Civilizational Islam

Islam Hadiri is defined as ‘civilizational’ Islam. Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mr.Abdullah Badawi, and chairman of the Organization of Islamic Nations, is a proponent of this brand of Islam. I am not an Islamic scholar. Given the current ban on debate and discussion of religion in Malaysia, I won’t ‘go there’.

But, from my perch At the Window in the United States of America, I can safely, I believe, appeal to reasoned minds and discuss the violence in Islam as it impacts the global international community, the US, and the UN. Americans, anti war and pro war, need to work together for a strong America and safer world. The threat by Islamic extremists affects even Muslims within Muslim countries and communities and is counterproductive to mankind’s efforts to eradicate poverty and violence.

If we acknowledge the role the US and the UN must play in the world, we can, no, must be optimistic about Iraq. We must be optimistic about being able to impact and reach out to the Muslim community as there are Muslims courageously working within the faith of Islam to bring about religious freedom. Religion can only be civilization if it allows religious freedom. Islam to date, denies that freedom to its adherents and is threathened by the exercise of religious and intellectual freedoms by non Muslims in those areas that intersect or conflict with its beliefs. Hence, the violence.

The international impression, masterfully created by former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Muhammad, is that Malaysia is a model and moderate Islamic country, and an exemplary state for apprentice democratic states such as Iraq or Palestine. The reality is that non-Muslims and Muslims in Malaysia who dissent from this international impression, are persecuted. A recent example is Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, a Muslim lawyer, under a death threat for advocating religious freedom for Muslims. Mr. Malik Imtiaz Sarwar’s reasoned argument is exemplary; although his personal belief is that Islam is supreme, he acknowledges the right for others to convert out of the faith. He says:

We must not confuse the crucial distinction between a country in which the majority are Muslims, and is thus an Islamic country, and a country in which the supreme law is the Shariah, an Islamic state.”

When the Pope Benedict XVI made his comments, he was shedding light on an aspect of Muslim life that is hidden from the Western world. The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey of Clifton when speaking in defense of the Pope, articulates the real Muslim dilemma. He says “There will be no significant material and economic progress (in Muslim communities) until the Muslim mind is allowed to challenge the status quo of Muslim conventions and even their most cherished shibboleths.” The lack of religious freedom leads to the lack of other freedoms.

As an American educated teacher in Malaysia, teaching ESL at a Muslim only campus to students bound for the US and Australia, I found my own mind and spirit shackled by the lack of freedom and the subjects that are and were taboo to Muslims. Here, now, in the United States as a Christian, I find my mind troubled by the violence and the young lives that are being sacrificed to preserve and propogate freedom. Can there be a better way?

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