Ahmed Subhy Mansour.
Muslim Scholar and Human Rights activist
One year Visiting Fellow at the Human Rights Program
Thursday, December 4, 2003
Reform the Islamic Schools in the U.S. to confirm and to conform to the American values and the Human Rights culture
Introduction and presentation
For 25 years, I have struggled to reform Muslim religious life. Coming to the U.S as a political asylee, I find the same need to reform religious Muslim life here, especially in Islamic schools, as most of them are controlled by the fanatics in Muslims culture. Thanks to the Human Rights Program, and the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School, I have been given a chance to prepare research aims to reform the Islamic Schools in the U.S.
Generally, this research consists of two main sections; the first one contains two proposals to reform the roots, while the second section presents the real Islamic values of peace, tolerance, freedom of speech and belief, justice and human rights culture to the Islamic schools here. It is the core of Islam which is neglected by the fanatics and their schools in the Muslim World, and in the Islamic schools in the West.
Reform the Roots:
It is useless to try to reform the Islamic schools here without reforming their Islamic roots in the Middle East, the Wahabi faith of the Saudi State, and Al Azhar, the most powerful seminary in the Muslim world.
The deep roots of contradiction between Islam as a religion and Muslims as a people, who have their own human-made history, culture and political agenda, began after the Prophet Mohammed’s death. His mighty tribe, Quraysh, used the name of Islam to invade and occupy most of the known world in the seventh and the eighth centuries. To establish their empire, they distorted the Islamic Jihad, a word which originally meant to fig fight just to defend your country, and altered its meaning through the transgression of their actions against peaceful people. In the Quran, God said, “And fight in the cause of God those who are fighting you, and do not transgress the limit, for God love not the transgressors.”(2:190)
They attributed– falsely –a saying of the prophet Mohammed after his death: “I was commanded to fight the peoples until they say there is no God but one God and I am his messenger.” The fanatic Muslims, until now, believed in this Saying [Hadeeth] because it established the roots of terrorist religious culture. In favor of this Hadeeth they ignore more than 500 Quranic verses, which establish the unlimited right of freedom of speech and belief, and more than 70 Quranic verses that advocate peace as the real face of Islam.
In disobeying the real Islamic values of peace, tolerance, justice and freedom, the old Muslims fought each other for the vanity of this life in their famous great civil war, just three decades after Mohammed’s death.
After becoming different military parties, each party tried to justify its way by distorting the Quranic meanings and attributing false sayings to the prophet Mohammed. Thus, the political military parties became religious cults and sects, as each one of them had its own tradition. All of them were in harmony with their culture of the Middle Ages and its values of holy war, religious persecution and theocracy.
The Muslims are still enslaved by their Middle Aged culture, while the West has established a new secular culture. Al Azhar and the Wahabi Saudi cult, with their influence inside the Muslim World, have made it nearly impossible to reform the different aspects of Muslim religious life from inside Islam.
After September11, it has become imperative to reform Al Azhar and the Wahabi faith, not only to reform the Islamic schools in the U.S. but also to save the Saudi State itself, Egypt, Middle East and world peace.
How to reform the roots
It’s easy to reform Islam from inside the religion because Muslims believe in the Quran, as the Holy God’s final preserved Scripture. If we read the Quran according to its terminology and codes, it will be very easy to understand Islam as a religion of peace, tolerance, freedom, justice and human rights. It will be easy, then, to prove this contradiction between Islam and the religious terrorist culture of certain Muslims, proving their real enmity to Islam, exposing them as criminals. This has been my argument in the Middle East for 25 years. It did work in spite of persecution. That persecution itself proves that they have only power, and lack of the real Islamic argument. Their power and influence defend only their lack of Islamic evidence.
It’s not a problem to face them intellectually from inside Islam, providing the forgotten Islamic values which are the same as many American and Human Rights values. The challenge will be to find whom it may concern, and respond in the U.S. and the West. In the first section of this research, after a brief historic glance, I present two proposals to reform the Wahabi faith and Al Azhar.
The Saudi crown familyhas to reform its Wahabi dogma to survive in this century, as it must to choose either its Wahabi faith or its Saudi State. In this respect, the Saudi family has to: 1- Uphold the first Islamic value, the freedom of speech and freedom of belief, giving the unlimited freedom of thought and belief for all people in the Saudi kingdom. This will be a golden opportunity for the Shiites and the Sufis and the Quranic scholars to practice of their beliefs, and to discuss the Wahabi dogma. 2- Give equal opportunities for all the different Muslim cults and other intellectuals inside the kingdom in the media and in all different aspects of religious, cultural and social life. 3- To maintain a real, but graduated reform in the political, economic and social fields. 4- To encourage and help free thinkers and intellectuals in the entire Muslim World to participate in this reform through their writings and insights.
The Egyptian regimehas to complete the reform of the 1030 years old Al Azhar. Instead of being a religious Vatican, Al Azhar must become a real Muslim civil establishment, as there are no religious authorities or any religious foundation in Islam. It needs to reform the Egyptian legislation to eliminate all the rules which give Al Azhar the authority to control the cultural and religious life of Muslims, and to open its university and education for all Egyptians equally. Mainly, this would include providing the same opportunity for Egyptian Christians as all other non-Muslims to attend its free education. While Al Azhar gives free education for Muslims only, its funds come from all Egyptian tax payers, including Christians.
The main reform would be to terminate Al Azhar curriculums and courses that belong to the advocating of superstitions and terrorism of the Middle Ages, and substitute them with real Islamic curriculums that come directly from the Holy Quran. These new curricula would be written by free Muslim thinkers. In light of the Quran and its terminology and codes, these new curricula will discuss the contradiction between Muslim traditions and the religion of Islam. In this way, al Azhar will present itself as an updated Islamic seminary, serving Islam and the real interest of Muslims in this century and the next.
The Reform of Al Azhar should be accompanied by the reform of the Egyptian regime, politically and economically. By reforming Al Azhar and the Wahabi Saudi cult, the Islamic schools in the U.S. and in the West can also be reformed.
Reform The Islamic Schools in the U.S.
These schools reflect the dominant Muslim Wahabi culture, not only by concentrating on hating non- Muslims, but by retaining the values of the culture of the Middle Ages. As a result, these schools are ignoring the great values of Islam, which are the same values of Western Civilization. It’s useless to reform their curriculum; the only way towards reform is to present to them alternative Islamic subjects, the neglected Islamic values of Peace, tolerance, justice, freedom and democracy. This section of research has these subjects as available materials for these schools, calling on the schools to reconsider this in their teaching.
After incorporating this into the research proposal, the next step is to present these written subjects to the Islamic schools and discuss the real need to change their courses accordingly. If they refuse, then it will be a unique opportunity to discuss this issue in the public eye of the media. A public debate may disclose some absent facts concerning the secret relationship between some Islamic schools and other fanatic organizations in the Muslim World.
In such a debate, they will be faced with these important questions: If you really believe that Islam is the religion of great values, why do you ignore this in your courses? If you claim you did not have the ability to write it in your courses, and information to this end has now become available, why do you continue to refuse to uphold it in your courses? If you are against the fanatic culture, why do you keep it in your courses?
The final goal of this research is to make these Islamic schools serving Islam compatible with the United States nation in its war against terrorism. However, it’s not enough to reform the Islamic schools here. Islamic mosques in the U.S must be reformed to serve Islam and not the fanatics who continue to hijack Islam and American freedom of speech. This, however, is another important proposal.