Ahmad Moussalli, Democracy and Human Rights Within Islam
1 January 2012

Compared to the secular and radically liberal perspective expressed by al-Na’im, however, the Lebanese author presents an “Islamic” interpretation of these problems and of the complex relationship the Muslim religion has with modernity, in view of its possible “Islamisation” albeit in a moderate and reformist manner.

The ideas expressed by Moussalli – who believes it is important to emphasise the abyss separating terrorist extremism and Islamism – can be set within the current of so-called “reformist Islamism” that refers to the noble tradition of the Salafite reformist schools of thought (Muhammad ‘Abduh) and which, at least to a certain extent, has been developed in a more moderate version by the Muslim Brotherhood. Moussalli’s ideas are interesting, on the one hand, in his vindicating – within Islam – the speculative and practical importance of reformist Islamism, and, on the other, for having identified, specifically in Islam and in the Koran, the theoretical and linguistic bases for elaborating a series of modernity’s fundamental concepts, such as pluralism, democracy and human rights.

Although these concepts do not totally coincide – and in some cases not at all – with what could be a “Western” interpretation of these words, a vision such as Moussalli’s, broadly expressed in the book The Islamic Quest for Democracy, Pluralism and Human Rights (University of Florida Press, 2001), is essential for understanding how the same traditional Islamic heritage can provide innumerable elements – not conceptually extraneous nor politically imposed – totally “endogenous” to the culture and history of Muslim civilisation, for an opening to modernity and the needs of the contemporary world.



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