Donkeys bray and elephants trumpet across acres of microphones manned by bobble heads masking a clash of ages inside Islam-reclamation and reformation. Demands to separate archaic cultures from the tenets of belief are rising. Voices of the Islamic faithful grow in volume as tales of personal and religious history unfold. These are the standard bearers of Islamic transformation through evolution or revolution. Human history is the record of such odysseys.
Asra Nomani, author of Standing Alone: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam and Tantrika: Traveling the Road of Divine Love, is a woman of faith who came to the United States from India when she was four years old. According to a Fox News article published on April 14, 2015, “Nomani advocates a progressive, feminist interpretation of Islam, at odds not only with violent extremists in the Middle East and Africa but also with millions of non-violent fundamentalists around the world.” But, is this really the case?
Khurram Dara, a practicing attorney and author of The Crescent Directive and Contracting Fear, is an American Muslim whose parents came from Pakistan. During a January 11, 2012, interview with Relevancy 22 stated “… My understanding of Islam has always been one that puts everyone on equal footing.
I think you’ll find more of that here among American Muslims. It’s important to remember the role culture can play in behavior, and there is a tendency for culture to be confused with religion, which may explain the poor treatment of women in many of the Islamic regimes in the Arab world. In any case, my own belief and my understanding of Islam is that oppression of women should not be tolerated in any circumstances….”
Contracting Fear is an education in the history, evolution and implementation of Islamic Law in the Middle East and Middle America as compared to and contrasted with Law in the United States. Dara makes the point that ‘the sharia’, a law system that once protected the governed from potential excesses of rulers, is not what is practiced as Sharia or Islamic Law today. In the Preface, Dara writes:
“…Recognizing the inconsistency between Islamic Law today and its function in the premodern world is not novel; most scholarship on Islamic Law is settled on this fact. But outside the academy, political rhetoric and public discourse in the Muslim world indicates this difference is neither understood not appreciated. In many majority-Muslim nations, governments use political propaganda to convince citizens that their administration of law is in accordance with Islamic principles—and that opposing this type of law is akin to opposing Islam. As a result, many in the region have contracted fear: they fail to challenge the administration of law because they fear doing so means challenging their faith. But, as I argue, they should feel no hesitation in criticizing or condemning Islamic Law as practiced today, nor should they feel any less pious for doing so, precisely because of the enormous differences between the classical sharia and its recent reinvention, neosharia law. The sharia as it originally existed also seems to be misunderstood. Despite its obvious religious connection, much of the sharia was the product of premodern Middle Eastern politics and culture. It was a pluralistic evolving, and dynamic mechanism for social order and political stability. These realities, I argue, should change the perception, especially among Muslims, that Islamic law is static, permanent, and incapable of change…”
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