Monday, May 29, 2017

Is Progressive Islam/Progressive Muslim Thought “Secular” or ‘Western”

Dr. Adis Duderija


In my previous post I discussed a number of the reasons why I use the adjective ‘progressive” when theorising progressive Islam/progressive Muslim Thought”, a question that is frequently put to me in my discussions with various people on the subject matter.

In this post I want to address another issue that arises in relation to progressive Islam, namely the claim some have made that progressive Islam is ‘secular’ and/or ‘western’.

Putting aside issues pertaining to the theorising of the concept of secularism as, for example,  discussed at length by scholars such as Charles Taylor and that of ‘western’ civilisation as for example discussed by K.A. Appiah , those who subscribe to this view would be surprised to find out  that in my book on the imperatives of progressive Islam I have used the words ‘secularity’ , ‘secular’, ‘secularise’ and ‘secularism’ once only respectively.

In my first book on progressive Muslim thought published back in 2011 I explicitly stated that:

it is clear that progressive Muslims do not subscribe to commonly employed dichotomies such as, tradition vs. modernity, secularism vs. religion, or simplistic generalization such as modernity =Western or Judeo- Christian intellectual /civilizational tradition.( P.124).

Elsewhere in the same book I also argued as follows:

“it is important to note that progressive Muslims are critical
of the metanarratives underpinning classical modernity and the Age of
Enlightenment characterized by the notions of a universal legislative, secular,
and objective reason and objective truth. Instead, they advocate what
Sheyla Benhabib would describe as a weak form postmodernism where
truth is sought in a dialectical relationship between revelation, reason, and
the sociohistorical context in which both are embedded.
“According to this view, [r]ationality and belief, human rights and divine obligation, individual and social justice, collective reason and religious morality, human mind and divine revelation are living peacefully together.”,p.135.

The same arguments apply in relation to the concept or idea of progressive Islam being ‘western’.
In my first book I have provided a detailed discussion on how progressive Muslim thought approaches the concept of modernity and its relationship with the “West’ whereby I argued as follows:

“Progressive Muslims, thus, subscribe to the view that the
Socio-political and cultural processes that have brought about epistemological
and ontological changes in the Western worldview and resulted
in the advent of modernity as we know it today are considered a result of
a dynamic process of civilizational interaction and mutual construction
through transcultural, trans-political, and trans-social spaces. Additionally,
progressive Muslims believe that this late modern episteme could be also
applied within the framework of the sociocultural context of the Muslim
majority societies resulting in the genesis of another distinct type of
modernity”. ( p.136).

In actual fact I am currently working on a paper titled “Progressive Islam as a non-western form of critical cosmopolitanism”.

So if progressive Islam is not ‘western’ or ‘secular ‘what is it? In a nutshell Progressive Islam is but a contemporary articulation of Islamic humanistic and cosmopolitan values, beliefs and practices. It is an approach to the Islamic tradition based on:

1. creative, critical and innovative thought based on epistemological openness and methodological fluidity,
2. Islamic liberation theology, 
3. social and gender justice , 
4. a human rights based approach to Islamic tradition, 
 5. rationalist and contextualist approaches to Islamic theology and ethics, and 
6. affirmation of religious pluralism

In actual fact these six points are the main subject matter of my recently published second book on the imperatives of progressive Islam.
The claims that progressive Islam is ‘secular’ and /or ‘western’ is , in some cases ,nothing but an attempt of certain sections of the Muslim community and individuals such as Daniel Haqiqatojou, Yaser Qadhi, Joe Bradford and others to try and discredit this school of thought. They do so despite having  never read my works on theorising of progressive Islam/Muslim thought even though most of them are available freely and they are aware of them. However, they prefer  and are willing to  engage in all kinds of apologetics and distortions to appease their  supporters. They do so, however, at the cost of scholarship and erudition.


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