Counterpoint: Reform Islam, Reject Sharia

Professor Hossein Askari has an ambitious reform agenda for Islam.

BY CounterJihad · @CounterjihadUS | May 14, 2016

Continuing today’s theme of Muslim views on Islamic reform, Professor Hossein Askari of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has penned an essay calling for a reformation.  Professor Askari is originally from Iran, but since coming to the West has obtained degrees in engineering and economics.  He argues that we must understand that we are in “a war that must be won in the hearts and minds of Muslims with their active participation and with understanding and support from the non-Muslim World.”  As a part of that world, let us consider his proposed agenda.

First, he argues that the problem is not Islam but one of tyranny in the Islamic world.  Muslims in much of their own lands — including his native Iran — are disenfranchised and often live under severe tyranny.  This makes them easily persuaded by radicalism.  Their own governments prefer to divide them against Christians by using radical Islam, making it seem as if there were outside schemes that were responsible for their native misery.  We have many reasons to doubt that Islam itself is clean of guilt.  However, there is truth to his complaint that tyranny influences the problem.  The Saudis in particular have been using radical, politicized Islam in just this way for centuries.  The Iranian government also relies upon it heavily.

His agenda for reform is built around four principles:

  1. Reject all current authorities claiming to speak for Islam.  Replace them with no one.  “Islam does not need anyone at its helm.”
  2. Craft a new constitution for Islamic politics built on human rights and capitalism — he cites Adam Smith by name.  This constitution should be able to be amended as necessary.  This violates the sharia law that only God may legislate, and that human attempts to arrogate the right to make laws are sinful.  But that is not a problem, because his third agenda item is….
  3. Reject sharia law as a fundamentally unjust legal system.  “Sharia should be set aside as the legal system in all Muslim countries. It was a body of law that was derived and put together by men (no female participation) many centuries ago. The agendas of rulers were always on the radar. Originally, Sharia might have been helpful for its inclusiveness and tolerance but today Muslim clerics and autocratic rulers use Sharia as an instrument of control that propagates injustice and deprivation.”
  4. Muslims living abroad in non-Muslim majority countries should see themselves as ambassadors.  They should assimilate into the cultures of these lands, and live out the values of peace that Askari sees as the core of Islam.

Adopting this agenda, he suggests, will put an end to Islamic terrorism.  “Terrorism will not be vanquished on the battlefield. It requires a Muslim Reformation with Muslims taking back their religion from self-appointed clerics, rulers and Jihadists, setting aside Sharia[.]”

It is hard to see how this could be accomplished, as it goes against Islam’s most luminous theological writings.  It is certainly at least a very tall order, or rather a compilation of very tall orders.  The idea that sharia should be rejected is completely sound and valid.  He mentions the lack of female input in its construction, and indeed, even its most woman-friendly philosophers have not been able to impact its unjust treatment of half of humanity.

That much, at least, of his call we can surely endorse.  The beginning of reforming Islam is rejecting sharia.



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