The Problem of Islamic Orthodoxy
President Barack Obama would have us believe that the Islam of Islamic State is no Islam at all. Islamic State holds that its “brand” of Islam is the only true Islam. Only those who understand this conflict can begin to explore how to oppose so-called Islamic extremism. Herewith an excellent examination of the clash of ancient Islam with modernity from Professor Ebrahim Moosa, professor of Islamic studies at Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs:
Islamic orthodoxy, which controls mosques and institutions worldwide, is out of step with the world in which the majority of Muslims live. In few places is orthodox Islam independent of the state; it is often a political tool used by authoritarian regimes, which explains why the Muslim intelligentsia does not respect it. Its hallmark is archaism in theology and ethics, and its reach covers most of the global community of faith. Once a robust intellectual tradition, today Islamic orthodoxy is in serious need of a makeover. Mainstream theologians who cater to the majority of lay Muslims, both Sunni and Shiite, are unable to address such critical moral and theological challenges as evolution, gender and sexuality, or the role and meaning of sharia in a modern nation. That’s because theological education is steeped in ancient texts with little attention to reinterpretation.
Groups such as Islamic State propound archaic teachings still held to be true by many orthodox authorities. These include enslaving prisoners of war and taking female prisoners as concubines. Because mainstream Islam has not truly defused these theological hand grenades by explaining how they apply to the modern world, groups like Islamic State and disaffected followers… can view these dangerous teachings as the true ideals of Islam.
Ordinary clerics are reluctant to replace the medieval rulings on blasphemy, apostasy and captives with new interpretations of Islamic law based on current realities. So a credible and sophisticated narrative of Islam remains out of the reach of most Muslims. In my view, a doctrinal overhaul is the best long-term antidote to the radicalism and senseless interpretations that masquerade as Islam. (emphasis added- OBS)