Posted by Falak Rahman
The Washington Times
HOUSTON, April 20, 2012 — In his new book, Islam Without Extremes—A Muslim Case for Liberty, Turkish columnist Mustafa Akyol attempts to lay the philosophical foundation for liberal democracy in Muslim society. His contention that the authoritarianism found in Muslim countries is not sanctioned by the Koran is sure to be a controversial one.
But Mr. Akyol is no stranger to controversy. He has condemned the violence committed against those deemed guilty of blasphemy and called for a ban on punishment for apostasy. He is currently on tour in the US promoting his book.
I caught up with Mr. Akyol in Houston, and we talked about Islamic teaching, reform and what has shaped his worldview.
You make the point in your book and elsewhere that “religion” is in many cases shaped by local culture, politics and a “core” Scripture, your point being that much of what is practiced in Islam is not rooted in the Koran.
There needs to be some religious reinterpretation for sure. In my book, in the chapter on apostasy for example, which is entitled “Freedom from Islam,” I show that we Muslims need to revise and reinterpret the ban on apostasy in classical Islam because it violates individual religious freedom.
But, I’m not saying this as a religious authority. I’m saying this from an academic perspective and by referring to Islamic sources who have actually made the same argument. I’m trying to make these arguments more accessible and more compelling, but I’m far from being a scholar who issues a fatwa. The only thing I do is look at the history of Islamic thought and try to show that there are liberal interpretations, and try to revive them.