What is "Secular" in Islam?

Posted by Sajid Bashir | 3:45 AM



A summit was held a few months ago in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA to promote a “secular version of Islam“. This Summit was an international forum spearheaded by Muslim secularists and was organized and sponsored by the Center for Inquiry in partnership with the International Intelligence Summit. 

Many who attended issued a declaration at the end of the summit. While many of the clauses of that declaration are in tune with Islam and its teachings, there were others that clearly are based on faulty and presumed premises (e.g. submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights). The fact is that mainstream Muslims do not believe that any of it’s teachings violate human rights – rather Islam came and through its principles and teachings, it protected the weak, elevated the status of women, lay down rules for protection of minorities in Muslim lands and many other such principles.
The text of the declaration issued by the “Muslim secularists” read as follows:
We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.
We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.
We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.
We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.
We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called “Islamaphobia” in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.
We call on the governments of the world to
reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms; oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights;
eliminate practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women;
protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence;
reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims; and foster an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation.
We demand the release of Islam from its captivity to the totalitarian ambitions of power-hungry men and the rigid structures of orthodoxy.
We enjoin academics and thinkers everywhere to embark on a fearless examination of the origins and sources of Islam, and to promulgate the ideals of free scientific and spiritual inquiry through cross-cultural translation, publishing, and the mass media.
We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine; to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens; and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.
Before any of us is a member of the Umma, the Body of Christ, or the Chosen People, we are all members of the community of conscience, the people who must choose for themselves.
The declaration obviously was critiqued by many Muslim organizations. Your thoughts and analysis on the declaration are welcome.

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