Every few years the debate over reforming Islam bubbles up from the depths of a culture that largely censors any suggestion that Islam needs reforming.
Mohammed and key figures in Islam provided a template, but that template would not endure if it did not fit the worldview of its worshipers. Western religions underwent a process of secularization to align with what many saw as modernity leading to a split between traditionalists and secularists.
The proponents of modernizing Islam assume that it didn’t make the jump because of Saudi money, fundamentalist violence and regional backwardness. These allegations are true, but also incomplete.
If modernizing Islam really appealed to Muslims, it would have taken off, at least in the West, despite Saudi money and Muslim Brotherhood front groups. These elements might have slowed things down, but a political or religious idea that is genuinely compelling is like a rock rolling down a hill.
It’s enormously difficult to stop.
Muslim modernization in the West has been covertly undermined by the Saudis and the Muslim Brotherhood, but for the most part it has not been violently suppressed.
It suffers above all else from a lack of Muslim interest.
Muslims don’t spend much time fuming over a progressive mosque that allows gay members or lets women lead prayers. Such places occasionally exist and remain obscure. They don’t have to be forcibly shut down because they never actually take off. The occasional death threat and arson might take place and the average ISIS recruit would happily slaughter everyone inside, but even he has bigger fish to fry.
The best evidence that Muslim modernization has failed is that even the angriest Muslims don’t take it very seriously as a threat. The sorts of people who believe that Saddam Hussein was a CIA agent or that Israel is using eagles as spies have trouble believing modernizing Islam will ever be much of a problem.
They know instinctively that it will never work. Instead Muslims are far more threatened by a cartoon mocking their prophet for reasons that go to the heart of what is wrong with their religion.
Islam is not an idea. It is a tribe.
Talking about reforming the words of Islam is an abstraction. Islam did not begin with a book. It began with clan and sword. Even in the modern skyscraper cities of the West, it remains a religion of the clan and the sword.
The left has misread Islamic terrorism as a response to oppression when it is actually a power base. It is not the poor and downtrodden who are most attracted to the Jihad. Instead it is the upper classes. Bin Laden wasn’t a pauper and neither are the Saudis or Qataris. Islamic terrorism isn’t a game for the poor. It becomes the thing to do when you’re rich enough to envy the neighbors. It’s a tribal war.
To reform Islam, we can’t just look at what is wrong with the Koran or the Hadiths.