Is Turkey re-interpreting Islam?

Hello from Newshour. Is there a move to radically reform Islam in Turkey? This Saturday at 1230 GMT, we at Newshour will be reporting on work in progress in Turkey to reinterpret some of the Hadiths – collectively the second most sacred texts in Islam. We’ll have a panel of Islamic experts to discuss this project. How much of an impact will this have on the life of ordinary people, does it really represent an Islamic revival and will it have any influence on other Muslim countries, either in the Middle East or further afield? And what are conservative Muslim scholars going to make of this? If you’re in Turkey, tell us what you make of the project and whether you think it will affect you. But we’d also like to hear from people living elsewhere in the Muslim world….. Does Islam need reforming to keep pace with the modern world? Or is any attempt to change a sacred text wholly unacceptable? We’ll put your comments and questions to our panel.

29 Responses to “Is Turkey re-interpreting Islam?”

  1. 1 steve
    February 28, 2008 at 17:36

    I really wish people would realize that religion is not fact. It’s beliefs that are very likely based upon man made books. In short, it’s very likely to be fiction. I admit I could be wrong, I doubt it though. That some people take religion so serious, that they will kill over it, scares me. I wish Islam would reform so that people would be more secular, or at least limit their religious beliefs to home. But when your nation is run on religious principles (of your fictional deity) that’s sad. So I would welcome any change for people to base their lives off something rational in nature. However I fear that if Turkey does succeed in doing this, it will just create another sect and then the sunnis and shiites will not only have each other to hate, but this new modern sect too.

  2. February 28, 2008 at 18:48

    Islam really does have to reach out with a clear message to separate itself from the extremists that is tending to put all Muslims in a very guarded light by other societies, that were not born with the Muslim Religeon or way of living and seeing the world.

    I know many Muslims and most are really upset by what the extremists are doing out there, and they do not want the majority of Western people thinking that they believe all this garbage of Muslims wanting to kill all those who are not Muslim.

    The world statement that modern Muslim Leaders need to make would be a ten point concept or something that lines out the priorities of those who are Muslim and wish to share its reverence with those who are not Muslim or Muslims who have been mis-led by those who are simply criminal extremists who hope to destroy the entire Muslim Society.


    1. Main intent of the Muslim Religeon is to establish a relationship with Allah and a golden rule concept of living, that will honor Allah, and provide an effective pathway to raise their families in respectful and beautiful way. Family:…. love of parents, chosen life mate, and children should be the main goal of living a happy, balanced and good life.

    2. Killing in the name of Islam, especially killing fellow Muslims, and all those of brother religeons be expressly forbidden, as the most sure method of offending Allah, and being forever barred from Paradise. Honor killings are a sure sign of mental derangement, and Allah forbids such conduct.

    3. Universal respect, education, and participation in matters of society are extended to all beings male, female, young and old. All will be accorded equality according to human rights.

    4. Jehad is an internal quest of the individual attempting to improve ones relationship with God, fellow citizens, and society. It is a quest to improve one’s happiness on earth, to prepare to be worthy of Allah in the here after.

    on and on to include getting away from extremist actions that normal people would not want perpetrated on themselves by others.


  3. 3 Will Rhodes
    February 29, 2008 at 01:08

    Many religious books have been updated or re-interpreted. This isn’t the first time for the Koran nor will it be the last.

    How ‘conservative’ Muslim’s will view it will be interesting reading.

  4. February 29, 2008 at 05:37

    Hello friend…

    Within the true history of the Judeo-Christian religion the original deity that everyone rightly worshipped (Lowered their spirits too) was literally a physical being who was sometimes known as “THE LIVING GOD” where the Hebrew word that ‘Living’ is translated from (Chay) was the very-same word used in any reference to the ‘LIVING’ animals that Noah took into the Ark or that the Prophet Moses & his followers sacrificed in blood rituals… He (They) were all physical beings (Just like us! We were made in their image) & at the very-same time also fully spiritual beings (Just like we-are in their image) as-we ourselves our….

    Then along came something called ‘GNOSTIC DUALISM HERESY’ of the first few hundred years of AD which most historians for the Church try to claim was soundly defeated… On that point they’re either fully deceived or fully lying… Sadly the Secret Societies pushing a dubious Occult experience in the early church had managed to gain near total control for THE GREAT WHITE BROTHERHOOD & by the time of the third Pope (Clement of Rome) simple obedience to THE TEACHINGS OF CHRIST were totally replaced with all sorts of questionable types of Occult experience justified by a submission to the Bishop & Clergy supposedly making anything & everything existential valid in Heaven’s sight because of the Bishops ring… (Excuse the sarcasm)

    In the middle of this the very name used for the “ONE HEAVENLY FATHER” & the many Angelic servants that do his will & also the physical reality even of their actual existence became so completely twited as to almost be unidentifyable with the original term used for him…

    The most well-known generic term for the race of beings accepted as our Creator’s was the “ELOYHIM” but by the time of the translation of Christian & Jewish Scripture’s in the Bible after the forteenth century the ‘Noun’ & proper truly descriptive name “ELOYHIM” had been swapped for a Pagan-root word ‘God’ which comes from a word whose basic meaning is “SPIRIT OF A DEAD KING” & in one fell swoop the correct understanding & worship of the reality of the true divine was traded for the “WORSHIP OF A WORLD OF DECEASED SPIRITS” which is the case in Christendom as-of this very moment…

