Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Muslim Heretics Conference

I heard Abdullahi An-Na'im on CBC radio (07/05/2008, The Best of The Current) talking about it.

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muslim_Heretics_Conference :
A Celebration of Heresy: Critical Thinking for Islamic Reform was an Islamic conference organised in Atlanta, USA, on 28 till 30th of March, 2008. The conference was organized to promote and present Islamic reformist ideas.

Conference title

The title of the conference had created controversy as it stated the participants presented themselves as heretics, seen by the majority of Muslims as in the negative sense, but the organizers used the term in the positive. Their website explains:

"Any dissenting idea against the prevailing religious traditions is generally considered heresy. Jesus was accused of heresy by the Jewish high council and was handed over to the occupying Romans to be executed. Abraham was thrown into a fiery furnace for heresy however saved by God. Muhammad who criticized traditions and “the way of their fathers”, slavery, aggression, financial exploitation, racism, and xenophobia, was a dangerous heretic according to the tribal courts of Meccan.

Many great philosophers and religious leaders, such as Ibn Sina and Martin Luther, were accused of heresy and others, such as Hallaj and Giordano Bruno, gave up their lives for their cause and beliefs. Socrates questioned the polytheistic dogmas and was a condemned heretic in the courts of Athenian establishment. Tyndall who translated the Bible was condemned to the blazing fire of the Church. Galileo who removed the earth from the center of the Christian universe and Darwin who meticulously studied the origin of life were both declared heretics by the Church. Heretical ideas have tested the tolerance of a society and in many cases have created the fuel of progress particularly in the area of religion."

The conference grew out of the recognition that often, dissenting ideas against the prevailing religious traditions are written off as heresy. Nearly all the prophets and great thinkers throughout history have been accused of being heretics. Furthermore, the stereotypical image of Muslims seems to be, as Fereydoun Taslimi, conference organizer, puts it, "an intolerance of a seemingly vain re-action to a cartoon or film and a tolerance for tyranny or oppression by some Muslims and Islamic governments. However, throughout Islam's history dissenting ideas have been prevalent and tolerated more than they have in many other religions."

Some Muslims have criticized them for using the title Muslim Heretics Conference, organizer Taslimi said:

"But we decided to stick with it, in that we feel we are against the kind of actions that are being committed in the name of Islam, such as violence and repression. Some of the same critics a few years back complained about the use of the words "Islamic reform," but have adopted the phrase when discussing issues where their religion and the modern world intersect."[1]

Conference goals

The conference was meant as a gathering of Muslims and other interested people who would like to network and share ideas with those who agree with the following principles;

- Freedom of religion and worship

- Freedom of Speech with no conditions

- Rejection of all acts of aggression in the name of religion

- Tolerance of criticism

- Agree to disagree about our understanding of Islam

- Work towards peace and a better future for mankind


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