Muslims need a new definition of Islam in order to survive

Quartz: A few weeks back I was in a mosque, decrying the scourge of sectarianism. (I’d been invited to speak, to be clear: I wasn’t just monologuing uninvited.) In too many places, I noted, Sunni and Shia Muslims are not just at odds with each other, they’re at war. To prevent similar conflicts from poisoning our own communities, American Sunnis and Shias would have to learn and work with each other.

After the talk, an older woman approached me. Clutching her purse, looking equal parts nervous and disappointed, she sighed. “I am an Ahmadi Muslim,” she told me. “What about us?”

The plight of Ahmadis had actually already been on my mind for some time. But this woman’s question left me at a loss. She was right. Ahmadi Muslims are often marginalized, regularly (and legally) discriminated against, and even killed. This is, unlike many Sunni and Shia disputes, an entirely one-sided affair. Ahmadis are not warring with other Muslims. They are being aggressed against. There’s no Ahmadi Muslim nation that plays the role of Iran or Saudi Arabia, no Ahmadi faction like the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. Which makes it so much worse.

Will such conflicts prevent the West’s very diverse Muslim communities from working together in the face of rising Islamophobia? Is it possible to be true to our beliefs, respect our differences, and yet recognize that we share a common identity? I believe the way forward is to bring about a new definition of Islam that will coexist alongside the ones we already have.


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