30 December 2005

There’s something to be said for being forthright. The Opinion Journal, The Wall Street Journal’s conservative op-ed pages, has long approached the “Muslim problem” by implying a distinction between “good” and “bad” Islam. Today’s contributing commentator, Abdurrahman Wahid, the former president of Indonesia and an advisor to an international anti-terrorism and anti-religious extremism nonprofit, skips the implications and briskly separates “right Islam” from “wrong Islam,” with the line of demarcation falling conveniently between Shiites and Sunnis. More broadly though — and unsurprisingly — wrong is Wahhabi ideology, and to Wahid, the popularity of this “wrong Islam,” is really all about a great cultural “misunderstanding” of what the Quran really says about religious tolerance: “For you, your religion; for me, my religion.” As Revealer contributor Adam Becker wrote last year, contesting similar apologetic distictions between “good” and “bad” Wahhabism, “Such statements declare the limits of what is and is not Islam and function to maintain the assumption held by many, especially in this time of faith-based initiatives, that religion (or faith, spirituality, etc.) is always something good; otherwise, it is not religion at all.” But the fact that Wahid’s insistance on defining Islam by the Quran’s instances of tolerance conflicts with his accusation that followers of the wrong Islam are cherry-picking from their own Qurans, isn’t a problem, because he’s not calling for inter-denominational religious understanding so much as an organized, international, government-run effort to replace this bad Islam with a more moderate, Sufi-influenced version (which, incidentally won’t be so interested in detonating nuclear bombs in New York). Bad grades for Comp. Religion 101, but at least he’s honest about his aims.