The Muslim Reform Movement
This is a diverse group, and none are beholden to an Ayatollah or other centralized, inviolate Caliphate figure. This provides a level of freedom for truly critical thought. As a former Ahmadi Muslim myself, this is the level of fresh thinking I yearned for, for decades, but never found within the constraints of Ahmadiyyat.
True, I have trouble seeing how one can get from much of Islamic scripture to the beautiful Muslim Reform Movement Declaration.
But a crawling towards modernity, kicking and screaming is what has held the Muslim world back. And yet at the same time, when you meet with western raised Muslims privately and off the record, the points in the MRM declaration are exactly what they actually want to support.
Instead of bickering for the next 100 years on how to do interpretive gymnastics just right to arrive at the MRM declaration, the Muslim Reform Movement throws down the gauntlet and states with confidence: these are the principles we feel are non-negotiable for human rights and dignity.
It’s brilliant. The approach is to simply teleport to the values that our hearts and minds know to be true, and leave those interested in the theological work to get there, the task of working out the backstory. Conversely, if you take the precept that the Prophet of Islam was teaching Muslims to be intelligent and independent thinkers of their time, then there’s almost no theological hurdles to jump through. You can confidently side step literal Qur’anic injunctions as limited for a time and place.
How taboo for the Muslim establishment, and how liberating for humanity.
The Ahmadi Muslim Campaign
Ahmadi Muslims have a wonderful track record of promoting peace. I’ve touched on that in brief, here.
I am myself, a former Ahmadi Muslim who is now an Agnostic Deist. I also use the term ex-Muslim to help normalize dissent and make it easier for others to also leave the faith.
I have always felt the slogans of “True” Islam that I saw and heard repeated at many Annual Conventions of the Ahmadi Muslim Community, to be a tad presumptuous. It’s the word “true” that conjures up a little bit of takfir and arrogance.
What would have been better in my opinion, is a slogan such as “A Modern Islam” or a “Peaceful Islam”. Now even with those, I think the Muslim Reform Movement would be more deserving of such a title, based on the contents of their more encompassing declaration. But you get my drift.
As a civilization, we know how to calculate π, we know what year the American constitution was signed and we know where the gaps are in connecting Relativity with Quantum Mechanics. However, there are tens of thousands of hadith that can steer “Islam” in numerous directions, depending on the ones you keep and the ones you discard. There are numerous schools of philosophy. Claiming to know how to slice through history and pick out the “true” and “original” teaching is to make truly bold claims.
I personally feel that a lot of the beliefs of the Ahmadiyya Muslim doctrine require a revisionist view of history.
We’re not going to get impartial historians to provide a consensus on whether Ahmadiyya Muslim beliefs represent the “true” Islam. And that’s effectively what the TrueIslam.com campaign is claiming.
The campaign omits the words “Ahmadiyya” from prominence, and there is a noble motive here. It is to try to get other Muslim groups to also adopt these principles as their own, and make the world a safer place.
Getting other Muslims to endorse the eleven points on the TrueIslam.com website has a positive side effect for the Ahmadis; it reduces the mental friction for others to adopt (convert into) Ahmadiyya Islam. Not that I would disagree if your former beliefs were of the Salafi variety.
Ahmadiyya Muslim doctrine is keen to hold on to every verse of the Qur’an and believe in no abrogation; to believe in the complete timelessness of the Islamic scriptures and message.
As such, Ahmadi Muslims could never and would never make a statement accepting the rights of LGBT persons to love whom they wish. Ahmadi Muslims avoid the issue in their literature just as they avoid these topics in their TrueIslam.com campaign.
Remember that chapter in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad’s writings about safeguarding the rights to happiness, love, and family for gays? Yeah, neither do I.
Not fair you say? Why not? Wasn’t he a prophet? Wasn’t he meant to lead? Then what about the current Khalifa of the Ahmadis? Perhaps you can point me to the sermon where such tolerant acceptance of gender is espoused.
Ahmadis avoid making statements about equal inheritance or equal witness because their hands are tied. They start with the conclusion that these things were not granted by Allah in the Qur’an (or hadith), and so work backwards from there.
As each day progresses, as information spreads, and as people use critical judgment, these omissions will no longer be ignored.
This is where in my humble opinion, the Muslim Reform Movement represents real reform. I’ve pointed out before how the MRM declaration touches on topics that Ahmadis repeatedly avoid.
We’ve all noticed.
The Ahmadiyya spokesmen must think about these issues and think about ways to cleverly avoid such topics whenever they go on air. That’s rough. These are good people who mean well. I don’t envy them.
Islamism and the Public Relations Taboo
I believe that Ahmadi Muslims wish to view themselves as the defenders of Islam. But to that end, these well intentioned people don’t realize that they are muddying the waters. The “-ism” on “Islam” to form the word “Islamism” is accepted in our vernacular to refer to political Islam; to a theocracy based on Islam.
Ahmadis claim to believe in separation of mosque and state. So why shy away from this term? Well, because it has the word “Islam” in it.
Similarly, Ahmadis will do the PR tour on the news media claiming how “Islam” doesn’t support such-and-such primitive beliefs, as if to reassure the American people that Muslims have progressive beliefs.
They neglect to clarify however, that these beliefs are from their own denomination, which represents just 1% of the Muslim population. On that basis, the Ahmadi Muslim PR campaign provides their fellow citizens a false sense of security.
It doesn’t sit well with me, that Ahmadi Muslims place PR wins for converts above plain speech. The greatest integrity they could display would be to present an honest picture of the situation on the ground, even if that cost them the potential for new converts from the disenfranchised mainstream Muslim population of the West.
The Ahmadi Muslims I know, including the spokes people, are decent human beings who truly want to make the world a better place.
Sometimes however, good intentions can be blinded by unwavering devotion to a holy cause, where the ends is seen to justify the means.