July 12, 2005

An Islamic Opus Dei?

An interesting essay on Tech Central Station creating an alternative to the Wahabi sect and Muslim Brotherhood, to reduce the extremists recruitment and channel them into actions that might actually help the Muslim world. His tool, the Sufi and Shia sects of Islam and a healthy dose of capitalism:
While the vision of modernization through traditional Islam may seem counter-intuitive to many Westerners, transformation of the Muslim world by spiritual revitalization has already been a principle visible, if little understood, in the liberation of Iraq. In the 1950s, Shia theologians defined their interpretation of Islam explicitly as a struggle between "terrorist" usurpers and proponents of "religious democracy" represented by the Shia martyr Husayn, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. With the Bush-led handover to the sect of the Shia holy sites, Karbala and Najaf, a regime is emerging in Baghdad that seeks to harmonize religious devotion and governance without transgressing pluralism and popular sovereignty. To impel the new Iraq into artificially imposed and extreme secularism would vitiate the first achievement of the liberation strategy in the Muslim world.

One might argue that Islam already has its Opus Dei in the Muslim Brotherhood, or Ikhwan, which is powerful in many Arab countries, especially Egypt. But the Muslim Brotherhood remains committed to conceptions that are radical, not conservative; these include violent hatred of the West and non-Muslims; takfir or excommunication from Islam of those who do not share the Brotherhood's ideology; and the goal of exclusive governance by religious law. Opus Dei propounds no such extreme notions: it accepts the need for peace and order in existing political systems, it does not preach against those outside its ranks, and it does not embrace theocratic politics. But above all, the dedication of Opus Dei to a healthy Catholic criterion in commercial affairs offers a new model for Muslims, absent in the Sufi tradition and enormously beneficial for the progress of the Islamic countries. For too long, the Muslim world seems to have forgotten that the Prophet Muhammad was a caravan merchant, and the traditional Islamic axiom, "Allah loves the merchant."


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