Islamic Scholar Optimistic about Future of Islam in 21st Century

Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 31, 2000 | Go to article overview

Islamic Scholar Optimistic about Future of Islam in 21st Century


ISLAMIC SCHOLAR OPTIMISTIC ABOUT FUTURE OF ISLAM IN 21ST CENTURY

Dr. Ebrahim Moosa, associate professor of religious studies at Stanford University, spoke on "Islam in the 21st Century: Reform and Reinterpretation" at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco on May 11.

"Moderate voices within Islam are persecuted," Moosa said, referring to the recent riots by Muslim students at Cairo's Al-Azhar University over the inclusion of A Banquet of Seaweed by Syrian writer Haidar Haidar in a series of works by modern Arabic writers. The Egyptian government has since withdrawn the book from circulation, deferring to the students' charges that the book is anti-Islam.

Media reporting of certain negative events in the Islamic world, such as riots over Islamic literature, human rights abuses in Afghanistan, and honor killings in Jordan and Pakistan, make some people believe "Islam is a lost cause and there is no chance for a revitalization of Islam," Moosa complained. "I believe it would be a terrible mistake to believe this."

He went on to explain that, since Islam's creation in the 7th century, moderate-thinking scholars have energized the religion with a creative interpretation of the Qur'an. Fourteenth century scholars "dealt with new contingencies," he emphasized. And in the 19th century, scholars "found a way Islam could deal with a modern changing world." Moosa warned that people should not view the Qur'an as a "massively egalitarian" book, but that it is open to interpretation with respect to changes in the contemporary era.

In this regard, Moosa enumerated three specific areas of concern for Islamic scholars. With respect to "gender" he is encouraged that women are adding their voices to Qur'anic interpretations of their rights and roles within the family and society in general.

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