Can There Be An “Islamic Reformation”?


What exactly is the nature of Islam?


  • Is Islam itself evil — or only certain interpretations of it?
  • Can Islam be reformed — or is that impossible by its very nature?
  • Should we encourage “moderate” Muslims — or is that just wasted effort?

Ever since 9/11, Americans have been asking themselves these questions.

Christians often ask an additional question:

  • Is it worthwhile, or even morally right, for the Church to “dialogue” with Muslims — or should all our effort be focused on converting them?

Personally, I’ve gone back and forth on these questions more times than Barack Obama’s head goes back and forth when he gives a speech. As a Christian, and particularly as a Catholic, I feel like I get mixed messages from Scripture, history, Church teaching, and reason. Christians from St. Thomas Aquinas to C.S. Lewis, and all the way back to St. Paul (see Romans 1:19-20; Acts 17:22-28), have explained that God reveals Himself even to those who have never heard the name of Jesus, and that glimmerings of truth exist within other religions. In the words of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II declaration on the relationship of the Church to non-Christian religions,

The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. [emphasis mine]

Of Muslims (note: Muslim persons, not Islam itself) the document states:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth….

On the other hand, St. Paul said to “test the spirits” to discern whether they’re good or evil, and Jesus said we can judge a tree by its fruit.

Roy H. Schoeman, a Jewish Catholic, in his book Salvation Is from the Jews, has this to say about Islam:

[Satan] has one goal — to deprive man of salvation, of eternal happiness — and one of the ways to achieve that is through the propagation of false religion, the primary victims of which are its own adherents…. Of all the major religions of the world, only Islam arose after God’s full revelation of Himself to man in His incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ…. Only Islam’s revelation came after Christ, aware of Christianity yet contradicting it. Hence one must ask what the source of the revelation was — was it of human or of supernatural origin? If of supernatural origin, did it come from God or from fallen spirits?… One must ask just what spiritual entity lies behind the revelation of Islam. [pp. 295-300]

And yet… I believe that beauty is one of God’s attributes, and I have personally seen and heard things within Islam that are stunningly beautiful — Sufi dancing (in which I have participated), the poetry of Rumi, the goosebump-inducing sound of certain Muslim melodies.

On the other hand, when I tried to read the Qur’an for myself, I had to stop, because it so disgusted and outraged me that I could not continue. It’s as if someone tore all the pages out of the Bible, discarded 90% of them, put the remaining 10% through a shredder, cut and pasted the shreds together randomly, then tried to cover the ugliness of the pastiche by throwing a lot of overly flowery language over it.

But that’s just my subjective opinion. If we want to stick to more objective criteria, we can look at the statistics on the cold, hard facts of life in Islamic countries, such as clitorectomy, polygamy, burqas, honor killings, forced child marriages, wife-beating, domestic imprisonment, acid attacks, gang rapes, and other cruelties toward Muslim women and girls.

So… Is Islam the direct work of the devil, and was Muhammad possessed by demons? Or, is Islam merely a very faulty instrument that God in His omnipotence and mercy can use, anyway, to reach His beloved human creatures — kind of like the way a cheap toy flute, with badly spaced holes and flimsy keys, might still make music in the hands of a master?

Should Western Christians band together with virtuous atheists, such as the late Oriana Fallaci, to fight the anti-human cult of Islam? Or, should we join forces with Muslims of goodwill in order to combat what may be the even greater evil of secularism, what Pope Benedict XVI termed the “dictatorship of relativism”?

Can Islam be reformed and made compatible with the modern world of progress, liberty and individual rights? Or, is it inherently unreformable?

To stage a debate on the question, “Can Islam be reformed?” you’d be hard-pressed to find two more qualified and articulate principals than the two men you’ll see in the video below.

For the affirmative, we have Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, who is, hands down, my favorite Muslim in public life. He’s earnest, likable, accomplished, patriotic, has integrity and goodwill, and is smart and engaging. A medical doctor and formerly an officer in the U.S. Navy, Jasser is founder and head of a group called the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), whose goal is genuine Islamic reformation. He has started programs to inculcate in young Muslim Americans the principles of our Founding Fathers, a love of liberty, and commitment to the Constitutional rule of law, and separation of mosque and state.

