In the last few decades, problems related to radical Islam included terrorism, suicide bombings and suppression of human rights, particularly where Shariah was implemented.
The phenomenon has also contributed to discrimination against religious minorities in the Muslim world and hatred of Western civilization.
As a result, the reaction of some in the non-Muslim world in the last few years — especially after 9/11 — has been characterized by heavy criticism of Islam.
Appeasers of Islam rejected this approach and insisted that there are no problems in Islamic teachings. In fact, some tried to point the finger to non-ideological causes for the problem instead of admitting that there is an ideological problem that must be corrected in order to avoid a clash of civilizations.
Reforming the Islamic teachings has been suppressed for hundreds of years after the leading Sunni scholars stopped the process of ijtihad — or renewing the understanding of the religion. As a result, young Muslims did not have options to learn Islam except from anachronistic and old fashioned interpretations and jurisprudence books.
On Jan. 24, 2011, the first essay to focus on renewing Islamic teachings and understandings was been published in the journal Al-Youm Al-Sabeii (The 7th day). According to the journal, 25 leading Egyptian thinkers and Islamic scholars, including scholars from Al-Azhar University, contributed to the document.
The document addressed 22 points that included:
- New evaluation of the Hadith books and better selection for the Hadith of prophet Muhammad
- Changing some traditional teachings regarding the concept that non-Muslims must pay jizzia (humiliating tax) to Muslims
- Changing the traditional Islamic understandings in relation to dealing with women
- New understanding for the concept of jihad
- Allowing Muslims to use non-Shariah compliant banking systems
- Better preparation of the preachers and allowing independent thinkers who were not educated in Islamic institutes to contribute to Islamic teaching and reform
- Separation between Mosque and state
- Accepting that women and Christians can lead Islamic countries
- Modernizing Al-Azhar Islamic education
- Creating better relations with non-Muslims via school, mosque, and church
Regradless of the underlying factors that lead to such a change and whether criticism of radical teachings in Islam has contributed to it, it is fair to say that this step and approach can be considered the first significant change in the history of Islam toward its desperately needed reformation.
This crucial step acknowledges the existence of a problem, addresses its root causes, and admits the need for a change in Islamic teaching and education.
To the contrary to the appeasing approach that denies the existence of an ideological component for the phenomenon of violent Islam, the honest approach could ultimately lead to a real solution for Islamic radicalism.
The impact of this step — if it resulted in a real change in the educational systems of the Muslim world — can be tremendous despite the fact that many regressive minds in the Muslim world will resist such a change.
Modern media can be used to speed up the process of reformation. The new document heralds the beginning of vital change within Islam and this change may not influence every Muslim as there is no single control system for Sunni Islam but certainly such an approach can produce a significant change in Muslim population toward modernity.
The educational change can prevent radicalization of many young Muslims; however, other complementary approaches are needed to weaken the already existent radicalism.
Finally, the question that still remains: Are the same scholars who taught regressive forms of Islam for decades capable of producing a modern version of the understanding of the religion?
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