    It’s merely ‘SPIRITUALISM’ by another name…

    I-know that the GREAT WHITE BROTHERHOOD has done the very-same thing one-way or another throughout ‘ALL’ of the religions on the entire planet but paying specific attention to the original three monotheistic religions… As I’m no great scholar of Mohhamed or Judaism I-can’t point you to it specifically but I-know it will-be there… They will have turned away any inference of ‘OBEDIENCE TO THE PROPHET’ & instead they will have deceptively replaced that with some form of semi-spiritual ‘EXPERIENCE’ including submission to a ‘SPIRIT’ that will-be probably justifiable through twisting the meanings of scripture…

    It’s all designed to fit-in with the new religion envisaged for mankind by the self-same GREAT WHITE BROTHERHOOD rulers of the Secret Societies where they wish to eventually literally deceive humanity into WORSHIPPING THE COLLECTIVE POWER OF THE HUMAN SOUL as-if that in & of itself were a ‘God’ of one sort or another… They intend to-be in total control of this new religion…

    A part of the very-same thing happening in the MUSLIM RELIGION that you may have been trying to highlight (Like a new-age religious extremism & even a sort of religious fascism) where some ‘NEW REVELATION’ ushers in your long hoped for IMAM MAHDI or the MESSIAH of the JEWS or the (Fake) Second Coming of THE ONE TRUE CHRIST is definitely on the cards… Understand I’m-not trying to convert you… It’s just that I-thought if I-rightly described to you what has really happened in the Church you would be able to see the exact same thing happening in Mohham’s Flock… Kind regards….

    Robby Daniel

  5. 5 Evan
    February 29, 2008 at 14:26

    I hope that this is a further step along the path of a Muslim revival. Islam was once the religion of tolerance, education, science, art, and civilization itself. The fact that many muslim nations suffer mass illiteracy is a sign that the religion is not being followed (Reading the Koran and education are key aspects of the religion, or at least where key aspects before it became power and politics). I have no shortage of respect for the achievements of the Islamic past, and nothing but contempt for the abuses made by so many of the Islamic present. Critical thinking, Rational thought, Art, Architecture, Compassion, and Music were key to Islam rising during its early days in the middle ages. Muslims and Non-muslims the world over have to realize it isn’t about headscarves and suicide bombers, Palestine or Israel, Intifadas or Jihad, Iraq and Oil; It’s about progressing human society towards a harmonious peaceful future. When we all realize its about creation, respect, education, and harmony then some semblence of peace and prosperity will come. It may never happen, but its still worth trying. Let us all hope that a muslim renaissance begins, and an Islamic reformation rids Islam of the backward looking, oppressive and murderous fear mongers.

  6. 6 steve
    February 29, 2008 at 14:51

    Evan, don’t you think the world would be better off without religion? I realize religion has some good points. Some of the values, such as treating others as you want to be treated (presuming you want to be treated with respect), thou shalt not steal, etc are good things, but I think in today’s world, the negatives outweigh the positives.

    Right now religion consists mostly of intolerance, hatred, and violence. If ONE person on earth is killed because of religion, then it has lots its legitimacy.

  7. 7 VictorK
    February 29, 2008 at 16:10

    I’ll try to listen to this programme but I don’t have high hopes for it.

    Since the hadith(s) are second to the Koran and the Sunnah (the latter being the practices established by Muhammed, such as communal prayer) as a source of Islamic orthodoxy, how can anyone think that re-interpreting ‘some of the Hadiths’ can lead to anything like a radical reform of Islam? Many of the problems that non-muslims have with Islam are to be found in the Koran, such as the verse commanding muslims to fight and kill non-muslims ‘wherever you find them,’ or the tradition of Jihad according to the example of Muhammed himself, who regarded unoffending non-muslims as legitimate targets of violence,pluner and conquest. None of this will be affected by the minor re-interpretation that’s being proposed. So why the excitement?

    Muslims have been critically examining hadith – accounts of the words and deeds of Muhammed, as recorded by contemporaries or passed down through oral tradition – since the 7th century. There is an ancient science for establishing the validity of hadith re (a) the route of oral transmission and (b) its meaning, objective and application. What the Turks are proposing is not new at all and certainly doesn’t justify the breathlessness of Western liberals at the (supposed) prospect of the birth of a modern, enlightened and progressive Islam. There have been reform movements in Islam before and they have always failed. Why? Because they have been exterminated by orthodox muslims on the basis that whatever runs counter to the Koran and Sunnah is heresy. Even the Turks dare not attempt to re-interpret the core document and central traditions of Islam, the Koran and Sunnah, and instead are limiting themselves to tinkering with a few hadith. And that’s the problem: liberal Islam is by definition unorthodox and heretical; what our liberal media often present as ‘extreme’ Islam is generally Islam in accordance with the Sunnah and Koran, i.e. orthodoxy. I have yet to see a grain of evidence demonstrating that the Taliban, for example, where ever anything but good and pious muslims following the orthodox precepts of their religion. That is the insurmountable obstacle before Western secular liberals and revisionist muslim liberals: the change that they both dream of for Islam can only be accomplished by abolishing Islam. I expect orthodox muslims to ‘abolish’ their liberal co-religionists first.

    The only story here is that Islam is incapable of fundamental and significant reform. This is very well understood by critical scholars of Islam such as Andrew Bostom, Bat Ye’or, Srdja Trifkovic, and Robert Spencer. But something tells me that it is not experts of this description who will feature in the BBC’s discussion of the issues. I’m expecting a ‘debate’ involving competing and approving views of Islam, but excluding external and critical perspectives. The resulting discussion will resemble the kind of thing one always encounters when debating with muslims: insistence on the perfection of Islam, denial of its historical record of conquest and violence directly inspired by the Koran and Sunnah, misrepresentations about Islam’s cultural achievements (which are more accurately describd as the achievements of Greeks, Persians, Indians, Byzantines and miscellaneous christian cultures, appropriated by the conquering Arabs and passed off as their own (e.g. ‘Arabic numerals’, an invention of Indian mathematicians). In the absence of a critical non-muslim voice there can be no real debate, only rival attempts to outbid each other in making more and more extravagant claims about the glory and wonder and loveliness of Islam, etc.

