Skip

A Quiet Revolution Grows in the Muslim World
March 24, 2009 11:15 AM   Subscribe

A Quiet Revolution Grows in the Muslim World "In many of the scores of countries that are predominantly Muslim, the latest generation of activists is redefining society in novel ways. This new soft revolution is distinct from three earlier waves of change--the Islamic revival of the 1970s, the rise of extremism in the 1980s and the growth of Muslim political parties in the 1990s. Today's revolution is more vibrantly Islamic than ever. Yet it is also decidedly antijihadist and ambivalent about Islamist political parties. Culturally, it is deeply conservative, but its goal is to adapt to the 21st century. Politically, it rejects secularism and Westernization but craves changes compatible with modern global trends. The soft revolution is more about groping for identity and direction than expressing piety. The new revolutionaries are synthesizing Koranic values with the ways of life spawned by the Internet, satellite television and Facebook. For them, Islam, you might say, is the path to change rather than the goal itself."
posted by nooneyouknow (26 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
The soft revolution: it smiles at you before it beheads you. Then it posts to Facebook.
posted by Hovercraft Eel at 11:43 AM on March 24, 2009


The new revolutionaries are synthesizing Koranic values with the ways of life spawned by the Internet, satellite television and Facebook.

Mohammed has sent you an e-fatwa. Click here to send Mohammed an e-fatwa!
posted by mattdidthat at 11:50 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Given the relative youth and rising affluence of the Muslim world (50% of Iran's population is under 30), this is an inevitable and welcome development, although I wonder exactly what this means:

Culturally, it is deeply conservative

Is this good or bad? What implications does cultural conservatism have for the status of women, or entrepreneurship and upward social mobility, or freedom of expression?

You could consider countries like Japan or Korea "deeply culturally conservative," and I don't think this is a bad thing in the context of those countries - they are able to maintain their cultural identities in the face of massive change.

It would have been nice to flesh out this FPP with a few more links. GVO is good for this.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:53 AM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gd that article writer got a phd in saying nothing while sounding poltically-correctedly uplifting. Which is sort of the whole point of Time magazine. Anyway, younger Muslims are less conservative than older Muslims. THAT BLOWS MY MIND. Give the youth 20 years and let's see how they feel about Sharia law then. (Hint: they'll love it)
posted by norabarnacl3 at 12:06 PM on March 24, 2009


Sitting about 200 yards from the Arabian Gulf, in Kuwait... .

I've met a couple Kuwaitis and Emiratis who fit the description pretty well. I met the Kuwaiti (and some of his Kuwaiti friends) after finding him via his Mac-related blog, trading e-mail with him before moving here.

Best sense, though, from talking to him, things written about in the local English-language newspapers, is that too many young people care about little other than materialism and expect--if not demand--to suck on the government teat.

Kuwait's a bit weird, though; they only need oil at about $30-35/bbl to fund the economy, which features more than 90% of employed people employed in some way by the government.

As someone noted, Kuwait and other countries in the region face demographic challenges (about the opposite of the USA) in that a big percentage of the population is 20 or under. Too, birth rates are high. (I've seen the numbers and I've seen countless couples with plenty of kids.)

No guess of the extent to which having lotsa kids is a Koran-based thing, but formidable population growth will add pressure on the economies--and don't get me started about how poor the infrastructure is here, for the number of people and in general.

I wonder, to the extent that what the author describes is something that is having/will have a serious impact, what those folks will say about birth rates, if they will try to demand more from their governments.
posted by ambient2 at 12:24 PM on March 24, 2009


Gd that article writer got a phd in saying nothing while sounding poltically-correctedly uplifting. Which is sort of the whole point of Time magazine. Anyway, younger Muslims are less conservative than older Muslims. THAT BLOWS MY MIND. Give the youth 20 years and let's see how they feel about Sharia law then. (Hint: they'll love it)

While older people in the U.S. tend to be more conservative, studies show that people don't actually become more conservative as they age.
posted by delmoi at 12:39 PM on March 24, 2009


Related, if tangentially, Juan Cole was on DR Show recently talking about his new book "Engaging the Muslim World." The hour-long interview can be heard here, including several weirdly inappropriate calls from listeners who felt compelled to alert the world to the fact that the Koran tells Muslins [sic] to kill and lie to the Christian infidels.

