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Thursday, March 02, 2006

A Moderate Muslim manifesto

Unrelated to the manifesto against Islamic totalitarianism, this one is more religious-oriented and quite sensible. How many Muslims hold by the beliefs written therein is the $64,000 question.

Either way, it is good to see some Muslims taking the problem of extremism seriously.
A Muslim Manifesto
By Mustafa Akyol & Zeyno Baran

"Who are the moderate Muslims, and why do they not speak up?" After being asked this question over and over again since 9/11, particularly after the Danish cartoon crisis, we decided to propose the following Muslim Manifesto:

Recently, the disrespectful cartoons about Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) published in Jyllands-Posten resulted in an extreme reaction among many Muslims worldwide. While we understand the feelings of our co-religionists, we strongly urge them to refrain from rage and violence.

A zeal for Allah is rightful only when it is expressed in an enlightened manner, since Allah himself has ordained a restrained response. When the early Muslims were mocked by their pagan contemporaries, the Koran ordered not a violent backlash, but rather a civilized disapproval: "When you hear Allah's verses being rejected and mocked at by people, you must not sit with them till they start talking of other things." (Koran 4:140) The Koran also describes Muslims as "those who control their rage and pardon other people, [because] Allah loves the good-doers." (3:134) Therefore all demonstrations against the mockery of Islam should be peaceful. All critiques of Islam should be countered not by threats and violence, but by rational counter-argument.

We also believe that terrorist acts can never be justified or excused. None of the challenges Muslims face, such as oppression or military occupation, can justify attacks against non-combatants. In the Holy Koran, Allah orders Muslims to "never let hatred of anyone lead you into the sin of deviating from justice." (5:8) The true Islamic sense of justice is well-established in the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh); even in time of war — let alone peace — Muslim soldiers should never "kill the old, the infant, the child, or the woman." Those who do so are not martyrs, but cold-blooded murderers.

Supported by the Koran's affirmation that "there is no compulsion in religion" (2:256), we cherish religious liberty. Every human has the right to believe or not to believe in Islam or in any other religion All Muslims furthermore have the right to reject and change their religion if desired. No state, community or individual has a right to impose Islam on others. People should accept and practice Islam not because they are forced to do so, but because they believe in its teachings.

We support and cherish democracy — not because we reject the sovereignty of the Almighty over people, but because we believe that this sovereignty is manifested in the general will of people in a democratic and pluralistic society. We do not accept theocratic rule-not because we do not wish to obey Allah, but because theocratic rule inevitably becomes rule by fallible (and sometimes corrupt and misguided) humans in the name of the infallible God.

We accept the legitimacy of the secular state and the secular law. Islamic law, or sharia, was developed at a time when Muslims were living in homogenous communities. In the modern world, virtually all societies are pluralistic, consisting of different faiths and of different perceptions of each faith, including Islam. In this pluralistic setting, a legal system based on a particular version of a single religion cannot be imposed on all citizens. Thus, a single secular law, open to all religions but based on none, is strongly needed.

We believe that women have the same inalienable rights as men. We strongly denounce laws and attitudes in some Islamic societies that exclude women from society by denying them the rights of education, political participation and the individual pursuit of happiness. Like men, women should have the right to decide how they will live, dress, travel, marry and divorce; if they do not enjoy these rights, they are clearly second-class citizens.

We believe that there is no contradiction between religious and national identities. Any Muslim should be able to embrace the citizenship of any modern secular state while maintaining feelings of spiritual solidarity with the umma, the global Muslim community.

We regard Christianity and Judaism as sister faiths in the common family of Abrahamic monotheism. We strongly denounce anti-Semitism, which has been alien to Islam for many centuries but which unfortunately has gained popularity among some Muslims in recent decades. We accept Israel's right to exist, as well as the justified aspiration of the Palestinian people for a sovereign state and hope that a just two-state solution in Israel/Palestine will bring peace to the Holy Land.

In short, we strongly disagree with and condemn those who promote or practice tyranny and violence in the name of Islam. We hope that their misguided deeds will not blacken our noble religion — which is indeed a path to God and a call for peace.

We encourage Muslim political, social, community and business leaders to contact us at info@muslimmanifesto.org to sign onto the Manifesto so that the authentic peaceful and civilized message of Islam will be heard.

Mustafa Akyol is a writer and journalist based in Turkey; Zeyno Baran is director of International Security and Energy Programs at The Nixon Center.


Unfortunately, there is no web site at the muslimmanifesto.org address yet.