    And it is not purely by chance that this ‘re-interpretation’ is happening now. Turkey wants to join the European Union. The people in just about every EU state don’t want a nation of 70 million + muslims in their club. Their understanding of Islam is from what they have seen of and heard about 9-11, 7/7 in London, hundreds dead in Madrid, innocents in orange suits having their heads sawn off in Iraq, Bali, Darfur and the ‘Islamist’ regime that has made Darfur possible, the Iranians with their promise to bring a final Final Solution to Israel, the routine mistreatment of non-muslims all over the muslim world, the painfully symbolic destruction of the image of the Buddha by the Taliban, and so on. Few people are naive enough to judge Islam by what they are told when there is plenty of evidence to let them form their own opinion of the religion.

    In these circumstances the Turks need to help their quest for EU membership by spinning the media in order to present a kinder, gentler interpretation of the religion to the crticics and sceptics. Hence the re-interpretation of the hadiths. And the fact that the BBC has taken it up – as other news organisations will – shows that it is a useful tactic.

    But we will have to wait for another occasion for the real debate: is Islam capable of fundamental reform, and if so why has it not happened in 1400 years?

  8. 8 steve
    February 29, 2008 at 16:49

    The bible contains many violent, hateful and distateful things in it. Fortunately christians and jews don’t take it literally in the vast majority of cases. After all, if you eat shellfish, you are committing an abomination, which is a stoneable offense. Should we kill people in the 21st century for not keeping kosher? Of course not. So the problem isn’t really the holy books, which are all hateful disgusting, poorly written books, it’s the people following the religion that are the problem. Stop taking things so literally, especially since it’s all a bunch of fairy tales anyways. I’m not prepared to cut off someone’s hand for something written in a Harry Potter book, so why would you?

  9. 9 Rashid Patch
    February 29, 2008 at 19:41

    Everyone is so worked up about the Turkish secularist government’s plan to “reform” Islam. I’m absolutely sure that the first finding of this Turkish commission will be that the hijab is not required.

    Almost all the comments about the issue here are anti-religion in general, and anti-Islam in particular.

    Appart from that – how much coverage (in comparison with this Turkish “reform Islam” scheme) have the media given to the “Amman Message”, or to the “Common Word”?

    When the actual scholars of the Islamic tradition speak, they are not listened to; instead, radical fundamentalists are put up on the news, and anti-Islamic ideologues reply to them.

    I really shouldn’t feel so annoyed about this; after all, the media has been treating Christianity this way for a century…

  10. 10 Eric Smith
    February 29, 2008 at 21:06

    I think that Europe is not ready to welcome a nation like Turkey into the EU. Sensitivity to muslims very often results in a bad reaction or rash action. Not that Turkey is a state of evil, but that they really aren’t European enough to be in the European Union. I would love to see Islam emerge as a peaceful and welcoming religion that can live in harmony with other religions, hoping they comply also. Muslim orthodoxy is an extremely controversal issue on things such as women’s rights to terrorism. No one should forget, including Muslims, that the profet Mohammed wanted Muslims to live alongside and tolerate other religions, seeing that the first person he consulted aobut his devine encounter on the mountain after his wife was a christian preacher! If Islam resorted more to it’s earlier ways, minus the conquest to spread it, Islam would be a wonderful way of life. The thing I most admire about the koran is that it is forbidden to be translated or reinterpreted. Seeing this happen now is actually quite sad, unless it it reinterpreted to a more pure form. I guess that’s relative. I really do think that Turkey IS changing their religion and it should not be so, especialy being an action from a state. I strongly believe in the American tradition of separating church from state, and other variations. The law of the holy books should not be enforced by the state or any other being at all.

  11. 11 zainab
    March 1, 2008 at 05:30

    Islam, the religion of mercy, doesn’t permit terrorism.
    In the Holy Qur’an, Allah says:
    “Allah does not forbid you from showing kindness and dealing justly with those who have not fought you, about religion and have not driven you of your homes, Allah loves just dealers”.(60:8)
    Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) used to prohibit soldiers from killing women and children.
    And he would advise them thus:
    “don’t betray, don’t be excessive, don’t kill a newborn child.”
    He (s.a.w) also said: “whoever killed a person having a treaty with the Muslims shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise, though its fragrance is found for a span of forty years.”
    Islam represents Fact, becuse there is Allah, there is a Prophet: Muhammed (peace be upon him), there is Imams, there is Heaven , there is Hell. Islam needs no reform but it needs a correct understanding and correct application.
    All Muslims in the world are really upset by what the extremists and the west, and some muslims(or namely muslims)are doing, Islam suffers from all these.
    i want to tell you VictorK that these problems you talked about, to be found in Koran are not really exist. you need to read more about Koran it is not enough to read the Koran and understand it by yourself. but you must read the explanation of it.

    for example Jihad is to make every possible effort to push the enemy, not for aggression. what al-qaida is doing is not of islam it is of themselves and Islam does not bear the sins.
    please try to read more about the real Islam.