I thought Cole did a brilliant job of putting many of these kinds of gross mischaracterizations of fact to bed. He patiently explained that, at the time those Koranic versus were written, the "infidels" referred to were pagan Arabs that had in recent history been actively engaged in trying to wipe out not only the Muslim population, but all the emerging monotheist Abrahamic populations, including Jews and Christians, whom the Koran speaks of in favorable terms as "Brothers of the Book."

He also put to lie the pervasive and plainly stupid American sentiment that it's fair to talk about the world's approximately 1.6 billion strong muslim population as if it were a monolithic, heterogeneous block, when populations in excess of tens of millions of muslims live in countries as diverse as Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Boznia, China, Cameroon, India, and Russia--and hell, even the US' muslim population is close to 10 million.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:36 PM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


While older people in the U.S. tend to be more conservative, studies show that people don't actually become more conservative as they age.

Not to derail, but I'm curious if you've got a link or something. This is totally not a callout — I just think the politics/demographics connection is interesting, it's relevant to this article, and it might be cool to have some of the facts.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:43 PM on March 24, 2009


If their religious conservatives, some of their kids will still enslave women, murder doctors, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:51 PM on March 24, 2009


oops. "heterogeneous" --> "homogeneous" /obviously
posted by saulgoodman at 1:53 PM on March 24, 2009


If their religious conservatives, some of their kids will still enslave women, murder doctors, etc.

That's just an ignorant statement. Are you serious?
posted by Burhanistan at 2:33 PM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


He patiently explained that, at the time those Koranic versus were written, the "infidels" referred to were pagan Arabs that had in recent history been actively engaged in trying to wipe out not only the Muslim population, but all the emerging monotheist Abrahamic populations, including Jews and Christians, whom the Koran speaks of in favorable terms as "Brothers of the Book."

The centuries-old motivation behind the verses has little to do with those contemporary Islamists who choose to interpret the verses in a way that allows them to preach violence. But I don't expect Juan Cole to have the integrity to address the question from that angle.
posted by Krrrlson at 2:34 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks, an interesting read. This is particularly encouraging:
Later this year, the Turkish scholars are expected to publish six volumes that reject thousands of Islam's most controversial practices, from stoning adulterers to honor killings. Some hadith, the scholars contend, are unsubstantiated; others were just invented to manipulate society. "There is one tradition which says ladies are religiously and rationally not complete and of lesser mind," says Ismail Hakki Unal of Ankara University's divinity school, a member of the commission. "We think this does not conform with the soul of the Koran. And when we look at the Prophet's behavior toward ladies, we don't think those insulting messages belong to him." Another hadith insists that women be obedient to their husbands if they are to enter paradise. "Again, this is incompatible with the Prophet," Unal says. "We think these are sentences put forth by men who were trying to impose their power over the ladies."
Here's a comparable post I made a few years ago; the link still works, amazingly, and will interest those who like this one.

It would have been nice to flesh out this FPP with a few more links.

Nonsense, it's great the way it is, and I'm very grateful to the poster for not padding it out to appease the one-link-bad faction. If you think other links are relevant, add 'em yourself.

Gd that article writer got a phd in saying nothing while sounding poltically-correctedly uplifting. Which is sort of the whole point of Time magazine. Anyway, younger Muslims are less conservative than older Muslims. THAT BLOWS MY MIND. Give the youth 20 years and let's see how they feel about Sharia law then. (Hint: they'll love it)

Do you know anything about anything? At all?
posted by languagehat at 2:45 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


The centuries-old motivation behind the verses has little to do with those contemporary Islamists who choose to interpret the verses in a way that allows them to preach violence. But I don't expect Juan Cole to have the integrity to address the question from that angle.

