Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Moslem beliefs

A shared ground

For all that divides them, Q-News (and British Sufis more generally) and the MCB’s affiliates have five things in common:

First, both are highly literalist in their reading of the Qur’an. They feel (for the most part) little need to read the book in its historical context, and view each and every word as relevant for all peoples and for all time to come.

Second, both are strongly committed to the idea that a single, faith-based identity is more important for Muslims than any other type of descriptive label.

Third, both adhere strongly to the idea of umma – though more as a supranational network of believers than as a physical Islamic caliphate of the sort advocated by Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

Fourth, both share a worrying sympathy for censorship of views they find uncomfortable.

Fifth, both are genuinely struggling to come to terms with modernity and to understand how to handle difference and pluralism within Islam, as well as between Muslims and the world around them.

In light of this large area of agreement or at least affinity, could the two camps seek common purpose, or at least agree to disagree? Pakistan, a region where the Sufi/Islamist dispute has deep and often violent roots, may provide some clues. Sufis (represented by the Fuad Nahdi of Q-News) are themselves talented and accomplished journalists, which in itself carries a lot of weight among reporters and editors. The mature understanding of many more Sufis of how the modern press in a plural society works has helped them to nurture good media relationships. Indeed, this contrast in sophistication is very evident in their respective contributions to the Panorama controversy among Sufis and non-Sufis.