In an epic journey through five Muslim countries, writer and broadcaster Ziauddin Sardar has been in search of the soul of Islam.
Ziauddin Sardar presents a 90-minute documentary
Monday, 5 September, 2005
BBC Two, 2100 BST
Debate: Battle for Islam, on BBC Four, discussed the issues raised in the film on Wednesday, 14 September
As people of all creeds recoil from recent and increasingly horrifying acts of violence carried out in the name of Islam, how can Muslims around the world reclaim their faith from the extremists?
To what extent can - or should - Islam really separate itself from politics, and can Sharia law be adapted for the modern age?
You can read your comments on the issues raised by this 90-minute documentary below.
Comments published reflect the balance of opinion received and are not necessarily the opinion of the BBC.
For someone such as me - a non-theist, concerned about fundamentalism as well as the lack of moral fabric in our Western world - this was a most interesting, rewarding and beautiful programme. Very occasionally one comes across knowledge which truly can change, even revolutionise, one's outlook, even one's beliefs (in the broadest sense). This is such a programme. If only we could get the leaders of Muslim countries to adopt the teachings of the prophets (and a brief intro for politicians of all nations as well!) More please.
Mike Kidd, St Jean de Sixt, France
Muslim people and governments should utilise more the traditional Islamic principle of ijtihad, independent thinking. This had been used for centuries to interpret the Koran and the Hadiths so that they could pass judgement on issues of the day. Also the notion of consensus, ijma, should be used to form the basis of democratic reform.
Andrew Cummings, Leeds, UK
This idea that Islam should be separate from politics is a utopian ideal. A nation, the US, that constitutionally maintains a separation between "church" and "state" has just witnessed the passing of a chief justice who allowed the Ten Commandments to be displayed in court. Why should "Islam" the religion or its practitioners be held responsible for violence, done in its "name" or not? No other religion suffers this burden of accountability.
Abid Vali, Chennai, India
Sharia law can always be applied to modern age. In fact Sharia is a blessing for humanity as is the Holy Koran. If Sharia is implemented everywhere we would no longer see the problems that we see today. However even if everybody adopts democracy, there will still be the same problems that we see today.
Mohamed Amir, Melaka, Malaysia
Islam is a divine religion. It is not a flavour of ice cream that you keep changing it according to your own whims. Islam teaches harmony and peace. It is the ill coined notion of fanaticism and fundamentalism by anti Islamic elements to malign Islam and Muslims. Let us live by our own values.
Sayyed Adnan Shabbir, Islamabad, Pakistan
The battles of the 21st century will be between Islam and the largely Christian West. Christians believe that salvation comes through accepting Jesus Christ. On this basis all other religions are false, and can be seen as a plot by the Devil to obtain world domination. Hence the constant attacks by Muslims on Christians, their values and societies, and for Muslims to restrict any form of discussion or criticism about their beliefs. They fear that examination and the above point will lead to its unravelling. We in the West will soon have to confront these issues.
J Gardner, Aylesbury, Bucks
By showing proper support for the anti-terrorist laws.
By not hiding extremists and terrorists. By handing them over to the authorities. By making efforts to preach peace in public to counteract those criminals preaching hate.
By fully assimilating with the countries in which they live and by supporting that country's policies and actions.
Islam is a way of life. We cannot be a true Muslim unless we embrace the faith and practise the faith in our everyday life from the way we dress, eat, socialise or interact with people, the environment etc. Everything we do must reflect our beliefs, thus we cannot separate politics from Islam. They should complement each other, not be separated.
Roselimah Talip, Malaysia
Every faith has its puritans and extremists. Islam is no different nor are the extremists within it any different that try to prevail.
Ironically, the Prophet declared Islam to be the middle path between extremes; not the straight and narrow but the straight and very broad.
The term Sharia conjures up draconian images of rigid, inflexible, and primitive laws that no one can change, when the opposite is true. At different periods in Islamic history the interpretation of Sharia rules have changed depending upon the times and the circumstances.
Just among the Sunnis there are four different disciplines; the four Imams of the four disciplines did differ and held opposing views on similar issues. It is so painful to listen to scholars today who diligently try to highlight the areas of consensus among the Imams when the true lesson to be learnt is from their differences and the acceptance of those differences.
Caliph Umar is credited with saying that the Islamic Government is based on Ikhtelaf (difference of opinion) and ravadari (tolerance.) You cannot have one without the other.