Subscribing to a crazed, paranoid worldview is not a mark of integrity, and not addressing the concerns of lunatics does not mean you're hiding something.
posted by delmoi at 2:49 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


As for Juan Cole, he's extremely frustrating. He knows a tremendous amount and has good points to make, but he's so concerned about correcting other people's bias he perpetrates an equal and opposite one. I recently heard him asked about the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia and he compared them to Martin Luther, explained that being opposed to images was part of an honorable tradition, blah blah blah... you'd never have guessed they were into oppression of anyone who doesn't share their exact brand of fundamentalist Islam and execution of anyone who breaks their medieval rules. If he were more honest he'd be a lot more effective. As it is, he tends to come off as an apologist, like those "Russia experts" who made excuses for Communism.
posted by languagehat at 2:49 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not to derail, but I'm curious if you've got a link or something. This is totally not a callout — I just think the politics/demographics connection is interesting, it's relevant to this article, and it might be cool to have some of the facts.

It was in a textbook.
posted by delmoi at 2:51 PM on March 24, 2009


I think I just bruised my flagging finger.

Some of y'all really need to take a second look at your comments before you post them.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 3:20 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there any ideology that doesn't allow itself to be used for violence that runs anything?

Wouldn't Democracy be written off given the US proclivity for invading countries all around the world?
posted by sien at 4:08 PM on March 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


he compared them to Martin Luther, explained that being opposed to images was part of an honorable tradition, blah blah blah... you'd never have guessed they were into oppression of anyone who doesn't share their exact brand of fundamentalist Islam and execution of anyone who breaks their medieval rules

Well, I don't really know about Luther himself, but Protestant iconoclasts weren't necessarily nice, fuzzy, tolerant folk either, so perhaps Cole's analogy may not be as far out as you'd think.

Wouldn't Democracy be written off given the US proclivity for invading countries all around the world?

I think one of the main points raised in the article was that many elements of Western liberal thought and practice are being written off by young Moslems for precisely this reason.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:26 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great article, thanks for posting it here.

Forty years ago, Islamic dress was rare in Egypt. Today, more than 80% of women are estimated to wear the hijab, and many put it on only after their daughters did.

This is also true in Malaysia and Indonesia. The women who led the resurgence in Islamic dress are all under forty. I imagine it holds for most muslim countries where the hijab is a free choice, which is a very interesting thing.
posted by BinGregory at 7:09 PM on March 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


>It would have been nice to flesh out this FPP with a few more links.

Nonsense, it's great the way it is


No, you're wrong. This FPP needs a few more links.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:46 PM on March 24, 2009


...although, in Malaysia, I think the rate of hijab use probably peaked 5-10 years ago; the teenage generation seems a bit less likely to wear. Not that that is the sole or most important signifier of Islamic dedication.
posted by BinGregory at 8:23 PM on March 24, 2009


This FPP needs a few more links.

The Radical Middle Way - an example of the movement the FPP is describing, albeit from muslim-minority UK.

Sisters in Islam - Malaysian women's rights organization working within an Islamic framework. Sample article. They have had some trouble gaining legitimacy, partly due to being originally founded by Aminah Wadud, who is widely regarded as a heretic, although she is no longer connected to the organization. But still another example of what the FPP is describing.

The Parti Keadilan Rakyat [wikipedia] of Anwar Ibrahim, once a noted Islamist who has transformed into the leader of a major secular Malaysian opposition party that still argues a role for Islam in the country.

Links are a bit scattered, but hey, it's not my FPP.
posted by BinGregory at 8:41 PM on March 24, 2009


bingregory, thank you. :)
posted by zarq at 1:43 AM on March 25, 2009


No, you're wrong. This FPP needs a few more links.

Nonsense. No FPP "needs" more links (unless, of course, the link isn't good on its own, like a Wikipedia link or something). This bad idea is a creation of the people who think all "good posts" involve encyclopedic piles of links to every conceivable ramification of the topic. This is bullshit, and those people should feel bad for propagating it. (Note to mods: Ban a few of these types; that'll put a stop to it.)

If you think more links would fill out a post, add them yourself. That's why we have comment threads.
posted by languagehat at 6:42 AM on March 25, 2009


The centuries-old motivation behind the verses has little to do with those contemporary Islamists who choose to interpret the verses in a way that allows them to preach violence.

But it does have everything to do with the "But the Koran tells them to murder!" crowd, which is what both saulgoodman and Juan Cole were addressing.
posted by Amanojaku at 9:38 PM on March 25, 2009


« Older and again and again and again and again... and...   |   No Nonsense Self-Defense Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post