Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Muslim problem

Recent arguments suggest that though there are serious divisions between British Muslim groups they have the following in common. Ehsan Masood claims the different groups have five things that unite them.

This makes them a serious problem for the rest of us, since they are stuck in an unchanging book of revelations that leaves little room for deeper understanding. It suggests that most British Muslims are the Muslim equivalent of evangelical fundamentalist Christians. My own experience of the sufis is rather different however. They seem to me to be a very conceptually sophisticated group. They tend to be esoteric rather than exoteric and unitive rather than divisive. Should we believe Masood? I don't know.

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.


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