Thursday, October 8, 2009

Reform of Islam

An excellent article by Abolhassan Bani-Sadr focusing on Islam and Afghanistan but really about the fight for the Muslim soul.
Afghanistan is a deeply religious society, but the dominant interpretations of Islam, as in most Islamic countries, is one that fosters submission to force. More specifically, under existing sharia law, which is completely detached from the message of the Koran, human beings are understood to be at the service of religion and not vice-versa. Because this belief is entrenched deeply in the popular psyche, the struggle for social and political dominance expresses itself through religious discourse.

Religion has become about power. The most abhorrent form of this violence, suicide bombing, is the direct result of the dominance of a religious interpretation that sanctifies violence. Unless this changes, religion in Afghanistan will continue to serve the fundamentalist powers and those who are nourished by the politics of fear.

What is required instead is a revival of the repressed traditions of Islamic thought and practice, such as the concept of "Tawhid." This is a worldview that regards the whole of existence as a single form. There is no separation between everything existing. The whole of existence is a single living and conscious organism, possessing will, intelligence, feeling, and purpose. This encompassing existence is damaged by conflict and by separation from others.

Through this lens, the exercise of submission to power is regarded as anti-Islamic rather than as intrinsic to the faith. The expansion of freedom and development is understood as the pathway to the divine. From this perspective, human beings are created with the talents, rights, and responsibilities of initiative and self-determination.

All forms of censorship within "self" and "society" have to be removed because they are obstacles on the path to realization. This means that no individual or group can legitimately dominate another, and that challenging all forms of domination in oneself and others is an ethical responsibility. This Islam is a religion of freedom.

What does this mean in practical terms? The task of revolutionizing Islam in Afghanistan should begin with attention to the plight of women. Presently, half the population is absent from the public domain, veiled from head to toe, branded as inferior to men and treated as sexual objects to be kept at home


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