On March 4, 5, in St Petersburg, Florida, a “Secular Islam Summit” appears to be scheduled. Nice idea. It wouldn’t hurt to have more discussion of secularist ideas in a Muslim context. And it could be interesting to see what comes out of a gathering of secular-oriented dissidents with Muslim roots.
Unfortunately, I don’t see the summit as shaping up that way. Right now, it’s bringing together too many people who confuse desire for a more secular Islamic culture with praise of American and Israeli neoconservative agendas in the Middle East. The summit seems to have some US nationalist associations, such as the Intelligence Summit and so forth.
So I’ll be surprised if much useful comes out of this. It’s difficult enough to get a hearing for criticism of Islam in the Muslim world; one of the roadblocks is the common suspicion that critics give aid and comfort to Western imperial ambitions. Very often, that suspicion just serves to deflect legitimate criticism by changing the subject. It should be possible to talk about Muslim problems without being paranoid or shifting blame onto outside forces all the time. But here is a case where it looks like even the paranoid is correct about his enemies once in a while.
Honestly, this is starting to piss me off. We always seem to get caught between multicultural lefties who cannot conceive of anything the Muslim “Other” does than can go wrong and that portion of right-wingers who think Islam is The Great Threat to Western Civilization. So invariably, it’s hard to come across anything about Islam that in our current media landscape that rises above the level of bullshit. Always, but always, their picture of “Islam” ends up as a mirror of their own ideological preoccupations. Sigh…