BBC Three Free Speech aired on 25/03/2014
Many contemporary and normative Muslim writers have brilliantly discussed the issue of homosexuality. A nuanced, intellectual answer is certainly in order and has been provided to the emotional topic. This discussion however differs from the above. It is to ascertain the “why” behind the discussion. To understand this, we need some context.
During the 1500s the reformation movement began challenging the papacy. It was a response to nationalism, the Vatican’s rigidity with philosophical thought and the abuses of power by the Church. Calvin and others promulgated the separation of Church and State in an effort to protect the citizens from abuses of power. It was thus a response to societal and authoritarian degeneration and the lack flexibility to deal with advancements. It was a unique European paradigm. Christian religion began to be reduced to a private sphere and with this came the notion of a “personal” understanding of Christian texts in effort to reconcile it with changing attitudes and societal norms.
The Jewish faith underwent the same reformation with the Jewish Haskalah, a movement which sought revision within the faith which allowed easier assimilation, through the adoption of the culture in Europe and resultant survival from the onslaught of persecution by the Europeans.
The experience of the Jews and Christians, thus was unique to their conditions.
Islam as a faith did not suffer these problems because the jurisprudence emanating from the Islamic sources of Law did not allow for abuse of power and economic inequity. Nor did it hinder intellectual development. Conversely Islam provided the catalyst for the European Enlightenment which forced Christian scholars to rethink their sciences. St. Thomas Aquinas derived much of his thought from the Andalusian Muslim Maliki scholar Ibn Rushd’s understanding of precedent, logic and physics for instance.
Subjecting it to a European-style reformation thus, is illogical due to the distinct paradigms of “reformation” on the one hand (being Euro-centric) and Islam on the other (theologically flexible and universal to the whole of humanity).
Nevertheless, a Western desire to reform Islam into an indistinct set of rituals has been strong, especially to break the connection with the Qur’an, which provides the protection mechanism necessary for a distinct Islamic society unique in its practices. It also, at a geopolitical level, provides for the Muslims globally, the spiritual connection to al-Quds, which hinders Western Zionist and neoconservative aims.
RAND’s “Democratic Islam”
Which neatly brings us to the neoconservative think tank RAND’s report on reforming Islam. To understand the contemporary debate on homosexuality and the complimentary positing of modernists and progressive “Muslims” there is a need to study the father of the current UK Government’s PREVENT policy, the RAND Corporation policy document ethnocentrically entitled “Civil Democratic Islam”. In it, the methodology suggested to deconstruct Islam into something but Islam is mentioned in some depth by its author Cheryl Bernard. She states that her approach,
“seeks to strengthen and foster the development of civil, democratic Islam and of modernization and development.” (p.47)