Reviewing several recent books on Islam for the TLS, Jonathan Benthall shows the irony in an Islamic scholar who advocated no compulsion in religion and was jailed by Iran for his exegesis!
The reformist Iranian scholar Mohsen Kadivar, in an article contributed to The New Voices of Islam: Rethinking politics and modernity, edited by Mehran Kamrava (2006), asserts that “most available interpretations of Islam do not welcome the freedom of religion and belief”, before going on to argue that a more correct interpretation of Scripture and valid traditions accepts the principle of “no compulsion in religion” (see 2:256 in the Qur’an). But Kadivar has been punished by eighteen months in an Iranian prison for his exegesis of Scripture, and many other reformists, in Iran and elsewhere, have suffered worse.
He notes an event of interest to me mentioned in Scott Atran’s book Talking to the Enemy, where:
…the actions, during the massacres in Rwanda, of the many Muslims who saved thousands of non-Muslims, both Tutsi and Hutu, when churches, governments and secular NGOs turned away.
He also mentions that the RAND corporation sought to intervene in the theology of Islam in 2004:
Some other analysts are worried that Western-inspired initiatives, such as that embarked on briefly by the RAND Corporation in 2004, to intervene in the theology of another religion may have unintended consequences, one of which is that progressive ulama are exposed to allegations that they are tools of Western intelligence services.
I had never heard of this, but I tracked down some RAND reports and hope to look into it a bit more. How fascinating that our ‘secular’ government has no problem ruling on what religious tenets are actually acceptable to the State. The left has no problem deploying theology when it suits them.