Faizulla Khan, Natick, Massachusetts, USA
I do find it strange that someone can make a documentary about Islam and visit so many places yet does not visit its birthplace Mecca in Saudi Arabia, there is where the soul of Islam is.
I also do not agree with the woman who said that women do not need to wear head scarves. Covering the hair of all women past the age of puberty to strangers (men who are not direct family or not her husband or children) is a God-sent order in the Holy Koran and must be obeyed so that women can keep their purity and is a symbol of pride that they are Muslim.
Yacoub Slaise, Bahrain
It was very refreshing to see a different presentation of Islam. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that a programme like this would be aired in many of the 52 Islamic nations in the world.
Literalism is to blame, and the proper response of Muslims must be to challenge and debate literalism. Until, however, all sections of the Ummah are allowed to contribute - and by that, I mean women - male dominance will mean that aggression and violence continue to be at the forefront of Islamic politics.
Helen, Oldham, UK
Religion and politics were always close to each other regardless of geography. I could see no problem with Islam and/or politics. What worries me most is that there are certain Islam-flavoured violence-driven ideologies with political ambitions. They can easily draw attention among those on the lower part of the social ladder, hence spread like wildfire. That is the most poisonous combination anyone could possibly imagine.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary
Terrorism has no place in Islam. Anyone claiming to be Muslim and causing violence against innocent non-Muslims is simply not an authority on Islam or its followers. Islam means peace and submission to Allah, not terrorism!
We have to enforce our secular ideals like the French. If necessary it is right that we, as a secular nation, restrict the "preaching religions" (Islam and Christianity). It is definitely time that religion and state became completely separate.
Tim Rogers, Stafford
Islam is not just a religion with rituals. It is a complete code of life. It guides a person in every walk of life, may it be social, economic or even political. It is this way of life that has given mankind clear reason for his existence. Sharia laws are applicable in all ages, provided they are not misinterpreted. It is necessary for every Muslim to follow Sharia laws completely. The present situation for Muslims is only because they followed, and are still following, only a part of Islam and did not fully implement Islam in their individual life.
Muhammad Sohail, Karachi, Pakistan
I would like to know how to you picked these countries. I mean how can you possibly leave Bangladesh out? It is probably the most tolerant of all the Muslim nations, with a working democracy, women leaders and a secular culture. If the criteria was which countries produce the most radical form of Islam to confront the West, then I guess you are right to pick these countries, but if the criteria was anything more substantive, and based on reason, not personal favourability, then you got it all wrong.
Islam over time has been hijacked by extremist mullahs and has been interpreted wrongly. The form of Islam that is taught in Saudi Arabia and the greater part of Middle East which doesn't give equality to women is not the Islam that our Prophet (PUH) wanted. His first wife was a businesswoman. Our so-called religious leaders need to promote equality and democracy. Even Caliphate had democracy on who would be the next Caliph.
Kashif Awan, CA, USA
In this current media climate of showing all things Islam as being extreme, this programme was a refreshing and welcome break from that narrow picture.
Gary Rossell, London
Reformation Reformation Reformation
Thomas Su, Sydney Australia
The first and the most important step would be that all Muslim nations unite under one Khalif (leader of all Muslims).
Saqib Chaudhry, USA
A very inspiring documentary, setting a tune to learn the answers of deep-rooted questions, by mingling with people, researching, and exploring it rather than saying "yes/no" type questions often asked in media. It was very helpful to myself, to support my belief that terrorism (of all kinds, verily including state terrorisms) is a political and modern phenomenon rather than a religion inspired act. Indeed, conclusion comes after observations, which testify or nullify the assumed hypothesis and one needs to be rational in analysis of those observations. I think the comment from Mark from Dubai saying "A belief in an all-powerful God with no partners and no family lends itself to fundamentalist absolutism" does not at all convey any insight to the discussion at hand.
I congratulate Zia and BBC and expect further such insightful work in future. Well done.
Mudassar, Kent, UK
At last people are questioning the fundamentals. Islam is not a religion, it is a total way of life and Sharia law is integral with this way. Muslims, to proceed in the modern and ever-changing world, must see that this "total way" cannot take priority over democratic laws and until this is understood Islam will stay in the dark ages and will be the root cause of (as it is now) many problems. Islam must be effectively "downgraded" to a religion only and presently I believe that there's no chance of that but, as younger Muslims realise that to outsiders Islam IS only a religion, there will be a chance of genuine integration.
