Culture > Q&A

Remaking a religion

"Remaking a religion" Continued...

Issue: "Realities: 2011-2020," Jan. 15, 2011

What about the cab drivers and passengers with alcohol? The Minneapolis Airport had another initiative: Cab drivers were refusing to transport anyone carrying liquor. The airport solution was to create two lines, one where liquor is OK and the other where it's not. That might seem like an acceptable accommodation, but think about what this implies: liquor today, but maybe a ham sandwich tomorrow, or a woman with a sleeveless dress. If it's cab drivers today, it could be bus drivers tomorrow and then air captains the next day . . . so the whole plane doesn't take off because someone has a ham sandwich? No. This is U.S. application of Shariah law. I'm happy to report that the airport authorities told the cab drivers that if they wanted to drive taxis they would have to take whoever came along.

You've written that radical Islam is the problem and that "modern Islam" is the solution. What is modern Islam? Modern Islam is an anti-Islamist Islam. I'm told that modern Islam is like the unicorn, much discussed but never seen-but its supporters do exist. You see Muslims all over arguing against Islamism, but they're not a movement and they're not coherent or organized with a follower and money. It needs deep thinkers-interpreters of the Quran and other sacred scriptures-along with activists and politicians.

So, defeat Islamism with secularized Islam? Work toward a form of Islam that is modern, moderate, neighborly. That is something that only Muslims can do, but we who are not Muslims can help by encouraging the anti-radicals and discouraging the radicals.

Comparing Islam and Christianity-Christianity is a religion of peace with a founder, Christ, who is clearly a person of peace. In Islam, though, Muhammad was often a warrior. Is the basis of Islam naturally warlike after its founder? The basis of Islam is warlike, but that doesn't mean it has to be warlike.

Is the "modern Islam" you want a move away from the core of Islam? It is reinterpreting Islam. The Islamist interpretation that's so dominant now was barely visible when I got into this field in the 1960s. Now it's dominant. If it can grow, then it can get smaller. We need to help it to get small.

In Christianity, you can always point to the person of Christ. In Islam, you can't move toward peace by pointing to the person of Muhammad. Fair enough, but the person of Muhammad for Muslims is not the equivalent of Jesus Christ but the equivalent of Saint Paul. Muslims have made him into almost a Jesus-like figure but that is not inherent in the religion.

But people in the United States can readily draw cartoons of any kind in relation to Christ, or Paul. If it is not a part of Islam to make Muhammad so significant, why is any criticism of him a capital crime in some places? Yes, in Pakistan regulation 295-C asserts that if you assault the prophet, you should be executed. It is a reality, but it doesn't have to be that way. Over the centuries the idea took hold that Muhammad was a perfect man-but we can rethink this. This is what I was getting at about reinterpreting the scriptures-it doesn't have to be that way.
Listen to Marvin Olasky's complete interview with Daniel Pipes..

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.

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