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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 August 2005, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
Ziauddin Sardar's journey through Islam
Throughout the world, Muslims have reeled at recent acts of violence committed in their name.

Ziauddin Sardar went to five key countries where Islam is practised, to find out how Muslims there are trying to rescue their faith from those bent on abusing it.

Follow his journey by clicking on the country names in the map below, to find out about each country's approach to, and history of, Islam.



Pakistan is a country at the frontline of the struggle between fundamentalist and moderate interpretations of Islam.

For decades, Islamic parties were supported by Pakistan's military and political leaders seeking to use them for foreign policy aims in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

Zia Sardar
Ziauddin Sardar presents a 90-minute documentary
Monday, 5 September, 2005
BBC Two, 2100 BST
Sharia law was introduced in Pakistan in 1978 by President General Zia ul Haq, together with a set of harsh physical punishments known as Hudud. Under Hudud, women who have been raped have been accused of adultery.

Recently, Pakistani madrassahs (religious schools) have been accused of fomenting extremism - an allegation hotly denied by the madrassahs.

In an apparent move to counter those espousing a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, President Pervez Musharraf has announced a policy of "enlightened moderation", which purportedly seeks to encourage moderate forces in society.


Indonesia, home to one-fifth of the world's Muslims, is an incredibly diverse mix of languages, cultures and religions.

Islam has traditionally been interpreted in a moderate fashion here, and never been state ideology.

Since the attacks in the US on 11 September 2001 however, Indonesia has witnessed home-grown extremism and terrorism in the name of Islam, notably the Bali bombing in October 2002.

The response of leading political parties and thinkers in Indonesia has been to propose a policy of ethical Islam, dissociated from politics, and to advocate that solutions to problems in society cannot exclusively be found in Islam.

However, a recent attempt to reform family law in Indonesia to give greater rights to women failed to be debated by parliament after fundamentalists made threats against those involved in drafting the new law.


Malaysia is a majority Muslim country, though under the constitution the 40% of the population who are non-Muslims have the right to worship as they will.

Malaysia is a traditionally conformist society where political debate is not encouraged. The country has been criticised for continuing to use colonial era security laws which allow for indefinite detention without trial or charge.

Malaysia was ruled for over two decades by the authoritarian but pragmatic Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, under whom Malaysia became the world's most industrialised Muslim country.

Mahathir's successor, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, has started to make government more open.

Badawi has also promoted "Islam Hadhari" ("Civilisational Islam"), which stresses the importance of education and science harking back to the great Islamic civilizations of a thousand years ago.

Malaysia is also home to one of the most radical reforming groups in the Muslim world, "Sisters in Islam", who are calling for an end to polygamy and for women to be allowed to become Sharia judges.


Morocco, located in the North African region known as the Maghreb, has a culture drawn from Arab, European, Berber and African influences.

A former French colony, the country has been ruled since 1956 by monarchs who claim executive and religious authority as "Commander of the Faithful".

The country faces huge developmental challenges, with widespread and high unemployment, and a very high illiteracy rate (around 85% among rural women).

Morocco supports the US "war on terror" and has cracked down on Islamic militants in the wake of bombings in Casablanca in 2003.

Since becoming monarch in 1999, King Mohammed VI has promoted a programme of political, economic and religious reform, moving the country towards a constitutional monarchy.

He has also introduced a radical and controversial new Islamic family law, the "Mudawanna" - which recognises women as equal partners in the home, with equal property and divorce rights to men.


Turkey is a secular Muslim country, the legacy of the modern republic founded on the remains of the Ottoman empire by Kemal Ataturk in 1923.

Straddling the continents of Asia and Europe, Turkey is seen by many as a bridge between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds. Accession talks for Turkey to join the European Union are due to start in October 2005.

Turkey does not have Islamic Sharia law. The introduction of this system of law is rejected by most Turks who are proud to call themselves secular and Muslim.

The country has only recently emerged from decades of heavy military influence over politics, electing the conservative Muslim politician Recep Tayyip Erdogan as prime minister in November 2002.

Erdogan's premiership has been characterised by its pragmatism.

The most significant clash over religious principles came when conservatives tried to get a clause outlawing adultery included in the new penal code. The move aroused strong opposition and was rejected during heated debate about the sweeping reforms designed to prepare Turkey for EU membership.

Battle for Islam, a 90-minute documentary presented by Ziauddin Sardar, will be shown on BBC Two on Monday, 5 September, 2005, at 2100 BST.


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