Dilwar Hussein on Reform Islam: Going beyond Literal Interpretation

In order to retain the values of the Koran, one must go beyond the literal meaning of the text, says British Islam scholar Dilwar Hussein. Instead, Muslims should try to interpret the dynamic of change of early Islam and apply that to modern times and conditions. An interview by Jan Kuhlmann

With your project “New Horizons” you want to promote reform and new ideas within Islam. With what aim?

Dilwar Hussain: We feel that not enough is happening in terms of promoting ideas that are more open and more progressive, ideas that speak to the reality of Muslim life in Europe. One of the most obvious examples is gender equality. Over the last 10 or 15 years, the Muslim discourse has claimed that when you go back to the foundations of Islam you can find references that are emancipatory of women.

Taking that point of view, some Muslims have argued that Islam has always had a positive approach towards gender equality, that it’s all about tradition and culture. And once we’re able to move away from traditional Muslim cultures we can find a European practice of Islam that will be egalitarian and equal. I think that is okay at one level, but it is not enough.

Event Report: Empowerment of Muslim women: reality or wishful thinking?

A growing movement of scholars are reinterpreting Islamic texts to argue for family law reforms to ensure equal treatment of Muslim men and women, speakers told a Policy Dialogue held in cooperation with the King Baudouin Foundation with support from the US Mission. A recent study of Muslim women in Europe shows most are proud to be ‘European Muslims’ and appreciate Europe’s respect for freedom and diversity. They do not want draconian laws on wearing the veil, for example, preferring to make their own decisions.