Keith, Chepstow, Wales. Ex Doha, Qatar
The only way for Islam to regain its credibility is by integrating into the mainstream and objectively assessing the perceived weaknesses in the religion. The greatness of any religion is, after all, its strength to assess its minuses and adapt with the changing times. Nothing is permanent but change.
Nivedita Nadkarni, Madison, USA
The only shame about this programme is that channels are not showing similar reporting and viewpoints more often. UK current affairs audiences are bombarded with images and words depicting Islam as primitive, bombastic, hate-filled and violent. The truer picture of devoted people living their lives, and of the moderates working so hard to make things better, religiously and socially, is all too rarely shown. Such misrepresentation can only play into the hands of the extremists - on both sides, Muslim and Christian alike. As if fundamentalism, bigotry and self-centred hatred are the preserve only of terrorists: they are not. This was a delightful and reasonable film, showing courageous, wonderful, HUMAN people. All faiths take note.
Tim Frances, London UK
What can Muslims do to root out extremists? As a Christian looking at the words and actions of the "Christian right", I ask the same question of my own faith. Moderates of all faiths need to stand together and work together, not compromising their beliefs but seeking to honour their highest common ideals.
Alister, London, UK
If Islam is peace, why aren't the extremists extremely peaceful?
Nic Garvey, Stoke-on-Trent, UK
As a 14-year-old I think the documentary was educational for a young Muslim girl like myself. After the London bombings and other terrorist activities I have felt very upset about people's points of view about Islam.
Mehry Dehghanizai, Rochdale
Christians have learned not to try and apply their holy book, the Bible, literally to modern life. For example, the book of Leviticus says that people who commit adultery should be stoned, but you will never hear a Christian calling for that and quite rightly so. Muslims need to do the same or risk being ostracised.
David Russell, Glasgow, Scotland
The Muslim faith does not need reclaiming because, as we know, the terrorists are not motivated by religion, but by the politics of the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. As individuals they may be religious, but their actions seem based on a basic misunderstanding, or deliberate misinterpretation, of their faith. The situation is not dissimilar to that in Northern Ireland where, in the main, the opposing groups belong to two different religions, yet their dispute is not about religion, but about politics and power. The history of the area enters into both these separate conflicts, but again that is not about religion.
John B, Milton Keynes, UK
Governments in Arab and Islamic countries were slow to react to the extremism danger and have done this under huge pressure from the West. But this is not true of the media in these countries which are still insisting to act as a mouthpiece for twisted fanatics, often glorifying their sick actions and providing them with platforms to spread their poison. Only if the media change their stance will Muslims begin to reclaim back their religion.
Husam Awadalla, London, UK
If Muslims want to reclaim their faith from extremists, they must first accept that these people actually exist. In other words, stop burying their heads in the sand and take responsibility for their own religion.
Peter Jackson, Portsmouth, UK
Yes, The average Muslim is not calling for the extremists to lead Islam. The problem is that the extremists are the headline makers, while the everyday person is just trying to survive. The obsession with extremists comes from the media machine looking for stories. I feel that one way for mainstream Muslims to take the focus away from extremists is to be more vocal with the media. Peace is the goal, not war.
Chris, Columbia SC, USA
The documentary wasn't bad, but I felt that it skipped out certain reform movements (RAWA and the Iranian Nobel Prize winner) and highlighted others which aren't really Muslim reform movements but more secular (Asma Jehangir). And the Miss World/Turkey part I felt was not really relevant... although I am not complaining, considering the way she looked!
Islam is not just a religion, it is a way of life. Politics can not be separated from Islam because it is part of Islam. Just because a few misguided/brainwashed people use Islam for their own cause, one cannot hold Islam to account. Sharia law can be adapted for any age if it is understood and practised well.
Abdul Wahid, Kayalpatnam, India.
This documentary was excellent, and boy did you have some important guests. You did well to bring out the complexity of the issues facing Islam in the modern world, something that many in the West do not appreciate. I hope that your documentary provides strength and inspiration for all those involved in bringing about better understanding of the cultures.
You must have a great sense of contribution from the documentary.
For what it is worth, the donkey incident was a great sign of your humility and humour.
Firstly, if anyone has anything to say on Islam, it would be much appreciated if it were based on the actual scriptures rather than opinionated media clichés.
Zohaib Patel, Toronto, Canada
Simple: an international agreement in which Middle Eastern countries including Israel take the leading role in stopping these terrorists, instead of the USA. This problem is in their backyards, not in the Americas or Europe.
