A new breed of “intellectual convert is helping to reshape Islam across the Arab and Muslim world.
An Associated Press report (July 7) notes that a new generation of Muslims have turned to the faith from Marxism, who are “more adept at post-modernism than the sayings of the prophet Mohammed. They speak English and French, are versed in the literature and history of the West, and follow the latest trends in Western thought.”
While these thinkers were once the target of Islamicists’ criticisms, today they provide the public face of Islam, presenting their ideas in the media and finding support among Muslims as they seek to rethink Islam’s relationship to the West, democracy and minorities.
These thinkers find continuity between their former positions as Marxists and those they hold today, writes Anthony Shadid. Adel Hussein, one of Egypt’s leading Islamic thinkers, for instance, still believes in social justice and Third World development, but now sees Islam as the best way to persuade and mobilize the public on these issues.
The phenomenon is especially strong in Egypt, but it has angered Arab intellectuals around the world. In a recent issue of the journal “Literature and Criticism,” a reviewer criticized one such convert, saying that “he was neither an asset to the Marxists nor is he to the fundamentalists.”