Masood N. Khan M.D.
The revolutions that have eliminated brutal dictators and let people feel the joy of freedom, have also brought up a challenging debate to all the reborn free Muslims as to what to do with Islam. Pardon me for such expression, not meant to put Islam down as a menacing burden that has to be dealt with but rather as an important truth that has confronted free and democratic Muslims. It seems the void has unleashed fierce competition between secular democracy with full freedom and theocracy of Islam with its oppression in the name of quality-control. The humanity, having suffered a suffocating confinement under the dictatorships, would never again compromise freedom that is so alluringly available in abundance in a secular society that separates the church from the state. However Muslims have also witnessed the oppression and humiliation of their beloved faith which suffered along with them at the hands of dictators. Hence there is this desire to give Islam its due. These two passions sediment down to one disturbing questions whether Islam will give the freedom Muslims are longing for while sparing Muslims from the abuses of freedom modern societies are suffering from. Islam therefore has temporarily ceased to be a black and white solution and has become a big question mark.
These questions have generated passionate debate among Muslims, be ordinary citizens or the elite intellectuals. A naturally expected consequence of freedom, Muslims are now free to question and think and debate in the countries like Iraq, Tunisia, Egypt Libya, Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is indeed impressive to see Muslims embracing this debate as something that was long overdue . Should Islam have a role to play from a position of authority and power in a free Muslim country? If so, what kind of role and if no, where and how it should fit in people’s lives in a free democratic country.
Watching the passions surrounding the question of Islam as evident in these newly free countries, it seems Muslims have an ambivalent love and hate relationship Love for being the divine guidance that will come to restore their freedom and rescue them from any kind of human tyranny and injustice and bring peace in their deeply hurt lives, and hate for its unfortunate history of abuse, its institutionalized misapplication for centuries that has oppressed and terrorized many, its dreadful Fatwas which narrow-mindedly and shortsightedly have discriminated against women, killed people and ruined families.
To keep up the love free of all apprehensions is a long journey full of challenges yet achievable. It means undoing of the layer upon layer of manmade suffocating dogmas, cultural influences, monopoly in religious scholarship, literal and narrow-minded interpretations, lack of critical thinking and lots of intellectual stagnation that have buried the simple divine truth that was meant to guide humanity to a free, peaceful, caring and compassionate society. It is rather not what Islam did to Muslims as often portrayed in the western media but what Muslims did to Islam. For sure, Islam has not grown dynamically for centuries with the changing world.
A sincere and honest debate to get to the truth and get rid of fallacies is always healthy and should be encouraged. In a very fundamental sense the debate will revolve around questions which would ask if Islam could give the freedom Muslims are longing for, equally to both men and women or it will in the name of false sense of righteousness replace one form of tyranny with the other. Will Islam have room to upgrade its Fiq (Islamic rulings) for the modern times, keeping in view its purpose, not its outward form. Can Islam let its adherents know that the more conservative you are the more pious you are not. Will Islam decentralize the interpretation of Quran and the sayings of the Prophet and give common Muslims the responsibility to interpret their faith and will Islam bring women out of a subservient role and make her an important builder of the society and a partner to men with a just balance between her biological role and her social position. Under the deep clouds of chaos the shining rays of freedom will dawn a new emergence for Islam free and unfetterd with new confidence to invite the world to its age old decleration of “no God but God”.