stop it? More to the point, no news agencies dance around it. No doubt they like their heads attached to their bodies. Who will stop it? Are we just to watch this worldwide chaos and never confront these madmen and women, since we now know women are as evil as the men. Who will stop it? I’d think Kenyan President Obama could remove himself from the golf course here he is very bad. Maybe he could at least shows be cares. thus downfall of America breaks my heart, has this Kenyan president even made a gesture to the grieving of the 170 murdered students, mostly Christian. A word without your teleprompromter might be welcome to the grieving.

  11. Despair when the CJ talks of reforming islam, on magnetic tape, vinyl or digital media the song remains the same.

    Fizzy fuzzy islam for the western palate is a deception, a thirst quencher for multiculturalism.

  12. Fjordman/et. al.-

    Sadly it appears Hirsi is losing her edge. Read the following interview and weep for the future:

    She is making the same mistake that other critics have in believing that Islam can be reformed from within. The entire structure of the religion is built on the use of negative reinforcement, negative peer-pressure, and negative penalties to self-correct and keep the flock in line.

  13. A reformation ion islam? Not likely on its own power. The “reformation” of the Axis
    was only accomplished after all-out ware and then a long list of do’s and don’ts which
    the defeated had to accept. The present islam problem can only be resolved following the WW II example. Special Rules of Engagement, treatment of moslems as superior holy people will not change islam a farthing! Our US politicians must end their obeisance to islam. And sultan Barak Hussein is clearly acting as the “protector of islam,” and his desire to make the US a junior partner in the iran-led AXIS OF EVIL. Sultan Barak has called the US a moslem nation in the past — only a order (fatwa !!!) to put in sharia law over the Constitution would make his “transformation” complete. Then the real “cleansing” could finally begin!
    Barak Hussein will never “defeat” isis, nor any group affiliated with his beloved moslem brotherhood terrorists!

    Alas, the fate of the world rests in the hands of the servile wimpish GOP congress!

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