Christopher Southerlin, Anchorage, AK
I feel that Muslims should stand firmly and loudly against the extremist leaders and groups. They are the ones who will have to adopt a no tolerance policy for these kinds of beliefs and activities. More needs to be done to integrate new citizens into society in the UK so that they do not retain first loyalties to a country they chose to leave.
Mark, Birmingham, UK
There is no simple answer to this question. In general when I read about terrorism it seems to be directed at real or perceived oppressors. In Muslim countries there is a deadly mix of problems such as poverty, lack of democracy, exploitation of their country's resources and occupation by foreign governments. We all need to search for answers and blaming Islam for the problems that are political and economic will only add to frustration and anger.
Khalida Khurshid, Vancouver, Canada
That was a truly great programme; it should be shown all over
the world. Devout Turkish photographers' models - you sure do
How can Muslims reclaim "their" faith? They can't. The Koran, like the Bible, can be used to support violence, intolerance and hatred with numerous passages - as it can be used to support peace, goodwill and charity. Anything can be supported with these books. Religion is what caused this, not anything else.
Retsudo, Dundee, Scotland
The real problem is international politics. People - or extremists - use the concept of "just war" to validate their actions to themselves and to the Muslim world. But Islam never sanctioned the taking of innocent life. Please let's be clear about this.
Sultana Ali (MA Islamic studies & facilitator of weavers Muslim young people's forum), London, UK
The more "extremism" in the Islamic faith is emphasised in the media, the more likely it will be to grow. If the media did not report on terrorist bombings and suicide attacks, they would soon stop because terrorists rely on the media to convey their warped message.
Chris Palmer, Taunton, England
I strongly believe that Islam is trying to be made misunderstood by some terrorists, who are not Muslims indeed and maybe some spies that are brought on the agenda of the world by some powers who are opposed to the revival of an Islamic Civilisation for the sole aforementioned purpose. However, I think we the Muslim intellectuals over the world won't permit it anymore by showing what really Islam is to the world...
Jonah Saidson, Turkey
Ever since Sept.11 I've been sceptical not about Islam but about what we have been taught to believe is Islam. I believe Muslims must live in the world with all religions. They must be educated about other religions and learn to respect and take the good. Yes, unfortunately we were taught in school to fight the "infidels" like the prophet did almost 1,500 years ago, but because my father allowed us to think for ourselves at a young age, I chose not to believe everything I was taught. Of course everyone else blindly believed what they were taught in the name of Islam, not wanting to be branded an infidel themselves.
Abeer Abuahmad, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Maybe if people became more educated rather then assuming things they see in the media then the problems which are caused like gang fights etc would be less likely to occur.
Tamina Kulsoom, Reading, UK
I believe that the respected scholars and clerics, who have authority and influence amongst the Muslim world, must stand up and speak out. They should go onto TV and radio and clearly condemn any attack against innocent people. Such actions are grave violations of Islam. The clerics and scholars should clearly explain, using the Koran and Hadiths to back up their argument, and prove to the Muslim world that people who claim to be "Islamic resistance fighters" and who harm innocent people are in fact terrorists who are committing crimes against humanity, and crimes against Islam.
Harun Ali, London, UK
Islam has nothing to do with the recent acts of terror. History has shown that Jews, Christians, Hindus, atheists and pagans all react in a similar manner when you bomb, invade and occupy their countries.
Hopefully Ziauddin Sardar can show the true meaning of the beautiful religion of Islam because it must be disposed by these draconian hijackers who seek to enforce the brand of hate.
Christopher Byrne, Dublin, Ireland
The free world is not concerned about whether Islam has a reformation or not. The free world is interested in the Muslim Ummah not creating negative externalities of intolerance, hatred and terrorism for others. If Muslims in the West are unable to blend in the mainstream, then gradual deportation is the only option.
Professor Arun Khanna, Indianapolis, USA
Muslims can reclaim their religion by first reclaiming their countries. Tyrannical kings and powerful mullahs use Islam, nationalism, and hate to keep their people distracted as the ruling cadre plunders their wealth. As long as hatred is a tool of the ruling class, terrorism cannot be stopped. As much as I disagree with the occupation of Iraq, democracy must come to the Middle East in one form or another.
Dan, Beloit, WI, USA
I believe a prominent Muslim leader must rise to the occasion and lead in a way in which goals are achieved through peaceful protest, like Ghandi. It would be extremely powerful, and would garner the support of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. If he/she said walk with me, I would follow.
I have been to Turkey many times. Anyone who thinks that Islam is a religion of extremists should go to that country to see it at its most tolerant best.
