Emerging Muslim Freethinkers and the Battle of Civilizations
05 Mar, 2009
The Muslim world is obviously in a mess. Political instability, unbridled corruption, lack of economic development, widespread intolerance and violence, and lack of freedom, liberty and human rights are some of the traits that characterize Muslim societies most glaringly. All indications suggest that things will get only worse over coming decades.
Amongst many factors that differentiate Muslim societies from most other progressive and more peaceful societies are its missing freethinkers—namely critics and reformers—who are able to criticize the troublesome aspects of its societal core, its religious foundations. Other societies had its problems in the past. However, those societies allowed the emergence of progressive freethinking scholars, philosophers and reformers. They exercised variable measures of liberty to criticize, to point fingers at, the underlying reasons, including the religious ones, of the many ills of their societies. Jewish societies produced brilliant minds like Benedict de Spinoza, Carl Marx and Albert Einstein amongst many other; Christianity produced great thinkers like Rene Descartes, Emmanuel Kant, David Hume, John S Mill, Bertrand Russell and many more. Some of these thinkers, Spinoza for example, attracted ire from religious authorities, faced excommunication. Nonetheless, their ideas and views were not choked out; instead, they were disseminated with some measure of ease; security to their life was not threatened. The resilience, the power, of their progressive and reformative social, political and philosophical ideas eventually triumphed. As a result, those societies reformed, secularized, progressed and prospered.
But Muslims societies, the core of which is most intimately integrated with its religious ideals, have never really allowed the emergence of its own breed of freethinkers and progressive reformers, particularly over the past eight centuries.
As long as intolerance of dissenting ideas remain in force, Islamic world will unlikely emerge from its current malaise and lack of material progress. It is unlikely to change any time soon. There is, however, a glimmer of hope. Kicked out of their home countries, some Muslim dissidents—harbored by the liberal West—are showing their intellectual prowess. Muslim apostates like Ibn Warraq and Ayaan Hirsi Ali have written bestselling books. Most of all, they, for the first time, are pointing fingers at the debilitating nature of the Islamic theology, which must undergo modernization as have other creeds.
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