Our quote for today is from Father Mulcahy, a character on the hit TV show M*A*S*H. He said, "A faith of convenience is a hollow faith."
In this podcast, we are making our way through Garry R. Morgan's book, "Understanding World Religions in 15 Minutes a Day."
Our Understanding World Religions topic for today is, "Islam: Varieties and Issues."
Even small religions show amazing variety within their beliefs and practices, so it's no surprise that Islam is not monolithic.
First, as with any religion, there are differing levels of commitment and participation. At one end of the spectrum among professing Muslims are the nominal (non-practicing). Next are the Conformists, whose personal attitude is indifference or even unbelief but who follow the rituals due to family or societal pressure. While this might seem primarily limited to Muslim-majority countries where Sharia (Islamic law) is enforced, even where there's legal religious freedom, families and communities can exert tremendous pressure.
Next are the Reformers who are not an official branch (as in Judaism). The term refers to Muslims who sincerely believe Islam is the true religion but that the Qur'an must be understood and applied in the present, separating it from its seventh-century cultural roots. The Moderates, probably the largest group worldwide, are sincere in their belief, appreciate Islam's positive aspects (family, community, morality, etc.), and reject more radical interpretations.
Even the Fundamentalists, at the far end of the spectrum, have subgroups. All agree on a literal, almost rigid interpretation of the Qur'an, but some (such as the Taliban) teach law practices that go beyond the Qur'an. Some Fundamentalists actively propagate their faith and believe Islam's message will eventually reach and persuade everyone, yet they renounce violence. The most extreme Fundamentalists -- the ones recruiting suicide bombers and planning acts of terror -- believe Western cultural, political, and economic encroachment must be stopped by any and all means.