A kinder, more tolerant, Islam?

MSNBC has a story called “Battling for gay rights, in Allah’s name” where we read about a new form of Islam – I would call it “Reform Islam” – that renounces violence, strives for equality of the sexes and accepts homosexuality.  The co-founder of the movement, Ani Zonneveld, has taken a lot of heat from other Muslims for her liberal views.  In describing the roots of her activism, Zonneveld says:

… her activism grew out of frustration with other American Muslims for being either too willing to accept the word of conservative imams or unwilling to speak out.
“If there is a homophobic sermon at Friday prayer … nobody would stand up and say, ‘I’m sorry that’s an appalling sermon,’” said Zonneveld. “But I can’t sit with a community where it is acceptable to be homophobic …. How can you just let it slide?”
Muslims for Progressive Values is intended to provide a space to worship and a voice to Muslims who don’t necessarily agree with American Muslim leaders often seen as speaking for the entire flock.
Zonneveld, a lifelong Muslim, spent part of her childhood in Germany and Egypt, then attended college in Illinois. She became a professional singer and songwriter and now works with well-known artists, including include blues singer Keb’Mo and Melissa Manchester. Her husband is from Holland and their 13-year-old daughter goes to a public school.

Since I am not an expert on Islam, I can only wonder if her views can legitimately be called “Islam” or if they might better be described as some other religion.  I also wonder if she truly believes Islamic scripture or if she is simply using religion as a vehicle for a social movement.  Of course, even she may not know the real answer to that question.  Is this movement a natural development that goes hand in hand with the Christian Reformation and Reform Judaism – or is it being supported through our tax dollars by a government that is eager to mitigate the dangers of militant Islam?  Is it a positive development that can declaw a dangerous ideology, or will this kinder and gentler Islam lure more people into a faith that is the nemesis of Western civilization?  If this Reform Islam ends up being anything like Protestantism or Reform Judaism, it will simply give people more options in life while still being able to call themselves “Muslim”.  For the time being, it appears to be a fringe movement with only a few followers.
Frankly, I would think that Mrs. Zonneveld is in danger of having a fatwa declared on her.  She seems to be a brave woman.

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13 Responses to A kinder, more tolerant, Islam?

  1. Septen says:

    A few weeks ago a top Israeli general declared that the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ was in danger of becomming a ‘Radical Islamic Winter’.
    The statement was, of course, decried by the professional liberal left as just another example of Jewish islamophobia, racism and all the rest.
    That the Israelis might understand their region far better than a far-away armchair amateur critic didn’t even cross these people’s minds.
    Now we get the first results. WaPo reported that the Libyan NTC council announced that ‘sharia’h law will be the “basic source” of all legislation’. In Tunisia, the main islamist party got a stunning 45 % of the vote.
    I was surprised to find the state media here in Europe actually – beneath all the propaganda of ‘moderate islamism’ – interviewed secular Arab women and found deep resentment and outright fear. The same state media also noted that the diaspora vote voted for the islamists at a higher rate than the native population(although not by much, 50 % vs 45 % for the native Tunisians).
    This also shatters the notions of a ‘liberal, European Islam’. The Western Arabs are more – or just as much – inclined to anti-democratic and thuggish values more likely to be found in Western medieval times than any modern society.
    Before the revolutions, there was a widespread Pew Global Survey across the Arab world conducted in late 2010. It found that in Egypt, for instance, support for Al-Qaida was at a staggering 30+ %.
    That’s as if 30 % of the American population would support the American Nazi Party. Al-Qaida and the Nazis may differ in their outlook on organization(the Nazis are much more interested in statist solutions) but the general methods and totalitarianism is the same.
    Given the chance to democracy, the Arabs will choose Islamism and sharia law over and over again. This is the irony of the neocon adventure: they want to protect Israel but undermine it greatly more than a coolheaded Realist would.
    Nontheless, I think that as the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ incrementally turns into a more radical Islamist version as the elections roll in, people will most likely understand that there is no excuse not to call a spade a spade anymore: They simply don’t gel with liberal democracy very well.
    And what do you do when your neighbours are becomming fascists at a rapid clip? You must become tougher, even mildly thuggish, to survive in a very hostile neighbourhood. Which is what Israel has been doing and will continue to do.
    I think the coming decade in the Middle East.may devolve into a political firestorm if these trends continue, and as oil becomes scarcer.

    • countenance says:

      Sorry to sound knit picky, but I think the Arab Spring was the Shari’ah Spring all along. For some reason, most American foreign policy experts had an incentive not to see the truth all along.

  2. eugenicist says:

    Leftism and Islam together? I’m not sure if that’s a good or a bad thing.
    Ani Zonneveld is apparently Malaysian, but her name sounds sort of Jewish to me. That could just be a coincidence though.

  3. It’s a Dutch name. I don’t know anything specifically about the Dutch in Malaysia, but they did colonize neighboring Indonesia.

  4. Mark Walker says:

    Islam isn’t changing until secular textual criticism of the Quran is as well-respected as it is among non-Fundamentalist Christians and most Jews.
    The later Medina verses, the violent and intolerant ones, show a marked difference in style as well as content from the Mecca ones. There’s a good chance they aren’t really about the same Muhammed, but that a conquering nation-state re-wrote their war stories making Muhammed the central character of them.
    If Reform Islam can make secular Quran scholarship possible, that would be considerable foot in the door.

  5. With the thoughts you’d be thinkin says:

    another fun muslim
    “Amina Wadud (born September 25, 1952) is an Islamic feminist, imam, and scholar with a progressive, feminist focus on Qur’an exegesis.”

    • jewamongyou says:

      The beginning of a trend?

      • WMarkW says:

        A small trend, but not enough of one.
        I read a website called “On Faith” that’s part of WashingtonPost.com. They’re constantly giving moderate and reformist Muslims an opportunity to talk about how that faith is being changed.
        But for some reason, those essayists never have anything to say about other topics (like gay marriage) and they completely disappear when something embarrassing like that 8-year-old Saudi girl being sold as a bride or how widespread female genital mutilation is in Egypt.
        There will certainly be some thoughtful, intelligent people among 1.5 billion, but mostly they just try to sell multiculturally-minded Americans not to think of the differences as backwardness.

      • Georgia Resident says:

        My experiences with Southeast Asian muslims is that they are typically the closest to being actual “moderates”. A lot of them are “cultural muslims”, who simply identify themselves as such because that’s what their parents and grandparents practiced. So it might just be indicative of the southeast Asian Muslims distancing themselves from Arab and African Muslims. Of course, I am by no means an expert on such matters, and I could be completely wrong.

  6. jewamongyou says:

    Re Georgia Resident:
    I was in Brunei for a couple of days (a few years ago) and my impression was that it is a “moderate Islamic monarchy”. Alcohol and extramarital sex are illegal/suppressed but I didn’t get the impression that there was an atmosphere of fear (though looks can be deceiving and a couple of days isn’t really enough time to get an accurate impression of a country).

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