Several months ago an old friend and his Moslem wife came to visit, and we spent the next few hours talking about modern religion and the precarious state of moderate Moslems in America. She fumed furiously over what she called “the Wahhabi Whack-Jobs” causing all the trouble, and complained bitterly that the media have consistently ignored the moderate Moslems. The moderates, she said, have written endless letters to newspapers, magazines, TV and radio stations, have held public rallies and marched in the streets to denounce the Jihadis, and none of the media have bothered to notice.
“Keep at it,” I said, reminding her of how long it took the Civil Rights movement, or the Peace movement, to get themselves noticed. Persistence – and growing numbers – will eventually get the media’s attention.
The persistence would be there, she promised, and the numbers would grow – but what American moderate Moslems need is a clear statement of what modern Islam needs to be. “What we really need,” she said, “Is the Moslem equivalent of the Reformation.”
That takes some knowledge of history to understand. Islam was invented, officially, in 610 AD. This means that Islam is some six centuries younger than Christianity. Think: what was Christianity like 600 years ago?
It was nothing you’d want to live with today: holy wars, Inquisitions, witch-burnings, wholesale slaughter of heretics, unquestioned racism, sexism and religious bigotry, religious imperialism, and frantic suppression of such dangerous “modern” inventions as telescopes and the printing press. In short, it was very much like modern radical Islam.
There were early hints of revolt, the Diggers, the Ranters and the Albigenses being the better-known examples. All of them were ruthlessly suppressed, though their ideas – and sometimes a few of their adherents – managed to survive. Eventually the revolt against the static church reached open rebellion, in England with Henry VIII and in Germany when Martin Luther nailed his “95 Theses” to the Wittenberg church door. Subsequently, Christianity experienced the Renaissance, the Reformation and the Enlightenment and emerged as we know it today, with only a few reactionaries – like the Westboro Baptist Church – still trying to live in the Middle Ages.
Islam never completed that journey and never went through the Reformation, let alone the Renaissance or the Enlightenment. Following the historical timeline, though, it’s ripe for one.
Already there’s a historical precursor. In 19th century Persia a nobleman named Baha’u’llah founded the Baha’i faith, which includes ideas remarkably similar to those of the Ranters, Diggers and Albigenses. Of course the Bahais were then persecuted by the orthodox Moslems, who still regard them as “apostates” to this day.
Already there are articles on moderate Moslem websites, calling for a Moslem Reformation and sketching out tentative principles.
I sincerely wish them luck, because the moderate Muslims absolutely must separate themselves from the vicious Wahhabis and the whole Jihadist movement. They can do it safely here in America, as Henry VIII did in England and Martin Luther in Germany, without bringing howling armies of Jihadis down on their heads – at least no more than any other Americans.
And it must happen soon, for the Jihadis are pushing hard for a world-wide religious war in which the moderates may well be caught in the crossfire. Seeing how the Jihadis have stepped up their war on all the non-Moslems in the world, I’d say the moderate Moslems have no more than five years to declare the Moslem Reformation and show themselves clearly opposed to the Jihadis.
Either that or all become Bahais.