Bill, Lanarkshire, Scotland
It is time for all peaceful Muslims in every town and city in the Western world to organise a day to march that will show the extremists that they want to live in peace in the place they have chosen to live. They should hold signs and placards denouncing the killings and suicide bombers - I'm sure it will strengthen community ties.
Doug, Liverpool, England
Excellent television - could have been a whole series. Please commission Ziauddin Sardar for more such programmes.
Paul Lawrence, Northumberland, UK
We as Muslims living in the West must reclaim our faith from the extremists. There is only one way to do so: dialogue and respect for diversity.
Muhammed Khatim, Los Angeles, CA, USA
They shouldn't have to. Extremists exist as part of every religion; there always will be people who commit atrocities and justify them in the name of some ideology. Due to ignorance, they must work to improve their image. One way is to help out other countries in need, such as the aid pledged to help the victims of Katrina. Another way is for them to develop English media outlets, like Al-Jazeera, that present their point of view. The impression that Islam is a religion of extremists is mostly due to Western media and not the actions of Islam. And although Europeans fear the mixing of religion and politics, they are compatible and Islam should continue to be an important part of the political landscape.
Kevin, Boston, USA
What an interesting, well-balanced and positive programme - I was riveted all the way through. Can we have some more of these please? It left me with great hope that many of the problems the world is presently facing will be resolved in the future. Congratulations.
Mrs C Honsinger, London
Yes, I too believe that no religion teaches we should hurt any life on this planet. My religion teaches me to pay respect to all other religions... Islam is not creating the problem but people who have twisted it in their own ideology are creating widespread problems.
Congrats BBC and Ziauddin for a sensible programme, made by a decent Muslim. A much better representation compared to the Panorama programme. A non-controversial simple programme, showing Islam is a religion of great tolerance and benefit to mankind. You managed to get good access to top leaders and I was particularly struck by the humbleness and honesty shown by the premier of Indonesia and of course President Musharraf was blatantly honest. Well done again. Please make more, but show us more of the beauty of these amazing cultures.
Paul Bartlett, Milton Keynes, UK
Thank you for 90 uninterrupted minutes of very informative television intelligently presented by Ziauddin Sardar. A rare treat and a superb example of how the licence fee can give great value.
Iain Chalmers, Oxford, England
Another one-sided programme by the BBC, I'm extremely disappointed. I expect fair and balanced journalism from the BBC, I'm afraid recently the BBC is falling far short of the mark. The programme allowed a few secular Muslims who have no confidence in their religion or the desire to practice it fully to speak for the whole community. This is simply unfair and I can imagine this will further alienate and anger Muslims around the world who wholeheartedly reject the notion that Islam has to be changed and that Islam is supposedly a problem in the modern world which has to be exterminated from the world.
Abdullah ibn Tahir, Manchester
This was a fantastic programme that lifted my heart, covered so much ground and, at last, talked to Muslims who were true ambassadors for their faith. Just imagine how Islam would be perceived if there was one programme like this for every one that demonised us. My only criticism is that I desperately wanted to hear the likes of the Pakistani politician who drafted the Hudood laws try and justify themselves but they were so heavily edited that I still have no idea exactly what their defence of these laws is.
Ash, Notts, UK
I have seen the programme this Monday, and I take the point that the Islamic world is very diverse and that there are many good willing Muslims seeking their way in the modern world, while retaining its core values. However, all this harping on MODERATION as a good thing in its own right does not indicate a great deal of self-confidence, or even credibility. If something is really good, should you be moderate about it? If Islam forbids stealing and corruption, I would not mind if Islam had more influence on politics and society than it has ever had.
Bert Smilde, The Hague, Netherlands
Loved this programme and I'm a big fan of Ziauddin Sardar. This man should be more on media instead of the MCB to present his viewpoints. At least he is progressive instead of many Muslim organisations in the UK who remain stagnant in their thinking.
Sunny H, London
Are we seeing the beginning of an Islamic reformation? The Christians had theirs - at a terrible cost. What must be noted though is that it wasn't just to fit into modern society. They were rebelling against an abuse of power - both politically and through unscriptural teachings. They did this while upholding and maintaining the integrity of their foundational scriptures. Can Islam do the same?
Brad Wilson, Canada
How is it that Zia did not include India, which is the second largest Muslim population in the world? The analysis should be representative of worldwide Muslims.
J T Sange, Tunisia
The answer to all these problems is simple - follow the principles of Muhammad.
