Not My Jihad
A LOST MUSLIM WORLD
Speaking with Raheel Raza brought back memories of an Islam that has been largely wiped out - an Islam that co-existed peacefully with other religions, an Islam where most women did not wear a veil.
I remembered back to childhood, to photos of Soraya, the Shah of Iran's first wife - on a beach in a bathing suit. He had divorced her, but not for that - because there were no children. His second wife, who did bear him several children, likewise wore Western clothes. I also remembered an interview with the widow of Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian prime minister. She was speaking out against genital mutilation. Her husband was murdered by very different Muslims - not the kind who believe in peaceful co-existence, the kind who believe democracy is against Islam and so murdered him.
Raheel Raza - human rights activist, diversity consultant, and public speaker - grew up in Pakistan, in a Muslim world she did not know would be erased within a generation, her version of Islam replaced by a very different kind. There was religious tolerance, a true acceptance of other religions. It was also a world where, if there was money enough, girls as well as boys were educated.
Her family was religious - but mainly it was following rituals.
It wasn't all free and easy. Raheel was always asking questions and being told not to question. Most of the questions had to do with the poverty around her - the extremes of wealth and poverty. She always cared.
Raheel went to a religious school - one taught by nuns. There was appreciation of each other's cultures and religions.
When she fell in love with a Muslim man from a different Muslim sect, the love match was accepted.
It's been a long journey for Raheel. She and her husband left a Pakistan where religious tolerance was being replaced by religious intolerance and rigidity. They lived in Dubai for almost a decade.
The most important change came after Raheel's arrival, with her husband, in Canada 24 years ago. Canada - a country where she was able to question and think critically, where there is more freedom of thought than anywhere else she has lived, and where interfaith activity is encouraged by many people.
Raheel has spent much time seeking out Islamic scholars who validate the Islam grew up with as the authentic Islam.
She also presents her vision of Islam in as many places as she can.
Through her studies, she has come to reject Sharia as not part of authentic Islam. She considers that everything but the Qu'ran - including the life of Mohammed (the Sira) and the Hadiths - needs to be gone through by Islamic scholars, as much is not authentic.
She wishes more Muslims would speak out.
She has spoken out, over and over, perhaps most completely in her book, Their Jihad - Not My Jihad.
Available at Amazon: Their Jihad - Not My Jihad
Available as a free download - click here.
Lots more is available on her site: RaheelRaza.com
Listening to Raheel, I thought of my early images of Islam - Soraya on the beach, the Shah's wife in fashionable Western clothing. So many were of an Islam like the one Raheel brought back to life.
I also did hear - I can't remember how early - of so-called radicals, fundamentalists. That was why many Muslims were taking refuge in Western countries - to get away from religious repression.
What is the true Islam? The authentic Islam?
Raheel is firm that it is the Islam she grew up with - one that had existed for generations.
For more on Raheel Raza, her site and books, go to:
The history of Muslims includes tolerance.
Muslims against terrorism, moderate Muslims
uphold Muslim beliefs very different
from political Islam.
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