This does seem encouraging, although there’s a long way to go. One of the ‘ulema is putting it on the line and debating imprisoned radicals as to the Islamic correctness of their understanding of jihad:
“If you can convince us that your ideas are justified by the Koran, then we will join you in your struggle … But if we succeed in convincing you of our ideas, then you must agree to renounce violence.”
He seems to be making a great deal of headway.
The usual line is that “Islam needs a Reformation.” Taken literally that doesn’t make much sense, since it seems Islam has already had a Reformation—it’s shucked off centuries of man-made traditions and cultural accommodations in favor of direct appeal to the words of scripture—and the result has been Islamic radicalism. What’s really meant, of course, is that Islam, like the whole of respectable Christianity, has to recognize modernity and liberalism as the public truth of things, and understand itself as a subordinate private pursuit. Like everything else, it has to submit to the Enlightenment. More concretely, the fact that some Wahhabi engineering students murdered 3,000 people 3 miles from where I’m sitting is taken to mean that both the Muslims and I have to convert to the faith preached by The New York Times. That’s the sole road to world peace in a multicultural world.
Why does that make sense? There’d be just as much peace if everybody converted to Christian Science or became a Lubavitcher. There’d be no wars of religion if everybody converted to religion X. That approach has proven unrealistic, though, so our best hope is a modus vivendi. I have no real idea what the correct understanding of jihad is. The PC interpretation, that Muslims on the whole view it first and foremost as an inward spiritual struggle, is evidently wrong. Still, exactly what degree of armed struggle it calls for is no doubt up for interpretation, just as it’s not clear to what extent “human rights” require armed intervention in countries that do not adequately implement secularism and gender equality. In both cases it seems that forcible intervention where the true way is rejected is sometimes required, but that leaves a lot of room for specifics. I favor the moderates in each camp, so that collisions between the rival imperialisms can be avoided as much as possible.