A better analogy for Muslims confronting modernity
Aziz and Razib have previously discussed whether there is value in using the analogy of Protestants and Catholics to discuss Shi’a/Sunni differences.
I have to come down on what I think is Razib’s side of that debate, that I don’t find much value in the analogy, although maybe talking about the differences between Protestant and Catholic practices, structures, and beliefs is a way to start talking in general about the ways in which religious traditions can differ using examples with which people may be familiar.
A much more common post-9/11 attempt to analogize Christian church history with Islam and Muslims is the oft stated call for Islam to have a reformation. The underlying assumption here is that it was the reformation in Christianity that allowed Christians to adapt successfully to modernity.
Again, I would have to say that this analogy is not very helpful, except in as much as it opens up the discussion to the various constituent components of the tension between modernity and traditional religion.
However, I have always found it strange that there was not more discussion making the analogy which actually is useful although of course like any analogy limited. The different possible approaches for a religious tradition in coming to terms with modernity are most easily understood by looking to the Jewish tradition of Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative approaches as well as all the various twists on those three main distinctions that have developed.
The most important limitation on the analogy I see is that I think the fact that a Judaism is not a universal or proselytizing religion, but is in fact viewed in modern times as an “ethnic” or “national” group, perhaps fundamentally changes some dynamics.
However, and perhaps they know this very well, but I rarely see it articulated, those both within and without Islam that call for “reformation” are not really calling at all for anything like the Protestant reformation of Christianity but are in fact calling for a Reform Islam movement that would resemble Reform Judaism.
Just one further side note, I know that Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, who I think will be a very important figure in the future intellectual development of Islam in America from one side (the Orthodox or Modern Orthodox one) of this discussion, I know has taken careful note of the intellectual and social evolution of the Jewish community, especially here in America and I know sees many important lessons for the Muslims. As one symbolic indication of this, he has actively and consciously began adopting the using the term “Orthodox Muslim.”
I think these concepts open up tons of interesting discussions. Has anyone seen this analogy discussed in any detail. Does anyone agree with me about how interesting it is?