by Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid
“All of humanity, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, is threatened by the forces of Islamist extremism. It is these extremists, masquerading as traditional Muslims, who angrily call for the death of Abdul Rahman or the beheading of Danish cartoonists. Their objective is raw political power and the eventual radicalization of all 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide. Western involvement in this ‘struggle for the soul of Islam’ is a matter of self-preservation for the West and is critical given the violent tactics and strength of radical elements in Muslim societies worldwide.
“Muslim theologians must revise their understanding of Islamic law, and recognize that punishment for apostasy is merely the legacy of historical circumstances and political calculations stretching back to the early days of Islam. Such punishments run counter to the clear Koranic injunction ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion’ (2:256).
“People of goodwill of every faith and nation must unite to ensure the triumph of religious freedom and of the “right” understanding of Islam, to avert global catastrophe and spare others the fate of Sudan’s great religious and political leader, Mahmoud Muhammad Taha, who was executed on a false charge of apostasy. The millions of victims of ‘jihadist’ violence in Sudan – whose numbers continue to rise every day – would have been spared if Taha’s vision of Islam had triumphed instead of that of the extremists.
“The greatest challenge facing the contemporary Muslim world is to bring our limited, human understanding of Islamic law into harmony with its divine spirit – in order to reflect God’s mercy and compassion, and to bring the blessings of peace, justice and tolerance to a suffering world.” Read the full article (PDF).