Lighten up, secular Muslims! The literal interpretation of Islam is not as valid as the Islamists would have you believe
| 01 August 2012
POLITICAL AND RELIGIOUS SCHOLAR SITS DOWN WITH A MODERN, FICTIONAL MUHAMMAD TO DISCUSS CONTEMPORARY ISLAM
“If Muhammad were alive today, he’d agree that the Islamists are the reason Islam is condemned around the globe,” says Husam Dughman, political scientist, religious intellectual, immigration specialist, educator, and author of the new book, Tête-à-tête with Muhammad.
In his book, Mr. Dughman reveals, through fictional conversations with Muhammad, that the only way to develop Muslim countries and resolve Islam’s conflict with non-Muslims is to secularize, democratize, and liberalize Muslim culture. To achieve this, freedom of thought and expression is necessary.
Tête-à-tête with Muhammad is presented as a hypothetical exchange of views between Muhammad and Mr. Dughman, the son of a former president of the University of Libya and the grandson of a former Libyan prime minister—all opponents of the Qaddafi regime. The book features a compelling conversation based on two ideas: First, if Muhammad were alive today, how would he defend his historical record? Second, if Muhammad were to come back to life in modern time, how would he interpret Islam today compared with fourteen centuries ago?
The fictional tête-à-tête between Mr. Dughman and Muhammad covers issues from an examination of the idea of God’s existence to the dual concept of the contextualization/ decontextualization of Islam, and from global politics and Islam’s views on democracy, secularism, and freedom of belief to the status of women and jihad.
This highly original book uses secular subjects – including politics, pop culture, economics, sociology, psychology, philosophy, history, literature, and health– to help shed light on religion in a balanced and constructive way. While Tête-à-tête with Muhammad does criticize Islam, Muslims, and Muhammad in various ways, this authentic book also introduces new opportunities and ways of thinking that might provide positive solutions for Islam, Muslims, and Arabs who have been overwhelmed by the heavy weight of bigotry for many centuries. Mr. Dughman closes the book, in fact, with a piece of advice that Muhammad gives to the Muslims and those involved in any way with Islam.
Husam Dughman says, “There are two main reasons why I wrote Tête-à-tête with Muhammad: the first is a metaphysical inquiry, meaning that, throughout my life I was always asking myself whether God really existed and, if He did, whether He sent to the world any prophets or Holy Scripture. The second is a more pragmatic reason—I was trying to explore the relationship between religion and secular life.”
Based on vast Middle Eastern, Arabic, and Muslim knowledge, Tête-à-tête with Muhammad also includes the following themes:
• Why freedom of thought is the greatest freedom and the best expression of our humanity
• Literal interpretations of religion demand the paralysis of our reason as a precondition
• Islam, as it is interpreted today, will lead to disaster for both Muslims and non-Muslims
• The contextualization of Islam is both possible and desirable
• Secularizing, liberalizing, and democratizing their culture is the only way for Muslims to achieve their renaissance
• The ways in which religious dogmatism is responsible for Muslim difficulties in the modern world
• How Islam can coexist peacefully and productively with the rest of the world
Husam Dughman’s family was both educated and liberal. They heroically stood up to the Qaddafi regime and endured the dire consequences. This gave him a first-hand experience of what dictatorship, bigotry, and intolerance are about, and what kind of price has to be paid in order to stand up to them. Coupled with his experience of religious intolerance, Mr. Dughman resolved to fight against zealotry, hate, and extremism, come hell or high water. Thus, the idea for Tête-à-tête with Muhammad began to germinate in his mind.
Husam Dughman was born in Libya and educated in Libya and the U.K. He earned his B.A. and M.A. in Political Science from the University of Kent at Canterbury, where he won several awards for academic excellence and graduated with a First Class with Honours. In 1993, Mr. Dughman returned to Libya and was successful in securing a position as a university professor of Political Science. Due to political reasons, he left his university position in 1997 and subsequently worked in legal translation. He immigrated to Canada in 2002, where he has been helping new immigrants with their settlement.
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