A recent Wall Street Journal column (“Islam’s Other Radicals”) promotes the idea that only those who have left Islam have the moral and spiritual equilibrium to “reform” that faith.

This bizarre idea was also put forward at the controversial Secular Islam Summit.

An article by the St. Petersburg Times quotes Georgetown University Professor Yvonne Haddad as saying: “Legitimate scholars are horrified by the lineup [at the Secular Islam Summit]. The speakers are extreme in their views. Basically, it’s everyone known for damning Islam.”

One “reformer” and former Muslim Wafa Sultan who spoke at the summit told CNN: “Believe me, personally, I don’t believe Islam really can be reformed … I don’t see any difference between radical Islam and regular Islam … You cannot be American and Muslim at the same time.”

Even ignoring the counterintuitive premise that Islam needs to be reformed by people who openly disdain Islam, the champions of “reform” offered precious few details if such a preposterous idea ever helped reform any other faith.

Effective change always comes from within. Martin Luther was successful with his reform agenda because he was a practicing Christian devoted to his faith. So, too, with Islam.

The declaration at the Secular Islam Summit ignores the fact that many of the ideas they tout as “reform” are already part of Islam. Reform, known as islah in Arabic, is intrinsic to Islam. For without such flexibility, Islam could not have flourished in so many different continents and cultures for over 14 centuries, achieving some of the brightest points of human achievement.

Two trends account for the promotion of this pernicious idea of reforming Islam by asking Muslims to abandon their faith.

The first is the unchallenged growth of Islamophobia. Four out of 10 Americans admit to being prejudiced against Muslims. Second, the development of a veritable cottage industry of neo-experts pontificating about the cause-effect relationship between Islam and terrorism, despite scholarly research debunking this as myth.

Both trends lead to discrimination against Muslims, guilt by association and even hate crimes. This undermines America’s vital interests, which necessitates that people of all faiths have equal access, equal respect and equal dignity.

Parvez Ahmed, Ph.D., is board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.


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