According to Anouar Majid, Islam has not evolved from its violent origins as its fellow Abrahamic religions have because of its refusal to accept discourse or dissent from its followers.
Delivering his lecture Friday from the Hall of Philosophy, Majid, vice president for global affairs and director of the Center for Global Humanities at the University of New England, spoke on “Islam and the Problem of Monotheism.” His lecture was the last in Week Six’s Interfaith Lecture theme of “Religion: Vanishing and Emerging.”
“Modern scholars have created a fail-proof theological system where people cannot question the text of the Quran or the person of the prophet, so there is a huge red line surrounding [Muslim] people living in modern nations,” Majid said.
In several statements that incited murmurs from the crowd, Majid said part of the reason that extremists such as the Islamic State can thrive is because the group’s actions follow the instruction of Islamic canonical writings.
“Everyone in the West abhors what ISIS does, but very few people are willing to see ISIS as a logical extension of what historical Muslims believe,” Majid said. “The beheadings of the Christians, the way people are being treated, the violence against the regimes are all being conducted under the name of Islamic canonical texts.”
Majid said Islam is not alone in having violent scripture, but it hasn’t moved away from it and modernized as Judaism and Christianity have.
“Judaism and Christianity have moved past the violence of their scripture, but mosques have not progressed,” he said.
According to Majid, the canonical encouragement of violence is directed toward both those who satirize or physically conceptualize the Prophet Muhammad. He cited the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks as an example of this behavior, supported by scripture.
Although Islam is behind other religions, Majid said there is still room for progress. He alluded to ongoing scholarship to determine the historical origins of the Quran and research into the Prophet Muhammad in the hopes that they can spur Muslim people to modernize their religion.
“We are trying to reexamine the story of Islam, how it started and how it has not been told at all publicly, and how it’s still at its infancy when it comes to historical accuracy,” Majid said.
Speaking directly to Chautauquans and alluding to a larger, intelligent community, Majid said it is their duty to educate the world and speak up for truth even in the face of adversity.
In both the beginning and the end of his speech, Majid likened Chautauqua to ancient Greece in the way it hosted numerous houses of worship of any faith or denomination who could coexist despite differing beliefs. He closed his lecture again referencing the need for the educated to shed light on the silenced issues.
“Only philosophy, one of the golden creations of ancient Greece, can liberate us from this tyranny,” Majid said.