Alex H, Utah, USA
The programme was like a breath of fresh air. After so many programmes and media coverage on Islam and its extremism, finally a programme that chooses not to clump us together. The celebration of the diversity of Islam gives me hope that we ourselves can reclaim our religion. Muslims all over the world are tackling societies problems through an open and tolerant approach to Islam.
Nahdia Khan, London, UK
Thank you BBC for this very interesting documentary. It was fascinating to see various Muslim country's attitudes towards their religion. I think that Turkey plays a positive role for Islam. People are free, society is generally secular. Pakistan has a lot to learn from Turkey and Morocco but I think all countries will become secular one day, it's the only way to prevent fundamentalism.
Turkey shows that religion as well as secularism can be applied without the loss of faith.
Luke (17), Stoke-on-Trent, England, UK
As far as an individual cannot be divided into soul and body, Islam can also be not divided into religion and politics. The West should understand that Islam is not only a religion, but also economical, social and political system.
Yoonus Saleem, Abudhabi, United Arab Emirates
Islam is still the simplest and best of all religions. The challenge is to make gradual changes specifically on women's issues without diluting or changing the core concept of the faith.
Munaf Abdul Sattar, Mumbai, India
Islam has no one voice, it is represented through the political and social views of governments rather than the actual teachings and meanings of the Koran. My generation is lost between the social values of the West that we aspire towards and by our old ways of our families and social backgrounds. I believe that Islam needs to redefine itself to reflect the day and age we live in today. It's about time.
Maya Kareem, Muscat/Oman (expat) from London
This programme was very disappointing and only reflected one distorted view of Islam. The presenter went out of his way only looking for so called "moderate" Muslims. In order to have a debate on the issues that were raised in the programme it is imperative to speak to both sides of the camp. You cannot presume just because someone is a "moderate" that his/her interpretation is correct or that if someone is "orthodox" his/her view is incorrect.
Islam is not only a personal belief but also a system that challenges the status quo. If Islam was just a personal thing then it would never have left the deserts of Arabia. Islam is an ideology and that means that it seeks to change individuals as well as society.
Just want to say a really excellent documentary. Fascinating to see the view point from such a spectrum of Muslim world. It must however be stated the secularism and Islam cannot live together. Islam is not just a religion, its a way of life. You cannot be "secular" like Turkey and then also claim Islam is your religion. Islam does not leave any room for secularism or any other form of adherence besides itself, such is its nature.
Imran, London, UK
Are there not more Muslims than extremists? Use the power of strength in numbers.
Maryld, Temecula, USA
Enlightenment in Europe corresponded to a time when reason made religion behave, this has not yet happened in the Islamic world. It is unfortunate that religious points of view feel the need to impose themselves on others (such as Sharia law) whereas a secular point of view feels no need to do so (but often feels exasperated at the excesses of faith).
Christian Tiburtius, Reading UK
Ziauddin presented a very balanced insight into the world of Islam. It is all too easy for people in the west to see some acts of violence claimed to be in the name of Islam, and to apply this interpretation to their understanding of the religion in general. I think we need more programmes like this, and more open dialogue that show's the moderate, peaceful and caring nature of this religion. It needs people both non-Muslim and Muslim to reach out and understand what Islam is really about.
Zoe, Hampshire, UK
I feel that this programme was a gross misinterpretation of what the Muslim population across the world really feel and believe. Sardar evidently was very selective about the guests he chose to come on his programme and completely muted out the so-called 'extremist' voice which he sought to show was redundant. The call to modernise Islam and reform the Sharia are not sentiments which the majority of the Muslim population supports. The streets of the Muslim world are filled with those who yearn the return of Islam in a form less stifling than a secular and so-called modernised Islam.
A magnificent and uplifting programme! What a refreshing change from stereotypical media portrayals of equating Islam with violence and terrorism. The documentary reminded me of V S Naipul's books Among the Believers and Beyond Belief. Sensitively done and very illuminating... The conclusion that Sardar reached was particularly meaningful and inspiring. BBC, may you make many more of these programmes!
Bilal Bin Abdullah, Derby, UK
An interesting programme, although it only looked at one side of the argument. I would like to know what was the reason for choosing these particular countries and why no country from sub-Saharan Africa was included in the report. The programme was informative and showed up the short-comings of the application and interpretation of the Sharia law by some Muslims scholars, and not in the Sharia law itself. I felt that the programme makers were trying to imply that Islam needs to modernise itself. This does not sit easy with right-thinking Muslims but as history has shown Islam came to modernise the world. What has been set down in the Koran is the word of Allah and therefore is divine. This therefore needs to respected and honoured.
