Liberal Islam versus Moderate Islam Elusive Moderates and the Siege Mentality

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Ali A. Mazrui

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Abstract

There is a tendency to equate liberal Islam with moderate Islam. Yet there
are occasions when to be liberal demands a sense of outrage and rebellion.
The causes of the political radicalization of Islam are different from the
roots of theological conservatism. For decades, the Royal House of Saudi
Arabia has been theologically conservative but not politically radical.
Indeed, for a long time the monarchy in Riyadh was a classic example of
how a Muslim regime could be politically pro-western without being culturally
westernized. Was the Saudi regime politically moderate without
being doctrinally liberal?
This journal debate has been rich in trying to diagnose the nature of
Islam’s radicalization, but relatively thin in diagnosing its causes. The best
diagnosis of these causes in this collection comes from Graham E. Fuller:
The Muslim world, feeling itself under siege, and with its sensitivities
heightened by its witness of the struggle of Muslims right across the global
ummah, is not currently operating in an environment conducive to
either intellectual openness or to liberal and reformist thought. The
Muslim world is simply hunkered down in a defensive and survivalist
mode. Indeed, the forces of terrorism in the Muslim world must be
brought to heel. But this will not happen unless we see a change in hegemonistic
American policies, the explicit American embrace of Israeli
right-wing policies in the occupied West Bank, and the linkage with
American fundamentalist Christian attitudes.
I have never heard the problem better formulated. Indeed, there are
global causes of Islamic radicalism and global reasons why “Muslim terrorism”
has gone international. One factor is the “Latin Americanization” ...

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