By Adil James, MMNS
Warren–January 2–IONA held its first annual Islam conference this past Saturday evening at IONA.
Two speakers were invited to the event, Imam Dawud Walid, Executive Director of CAIR Michigan, and Amir Abdul Malik Ali, a Muslim activist from Oakland California.
They both spoke on secularism and American democracy, Dawud Walif focusing on how American democracy and history includes elements of Islam, and Ali focusing instead on distinctions and points of conflict between the Islamic and Western worlds and world views.
Both focused on Islam as a non-religion, which may be a thesis that most people would disagree with. The underlying argument is that Muslims must be involved in political life, because Islam is a â€œdeenâ€ which both speakers translated ast â€œway of life,â€ rather than as â€œreligion.â€
As a first such event from IONA, it was interesting that the underlying message echoed the previous speech at the center by a non-Muslim proponent of the thesis that Islam is not a religion, rather a kind of political awakening movement, Prof. Robert Shedinger (who spoke there on October 24th of 2009, reported on in TMO V11-I45). Shedinger argues that Jesus was Muslim, as a corollary to his argument that Islam is not a religion.
Shedingerâ€™s companion argument is that the effort to define Islam as a religion rather than a way of life was imposed by non-Muslims in an effort to stem the efforts of Muslims to be politically involved, for example in combating colonialism.
It is surprising that the radical idea of Islamâ€™s being just another worldly movement is gaining among Muslims, but apparently the IONA conference documents the spread of this idea.