In the morning of December 4th a group of Muslims pinned down a manifesto for a reform on the door of the Islamic Centre, central mosque in Washington DC. Is it the beginning of a reformation inside Islam?
These courageous Muslim activists from Europe and the United States announced the formation of a new initiative, the Muslim Reform Movement defined by their Declaration of Reform.
The development is significant and important in the time when wave of an increasing violence motivated by Islamist ideology hit the Western liberal democracies.
Liberal reformers insist on necessity for redefining of Islamic religious terms. Umma, traditionally interpreted as ‘all of Muslims’ should be understood as “people”. Heaven is not exclusive for Muslims either. Signatories of the Declaration are rejecting also ‘violent’ jihad.
Protestant Reformation inside the Catholic Church laid foundation for a success of American Revolution. The Virginia’s Declaration of Rights from 1776 that preceded US Constitution and Bill of Rights proclaimed the inherent rights of men, including the right to reform or abolish “inadequate” government.
It was an effect of the studies of the Bible that Luther translating Ancient texts into common languages made possible. Founding Fathers understood that Biblical view of man and world defines boundaries for a lawmaker and an official – the boundary are inalienable rights including liberty and freedom.
Islamic Sharia law stands as an obstacle to any government, which is automatically submitted to a religious law. Any reform of Islam should lead to the division of state and religion with an emphasis on dignity of man and its inalienable rights.
Authors of this Islamic declaration stated that “human beings have rights” but leaving unexplained a question where these rights originate.
The Muslim reformers started from emphasis on an importance of human rights including religious rights and freedom of speech.
In a sense this new Movement begins a long road to a secularisation of Islam.
The plea: “We stand for peace, human rights and secular governance. Please stand with us!” cannot be rejected.
All of people of good will around the world stand in solidarity.
- We reject interpretations of Islam that call for any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam. We invite our fellow Muslims and neighbors to join us.
- We reject bigotry, oppression and violence against all people based on any prejudice, including ethnicity, gender, language, belief, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression.
- We are for secular governance, democracy and liberty.
- Every individual has the right to publicly express criticism of Islam. Ideas do not have rights. Human beings have rights.
- We stand for peace, human rights and secular governance. Please stand with us!
We are Muslims, who live in the 21st century. We stand for a respectful, merciful and inclusive interpretation of Islam. We are in a battle for the soul of Islam, and an Islamic renewal must defeat the ideology of Islamism, or politicized Islam, which seeks to create Islamic states, as well as an Islamic caliphate. We seek to reclaim the progressive spirit with which Islam was born in the 7th century to fast forward it into the 21st century. We support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by United Nations member states in 1948.
We reject interpretations of Islam that call for any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam. Facing the threat of terrorism, intolerance, and social injustice in the name of Islam, we have reflected on how we can transform our communities based on three principles: peace, human rights and secular governance. We are announcing today the formation of an international initiative: the Muslim Reform Movement.
We have courageous reformers from around the world who will outline our Declaration for Muslim Reform, a living document that we will continue to enhance as our journey continues. We invite our fellow Muslims and neighbors to join us.
A. Peace: National Security, Counterterrorism and Foreign Policy
1. We stand for universal peace, love and compassion. We reject violent jihad. We believe we must target the ideology of violent Islamist extremism in order to liberate individuals from the scourge of oppression and terrorism both in Muslim-majority societies and the West.
2. We stand for the protection of all people of all faiths and non-faith who seek freedom from dictatorships, theocracies and Islamist extremists.
3. We reject bigotry, oppression and violence against all people based on any prejudice, including ethnicity, gender, language, belief, religion, sexual orientation and gender expression.
B. Human Rights: Women’s Rights and Minority Rights
1. We stand for human rights and justice. We support equal rights and dignity for all people, including minorities. We support the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
2. We reject tribalism, castes, monarchies and patriarchies and consider all people equal with no birth rights other than human rights. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Muslims don’t have an exclusive right to “heaven.”
3. We support equal rights for women, including equal rights to inheritance, witness, work, mobility, personal law, education, and employment. Men and women have equal rights in mosques, boards, leadership and all spheres of society. We reject sexism and misogyny.
C. Secular Governance: Freedom of Speech and Religion
1. We are for secular governance, democracy and liberty. We are against political movements in the name of religion. We separate mosque and state. We are loyal to the nations in which we live. We reject the idea of the Islamic state. There is no need for an Islamic caliphate. We oppose institutionalized sharia. Sharia is manmade.
2. We believe in life, joy, free speech and the beauty all around us. Every individual has the right to publicly express criticism of Islam. Ideas do not have rights. Human beings have rights. We reject blasphemy laws. They are a cover for the restriction of freedom of speech and religion. We affirm every individual’s right to participate equally in ijtihad, or critical thinking, and we seek a revival of ijtihad.
3. We believe in freedom of religion and the right of all people to express and practice their faith, or non-faith, without threat of intimidation, persecution, discrimination or violence. Apostasy is not a crime. Our ummah–our community–is not just Muslims, but all of humanity.
We stand for peace, human rights and secular governance. Please stand with us!
Affirmed this Fourth Day of December, Two-Thousand and Fifteen By the founding authors who are signatories below
Author, Journalist, Activist, Toronto, Canada
Islamic Thinker and Reformer, Oakton, VA, USA
Imam, Quilliam Foundation, London, UK
Senior Fellow, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Portland, OR, USA
Author, Former Member of Parliament, Pakistan, Washington, D.C., USA
M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D.
President, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Phoenix, AZ USA
Imam, Cordova Center, Ottawa, Canada
Member, Danish Parliament, Muslim democracy activist
Community Outreach Director, American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Professional facilitator
Resident expert in sharia, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Toronto, Canada
Journalist, Author, Morgantown, WV, USA
Founder, Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Toronto, Canada
Vice President, Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations
President, Coalition of Progressive Canadian Muslim Organizations, Toronto, Canada