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The Reformers II: A Brief Guide to the Life and Work of Nine Muslim Dissidents

These Islam reformers are the liberals, seculars, creatives, activists, and scholars reconstructing Islam to thrive in a progressive global society.

The Islam reformers are a diverse community of liberals and free-thinkers

From Asra Nomani’s “Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom” to the book that much-lauded author and public intellectual Christopher Hitchens called “my favorite book on Islam” (Ibn Warraq’s Why I Am Not a Muslim), their work is almost frighteningly cogent on the topic of Islamic reform. If you’re not familiar with their writing and discourse, I think you will find that these men and women do not hold comfortable or even familiar points of view on the topic.

In a world where both the right and the left are steadily embracing their own unique (and opposed) brands of regressive moralism, I tend to believe that it will be hard for most of us to hear—and to fully absorb—what these people are saying. Nonetheless, there is a kind of passionate political artwork here.

And this is history in the making.

They are the reformers. The ex-Muslims and Muslim liberals, seculars, creatives, activists, and scholars who have risked everything to do the work of restructuring Islam as a culture that can thrive and contribute in a progressive global society. And, in the shadow of the Orlando and Magnanville shootings, their writing, non-profits, think tanks, public speaking, classes, university departments, and causes all need our understanding, support, and protection now more than ever.

The short .pdf list that I’ve created and am posting today includes brief profiles on nine Islam reformers whose work has caught my eye. I hope the resource can serve as a guide and that the words and actions of these nine can help paint a picture of a world where peace actually stands a chance.

You can download my list of reformers and links to highlights from their CVs here. If you need more convincing, here is a selection of quotes from a few of the resources that I’ve chosen to feature:

Maajid Nawaz in response to the Orlando attacks…

Liberals who claim that this has nothing to do with Islam today are being as unhelpful and as ignorant as conservatives who claim that this represents all of Islam. The problem so obviously has something to do with Islam. That something is Islamism, or the desire to impose any version of Islam over any society. Jihadism is the attempt to do so by force. This ideology of Islamism has been rising almost unchecked among Muslims for decades. It is a theocratic ideology, and theocracy should no longer have any place in the world today.

From Asra Nomani’s “99 Precepts for Opening Hearts, Minds, and Doors in the Muslim World”…

  1. The Loving One. Live with an open heart to others.
  2. The Only One. We are all part of one global community.
  3. The One. All people – women and men, and people of all faiths, cultures, and identities – are created and exist as equals.
  4. The Self-Sufficient. All people – women and men, and people of all faiths, cultures, and identities – have a right to self-determination.
  5. The Creator of Good. All people have a human right to happiness.

Bassam Tibi in conversation with Ryan Mauro of the Clarion Project

There must be a real “war of ideas” that enlightens the distinction between Islamism and Islam and supports the school of enlightened Muslim thought in media and education.

Irshad Manji in Allah, Liberty and Love: The Courage to Reconcile Faith and Freedom

Offense is the price of diversity.

Some recent tweets from reformers on the list…

Thanks for reading. You can download the guide (.pdf) here. Feel free to comment on Twitter or Facebook.

If you’re interested in more reading on the topic of religious extremism, you can find more Food for Free Thought posts here.

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