If you haven’t signed the Muslim Reform Movement’s petition yet, you simply must. Muslim reformers are becoming more vocal, or perhaps more accurately, are gaining more traction in the media, and are starting to organize themselves very well, as the MRM demonstrates. The reforming voices are acting like a beacon for others, and as that beacon shines brighter, the shadowy figure of Islamism and Islamic Conservatism is being pushed out to the fringes. Alas, we will never be rid of them completely, with scripture like the Quran or the Bible anchored to a concept of an omniscient and omnipotent God, extremism will never truly disappear. But as it was with Christianity, Islamism whether jihadist or conservative, is more mainstream than many Muslim’s care to admit.
As an atheist I love debating the existence of God and the truth claims of religion. It’s an important conversation to have. It improves ones reasoning skills and sharpens ones character by mere participation. Atheists and Christians have been having this conversation for some time now. We take for granted the fact, that this was not always the case, and it’s certainly not the case for too many Muslim’s in the 21st Century. Whether you’re a Muslim living in Saudi Arabia or Britain, or just attempting to have the conversation in the family home–where you should feel the safest–in all these cases, too often, Muslim’s are gambling with their lives and their freedom, and risking social isolation and desertion by family members and peers. Reformers have the unenviable task of not only legitimizing an interpretation of Islam that allows for their groups declaration, that they’ve collectively and so beautifully constructed; but they must also render such conversations about truth and God, benign and mainstream. Now this isn’t to say I want reformers to break down these barriers so I can pull out Peter Boghossian’s A Manual for Creating Atheists in order to convert more Muslim’s to atheism. That would be a cynical mission indeed, and some Muslim’s fear that allowing such conversations to take place, will water down the faith, and therefore won’t give an inch. They can relax, this isn’t an atheist conspiracy.
The Regressive Left often fuel this fear. It’s fairly easy to dismiss atheists, and among the Regressive Left, it appears even easier to dismiss ex-Muslim and reforming voices by labeling them native informants or house Muslim’s–a reprehensible and slanderous smear against the brave men and women that have taken up this challenge–in any case the more Muslim voices out there, like the members of the MRM; the less hysteria and frustration there will be from people whose only experience of Islam, are either shouts of Allahu Akbar moments before explosions and gunfire fill the air, or Islamist bully tactics, or the evasive apologism and denial of moderate Muslim’s, who are adamant there is no problem with Islam, while the former’s continue to dominate the news and the debate (if one could call it that).
So ubiquitous is the idea of an angry, aggrieved, apologist Muslim, that reading or watching a Muslim that doesn’t fit the image can be quite startling to some. I noticed this recently when Asra Q. Nomani–herself a member of the newly formed MRM–surprised her CNN host, by agreeing with mothers in Virginia, who were upset about the Shahada (the Muslim declaration naming Allah as the one true God and the prophet Mohammed as his messenger) being incorporated into a lesson on Arabic calligraphy at Riverheads High School. “When you hear a story like that, what do you think?” the host asked. “Well I am a mother in Virginia, and I wouldn’t have wanted this assignment in my son’s school”. The reaction is quite amusing, the hosts bemused “Hmmm”, and the shifting in her seat was priceless. She was clearly taken aback. If Asra had of said, “you know, as a Muslim I think it’s disgusting how these mothers can be so islamophobic, the Shahada is beautiful, this is a racist school and as a mother in Virginia I would have taken my son out of that school to keep him from such vicious bigotry”, dollars to donuts, the CNN host wouldn’t have batted an eye, and neither would most viewers. Instead, Asra, a Muslim, stood up for secularism, shocking! They’re out there folks and we need to support the reformers and give them the biggest platform possible. SOLIDARITY!