Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Seeking Muslim "Progressives"?

The following is a comment I made on Farish Noor's article Does Progressive Islam Need a Genealogy? on Facebook.

It all boils down to politics - equality, good governance and education in all the so called "Islamic" countries. Many people seek solace in religion, when life gets too tough to bear. It is the corruption within the system that makes people seek solace in religion and the religious "scholars" (who more often than not, aren't exactly the cream of the crop, and yet wield enormous "moral/divine" clout/authority). They also use it as a rallying call when they are lost for any viable philosophy to guide them politically, and unwittingly pander to the whims of clerics. It only gets worse, when they seek to emulate or compare themselves to each other while competing at producing primitive orthodoxy and religiosity, as a valid alternative to their lack of spirituality.

It is a misconception that ideas need to be justified using that which was pedaled by “state-sanctioned thinkers” of old. The clerics need to be adventurous enough to think for themselves, for today. Until the day comes when Muslims realize that religion "needs" to be divorced from governance/politics, this problem will persist. To a certain extent, I believe, that all religions need a form of “liberation theology” wherein the individual human rights of the faithful are truly recognized as being “god-ordained”. Progress can only come through preaching of freedom, and the recognition of the freedom to choose – which is seen in secular democracies. It must be kept in mind though that the “evils” of secularism (not “secularization of society”, mind you) is a price that that the “religious” have to pay, to achieve the progress that they seek.

History may give us some models and examples
of how this was attempted centuries ago

by Muslims who were regarded as modern and progressive then,
but history cannot win the struggle for us today.
-Farish Noor, Does Progressive Islam Need a Genealogy?

Until & unless the realms of freedom and secularism are explored by the scholars in "religious” of thought, “progressivism” is kind of doomed, and the “religious” will remain as it is now (or possibly, even regress). It is only through the development of this school of thought advocating freedom/ liberation as the cornerstone of one's philosophy, can progress be achieved.

As you said, it is not a phenomenon that's restricted to Islam alone - all religions would be subject to the same predicament, should they pander to the orthodoxy advocated by those deemed as leaders. The "christian/western" world broke out of the corruption and decadence of the “Holy” Roman Empire through the revolutionary defiance and courage of Martin Luther – a catholic cleric himself – which heralded “progressivism” in the form of Protestants. It was this same spirit of freedom and rebellion against tyranny, that led to the landing of the Pilgrims, on Plymouth Rock – thus building the foundations of USA that we know today. Maybe the “Muslim world” will soon find a Martin Luther in them to bring about their renaissance – and I believe that that time isn't too far off (maybe within the next century). Until then, they probably need to give up their bragging rights.


"I never will, by any word or act, bow to the shrine of intolerance
or admit a right of inquiry into the religious opinions of others."
--Thomas Jefferson

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