The Corner

Salman Rushdie and Islam

Rushdie has written a very interesting op-ed arguing that Islamic “traditionalists” are hindering the fight against Islamic jihadists. What is needed, he thinks, is a Reformation. Commenting on it is tricky: the outcome of this debate within Islam is obviously very important, but it is, perhaps, impertinent for a non-Muslim to weigh in. I would certainly be delighted if Rushdie’s project were successful. Still, it does seem as though Rushdie’s hoped-for Islamic “reformation” is not analogous to the Protestant Reformation so much as it is to a process of change among Christians that started before the Reformation and, more importantly, is still continuing. Consider Rushdie’s critique of the traditionalists: “Traditional Islam is a broad church that certainly includes millions of tolerant, civilized men and women but also encompasses many whose views on women’s rights are antediluvian, who think of homosexuality as ungodly, who have little time for real freedom of expression, who routinely express anti-Semitic views. . .” If those are your concerns, then what you need isn’t an Islamic Martin Luther. It’s more like an Islamic National Council of Churches. How realistic is it to expect this sort of change any time soon? How many Reformationists are there, anyway? (I suspect they punch above their weight in the media.) Isn’t there a risk that if “traditionalists” are led to believe that they face a choice between this type of “Reformation” and jihad, a not insignificant number of them will choose jihad? I wish the Reformationists luck, but it’s hard to believe that they’re where our real hope lies.

Ramesh Ponnuru — Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg View, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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