A common slogan among deep thinkers is that the problem with Islam is that unlike Christianity it’s never had a Reformation. On the face of it the claim is an odd one. The Protestant Reformation was an attempt to purify Christianity and return it to its pure and original form, cleansed of all syncretic cultural and philosophical overlays and corruptions. Presumably the corresponding event in Islam would be its return to its original form as a strict religion of the book, without modernizing accommodations or philosophical and mystical additions. Sounds very much like Wahhabism. So the problem with Islam in fact may be that it’s had a Reformation, and what we’re dealing with in the form of Al Qaeda is its protestant form. In short, we’re in the midst of a sort of Islamic equivalent to our Wars of Religion.
What the deep thinkers mean, of course, is that unlike mainstream forms of Christianity Islam hasn’t resigned in favor of liberalism its practical claim to the possession of public binding truth. As a result we now have two powerful systems of thought—Reformed Islam and liberalism—that not only claim to possess the truth but also define all deviation as violence and claim the right and obligation to enforce their understanding of truth on everyone everywhere. I agree with the deep thinkers that is a dangerous situation.
Where I disagree is the solution. What’s needed is neither an Islamic equivalent to the Protestant Reformation, since there’s already been one, nor Islamic submission to the universal claims of liberalism. Instead, what the world needs for the sake of human survival are beliefs that indeed claim truth, since that’s what makes a belief a belief, but also recognize a sort of universal natural law that allows even those in error certain rights, for example the right not to have truth forced on them. On the line of thought I prefer legitimate systems of belief would thus include traditionalist conservatism as well as traditional Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism. They would not, however, include the unholy trio of liberalism, neoconservatism and Radical Islam until each gives up its imperialism.