  12. 12 John in Germany
    March 1, 2008 at 10:59

    Here we go again.
    The real Islam should be able to control its deviators, is it not understandable that when thousands die in the name of Islam, that Islam takes the blame. Islam is not alone, many religions have the same problem, its called democracy(under normal circumstances the ideal). However the deaths of thousands that have been bought about by terrorists trained in Islamic schools, and paid by Islamic supporters is worrying. Surely if it is true what is said, that the majority of Islamics abore violence, then they could stop it?. Show the world that you can.

    For me the Turkish government is trying to change back to before Ata Turk, and that is frightening. The first move was headscarf’s and the Unis, and we will see bit by bit a change will take place. Secular Turkey WAS to be wondered at, but now i am not so sure. Or does the smiling hotel receptionist hide what she really thinks about us tourists?

    John in Germany

  13. 13 Pawnbroker
    March 1, 2008 at 13:59

    Robby Daniel What you equate as “WORSHIPPING THE COLLECTIVE POWER OF THE HUMAN SOUL” is in fact just self-actualization.

    PS. lay off the science fiction for awhile, go out take a walk – it’ll do you some good.

  14. 14 steve
    March 1, 2008 at 18:18

    Well John from Germany, if Turkey becomes a theocracy, and it becomes a third world nation around the same time, you’ll know why I guess. If people are too busy praying and not being productive, if you don’t have oil, you become dirt poor.

  15. March 1, 2008 at 19:58

    1st of all Thank you so much Zainab. Regarding the Hadith of the Prophet Mohammed, there are strong statements and weak statements. Weak or strong according to the crediblity and the strength of faith of the person who heard the statement from the Prophet and told it to other Muslims. The Wahabi version of Islam depends on many weak statements and rely on them in order to justify its extremist views and terrorist acts against innocent civilians all over the World. So any re-interpreting of Al Hadith must exclude all those weak statements told by incredible and weak faith personalities and include only the very strong statement whose strength is agreed upon by the public of all Muslim clerics at the times of Al Hadith collection (centuries ago). There’re texts in the Holy Koran that must be applied generally in all times, and there’re other texts that must not be applied generally in all times, but only on very special occasions. My good friend Victork : Wahabism and Islam are two completely different religions. Wahabists do consider other Muslims who do not acknowledge their devious believes to be infidels. With my love. Yours forever, Lubna.

  16. 16 Syed Hasan Turab
    March 1, 2008 at 22:45

    Islam & acts of Muslimes are two differant things and majority in fellowers seems peacefull. Due to constant denial & negative attitute towards core issues is opening the doors for debate in civil society without discrimination of religion, and in marshall society opening the doors for terrorisam & militry actions, any way majority of Global villigers dont like ” Marshal Approach”, and they are helpless against power show business.
    No doubt religion & belives are sensative in any society really hard to rewrite or change as these are life time achievements of prevailing societies of the world.
    We may emphasies on interfath comonolities to promote universal brotherhood along with modern societies concept as marshall approach is proven failour.

  17. 17 George USA
    March 1, 2008 at 23:19

    Read back up the posts.

    For a question on Islam and Turkey,

    it seems to have instantly turned into a bash Christ hootenanny.

    It appears Muslim doctrine is a key element of terrorism today.

    I wonder what Muslim Scholars think of “troop’s” outline above.

    Would any Muslims care to comment on “troop’s” remarks above?

  18. March 2, 2008 at 05:44

    Nothing new, they re-interprete to suit their own ends and because in islam, there is no central authority, many factions evolved with different agenda. Now, there were many hadiths,some written by shite persians, which one you want to re-interprete?

    The problem is really not the religion but the conducts of some radical believers that tarnish the name of islam. It has been hijacked by politicians for votes, hijacked by extremists to justify their evil actions and compounding this problems, sometimes,no two ulamas have the same views.One moment they talk about peace, next nullify by jihad calling .One, they talk about freewill of wearing of headscarf and private affair , next the state imposed compulsory order.Not only non muslims confused, i think muslims themselves are perplex too.

  19. 19 zeroKnots
    March 2, 2008 at 19:33

    RE-interpreting Islam isn’t the problem. Understanding vast masses of believers, is.

    As always I’ll keep harping on it.
    Look at how THIS topic is presented. No complaints asside from the fact that we’re in the 21st century with a 30+ year old internet, with exponential access to facts to sift through yet the same forum design as when BBS’s first started across the entire web.

    You ask a legitimate question and I’m supposed to sort through tangents like “I really wish people would realize that religion is not fact.”
    “Evan, don’t you think the world would be better off without religion?”

    My tangent is the only logical one. 🙂 It fits THIS problem, that I need to know what exact interpretation of Islam caused some deviant to blow people up, what exact changes of interpretation will effect what, etc.

    Without a self-sifting forum, where the crux can be dissected, this ain’t gonna happen.
    We’re all stuck with surface features that cause prejudice.

    And also.. as always, I’m on it as far as developing a site like I suggest.
    Gee, wish I had a couple dozen BBC web developers and BBC’s unmatched vast audience.
    Oh well, only innocent victims of bombs at stake.. no hurry.

  20. March 3, 2008 at 04:00

    Separation of state and religion is extremely important for a nation to evolve and have a vibrant and broad-minded society. Religion based governments stagnate societies. This would apply no only for Turkey but for very large democracies like USA where religious right are getting more powerful.

  21. 21 George USA
    March 3, 2008 at 04:25


    You are Muslim and just commented on Wahabi vs the rest of Islam.

    Troop’s list above would stop violence and terrorism in the name of Muslims if it were acceptable to Muslims.

    Would your Muslim teachers be in agreement with that list or not?

    Or better, rather than you answer, which might needlessly draw unwanted attention to yourself from bad people,

    Would it be proper manners where you live to ask a Muslim cleric to respond to the individual points, to say they are acceptable to your doctrine, and if not why?