Abdul Oyede, London England
In reply to Carlos from Rio, firstly Islam doesn't need reform, Muslims need reform. The reason why the Muslim world is in such a mess is because they have moved away from the true essence of Islam into extremes (either secular or fundamentalism). We as Muslims, as individuals, need to practice our religion as our prophet (pbuh) did (the moderate path). Secondly, Islam has never been in the dark ages. The dark ages were only in Europe; the Islamic world at that time was in its Golden age and many scientific, mathematic and technological advances were made by the Muslims. The Islamic world was responsible for Europe's "enlightenment". Thirdly, does God need to conform/change with the modern world or does the modern world need to conform/adjust with God? Who is the master and who is the slave?
Jahed, London, England
It was an interesting programme, which certainly shows Islam in a more positive light than the media has been doing recently. However, I feel that this programme seemed to push too much the idea of "moderateness" and the idea that "everyone NEEDS democracy". As a Muslim who has grown up in the West with no conflict of identity or values, I was saddened to see how some people feel Islam needs to be compromised a little in some areas for it to be modern. That said, it does seem to me that the general idea of "modern" is synonymous with the word "Western". This programme pushes the idea that Islam needs to change (or at least the Sharia aspect of it). Rather, I believe the Muslims need to change. I like the back-to-basics approach taken by Malaysia's Badawi. Also, in a world where everyone is talking, arguing and complaining about their rights, few are talking about their responsibilities.
M Ali, England
What many people fail to realise is that Islam cannot be only interpreted through the Holy Koran. The sociological aspects are addressed via the Sunna (the way of the prophet). In order to find the answers to any questions on Sharia, one must remember is Islam has two branches where scholars derive their opinions, one is the Holy Koran, God's divine word which everyone is aware of, and the other is the Sunna which not many people are aware of, and it is the latter many will find that provides answers to socio-economic problems.
Imran Lakhi, Leicester, England
I think this was a totally confused programme. The problems in Muslim countries is the leadership, ie the government and its institutions, not religion. This is just a knee-jerk reaction to the threat posed to the West because of its foreign policies.
The programme maker is seriously confused about the wide ranging mosaic of Islamic cultures and Islam in general.
He seems to confuse cultural practices with Islam, so whilst cultural practices can be reformed, Islam cannot.
Just like Christians can't alter/amend the 10 commandments, likewise Muslims cannot amend the Koran!
Zafar Nadeem, Sheffield, England
A brilliant documentary. Congratulations to all who made it. I found it enlightening, subtle, intelligent, and fair. Hopefully it will be used in schools to open the minds of both Muslim and Christian students, in a Britain where our common tradition is one of belief in free speech and rational enquiry rather than prejudice and violence. Multiculturalism be blowed: it always reminds me of apartheid.
Arthur Jenkins, Cambridge UK
All Muslims should report any extremist to the authorities, anonymously of course. Especially any cleric who is spouting this hatred. Then the fanatics should be dealt with promptly and with no leniency.
Jim, York UK
I think some aspects of this programme must have been an eye-opener not just for the non-Muslims but also for the Muslims living in the UK. As a Pakistani who grew up in Pakistan, Malaysia and the Middle east, I have always believed Islam to be a tolerant, pragmatic and open minded religion. I wish the Muslims in the UK would also accept that if Muslims in Muslim countries can discuss the role of women, challenge age old traditions and demand for a re-interpretation of the Sharia ( all of which is permissible in Islam), then perhaps they too can move away from adhering fanatically to traditions and interpretations which may not have any grounding in their religion.
Faiza Khan, UK
I found the programme somewhat pernicious as it implied that Muslims who wish to live their lives according to Sharia are the problem while the "liberal" progressive Muslims who wish to blindly copy other nations are the way forward. Yet this ignores the fact that the methodology, ideology and training of those committing atrocities is highly secular - for example only 9% of al-Qaeda members went to madrassahs while the remaining 91% were secularly educated. Attempts by outside forces to force Muslims to change their religion will only result in a backlash, as happened in Iran during the Shah's time.
Abdurrahman Abdullah, Liverpool, UK
Arshad , Chicago, USA - if Western values are so offensive to you perhaps you shouldn't live in Chicago? Surely you'd be happier in Saudi Arabia where you can practice your religion without being upset by such things as voting, women driving or other religions being permitted?
