Islam and Democracy

WASHINGTON D.C.: Reform is afoot within Islam. It contrasts starkly with the extremism that grabs headlines when bombs are planted, hostages seized, or embassies attacked in Islam's name.

Ideas of reform emerged periodically among small groups of clergy and intellectuals over the past century, but new thinkers and writers are bringing broad reform ideas to large audiences.

Simply put, new reformers contend that Islam is flexible; that Islam's tenets can accommodate and even encourage pluralism.They are challenging those who claim Islam is unchanging across time, space or experience. And they oppose those shrill voices who argue democracy is incompatible with Islam. The reform movement is trying to reconcile Islam and modernism by creating a late 20th century worldview both modern and Islamic.

One leading reformer is Iranian philosopher Abdul Karim Soroush, a media-shy academic whose training and experience span the Middle East and the West.