    My question is not aimed at getting you in an uncomfortable or dangerous position, rather that Troop’s list seems reasonable and I would like the opinion of a Muslim theologian on it.

  22. 22 George USA
    March 3, 2008 at 04:37

    Muslim Scholars

    General question to any Muslim scholar-

    Please remark on Troop’s list cited below.

    Is this consistent with your doctrine?

    If it is not, where does it differ?

    troop February 28, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Islam really does have to reach out with a clear message to separate itself from the extremists that is tending to put all Muslims in a very guarded light by other societies, that were not born with the Muslim Religeon or way of living and seeing the world.

    I know many Muslims and most are really upset by what the extremists are doing out there, and they do not want the majority of Western people thinking that they believe all this garbage of Muslims wanting to kill all those who are not Muslim.

    The world statement that modern Muslim Leaders need to make would be a ten point concept or something that lines out the priorities of those who are Muslim and wish to share its reverence with those who are not Muslim or Muslims who have been mis-led by those who are simply criminal extremists who hope to destroy the entire Muslim Society.


    1. Main intent of the Muslim Religeon is to establish a relationship with Allah and a golden rule concept of living, that will honor Allah, and provide an effective pathway to raise their families in respectful and beautiful way. Family:…. love of parents, chosen life mate, and children should be the main goal of living a happy, balanced and good life.

    2. Killing in the name of Islam, especially killing fellow Muslims, and all those of brother religeons be expressly forbidden, as the most sure method of offending Allah, and being forever barred from Paradise. Honor killings are a sure sign of mental derangement, and Allah forbids such conduct.

    3. Universal respect, education, and participation in matters of society are extended to all beings male, female, young and old. All will be accorded equality according to human rights.

    4. Jehad is an internal quest of the individual attempting to improve ones relationship with God, fellow citizens, and society. It is a quest to improve one’s happiness on earth, to prepare to be worthy of Allah in the here after.

    on and on to include getting away from extremist actions that normal people would not want perpetrated on themselves by others.


  23. 23 VictorK
    March 3, 2008 at 12:39

    I listened to Saturday’s programme on Turkey’s proposed reform of the hadiths.

    It was mildly interesting (though that may be over-praising it) as far as it went: the only problem was that it hardly went anywhere at all. It suffered from two failings: firstly, its experts said very little that informed or clarified the issues. I expect experts to say more on a subject than I already know or could discover from light research of my own; this just didn’t happen. And I wondered whether the programme was just as concerned not to ‘offend’ muslims as it was to address the issues before it. There are four basic positions regarding the reform of Islam. 1. Islam is perfect and not in need of reform; 2. Islam is so radically defective that it is incapable of reform; 3. Islam is perfect but it has accumulated man-made accretions over time and these should be reformed; and 4. Islam is imperfect and is in need of fundamental and far-reaching reform, including the message of the Koran itself.

    Now, any genuine debate needs to present all of these perspectives. But if it is important to you not to ‘offend’ muslims then positions 2 and 4 will be excluded, as they were on Saturday’s programme. Position 2 regarding the defectiveness and incorrigibility of Islam cannot, of course, be argued by anyone but a non-muslim since any muslim (or ex-muslim, like the writer who goes by the pseudonym ‘Ibn Warraq’) taking this line immediately puts his life at risk (such a view is conclusive evidence of apostasy and the penalty for that in Islam is death. Someone needs to urgently look into reforming that aspect of Islam, I think). Position 4 is the line taken by ‘liberal’ muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Orthodox muslims understand perfectly well that such people are much more ‘liberal’ than they are ‘muslim’. Their programme really amounts to abolishing Islam and starting all over again, under the pretence of reforming it. The liberal muslims would perhaps counter that even if that were the case only a radical reconstruction of Islam can save it from further descending into a superstitious, anti-progressive and violent death-cult. It is this kind of charge and defence, accusation and counter-claim, that characterises a genuine debate.

    Instead we had 4 orthodox muslim panellists who were all agreed on the unassailability and beauty of ‘true’ Islam. Even the supposedly neutral anchor made some incredibly sympathetic (and historically false) statements, such as his claim that Islam in Turkey was shaped by the ‘gentler’ tradition of Sufism (yeah, right – and the Ottoman Empire was established by casting rosebuds and smiles at the many subject peoples it conquered and thereby winning their hearts and minds). The panellist from Chatham Hse (whose expertise when it came to the hadiths wasn’t really clear) stated that the Turkish reforms were about ‘returning to the original Islam of logic and reason.’ His evidence for such a rationalist Islam ever having existed was not demanded, it being one of the unspoken rules of this debate that any claims that flattered Islam were to stand unchallenged. Another guest propounded position 3 above (it was about removing cultural accretions to Islam, but could not be about attacking the hadiths). Again, he wasn’t pressed as to why these accretions should be so uniform across the Islamic world, and why different cultures with nothing in common but Islam often displayed the same ‘accretions’. Why was it only Islam that suffered not just from accretions but from negative, anti-human and unpleasant accretions (such as the veil) that no other religion laboured under? Undebated. One guest was angered at comparisons to the Reformation, since that implied – or so he thought – that muslims were today where christians had been in the fifteenth (he meant sixteenth) century, and this was insulting to Islam (revealing that defending Islam against real and more often imagined criticism is far more important for many muslims than undertaking necessary reform of their religion). The female guess declared (as usual wihout any evidence) that ‘Islam is in synch with the modern world,’ a plainly false statement, as millions of women across the muslim world could have told her (which is why the Turks are doing what they’re doing, because Islam is increasingly an anachronism in the modern world). But she was not questioned or challenged for this really extravagant piece of nonsense.

