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Salman Rushdie calls for 'Muslim Reformation'

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- British author Salman Rushdie on Thursday called for a reform movement that would move Islam into the "modern age" to combat jihadists and closed Muslim communities in the West that produce disaffected youths wielding "lethal rucksacks."

In 1989, Rushdie was forced into hiding when the late Iranian Islamic fundamentalist leader Ayatollah Khomeni issued a religious death decree for alleged blasphemy against Islam in Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses."

The Indian-born Rushdie made his statement in an essay published Thursday in The Times of London titled, "Muslims unite! A new Reformation will bring your faith into the modern era."

"What is needed is a move beyond tradition -- nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadi ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows of the closed communities to let in much-needed fresh air," Rushdie wrote.

Much of the article addresses the positions of Sir Iqbal Sacranie, head of the Muslim Council of Britain.

"It is high time, for starters, that Muslims were able to study the revelation of their religion as an event inside history, not supernaturally above it," Rushdie wrote.

"It would be good to see governments and community leaders inside the Muslim world as well as outside it throwing their weight behind this idea, because creating and sustaining such a reform movement will require, above all, a new educational impetus whose results may take a generation to be felt, a new scholarship to replace the literalist dictates and narrow dogmatisms that plague present-day Muslim thinking," he wrote.

According to Rushdie, Islam comprises millions who are "tolerant" and "civilized" but many others whose viewpoints are "antediluvian, who think of homosexuality as ungodly, who have little time for real freedom of expression, who routinely express anti-Semitic views, and who, in the case of the Muslim Diaspora, are -- it has to be said -- in many ways at odds with the cultures among which they live."

Rushdie pointed to the English city of Leeds -- where police have said three July 7 London suicide bombers grew up -- as a place where "many traditional Muslims lead lives apart, inward-turned lives of near-segregation from the wider population."

The July 7 bombs, on three Underground trains and a double-decker bus, killed 52 commuters as well as four bombers. It's thought that the attackers carried their weapons in rucksacks.

"From such defensive, separated worlds some youngsters have indefensibly stepped across a moral line and taken up their lethal rucksacks," Rushdie wrote. "The deeper alienations that lead to terrorism may have their roots in these young men's objections to events in Iraq or elsewhere, but the closed communities of some traditional Western Muslims are places in which young men's alienations can easily deepen."

Rushdie wrote that "the insistence within Islam" that the Quran "is the infallible, uncreated word of God renders analytical scholarly discourse all but impossible" and the rigidity "plays right into the hands of the literalist Islamofascists."

"If, however, [the Quran] were seen as a historical document, then it would be legitimate to reinterpret it to suit the new conditions of successive new ages. Laws made in the 7th century could finally give way to the needs of the 21st. The Islamic Reformation has to begin here, with an acceptance that all ideas, even sacred ones, must adapt to altered realities."

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