The ‘Fundamentalists’ and the ‘Progressives’

walid Jumblatt
Of late, the Muslim ‘Progressives’ in Singapore have been more vocal and assertive; and I welcome this. Previously, they worked behind the scenes and used to detest being labeled as ‘liberal Muslims’ and the like. It is high time they ‘came out of the closet’ and clearly spell out their beliefs and agenda, so that the Muslim community can assess them properly.
(note: we must exercise caution in using the ‘liberal’ or ‘progressive’ label against Muslims we disagree with. I am just appropriating the term that some of them have preferred to use to describe themselves).So the narrative being espoused now is that there are some ‘fundamentalists’ within the Muslim community, and, in my opinion quite humourously, they look to the state to ensure that these ‘fundamentalists’ do not threaten the ‘secular’ nature of the state. The #wearwhite campaign is the ‘poster boy’ for what they would term as rising Islamic religious assertiveness.

Firstly let us not obfuscate the facts: the #wearwhite campaign was a call for the Muslim community, to return to fitrah, or the state of purity. It was a peaceful campaign, done in the spirit of compassion and love, and intended to include and not alienate any Muslim, however far from the faith they may be. The campaign was not motivated by events in neighbouring countries, it was not meant to interfere in the political or public policy realm, it was not meant to discriminate against anyone: it was a call to return to purity, i reiterate. This is quite a simple point that i think has either been genuinely misunderstood or adroitly manipulated by the ‘progressive Muslims’. Does not matter; i hope this clarifies it.

Rather than get into a definitional debate about the problematic terms (‘fundamentalist’, ‘progressive’ etc) that have been thrown about recklessly in mainstream and social media, i have a few questions for these self-proclaimed Muslim progressives.

1) What is your agenda or end-goal? Please spell it out properly.

2) What is your position on issues such as homosexual acts and the hijab in Islamic jurisprudence? Please be straightforward and do not skirt the issue. Your positions seem to be ever-changing on these, so it would help to clarify.

3) Do you believe that anyone can interpret the Quran, even those whose knowledge of the Arabic language can fit comfortably at the back of a stamp?

4) What other laws/legal rulings do you seek to ‘reinterpret’?

5) Do you accept the authority of the ulama’, local and foreign ones? If so to what extent? If not why and whose authority then do you accept? Who are the ulama’?

6) What do you guys believe is the position of ‘rationality’ in Islam? Are there limits to rationality? If so where?

7) I constantly hear you guys singing the tune ‘oh we do not reject the Quran, we just reject the interpretations of classical scholars that are not relevant.’

What is the arbiter/criterion by which you judge what is relevant or not?

8 ) What is your methodology in ‘re-interpreting’ the Quran?

9) What is your methodology for accepting or rejecting the hadiths of the Prophet, if you accept them at all?

10) Do you accept that as Muslims, we have to worship Allah the way He wants us to, and not the way we want to?

These are just some of the questions that i believe should be answered, in order for the community to truly assess the ‘progressives’. Be open about your agenda and aspirations, and let the community decide whether they are worth the community’s time and efforts.

And the answers to these questions are also needed if a genuine dialogue is to be started, and to avoid hollow calls for discussion.

Authored by Walid J. Abdullah

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