Can Islam reform itself? One has to believe that it is possible, or at least hope that it is possible. Whether it is likely or not is an entirely different question. I think history bears out the fact that reform has happened within Islam and could happen again.
Even USA Today admitted in yesterday’s edition (November 20) that efforts to change and modernize Islamic societies "haven’t borne much fruit" since 9/11. USA Today’s editorial team adds: "[The] basic truth is that if Islamic societies are going to reform, change has to come from within. Over the weekend, there were two hopeful signs."
The first sign of reform, noted USA Today, was in Egypt. There the growing popularity of the veil was openly challenged last Thursday by the culture minister, Farouk Hosni. This kind of response encourages dissent against the powerful clerics who are presently hijacking the modernization of Islam and seeking to turn back positive changes made in the late twentieth century. The second sign of reform USA Today noted came in New York where Muslim feminists from around the world gathered to set up a council for interpreting the Quran. One leader said that she wants to usher Islam into the 21st century. We in the West should support such moves among Muslims without trying to assert our own views as mere criticisms. We have everything to gain in such movements and nothing, at least it seems to me, to lose.
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It basically sounds like the “Enlightenment” is hitting Islam and in a hundred years or so there will be Islamic theologians wanting to rescue Islam from “Enlightenment epistemologies” and “categories”. Classic liberalism understands the best way to neuter, hence destroy, a religion, namely, from within. Just like the 19 men on the planes acted like they were just normal travellers, passing through security, checking bags, and fastening their seat belts, so, I believe, these groups are in a similar vein.