Saturday, March 1, 2008

Turkish DMV to Remake Islam

Having grown up in an Islamic society, Taner Edis has some claim to know whereof he speaks on Turkey's ongoing effort to rescue 'true' Islam from its more extremist interpreters:

It's not over-the-top bold, because that element of flexibility has long been inherent in Islam, if not often exploited. The consensus interpretations of classical religious scholars are, after all, not what are held to be the at the core of the religion. There is a lot you can do around the margins without questioning the Quran or the traditional sacred history or even the general thrust of the traditions and Islamic Law. Moreover, some of this can go beyond tinkering at the margins. After all, the Quran is a remarkably opaque text.
One doesn't have to read the Koran for long before relating to Edis's "remarkably opaque," and this obscurity does, I suppose, open the door to congenial, tolerant, humane, and otherwise cuddly revisions. But Edis notes it opens the door only so far:
modernizers and fundamentalists alike are typically united in thinking of their sacred texts as providing practical guidance for life, even down to helping us solve practical problems specific to modern life. It is important that reinterpretation should not be seen to be reinterpretation.
Which is to say it will require mind games that say this revision is really not a revision -- no small task by my lights, inasmuch as asserting x = not x is always tricky. And there are plenty of passages in the Koran that are perfectly clear and far from cuddly, whatever might be said or done in the subdivisions of the Turkish government responsible for intepretating holy texts.

More commentary on this here and here.

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