2 December 2007

Some thoughts about Project Ijtihad from an atheist supporter

Irshad Manji. Photograph by Danielle St. Laurent 2007.

I've noticed in my home country Finland that many human rights activists and politicians consider Irshad Manji politically incorrect, since she doesn't beat around the bush about Islam's modern (read: iron age) interpretations and violation of human rights.

So there is a major obstacle for Project Ijtihad to overcome: political correctness. This "invisible thought-police" is mainly due to the overkill of the respect for the "others" that in itself is a good thing. But there's a kind of sad irony in the fact that this respect for "them" is still called tolerance even when it entails a quite arbitrary collectivist frame of mind, labelling all "Muslims" as "Muslims". The nuances get lost in the competition to be the most tolerant person on earth. And then the whole thing turns into cultural and moral relativism. This, in turn, is de facto ignorance of human rights and on top of it, self-refuting. If there's no ethical standard for human behaviour, anything goes. Moral relativism is inherently contradictory, like any kind of relativism. More to the point, to argue that relativism is a valid position is impossible, since if it should be valid, it wouldn't be relativism.

And now back to the case of Irshad. Even if a very outspoken and intelligent MUSLIM human rights activist like Irshad criticises evil deeds done in the name of Islam, she is much too often labelled as a "bad Muslim" by the politically correct Westerners. I find this infuriating and really can't understand how any reasonable individual could see Irshad as a "bad Muslim" or "not a real Muslim". But this very often is the case.

So, the atmosphere of political correctness has in fact turned into something resembling fascism. It's a form of censorship, self-censorship to be precise. There seems to be thoughts that you simply aren't allowed to think. Criticising immoral deeds committed in the name of Islam is one of these taboos. And this is of course totally opposite to the spirit of ijtihad.

To implement Ijtihad in the West big time, we need to get rid of political correctness and lax cultural relativism. At some point there's going to be a critical mass of us ijtihadists and then, only then, the "regular" human rights activists and politicians will join our ranks.

So be this my plea to politicians, writers, journalists, TV & radio-show hosts and bloggers. Spread the word, don't beat around the bush. It's very easy to show that there's not just one Islam, but many versions of it, and the one that fits the 21st century like a glove is the one that Project Ijtihad pursues.