Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Intra-Muslim Dialogue –is it possible?

    Wednesday, November 03, 2010   No comments

By Adis Duderija

Having recently established an ‘e journal’ which solely aims to focus on intra Muslim dialogue ( the first comment sent to the website was , may I add unpredictably so, was “Is such a thing possible ?

This question prompted me to reflect more systematically on (and defend) the decision behind setting up the journal on intra Muslim dialogue.

The very question “Is intra Muslim dialogue possible?” it itself is quite telling the current circumstances surrounding those who consider themselves to be Muslim and belong the Islamic tradition however you define these two.

The numerous events of ‘sectarian’ or religiously inspired/justified violence and ongoing repression of many Muslim communities by other Muslims in many parts of Muslim majority world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia- which have resulted in large number of lost lives- justify scepticism and lack of optimism reflected in the comment I received as an editor of the journal.

However, in my view, this rather grim picture ought not deter us from efforts to trying to improve things for the better. Put differently, the alternative status quo is for many a Muslim today no longer acceptable on both moral and religious/theological grounds.

Dialogue between various religious traditions (inter-religious ) and recognition of irreducible religious pluralism has come a long way recently, at least in theory. I say this as someone who has been active in inter-faith dialogue (predominantly between the Abrahamic religious) at grass roots level as well as someone who has an academic interest in the topic.

But dialogue within religious traditions, especially that of a Muslim kind, has not
kept pace with that of inter-religious dialogue. Why? This is a fascinating question that requires serious academic research and is of course beyond the pale of this short text. Nevertheless, in my view, many socio-political and economic challenges facing Muslim majority countries are at least in part rooted in failures of engaging in intra-religious dialogue. As such, I believe, currently there is a great need to first develop a scholarly discourse around this theme as the preliminary but absolutely necessary step towards fuller, better appreciation and recognition of vast diversity of Muslim experience based on principles of respect and dignity. Hence, the idea of the journal.

I also believe that now there is out there a critical mass of well intentioned and willing people to make greater intra Muslim dialogue based on mutual respect, dignity and celebration of differences and eschewing all forms of violence a reality!

This good will has, of course, exited before as well. To the best of my knowledge, however, most of the discussions on greater Muslim dialogue have been limited to either academic discussions found in institutionalised and commercialised journals very few non-academics have access to or have been ad hoc attempts by individuals.

Hence, this scholarly journal will be of ‘open access’ type and also have a non-peer reviewed section of ‘opinions, analysis and commentary’ open to all not just those who meet the rigorous standards of academic peer reviewing procedures which are so crucial and central to academic endeavour.
One one needs reminding that the global Muslim community is very diverse in terms of race, language, culture, theological denominations and interpretations of religious texts. A call for intra-Muslim dialogue is therefore not a call for imposition of any interpretational hegemony or a push for ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘orthopraxis’. On contrary a call for intra-Muslim dialogue is based upon the absolute need to facilitate dialogue between various contemporary Muslim schools of thought and build bridges of better understanding between them based on the universal values of mutual respect and dignity.
Of course, intra-religious differences and problems, including that of abuse and violence of various kinds, are not limited to the Islamic tradition. Progress that has been made in other religious traditions with respect to intra-religious dialogue and curbing of religiously inspired violence, abuse and rhetoric should give us hope and encouragement that we as Muslims are also capable of the same.

However what will happen in the future will to a large extent depend upon how we approach this very notion of intra-Muslim dialogue.


About Adis

Editors of MAJALLA.

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