If you can’t watch the whole debate, try to at least watch from the 5:10 mark to the 10:20 mark, which is the first segment in which Dr. Jasser comments. If you’ve never seen Jasser interviewed or read his articles, you owe it to yourself to hear his views, for he is an entirely different breed from the duplicitous, seditious CAIR types who dominate the discussion of Islam in our media. I don’t agree with everything Jasser says, but I appreciate having his perspective; he makes me think. I believe he is completely sincere — which makes him a very brave man.

On the other side is another brave man, Dr. Robert Spencer, head of Jihad Watch, co-founder of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA), and one of my longtime personal heroes — right up there with Pamela Geller, Geert Wilders and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, all of whom face constant death threats because of their leadership in the fight to defend liberty and human rights against the creeping imposition of shariah all over the globe.

Moderating the discussion is Andrew McCarthy, author of Willful Blindness and The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America. McCarthy headed the legal team that prosecuted and convicted Sheikh Abdel Rahman, “the blind sheikh,” who masterminded the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. McCarthy knows more about Islam than 99% of Americans — but on the questions raised in my first paragraph, he freely admits he’s ambivalent. Introducing the debate topic, he says, “I’ve been having this argument with myself for about eighteen years!”

I’ll be honest. Although I, like McCarthy, am ambivalent, I mostly tend to think that, while countless individual Muslims are good people, Islam itself is an evil ideology, Muhammad was probably possessed by demons, and the Twelfth Imam in Iran is probably the Antichrist. There. I’ve said it.

But… if there is anyone who could make me doubt all that, it would be Zuhdi Jasser.

The debate took place on April 3 at a retreat sponsored by the David Horowitz Freedom Center.

Cross-posted at The Heartlander

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May 13, 2011 7:55 am

I don’t believe the majority of Islamic adherents WANT reformation, though I have called for one for many years!

Queen Hotchibobo
May 13, 2011 10:41 am

I don’t guess I’m ambivalent at all. Yes there are good Muslims, but they are not the most “faithful” (for wont of a better word) in their faith. The more devout a Muslim gets, the more likely he is to strap on a boom boom vest and murder someone. The “good” Muslims are just people who were born to Muslim parents or in a Muslim nation but don’t worship the god of Islam. They go through the motions and maybe even some of the rituals (like avoiding pork, etc.) but they are Muslim the same way Teddy Kennedy and Nancy… Read more »

May 13, 2011 10:52 am

Heartlander, you have ask some good questions. Until the radical elements of Islam have been defeated intellectually and militarily, nothing changes.

Or maybe as Golda said, Until they love their children more than they hate us . . .

May 13, 2011 1:22 pm

A great report, Heartlander, but I can’t agree with your bottom line about Islam being an evil ideology. In the 4th-14th Centuries, while Europe languished in the Dark Ages, the Muslim world had the highest expressions of civilization, including arts, medicine and philosophy, from Iberia to Baghdad to Damascus. It was Islam that salvaged what was left of the great Greek thinkers such as Aristotle and then transported them to Europe. That they have this capacity for high civilization is proved by the fact that they’ve been there before. That said, I would never confuse the Islamic world in the… Read more »

May 13, 2011 5:39 pm

It is fine with many, on both sides of the aisle, that there are such things as “Muslim nations”. As you will recall, we had no quarrel with communism as a modus operandi within a state, only when a state tried to spread it by force and by guile to other states. It would have been incomprehensible for anyone claiming to be a patriot to espouse a dictatorship of the proletariat in our Republic. And so what should our attitude be toward any who would espouse sharia, or to apologize for those who push it, in these post 9/11 times?

May 13, 2011 8:30 pm

I don’t know, heartlander, but maybe I’m too simplistic in my viewpoint on this one. I believe that there is a spiritual realm unseen by human eyes (but it can be seen through the eyes of faith). The spirit of both evil and good exist in this spiritual realm and we as human beings can be influenced these things. Human nature is constant from age to age, and with human nature being what it is, we can find things that are of evil to be appealing and enticing, and we can be seduced by that enticement to set aside what… Read more »