The Future of Islam This page intentionally left blank The Future of Islam John L. Esposito 2010 Oxford University Press, Inc., publishes works that further Oxford University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education. Oxford New York Auckland Cape Town Dar es Salaam Hong Kong Karachi Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi New Delhi Shanghai Taipei Toronto With ofﬁces in Argentina Austria Brazil Chile Czech Republic France Greece Guatemala Hungary Italy Japan Poland Portugal Singapore South Korea Switzerland Thailand Turkey Ukraine Vietnam Copyright Ó 2010 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Published by Oxford University Press, Inc. 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 www.oup.com Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Oxford University Press. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Esposito, John L. The future of Islam / John L. Esposito. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 978-0-19-516521-0 1. Islam—21st century. 2. Islam—Relations. 3. Islamic countries—Relations—United States. 4. United States—Relations—Islamic countries. I. Title. BP161.3.E867 2010 297.09#051—dc22 2009018732 135798642 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper For Jean Past, Present, and Future This page intentionally left blank Contents Foreword by Karen Armstrong, ix Acknowledgments, xiii Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Introduction, 3 The Many Faces of Islam and Muslims, 10 God in Politics, 56 Where Are the Muslim Reformers? 88 America and the Muslim World: Building a New Way Forward, 142 Conclusion, 195 Notes, 201 Bibliography, 215 Index, 221 This page intentionally left blank Foreword This is an important book. Those of us who have been on the front line of the effort, since the atrocities of September 11, 2001, to explain Islam in the Western world soon became aware not simply of the widespread ignorance of Muslim religion in both Europe and the United States but also of an entrenched reluctance to see Islam in a more favorable light. People often look balked and vaguely mutinous when, for example, you explain that the Qur’an does not in fact advocate the indiscriminate slaughter of the inﬁdel or the propagation of the faith by the sword, and that even though there is still much to be done to promote gender equality in Muslim countries, the message of the Qur’an was initially friendly to the emancipation of women. One of the most frequently asked questions is: ‘‘Why has Islam not had a reformation?’’ The query betrays an ignorance of both Islamic and Western history. It assumes that there was something special and unique about the reform movement initiated by Martin Luther (1483–1556) and John Calvin (1509–64) that points to the inherent superiority and progressive nature of our Western culture. In fact, Luther’s was a typical premodern reformation, similar to many of the movements of islah (‘‘reform’’) and tajdid (‘‘renewal’’) that have regularly punctuated Muslim history. They all, Muslim or Christian, follow a similar agenda: they attempt to return to the wellsprings of tradition and cast aside the piety of the immediate past. Thus Luther and Calvin sought to return to the ‘‘pure’’ Christianity of the Bible and the Fathers of the Church, in exactly the same way as Ahmed ibn Taymiyyah of Damascus (1263–1328) advocated a return to the Qur’an and the sunnah (‘‘customal practice’’) of the Prophet Muhammad. In his desire to get back to basics, Ibn Taymiyyah also overturned much revered medieval jurisprudence and philosophy, just as Luther and Calvin attacked the medieval scholastic theologians; like any Muslim reformation, therefore, their movement was both reactionary and revolutionary. Reform movements usually occur during a period of cultural change or in the wake of a great political disaster, when the old answers no longer sufﬁce and reformers seek to bring the tradition up to date so that it can meet the contemporary challenge. The Protestant Reformation took place during the profound societal changes of the early modern period, when people found that they could no longer practice their faith in the same way as their medieval ancestors. It was, therefore, the product rather than a cause of modernization, and instead of being regarded as the instigator of change, Luther should rather be seen as the spokesman of a current trend. A similar process is now under way in the Muslim world, where the modernization process has been even more problematic than that of sixteenth-century Europe, because it has been complicated by the colonial disruption and continued Western inﬂuence in the internal affairs of the former colonies. Again, Western people are often skeptical about the ability of Islam to reform itself and doubt the presence and effectiveness of Muslim reformers, in part because these creative thinkers get little coverage in the Western press. Thanks to this much-needed book, there is no longer any excuse for such ignorance. Professor Esposito has given a clear and informative introduction to the work of such reformers as Tariq Ramadan, Amr Khalid, Shaykh Ali Goma’a, Mustafa Ceric, Tim Winter, and Heba Raouf. Like Luther, these individuals articulate an important trend in Muslim thinking that challenges the common Western view of Islam. This trend clearly does not regard a literal interpretation of scripture as normative; it is well aware that laws and customs have been conditioned by the historical circumstances in which they developed and must be interpreted in the light of this understanding; it regards self-criticism as creative, necessary, and a religious imperative; it abhors terrorism and violence; and it is anxious to initiate a ‘‘gender jihad.’’ Most important, Professor Esposito makes it clear that Western people simply cannot afford to remain uninformed about these developments in the Muslim world. He shows how the failure of Western foreign policy has been one of the causes of the current malaise in the region and that, for example, ignorance about the Sunni/Shia rift in Iraq made it impossible for the United States to identify friends and foes. We now live in one world and share a common predicament. What happens in Gaza or Afghanistan today is likely to have repercussions tomorrow in London or Washington, D.C. To persist in the belief that all Muslims support terrorism, oppose democracy, and are atavistically opposed to freedom is not only counterproductive to Western interests but, as we see in these pages, ﬂies in the face of the x | foreword evidence, such as that provided in the recent Gallup Poll. Westerners cannot expect Muslims to adopt a more positive view of their cultural values if they themselves persist in cultivating a stereotypical view of Islam that in some signiﬁcant respects dates back to the Middle Ages. Unless we can learn to live together in a more just and rational way, we are unlikely to have a viable world to hand on to the next generation. One comes away from this book convinced that the future of Islam does not simply depend on the effectiveness of a few Muslim reformers but that the United States and Europe also have a major role to play. If short-sighted Western policies have helped to create the current impasse, they will, if not corrected, continue to have a negative effect upon the region, will weaken the cause of reform, and play into the hands of extremists. In the Qur’an, God calls all men and women to appreciate the unity and equality of the human race: ‘‘O people! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another’’ (49:13). One of the major tasks of our generation is to build a global community, where people of all persuasions can live together in harmony and mutual respect. In writing this book, which will help many Western readers to achieve a more balanced, informed, and nuanced appreciation of the Muslim world, Professor Esposito has made a major contribution. Karen Armstrong foreword | xi This page intentionally left blank Acknowledgments There are so many people to whom I am indebted. I will only mention a few and know others will understand given limitations of space. John Voll, with whom I have collaborated closely and co-authored many times over the years, is always a gold mine of information and advice. Tamara Sonn and I have worked on more academic projects than I can remember, and she can always be counted on for a quick response and close read. Dalia Mogahed and the Gallup World Polls, which provide the most comprehensive and systematic polling of the Muslim world, have enabled us to listen to the voices of Muslims globally on critical issues. Dalia and I, in my capacity as a Gallup Senior Scientist, co-authored Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think and have collaborated on other projects involving Gallup World Poll data, which has been a rich resource. Like my other colleagues, Natana DeLong-Bas, Jonathan Brown, and Shamil Idriss were always ready to read, comment, and contribute their suggestions and insights on a moment’s notice. I have been fortunate to have a wonderful group of Georgetown graduate students as researchers at different stages of this project. Melanie Trexler, Abdullah Al-Arian, and Hadia Mubarak provided extensive research that was augmented by Rebecca Skreslet, Fuad Naeem, and Adrien Paul Zakar. Oxford University Press has a special place in my scholarly life. From 1981, when I nervously drove from Worcester, Massachusetts, to New York to hand-deliver my ﬁrst Oxford book, until today, I have been privileged to work with so many ﬁrst-class professionals: presidents like Ed Barry, book and reference editors, and marketing specialists. None has been more important than Cynthia Read, executive editor, who, as a young assistant to the then religion editor, took delivery of my manuscript. While it is customary for an author to thank his/her editor, Cynthia Read has truly been a very special and remarkable editor as well as a good friend, with whom I have worked for more than twenty-ﬁve years. She never ceased to be a source of encouragement and critical feedback and is a major reason why I have been an Oxford author all these years. I am fortunate to again have two consummate professionals, India Cooper as copy editor and Joellyn Ausanka as production editor, who as in the past are a pleasure to work with. Georgetown University and the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (now the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding), which I helped create and direct, have been my academic home since 1993. The creation of our Center, as well as support for much of its ﬁrst decade of existence, was due initially to the generosity of Hasib Sabbagh and his Arab Christian and Muslim colleagues. Our current and future existence and the work of Prince Alwaleed Center are now assured by a generous endowment from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal’s Kingdom Foundation. Critical to our existence have been Georgetown presidents Leo O’Donovan, S.J., who made the decision to create the Center and his successor John J. Degioia, Georgetown’s current president, consistent in his support for the Center and its mission and my own professional development. I am especially grateful to an extraordinary administrative team that enables the Center and me ‘‘to run often and on time’’! Alexa Poletto, associate director, Denisse Bonilla Chaoui, executive assistant, and Adam Holmes, program coordinator, are outstanding professionals and friends. They are a seamless team without whom I and my colleagues could not function, let alone be as active, visible, and effective. Whatever I may have accomplished or achieved in life is due in large part to the presence and inﬂuence of my family. My parents, John and Mary Esposito, provided the most loving and supportive environment, in which they motivated and inspired ‘‘their boys’’ to care about family, society, and education and to value values. My brothers, Lou and Rick, have each in their own ways carried on their legacy. Jean Esposito, wife and life partner, has always managed to balance her life, career, and me and made the past forty-ﬁve years richer and more meaningful than I could have ever imagined. My best editor and critic, she is the reason I am not still a graduate student with ﬁve ‘‘incomplete’’ grades! Mandy, our sheltie, has quite literally always been at my desk-side throughout the writing of this book, the ﬁrst to go to my ofﬁce and the last to leave. Finally, I end at the beginning. Ismail Ragi al-Faruqi took a reluctant Temple University graduate student, who insisted he would only take one course on Islam, and opened up a world that set me on a journey that has now spanned four decades of discovery and experiences. That journey has been both my profession and vocation; my experiences with so many Muslims across the world have enriched my life immeasurably. Washington, D.C. August 2009 xiv | acknowledgments The Future of Islam This page intentionally left blank Introduction The lives and expectations of many were shattered by the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Within hours a handful of terrorists had transformed the twenty-ﬁrst century into a world dominated by an American-led war against global terrorism and strengthened the image of Islam and Muslims as a religion and a people to be feared and fought. Some spoke of a clash of civilizations. Others asked, ‘‘What went wrong?’’ or ‘‘Why do they hate us?’’ America’s expansive war on terror, continued acts of violence and terrorism by Muslim extremists, widespread anti-Americanism across the Muslim world (and much of the non-Muslim world), and the spread of Islamophobia have raised many questions about the future of Islam and of Muslims. For many, the war on global terrorism has come to be seen as a war against Islam and the Muslim world. America is seen as engaged in a neocolonial attempt to redraw the map of the Middle East in light of American political and economic interests. The detention without trial and the abuse of Muslim prisoners, charges of the desecration of the Quran, the denigration of Islam and torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and the erosion of the civil liberties of Muslims through the use of secret evidence and the provisions of the Patriot Act undermined the claims of President George W. Bush’s administration to be promoting democracy and human rights. The Future of Islam seeks to understand the struggle for reform in Islam, sometimes described as a struggle for the soul of Islam, to explore the religious, cultural, and political diversity of Muslims facing daunting challenges in Muslim countries and in the West, to clarify the debate and dynamics of Islamic reform, to examine the attempt to combat religious extremism and terrorism, and to look into the future of Muslim-West relations. This book is the culmination of my work on Islam and Muslim politics. I have drawn on my work and experiences over several decades, begun at a time when Islam was relatively invisible on our cognitive and demographic map in the West. Today, it is hard for many of us to appreciate that only a few short decades ago, this book would have been unthinkable. Neither Islam nor Muslim politics was particularly visible or seemed to be relevant to affairs in the West. This lack of knowledge and interest in government, academia, and the media was also reﬂected in a dearth of publishing on Islam, as a review of publications and library holdings prior to the 1970s will demonstrate. In many ways my professional career chronicles and reﬂects the sea change that has occurred in just a few short decades, as Islam and Muslim politics have moved from offstage to center stage, and we have witnessed an explosion of interest in and coverage of them. Today, Islam is among the fastest-growing religions in Africa, Asia, Europe, and America. More than 1.5 billion Muslims live within some ﬁftyseven Muslim-majority countries and constitute signiﬁcant minorities in Europe (where some twenty million Muslims make Islam the second-largest religion) and America (whose six to eight million Muslims make it the thirdlargest and fastest-growing religion there). Islam is more dispersed around the globe and interactive with other faiths and societies than at any other time in history. Its capitals and major cities cover a global expanse from Cairo to Jakarta in the Muslim world and from New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles to Paris, London, and Berlin in the West. For Americans and Europeans, understanding Islam and Muslims is both a domestic imperative (to know one’s fellow citizens and neighbors) and a foreign policy priority. It is important at the outset to remember that the topic of Islam and of Muslims is political as well as religious. Islam today is not only a faith that inspires personal piety and provides meaning and guidance for this life and the next. It is also an ideology and worldview that informs Muslim politics and society. Muslim governments and opposition movements, religious leaders and laity, appeal to and use religion to legitimate their beliefs, policies, and actions. Rulers in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Iran, and elsewhere appeal to Islam for legitimacy, as do political and social movements, mainstream and extremist. Muslim societies now are often polarized between secular and more religiously oriented sectors. Because of the impact of Islam on foreign affairs and international relations, Islam, speciﬁcally political Islam, has been and continues to be a concern for policymakers, political analysts, and commentators. As such, Islamic political and social activism is a highly contentious topic. It is fraught with contending and conﬂicting interpretations, often broadly 4 | the future of islam divided into two camps sometimes characterized as the confrontational and the accommodationist. Members of the former believe that all Islamic activists are a threat, whereas adherents of the latter, the school of thought to which I belong, distinguish between moderate or nonviolent activists who function in mainstream society and a dangerous minority of violent extremists and terrorists.1 The Future of Islam is about all of our futures. Islam and Muslims today are integral players in global history. They are part of the mosaic of American and European societies. In a world in which we too often succumb to the dichotomy between ‘‘us’’ and ‘‘them,’’ we are challenged to transcend (though not deny) our differences, afﬁrm our common humanity, and realize that ‘‘we,’’ whether we like it or not, are interconnected and co-dependent, the cocreators of our societies and our world. The most important lesson I have learned from my years as an academic and as a student of Islam and Muslim societies is obvious and yet elusive. If you want to know what people believe, if you want to grasp the reality of their everyday lives, you have to look, to use the current academic jargon, at both ‘‘text and context.’’ Understanding the faith of others requires not only knowledge of the sacred sources of a religion (scriptures, creeds, dogmas, and laws) but also knowledge of what people actually believe and do. Appreciation of the essentials of a religion cannot exclude awareness of the diversity of its forms and expressions. However important the Hebrew …
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