    The futility of this ‘debate’ was perfectly summed up by the perfectly orthodox statement of one of the guests: ‘Islam can never be modernised’, which was not said as confession of failure and defeat but as boast about Islam itself. As it happens this is also my view, though the conclusion I draw from it is that Islam will remain a problem for muslims and non-muslims so long as it exists.

    If this subject is to be addressed again by the BBC then it should be in the context of a proper debate, with all viewpoints represented, no partisan sympathy for any of them, and with the opinions of those muslims who have repudiated Islam (e.g. Ibn Warraq and Ayaan Ali) and those non-muslims who are critical of Islam (e.g. Andrew Bostom, Srdja Trifkovic and Robert Spencer) also getting air-time. Without this we can only expect a repeat of Saturday’s tepidly incestuous non-debate which seemed designed to make muslims feel warm and fuzzy about themselves and their religion.

  24. 24 Barry
    March 3, 2008 at 17:17

    I listened with great interest on Turkeys project to review the hadiths.

    This is not a a reinterpretation of Islam, but a continuation of a process that has been carried out since the times of Bukhari (one of the original collators of hadiths)., namely verification of what was said or not said by the Prophet Muhammad.

    What most Muslims forget is that the Qur’an (Koran) is the word of Allah (God) and the hadiths are the word of man.

    It is striking that the compilations Muslims believe in appeared with a long time gap after the demise of the Prophet Muhammad – mostly during the ninth and tenth centuries A.D. (third and fourth centuries Hijrah or A.H.), i.e., between 220 and 270 years after the Prophet’s death. The long time gap and other factors (see below) inevitably give rise to the question whether the Hadith literature is reliable enough.

    Bukhari, for example, made a selection of some seven thousand traditions (including repeated ones) out of reportedly six hundred thousand he found in circulation – roughly one out of every one hundred. That means that he discarded all but a tiny fraction of the hadith in circulation as false. This factor alone leaves open the question whether his selection has been foolproof.

    Historical evidence, if there is any, appears to be that the Prophet himself was against the reporting of his own sayings and practices, and his four close companions who became Caliphs after him upheld the same position. Kassim Ahmad notes: “Notwithstanding the conflicting versions of hadith that say otherwise, historical facts … prove beyond any shadow of doubt that there were no hadith collections existing at the time of the Prophet’s death. History also proves that the early caliphs prevented the dissemination or recording of hadith.

    The available evidence is rather compelling that the Prophet forbade collection and writing of his own words except the Quran and left clear direction that if anyone has collected and recorded such statements, these should be erased. This is evident from one hadith narration included in Muslim that reads as follows:

    ‘Abu Sa’id Khudri reported that Allah’s Messenger said: Do not take down anything from me, and he who took down anything from me except the Qur’an, he should erase that and narrate from me, for there is no harm in it and he who attributed any falsehood to me-and Hammam said: I think he also said:” deliberately” -he should in fact find his abode in the Hell-Fire’ (Sahih Muslim, Book 042, Chapter 17, Number 7147)

    We should all remember that the hadiths are historical documents, not divine inspirations and are prone to inaccuracies introduced by the writers and not the subject.

    As with all historical documents they will be subject to revision, which is now happening in Turkey.

  25. 25 Pasha
    March 3, 2008 at 19:57

    It is about time. Turkey is where it started and where it should be corrected …

    Mohammed had told his followers to go to land of Indus and Ganges – India – and LEARN all that Hindus know. Their gentle ways, their compassionate philosopies, their science, peaceful civilized society, … their Godly ways of living … but before that could happen … it all ended … Genghis Khan learnt of these instructions as he started slaughtering the Sultanate of all men … created “moghuls” — see Mohammed of Gazni who went on REGULAR pilgrimage to India to bring back beheaded heads of Hindus who would not bow to the Khan and his hordes either … as trophies and what he created as a “status symbol”. All this status symbolism is still in the Koran writen by Genghis Khan … and thereafter his generals like Mohammed of Gazni … applying it to all who are not Khans! East or West … Read on.

    Instead Genghis Khan’s hordes came and slaughtered all men of the Sultanate, village by village, after the Sultan beheaded Genghis Khan’s emmisarry who had come to give demands for taxes to the Sultan. Harming an emmisary was and has always been the highest NO! NO!

    Now riled into furious volcanic rage the Khan and his hordes took over the early budding of “Mohammedan” religion … slaughering all the men in every village and taking all women and children … made all women wear a veil so that his own troops would not fight amongst themselves over desirable females to ravish … and these became forefathers and mothers of the present day but then the “dessert” people

    Tactics of FEAR, sword at the neck conversions-by-the-sword that Pope mentioned from writen history, veiled off women, insane brutality, non-outside the clan can survive and non from the clan can leave … and “honor killings came into a social status thing … EVERY such “Islamic” high-psychological warfare – inside and outside control … became warfare tactic in the manual of Islam – the Quran! Same tactic goes on today to silence any criticism with huge fomenting of rage and rant by the “guardians” of this psycological manual … aka “Mulahs” … this is one of the classic warfare tactics written in the Quran never let anyone learn, show, write, draw, mentions, the true historical nature of the Quran … on and on … threaten them with harm economic or physical (Danish, US, Spain, French, India, etc examples, – one day Chinese … ) … a SUCCESSFUL tactic to rewrite history to suite tactics at every opportunity … the true early Qurans 7 to 10 of them were gathered by the Khan and burnt and today’s Quran is the “Gospel” re-written by the Khans and his generals – Moghuls … etc. … all have been brainwashed to follow. Imagine why Persians hate Arabs … they are the scourge that came from the Khan’s hordes and wiped their culture to shreds leaving them with a follow the masses culture … Shia Islam.

