The Challenge of Modernizing Islam - Encounter Books

The Challenge of Modernizing Islam

Islamic Reformers Speak—and the Obstacles They Face

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Publication Details

Hardcover/ 312 pages
ISBN: 9781594039393
AVAILABLE: 7/18/2017

The Challenge of Modernizing Islam
Islamic Reformers Speak—and the Obstacles They Face

The entire foreign policy and much of the domestic policy of the United States and other Western governments is based on the proposition that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate and peaceful, including those who are emigrating now in large numbers to Europe.  But as ISIS, al Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic groups radicalize peaceful Muslims, it is imperative for these moderates to articulate a vision of Islam, and an exegesis of Islamic scripture that can withstand the challenge of Islamists, refute their understanding of Islam, and establish a firm foundation of an Islam that is genuinely peaceful, tolerant of other faiths and the freedom of expression, compatible with human rights, secular governance and modernity. It is also imperative that Westerners differentiate between allies of democracy and antagonists.

The Challenge of Modernizing Islam is the first major effort to provide a foundation of understanding and a vision of Islam that is consistent with human rights, equal rights and modernity. Veteran journalist Christine Douglass-Williams interviews the foremost moderate and reformist Muslims in the Western world, including Zuhdi Jasser, Tawfik Hamid, Sheikh Dr. Subhy Mansour, Raheel Raza, Salim Mansur, Qanta Ahmed, and others. She asks them tough questions about how they deal with problematic Qur’an passages, how they intend to get their message across to the Muslim world, and more.

Their answers are revelatory in numerous ways, even in the ways in which they disagree with one another. Douglass-Williams has captured the Islamic Reformist movement in its full intellectual ferment, laying bare the tragedies and tensions, as well as the triumphs of the Reformers. Then in the book’s second half, following the interviews, she adds a crucial series of searingly honest and illuminating reflections on the challenges the reformers face, the chances they have of succeeding, and the implications of their struggle for the future of the Western world and of all free people.

Illuminating, engaging, and thought-provoking, The Challenge of Modernizing Islam is an essential text for understanding the future of the United States and the West, and the implications of Muslim moderates’ struggle for the free world.

About the Author

Christine Douglass-Williams is a nine-time international award-winning journalist and television producer (including Telly, Videographer, and Omni Awards), conducting over 1,700 live interviews. She is a past federally appointed Director with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and a former appointee to the Office of Religious Freedom in Foreign Affairs.  She also serves as a political advisor.

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American writer Daniel Greenfield argues,“Moderate Islam is a difficult faith. To believe in it you have to disregard over a thousand years of recorded history, theology, demographics and just about everything that predates 1965.

You have to ignore the bearded men chopping off heads because they don’t represent the majority of Muslims. Neither does Muhammad, who did his own fair share of head chopping.”

Is Greenfield correct that moderate Islam is solely a fantasy? Judaism has long abandoned stonings and conquests; Christianity has renounced forced conversions and slavery; but is Islam, one of the three great Abrahamic religions, tied to the strictures of 1,400 years ago with no possibility of change or evolution?

I will argue—with the help of many Muslim intellectuals, authors, and activists interviewed for this book—that it is possible for Islam to reform and to modernize. In all faiths, humans are the instruments of religious practice and can choose what they accept and what they reject regarding the letter of their faith. Islam is no exception.

To advance the views that Muslims must be violent to be true to their faith and that Islam cannot be reformed because violent passages are embedded in the Koran, Islam’s holy book, offers no solutions. It does not address the fact that in the twenty-first century, Islam is one of the world’s largest religions, with nearly 1.6 billion adherents that are not going to disappear from the earth, and ignores the evidence that human development and ideological evolution are historical phenomena. Islamic scholar and historian Bernard Lewis wrote, eleven years prior to 9/11,“Islam has brought comfort and peace of mind to countless millions of men and women,” and notes that “the Muslim world is far from unanimous in its rejection of the West.”

Not all Muslims are Islamists or supremacists who seek to conquer the world and establish a global Caliphate, nor advocates of such con- quest. Every immigrant group faces the trials of cultural integration, but Islamists exploit such challenges to fuel hatred among their brethren. Today, many mosques that serve immigrant Muslim communities in the West are instructing their congregations to hate infidels and ultimately conquer their lands.These messages are rooted in indoctrination by radical and powerful Muslim leaders who strive to keep their followers in the Dark Ages to control them and discourage them from questioning and seeking answers about their faith.