Jonah Goldberg has a interesting column in USA today titled Islam needs a central authority — such as a pontiff. So often we hear of the call for a reformation in Islam. Now of course as a Catholic I don’t see the so-called Reformation as a positive thing, it is hard to put a happy face on schism. In Jonah’s article he reminds people that the reformation was not exactly all peaches and cream, but that it "inaugurated an era of relentless religious wars." His contention that the Muslim reformation already happened with the demise of the Ottoman Empire is quite interesting. Of course with any parallel they are never 100 percent exact and breakdown at certain points. But it is quite true that any church without some type of consolidated teaching authority will break down into ever more groups. Each individual as interpreter can decide for themselves what a text means in what they hold as sacred text. Whether it is Sola Scriptura or Sola Koran inevitably there are the same problems in interpretation. Though at least with Protestants they start with the Word of God. Muslim start with truths with a large admixture of heresies and falsehoods.
In the West we often hope for a prevalence of moderate Muslims, though our use of moderate would have mostly nothing to do with the Koran or their own traditions and history. What most people mean I would guess would be the predominance of secular Muslims.
In somewhat related news Pope Benedict speaks with ambassadors from Islam. American Papist provides once again a good roundup of the meeting, the text of the meeting, and reactions and commentary on the meeting from other sources.
The Pope ended his speech saying:
Dear friends, I am profoundly convinced that in the current world situation it is imperative that Christians and Muslims engage with one another in order to address the numerous challenges that present themselves to humanity, especially those concerning the defence and promotion of the dignity of the human person and of the rights ensuing from that dignity. When threats mount up against people and against peace, by recognizing the central character of the human person and by working with perseverance to see that human life is always respected, Christians and Muslims manifest their obedience to the Creator, who wishes all people to live in the dignity that he has bestowed upon them.
Dear friends, I pray with my whole heart that the merciful God will guide our steps along the paths of an ever more authentic mutual understanding. At this time when for Muslims the spiritual journey of the month of Ramadan is beginning, I address to all of them my cordial good wishes, praying that the Almighty may grant them serene and peaceful lives. May the God of peace fill you with the abundance of his Blessings, together with the communities that you represent!