Special Report

The St. Petersburg Declaration

Moderate Islam? Enlightenment principles? So why haven't you heard about it?

By 4.20.07

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The mainstream media, which serves as a mindless conduit for whatever incendiary filth emerges from the intellectual, moral and spiritual cesspool of radical Islam, has taken scant notice of a truly inspiring development in the Muslim world. Last month's Secular Islam Summit in Florida produced the St. Petersburg Declaration, a document that can stand, without apologies, beside the preamble to our own Declaration of Independence.

The St. Petersburg Declaration is the most eloquent articulation of Enlightenment principles ever given voice by moderate Muslims -- which, of course, is why it's been summarily dismissed by the terrorism-apologists at the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), whose members also shouted down speakers at the summit. "In order to have legitimate reform," CAIR spokesman Ahmed Bedier claimed, "you need to have the right messengers."

So what sort of document did the wrong messengers produce?

Here is the Declaration, in its entirety:

We are secular Muslims, and secular persons of Muslim societies. We are believers, doubters, and unbelievers, brought together by a great struggle, not between the West and Islam, but between the free and the unfree.

We affirm the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience. We believe in the equality of all human persons.

We insist upon the separation of religion from state and the observance of universal human rights.

We find traditions of liberty, rationality, and tolerance in the rich histories of pre-Islamic and Islamic societies. These values do not belong to the West or the East; they are the common moral heritage of humankind.

We see no colonialism, racism, or so-called "Islamaphobia" in submitting Islamic practices to criticism or condemnation when they violate human reason or rights.

We call on the governments of the world to:

reject Sharia law, fatwa courts, clerical rule, and state-sanctioned religion in all their forms; oppose all penalties for blasphemy and apostasy, in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human rights;

eliminate practices, such as female circumcision, honor killing, forced veiling, and forced marriage, that further the oppression of women;

protect sexual and gender minorities from persecution and violence;

reform sectarian education that teaches intolerance and bigotry towards non-Muslims;

and foster an open public sphere in which all matters may be discussed without coercion or intimidation.

We demand the release of Islam from its captivity to the totalitarian ambitions of power-hungry men and the rigid strictures of orthodoxy.

We enjoin academics and thinkers everywhere to embark on a fearless examination of the origins and sources of Islam, and to promulgate the ideals of free scientific and spiritual inquiry through cross-cultural translation, publishing, and the mass media.

We say to Muslim believers: there is a noble future for Islam as a personal faith, not a political doctrine;

to Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Baha'is, and all members of non-Muslim faith communities: we stand with you as free and equal citizens;

and to nonbelievers: we defend your unqualified liberty to question and dissent.

Before any of us is a member of the Umma, the Body of Christ, or the Chosen People, we are all members of the community of conscience, the people who must choose for themselves.


The document is signed by notables such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Magdi Allam, Mithal Al-Alusi, Shaker Al-Nabulsi, Nonie Darwish, Afshin Ellian, Tawfik Hamid, Shahriar Kabir, Hasan Mahmud, Wafa Sultan, Amir Taheri, Ibn Warraq, Manda Zand Ervin, Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi.

Each one is a hero.

Predictably, CAIR spokespersons have hinted that "neoconservatives" and "Israeli intelligence" are behind the Secular Muslim Summit. Such conspiracy theorizing is par for the course, and CAIR's constituency is certain to lap it up.

Let's hope the St. Petersburg Declaration finds its own constituency among Muslims.

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About the Author
Mark Goldblatt teaches at Fashion Institute of Technology (SUNY). His latest novel, Sloth, was published last year by Greenpoint Press.