There is a meme that floats about that the “problem” with Islam is that it has never had the experience of a Reformation such as Christianity went through in the 16th century. I confess to having indulged in this myself. I just ran into a very nice analysis of this idea by Josh Marshall, the editor at Talking Points Memo, a liberal news site. Marshall was trained as a historian and this shows in his essay. He begins with:
The subtext was that the Reformation was that period in European history when people decided to start focusing on the individual and disentangling religion from the powers of the state. Put more forcefully, this was when people decided that they shouldn’t kill each other over religion or govern states according to ideas about what God had in mind for the End Times.
The irony of course is that if anything the Reformation was almost precisely the opposite of what I’ve just described. If we insist that the Muslim world has to follow this model, what’s happening right now actually looks fairly similar.
Check out the rest of his essay here. With Islamic fundamentalism and Islamic State violence bearing down on us again, such thoughtful pieces, whether you agree or not, are a useful anodyne to much of what passes for commentary on Islam.