Reformation and Enlightenment

Islamophobes and Islamists alike are inclined to suggest that Islam is a monolithic, unchangeable faith, unaltered since the days of the Prophet. This is, of course, nonsense. Islam, like most religious, is a diverse faith whose adherents place themselves on a spectrum which runs from those who regard themselves as “culturally” rather than religiously muslim, through neoIslamic variants such as Ahmadiyya, and on to various more orthodox schools of Islam.

As I’ve argued earlier, those who we might term “traditionalist liberals” – that is, those who find no real contradiction between liberal political views and traditionalist practices – are the most exposed within any religious community, because they are denounced and threatened by traditionalist conservatives, ignored by liberal secularists, and practically invisible to everybody else. Yet it is with traditionalist liberals that both we on the secular and religious “left” should be giving support and building alliances. – a website associated with the qutbist Qaradawi – contains an interesting article on a call by Abdel Nour Brado, Secretary of the Islamic Commission of Spain to open a debate among Spanish Muslims on the issue of same-sex marriages:

““My stance on same-sex marriages is a personal viewpoint and has nothing to do with the Islamic Commission of Spain, whose Secretary General Mansur Escudero is against same-sex marriages,” Brado told IOL.”

Brado has previously expressed the view that is is a “shame to persecute gays in the Muslim world”, claiming “gays are born gays and have no choice about it”. He has also supported Muslim women leading prayers.

Readers will also remember that the Islamic Commission of Spain recently issued a fatwa declaring Osama Bin Laden an apostate.

Islamonline is in no doubt as to the turf war which it is fighting:

“Brado’s call for allowing the same-sex marriage among the Spanish Muslims was part of efforts of the western governments to support what it names “liberal drives among the European Muslims, or what the mass media term as “European Islam”

They’re right, of course. The Islamic Commission of Spain was set up by the Spanish state. Unlike its counterparts in France and Belgium – which have been dominated by religious and political conservatives and paralyzed by faction fights – it has clearly attracted liberal muslims to its ranks. It can therefore properly be regarded as an institution at the forefront of European Islam.

However, liberal Islam isn’t a creature of “western governments”. It belongs to the many many silenced muslims, not simply in the west but in all countries, who would describe themselves both as liberals and muslims. It is vitally important that support for such liberal traditionalists isn’t confined to the state. In fact, the role of the state, consistent with its position of neutrality, in these matters should be minimal and facilitative at the most.

Rather, it is imperative that support for religious political progressives within Islam come from all of us, irrespective of religious or political affiliation, who object to conservatives hogging the megaphone.