How does a reform Muslim differ from a fundamentalist?
A reform Muslim does not follow any other source but the Quran. Fundamentalists follow many other sources that create a fundamentalist mindset.
What is the "Manifesto for Islamic Reform" that you authored?
The "Manifesto for Islamic Reform" contains a comprehensive list of comparisons between today's mainstream Islam and the teachings of the Quran. You can see a breakdown of some of the fundamentalist distortions there (www.islamicreform.org).
You say the first fundamentalist act of terror in the United States took place in Tucson?
Yes. The modern Islamic reform movement started in 1980 under the leadership of Dr. Rashad Khalifa, who was assassinated by a group affiliated with Osama bin Laden. In fact, his assassination was considered the first terrorist attack in the United States by a group affiliated with bin Laden. A member of the group was a lieutenant of bin Laden, and he was later involved with the first bombing of the World Trade Center. These acts offer clues regarding what was going on: that if in their first act, they kill this guy, it shows a very important conflict. It also shows that a lot could be done to really fight against this terrorism. (On Jan. 31, 1990, Khalifa was stabbed to death in the Tucson mosque where he served. It is commonly believed that an extremist group associated with bin Laden was responsible.)
Why kill an Islamic scholar?
One reason is that he invited using reason in accepting and understanding the Quran. He also emphasized the importance of reason rather than just blind following. He considered clergymen the No. 1 distorter of the message of the Quran and Muhammad. One of the main things that create today's terrorism is the teaching of the clergymen.
What made you go the reformist route?
One was the discovery of the mathematical coding of the Quran, which for 1,400 years was hidden in Chapter 74. This discovery created a paradigm change in my mind and increased my "faith" in the Quran. Because of my increased faith, it also required rational, mathematical thinking.
Why are you hesitant to use the word "faith"?
I am hesitant because of the "bandwagon" connotation. The word "faith" is basically a euphemism for blindly following and wishful thinking.
What makes you think rationality is superior to blind faith?
If God exists, and God has a message to us, it is certain to be a rational message, because God created us and gave us reason, which distinguishes us and makes us superior over other creatures. As it is the same God who created the universe, He is rewarding us for using our rationality--with technology. God therefore encourages us to reason and to understand His message rather than the other way around. Unfortunately, many religious groups and clergymen discourage people to think.
Are you saying the Quran encourages people to think for themselves?
Absolutely. The Quran says to question things and to not believe blindly. If you have enough empirical evidence that the Quran is the word of God, you may accept certain things, like claims of miracles. I accept that, because I have enough evidence that the Quran is an extraordinary book.
How would a fundamentalist interpretation of the Quran enable somebody to do the Sept. 11 attacks?
They didn't follow the Quran. I do not think that religion was their No. 1 agenda. It was not the Quran that encouraged them; it was a distortion of some verses of the Quran. For example, a verse says, "now you are permitted to kill them if you can catch them." You can take the verses out of context, just like any other book. Look at the simple history of Muhammad. There is evidence that he was a man of peace. When Muhammad escaped to Medina, a lot of his close friends were tortured, yet when he entered Mecca, he gave up his sword. He declared amnesty for all those leaders who mobilized wars against him. Not a single one was punished. He was a man of peace. His message was against all kinds of racism. The Quran frequently calls all of us children of heaven. It asks us to benefit from the diversity of people.