Muslim Reformers

Mahmoud Mohammed TahaMahmoud Mohammed Taha, (1909 - 18 January 1985) was a Sudanese religious thinker and leader. He developed the "Second Message of Islam", which postulated that the verses of the Quran revealed in Medina were appropriate in their time as the basis of Sharia, but that the verses revealed in Mecca represented the ideal religion and that the verses in Medina were only appropriate for that time. He taught that humanity had reached a stage of development which would usher in a renewed Islam based on freedom and equality. Taha rejected the classical Islamic concept of abrogation. Unfortunately it appears he was wrong, the Muslim world has not reached that stage of development and Taha was executed by hanging for apostasy for his religious preaching at the age of 76 by the Sudanese government. I wonder what would happen if Yassmin Abdel-Magied went to the Sudan and preached her version of Islam.

Muhammad Tahir-ul-QadrMuhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri is a Pakistani Sufi scholar with a strong resemblance to Cat Stevens and much admired by Susan Carland. He is involved in a long term political struggle for democracy, human rights, justice, and women's roles in Pakistan, a struggle he has spectacularly lost. Pakistani police have murdered some of his followers and he had to spend seven years living in exile in Canada. He is most famous for his 500 page fatwa against terrorism but his views, worthy though they are, have received little support and official repression in Pakistan and have had no effect in the Muslim world.

Malala Yousafzai Malala Yousafzai is the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Born 12 July 1997 she is a Pakistani activist for female education and wrote a blog under a pseudonym for the BBC Urdu detailing her life under Taliban occupation. After a documentary was made about her a gunman boarded her school bus and shot her. She was taken to Britain for intensive rehabilitation and the Taliban reiterated their intent to kill her and her father. She became a Western media star though in Pakistan she has been called "the perfect candidate for the white man to relieve his burden and save the native." Understandably, she has not returned to Pakistan.

Rashid RehmanRashid Rehman, a well-known advocate and a regional coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), was shot dead by two gunmen who entered his office in the city of Multan, apparently posing as prospective clients. Mr Rehman, who was 53 and married, agreed to take on the case of Junaid Hafeez, a lecturer at Multan’s Bahauddin Zakariya University who had been accused of defaming the prophet Mohammed on social media last year. Rehman had reportedly received death threats from other lawyers for doing so.

Naguib_MahfouzNaguib Mahfouz (1911 – 2006) was a Muslim Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize for Literature. He is regarded as one of the first contemporary writers of Arabic literature to explore modern themes. His novels were almost always set in the heavily populated urban quarters of Cairo, where his characters, mostly ordinary people, tried to cope with the modernization of society and the temptations of Western values, temptations to which he succumbed. He strongly supported peace with Israel and defended Salman Rushdie declaring that "no blasphemy harms Islam and Muslims so much as the call for murdering a writer." In 1994 an Islamic extremist stabbed the 82-year-old novelist in the neck outside his Cairo home. He survived, but was permanently affected.

Mohammad Ali Dadkhah is a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer and co-founder of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC). Following Iran's disputed June 2009 elections, Dadkhah represented several jailed political and human rights activists. In July 2011, he was sentenced by the Iranian judiciary to nine years in prison for attempting to overthrow the ruling system, among other charges.

Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab in Pakistan was assassinated by his own bodyguard for calling for a reform of Pakistan's blasphemy laws under which there is a mandatory death sentence for the offence of blasphemy against the Prophet. Taseer took up the cause of Aasia Bibi, a poor Christian farm labourer who was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death after arguing with Muslim fellow workers who refused to share a bowl of water with her, saying it would be "unclean". Taseer was not a devout Muslim but a sophisticated man of the world. He was not murdered because he drank alcohol, committed adultery or had an illegitimate son but for defending Ms Bibi. His murderer, Mumtaz Qadri who was hanged for his crime, has been hailed as a hero and martyr by many Muslims including Imams of some UK mosques. Ms Bibi is still on Death Row.

Salman Taseer, with Aasia BibiSupporters chant slogans in favor of Mumtaz Qadri

Raif BadawiIn 2013, Raif Badawi was convicted by a Saudi Arabian court of apostasy and was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes, to be doled out in 20 sessions of 50 lashes each. A Saudi lashing is not as severe as the old Royal Navy cat-of-9-tails but it's a hell of a lot worse than the 6-of-the-best they used to hand out in the Australian education system. In January 2015, flogging began - publicly of course - in a mosque in Jeddah after the regular Friday loud shouting with head-downs and arse-ups and funny hand movements. Further floggings were postponed until he could cope without dying as devout Muslim officials wanted to ensure he received all the religiously mandated lashes. Some kind-hearted devout Muslim members of the Saudi judicial system are trying to have him escape those 950 lashes by retrying him and having the sentence downgraded to beheading.

Mind you Raif was not one to be keep his blog politically correct by Saudi standards and over there being politically incorrect has real repercussions, unless you're a Saudi prince drunk in a luxury London hotel with a harem of English prostitutes when you can say anything you feel like. Here is Rawi's blog on the Twin Towers Mosque:

What hurts me most as a citizen of the area which exported those terrorists (without honor them, of course), is the audacity of Muslims in New York that reaches the limits of insolence, not taking any regard of the thousands of victims who perished on that fateful day or their families.

What increases my pain is this (Islamist) chauvinist arrogance which claims that the innocent blood, which was shed by barbarian, brutal minds under the slogan 'Allah Akbar', means nothing when compared with the act of building an Islamic mosque whose mission will be to re-spawn new terrorists and demanding even that the mosque be constructed near the same area. This is a blatant affront to the memory of American Society in particular and humanity in general, none of whom accept in any way that scene of mass murder.

All over the Muslim world and in Europe, Muslim liberals, bloggers, intellectuals, freethinkers and human rights activists are silenced, threatened, attacked, imprisoned and murdered. In Australia, they get Gold Logies.

However, there is one place though where Muslims, coiffed, pierced and tattooed males or females, gay or straight, bohemian artists and hipsters can congregate in bars, speakeasies, discos and clubs, run gay film festivals and do it safely and openly. That is the Hadar neighbourhood of Haifa in Israel.

Hadar district of Haifa

NY Times, 4th January 2016