    So Turkey is GREAT in revisiting the Hadithas that considered all men as children of God … harming another (any religion)is same as harming God … and many gentle ways that came from the 7,000 years old Hindu Civilization …

    I come from the original clans of inner Turkey going all the way to Mongolia and Serbian Steppes. We know this history … and same is on written records kept in the Vatican and many Coptic Churches worldwide for “safe keeping”. There are records of this that have been moved to safe locations from the Messopotamian early writings and records.


  26. 26 zainab
    March 4, 2008 at 07:05

    (Lubna, thank you too for every thing).

    Everything we do\did, is wrong according to the west, and we must change it or REFORM it . you accuse us of terrorism of backwardness,and of many other things.you are criticizing Islam most of the time .and when you do something that hurts us or makes us angry, we must keep silent. why is that??you are saying that Islam is imposing orders on people, like Hijab on women. well, you did nothing other than “imposing” taking off the hijab. then what is the different? where is the democracy that you are talking about most of the time???.
    well i don’t know why do i feel that you hate Muslims, as if we are your enemies. maybe it is just like what Imam Ali (a.s) has said “People are enemies of what they do not know.” NAHJUL BALAGHAH (Peak of Eloquence.)It seems that you do not know much about Islam, all you talk about is Jihad and head scarf. please what do you know about Islamic principles and doctrine and muslim’s duties. one cannot judge a thing that he does not know. beside what you ‘ve read about Islam you can also read these books about the Hadith of Mohummed (s.a.w): Nahjul Balaghah, Al Sahifah al Sajadya, Bihar al- Anwar.
    The Islamic state of today is not really Islamic cuz the state which is not set up on the bases of the Qur’an and sunnah, even though those who are at the helm are Muslims, is not an Islamic state.
    Islam is certainly a religion of action and a system of life, so it must NOT be separated from the state. Next to spiritual concerns, Islam also places great emphasis on organizing life in all it aspects including finance, politics, economics, social affairs, war, peace, judiciary matters, etc.

    VictorK please ‘Islam can never be modernised’ why is that ??!!! what are the things that cannot be modernize in Islam??please can you make a list of these things?
    For George, troop’s list consists some of the islamic characteristics which are more and more wider.
    thank you

  27. 27 VictorK
    March 4, 2008 at 10:38

    Zainab: I’m sorry if anything I wrote upset you, or any other Muslim who read it. That wasn’t my intention. The issues are serious ones and nobody can expect that the views expressed will always be agreeable or what they want to hear. I think that approaching any topic honestly and candidly often means coming to conclusions that are distasteful, humbling and disappointing. For example, I loathe the Taliban. But I’ve found myself increasingly of the opinion that as far as Afghanistan is concerned they have right on their side, not as Islamic fundamentalists but as patriots fighting for their fatherland against invaders with no right to be in occupation of the country. The fact that hardly any Muslims are able to come to counter-intuitive conclusions about their religion, or even to acknowledge basic facts about it, is symptomatic of the divide between Eastern and Western ways of thinking.

    I don’t think that Islamic countries should reform or change simply to please the West. They should do so only if they consider it to be in their respective national interests to change or reform. Only Muslims know their societies and understand what reforms are and are not possible for them. Western arrogance and cultural imperialism in this matter is very real and ought to be resisted. Every society has a right to govern itself in accordance with its historic traditions and values. By the same token I’m hostile to any attempts to establish and promote Islam in the West. The religion has proven itself to be utterly incompatible with the Western way of life and Western nations have a right to curb – and if necessary subdue – Islam in the interests of their historic traditions and values. My hostility to Islam is local, not general. In its own geographical sphere Islam should be the master; in the sphere of another, Islam must obey or depart.

    To argue as you do that people do not know Islam is mistaken. People know Islam only too well. Islam was waged violent Jihad against non-muslims for 1400 years. Millions of Indians were slaughtered during centuries of muslim aggression. A large part of Spain was conquered through Jihad and ruled by Muslims for 700 years. France would have suffered the same fate if the Islamic invaders had not been defeated by Charles Martel. The countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean were once Christian: they are Muslim today only because of invasion and conquest by Muslims. The Crusades, which many Muslims like to throw in the face of the West, were in fact a perfectly justified defensive reaction by Westerners to hundreds of years of aggression and conquest by the Muslim world. At the time of its conquest by Muslims in the fifteenth century Byzantium – the eastern Roman Empire – represented the cream of European civilisation, and was one of the most accomplished polities on the planet. Jihad destroyed Byzantine civilisation forever. In its place we now have a country called…Turkey. Jihad was what destroyed the ancient African christian civilisation of Nubia and replaced it with the Sudan and Darfur. The Serbs still mourn the events of 1389 and the Battle of Kosovo, when their independence was crushed and their nation enslaved by victorious Ottoman Jihadists (I recall a map of the Ottoman Empire in the 18th/19th century: Serbia is described as ‘Serbistan’). And I don’t have the space to detail the oppression and violence that non-muslim minorities endure daily in Muslim lands, let alone the Koran-inspired violence that Muslims have been and continue to be responsible for from London to Algiers, from Madrid to Bagdhad, from Bali to New York. To argue that people “don’t really know Islam” is the opposite of the truth. People know Islam only too well, and what above all things they know about it is that it is not a ‘religion of peace’.

