The Islamic World Doesn’t Need a Reformation

Source: The Atlantic

BY MUSTAFA AKYOL

Why a Muslim John Locke would be much more useful than a Muslim Martin Luther

Muslim pilgrims rest in front of a mural depicting the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque during the haj pilgrimage.
Muslim pilgrims rest in front of a mural depicting the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque during the haj pilgrimage.Mohammed Salem / Reuters
Various Western intellectuals, ranging from Thomas Friedman to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, have argued over the past decades that Muslims need their own Martin Luther to save themselves from intolerance and dogmatism. The Protestant Reformation that Luther triggered exactly 500 years ago, these intellectuals suggest, can serve as a model for a potential Muslim Reformation. But is there such a connection between the Reformation in Christendom and the “reform” that is arguably needed in Islam?

To start with, it’s worth recalling that Islam, in the form of the Ottoman Empire, helped Protestantism succeed and survive. In the 16th century, much of Europe was dominated by the Holy Roman Empire, which had ample means to crush the Protestant heretics. But the same Catholic empire was also constantly threatened and kept busy by “the Turks” whose own empire-building inadvertently helped the Protestants. “The Turk was the lightning rod that drew off the tempest,” noted J. A. Wylie in his classic, History of Protestantism. “Thus did Christ cover His little flock with the shield of the Moslem.”

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