View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Prescription for Transforming Islam

With a new President in the White House, author and activist, Irshad Manji, states her prescription for transforming Islam, which includes a special role for the UAE and the Gulf States.

Here are some excerpts from her Newsweek essay published on the last day of 2008:

Empower Women
Ultimately, it is women who will help Muslims help themselves. The new U.S. president can benefit the Islamic world by engaging the entrepreneurial talents of Muslim women…

Encourage Microcredit
Enter a tiny miracle known as microcredit.

In this season of financial turmoil, it takes chutzpah, I confess, to propose more lending as the answer to anything. But extending minuscule loans to Muslim villagers has demonstrated its worth time and again, inspiring near-perfect repayment rates that shame today's industrial banks.

Better yet, microcredit has the backing of Islam. Khadija, beloved first wife of the Prophet Muhammad, was a self-made merchant who employed her husband for many years. If Muslim men are serious about emulating the life of Islam's messenger, they should have no qualms about letting their wives work for themselves. Moreover, according to traditional Islamic teachings, when a woman earns assets, she may spend 100 percent of them as she sees fit. Through microloans, Muslim women can launch community businesses that build profits and, ultimately, change cultures….

I know of a woman in Afghanistan who accepted a $200 microloan, started a candle-making venture, and used some of the returns to pay for reading lessons. She found female-friendly verses in the Qur'an and recited them to her still-illiterate husband. When he realized that these words came from God's book rather than a secular declaration of human rights, he immediately stopped beating her. Not exactly paradise, but no longer the pit of hell…

Establish a New Alliance
In adopting this [microcredit] policy, the new president should ally with other countries, each of which would shave a sliver of its annual security budget and pool the proceeds into a coherent microloan program. Bye-bye to the Coalition of the Willing. Hello, salaam, and possibly shalom to the Alliance of the Interdependent.

Western nations ought to join the alliance, but Muslim countries, particularly the royally rich Gulf states, must also pull their weight. The next U.S. president can whisper into the ears of emirs his respect for the Qu'ran's message of personal responsibility. Islam's scripture tells Muslims that "God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves." Translation for Muslim leaders: put your money where your moderation is…

To read the entire article, follow this link:
Irshad Manji, ‘The Best way to Fight Islamic Extremism’, Newsweek, 31 December 2008.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: “The best way to fight radicalism is to empower Muslim women worldwide.”