Islamic reformers struggle to have their voices heard

Where are the moderate Muslims?


CHARLOTTE, NC, February 21, 2016 – Whenever there is a major terrorist event there are two things you can count on; the first will be a surge of Islamic defenders claiming that Islam is a “religion of peace” and the second will be those asking “Where are the moderate Muslims?”

Believe it or not, there are some Islamic reformers, though their number is so small that they are hardly ever noticed, especially in the West. On the other hand, they are quite well known in the Islamic world and, therefore, their lives are constantly in danger.

Recently, Adunis Asbar, who considered one of the greatest living poets of the Arabic language, made an important statement about his religion that should have been taken to heart by every Western leader in the world. Better known by his pen name of Adonis, the Syrian-born writer opined that “You can not reform a religion. If they are reformed, (the original meaning) is separated from it. Therefore, modern Muslims and a modern Islam is already impossible. If there is no separation between religion and state, there will be no democracy especially without equality for women. Then we will keep a theocratic system. So it will end.”

In a few brief words Asbar simplified the complex. In a sense, he is telling the West that efforts to find common ground with Islam is an exercise in futility no matter how deeply we believe that talking is better than fighting.

Asbar made his comments shortly before receiving the prestigious Erich Maria Remarque Peace Prize which is named for the German novelist and pacifist who wrote All Quiet on the Western Front in 1928.

Recognizing Islam’s protection of Jews during World War II

Asbar went on to add something even more damning, especially for leaders like Barack Obama who insist that Islamic contributions to the civilized world have been immeasurable over the centuries.

“Arabs have no more creative force,” said Asbar. “Islam does not contribute to intellectual life, it suggests no discussion. It is no longer thought. It produces no thinking, no art, no science, no vision that could change the world. This repetition is the sign of its end. The Arabs will continue to exist, but they will not make the world better.”

Asbar speaks the truth. Like it or not, other than death, destruction and terrorism, the Islamic contributions to the good of mankind have been minimal at best. Only six Muslims have ever won a Nobel Prize and one of those was Yasser Arafat. Compare that to more than 150 Jewish honorees.

Asbar, or Adonis, understands the totality of control of Islam on the lives of people living in Muslim societies under Sharia law. “The religion dictates everything,” he says, “How to run, how to go to the toilet, who one has to love.”

Meanwhile, another reformer, Wajeha Al-Huwaider, was banned from publishing her work as a Saudi Arabian author and journalist in 2003. Following is one of the poems that resulted in her ban:

“When you cannot find a single garden in your city, but there’s a mosque on every corner – you know that you are in an Arab country.

“When you see people living in the past with all the trappings of modernity – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.

“When religion has control over science – you can be sure that you are in an Arab country.

“When clerics are referred to as ‘scholars’ – don’t be astonished, you are in an Arab country.

“When you see the ruler transformed into a demigod who never dies or relinquishes his power, and nobody is permitted to criticize – do not be too upset, you are in an Arab country.

“When you find that the large majority of people oppose freedom and find joy in slavery – do not be too distressed, you are in an Arab country.

“When you hear the clerics saying that democracy is heresy, but seizing every opportunity provided by democracy to grab high positions – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.

“When you discover that a woman is worth half of what a man is worth, or less – do not be surprised, you are in an Arab country.

“When land is more important than human beings – you are in an Arab country.

“When fear constantly lives in the eyes of the people – you can be certain you are in an Arab country.”

In September of 2006, Al-Huwaider was arrested for organizing a protest on women’s rights. Before being released she was forced to sign a statement agreeing to cease all human rights activism.

Al-Huwaider later drew international attention in 2008 when a video of her driving a car in Saudi Arabia was posted on YouTube.

Yes, there are reformers in the Arab world, but as with their Nobel Prize winners, they are far too few in number.

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

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