    That, Zainab, is the source of any hostility to Islam that you have noted. People tend to be averse to anything that is likely to lead to a premature and violent end to their lives. Here in Britain every month sees Muslims convicted in the courts for plotting mass murder. The same is the case across Europe. What other view are we supposed to take of a religion that is unique in its ability to breed fanatics and aspiring mass murderers?

    And the reason I think Islam is incapable of modernisation (which was also the view stated by one of the orthodox Islamic scholars on the BBC programme, please recall) is that the root of its problems, its violent and unprogressive nature, can be traced back to the character of Muhammed himself and the nature of his revelation. I know that this will be an unwelcome statement to many Muslims, but the facts bear me out. Can you or any other Muslim deny the following statement: Muhammed was a man of violence? Of course not. The Koran, the Sunnah and the hadiths all establish this point beyond all possibility of reasonable dispute. Muhammed is a permanent inspiration for violence by any Muslim, in London or Bagdhad, who decides that mass murder will serve the interests of Islam. Didn’t the Prophet himself do likewise, and his successors the Caliphs also in extending the boundaries of Islam through the sword (what is reputed to be Muhammed’s own sword can be found at the Topkapi Palace museum in Istanbul – you will scour the Earth in vain for the sword of Jesus or the sword of the Buddha)? Since Muslims cannot re-write the historical and orthodox truth about Muhammed they are stuck with a figure who is a constant source of inspiration to violence and bloodshed for the minority of Muslims so inclined. In such a case reform of minor points like the hadiths is pointless.

    Islam’s unprogressive character derives from its total – indeed, totalitarian – nature. Muslims boast that Islam is more than just a religion: it is a way of life. Islam, we have been repeatedly told, pervades all aspects of a Muslim’s life – from the smallest details of how he eats, how he washes, how he drinks, how he dresses, to the broadest matters concerning the organisation of society and the management of the economy. There is no escaping from Islam. Since the necessary condition of progress is the free play of the mind in all matters, the unhampered pursuit of knowledge, and the freedom to apply the fruits of inquiry in practical and innovative ways, is it really any surprise that the societies that boast of being blanketed by an all pervasive religious dogma that controls every single aspect of life are also the least progressive, the ones that have made the slightest contribution to knowledge in the modern world? There is no mystery here, just another instance of the law of cause and effect.

    As much of a problem as Islam has been to non-Muslims, it seems to me that it is an even more formidable problem for Muslims. The existence of a Muslim diaspora in the West testifies to that. I have no advice to give to Muslims about how they should run their societies, since as long as they remain Muslims no advice will make the slightest difference to what they face. Which is a pity.

  28. 28 John in Germany
    March 4, 2008 at 16:07

    Reading all that has been said has taken some time, and sorry there is still a haze before my clarity seeking eyes.

    As i thought its where your shooting from (not with a gun). The Crusades, the Inquisitions, were all carried out in good faith, and they were the cause of the deaths of thousands, but that was back in the bad old days. there’s no excuse for the same Trecherose behaviour to mankind to-day.

    Why are the good books interpreted to allow for killing and maiming in our modern age?.

    Hi Steve: I see your point, Its fine, And on top of that of course, there’s more time lost smoking, than praying, a bit hard if your prayers smoke as well.
    The more oil the better…. But why not distribute the resulting wealth a bit more fairly. So that more can benefit from the good side of life. Sorry! I see-the more you’ve got, the more pull you have.

    Admiration to those that work and write in nearly hopeless conditions.

    John in Germany

  29. 29 zainab
    March 6, 2008 at 09:10

    victor, according to the historical details you gave in your last comment, well i can write many books about how did UK become Empire. What did they do in Europe, Africa, India, America…etc. but i think that, this information is “too well” known to you. Though i have no “local or general HOSTILITY” to anybody because i can differentiate between Politicians and civilians and their religion. Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) has nothing to do with them, he has delivered his message and people are free, they have minds to think whether to follow him or not or maybe to pretend to be followers. my love and respect to him will continue forever and i’ll never blame anyone for what another is doing.
    Muslim aggressions you are talking about, is not like that. you must know the reasons, the results, and everything about those aggressions. for example: the injustice perpetrated by the Roman to their flock, and the brutal sectarian abuse, were the main reasons behind the defeat of the Roman Empire at the hand of Muslims.what concerns us is not the military victory, but the ethical practice and the highly civilized displinary of the Muslims. Muslims used to leave people free to practice their religion and they never forced anyone to enter Islam. The greatest success of Mohammad’s life was effected by sheer moral force without the stroke of a sword.[Edward Gibbon]
    About Prophet Mohammed (s.a.w) i will say nothing other than the word of Edward Gibbon “Mohammed was distinguished by the beauty of his person, an outward gift which is seldom despised, except by those to whom if has been refused. Before he spoke, the orator engaged on his side the affections whether of a public or a
    private audience. They applauded his commanding presence, his majestic aspect, his piercing eye, his gracious smile, his flowing beard, his countenance which
    painted every sensation of his soul, and the gestures that enforced each expression of the tongue. In the familiar offices of life, he scrupulously adhered to the grave and ceremonious politeness of his country; his respectful attention to the rich and powerful was dignified by his condescension and affability to the poorest citizen of Mecca;… his memory was capacious and retentive, his wit easy and social, his imagination sublime, his judgement clear, rapid and decisive. He possessed the courage both of thought and action;… bears the stamp of an original and superior genius.” “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.”

    Actually i was shocked by your statement “obey or depart.” it is the statement that used by the terrorist here in Iraq, when they invade a specific place, they force people either to obey their rules (that is to be like them) or to leave their houses(that is why you see so many immigrants inside and outside Iraq).
    thank you

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