Yesterday I saw yet another example of extremism. Why is it that we are portrayed as either gun toting suicide bombers or bikini clad liberal spiritualists? The fact is that we are in between the two. Islam is the moderate one here not the apologists or the warmongers. We've all seen the latter, now welcome to those that are falling over themselves to sell Islam as "acceptable" to the western palate. I see both as being well wide off the mark and unfortunately the world is getting a distorted picture again. The idea that Muslims can be split into "moderates" and "fundamentalists" is another example of dangerous labelling - it just isn't that simple. I urge those that are interested in getting the real picture to find out for themselves - ignore the headlines and get real.
Islam doesn't need to reform - the Muslims do. Anyone who knows their stuff will tell you that Islam is not "archaic" or stuck in the dark ages - it is actually the opposite - progressive and tolerant when practised properly.
Imran Daud, London
Very well done. A film that unpacks the complex lives of Muslims outside the West where the viewer is guided by expert (and authentic) commentary is something that the BBC does very well. It reminds me of the efforts of Ali Mazrui who did a film on the triple heritage of the Africans and Akbar Ahmed's series Living Islam. If I have a gripe it is in the word "battle" in the title, when this was not a film about conflict and violence. More films please, such as on China and India - as seen through indigenous eyes.
Ehsan, London, UK
"Liberal extremists", both from within and outside the Muslim community, are using the current preoccupation with "Islamic extremism" to further their own agendas. The truth of the matter is that Islam does NOT need reform. To claim that "orthodox" Muslims believe Sharia is unchangeable is distorting the truth. This is a complicated subject, but it should suffice here to state that certain aspects of Sharia are indeed unchangeable while other aspects CAN be changed (through a process called ijtahad). I'm afraid Ziauddin Sardar is just the latest in a long line of apologetic Muslims aiming to please the non-Muslim world, even if that means distorting and abandoning the principles of Islam.
Muhammad Khan, Sharon, MA, USA
It was indeed a tantalising after dinner treat of exotic flavours, colours, landscapes and unusual suspects, a rare waltzer ride through the bazaars of some of the Muslim world's best kept secrets. The voices of dissent, support as well as apathy against change were an accurate reflection of some of the tensions and challenges at the fault planes of "Islamic continental drift" - its eloquence was its ability to highlight the complexities in a simple way - I hope for more - perhaps a serialised, more in-depth version.... congratulations.
Rashad Yaqoob, London, UK
The programme was interesting in touching on the subject of Islam and modernity however it was too long and overlooked a very simple fact which is the concept of ijtihad (interpretation or upgrading) in Islam. Muslims were able to reach their golden age when ijtihad was open and scholars were able to write, debate and adapt from other cultures. Islam has a special dynamic that is unique to it. Contrary to common belief, Islam is not rigid and is very adaptable hence the way it spread and survived upheaval over the last few centuries. Islam is also part of the solution in many Islamic countries.
Sam Rose, London
It must amaze thousands of Muslims in this country that in all the recent programmes focusing on Islamic reform, not a single mention has been made of the very movement that is leading Islam's modern revival. Why the efforts of the peaceful Ahmadiyya Muslim Community - whose motto is "love for all, hatred for none" - continue to be ignored simply escapes me.
Ahmad, Birmingham, England
I don't think the question is how Muslims can reclaim their faith from terrorists. The question should be: Why can't people differentiate between a law-abiding Muslim citizen and a terrorist who claims to fight for Islam?
Problems in Islam are caused by the same thing as problems in any religion. It is not the religion itself, but the individuals who interpret it to their own end.
One reader states: "Unfortunately the world's poorest and most disadvantaged are often Muslim. They do not have the education most people in the West have." What he fails to state is that their leaders are always very well educated, some even educated in the West. It is these Islamic leaders, such as in Iran, that continue to abuse their people and withhold any type of academic or real-world education from the people of their countries so that they can maintain control and power.
Sam, Chicago, United States
The film was a breath of fresh air, providing an invaluable insight and an alternative view on the Muslim world. A welcome departure from the usual black and white view of Muslims. It highlighted instead the complexities and humanity of ordinary Muslims. The BBC deserves credit for putting this one on. We look forward to more of the same please.
Zarmeen Ahmed, London, UK
The problem with Sardar and the like is that they are a bunch of "extremists" on the other side. The "extremists" of the terrorist attacks want to interpret the Koran literally and the Sardar-type extremists want to do away with the Koran altogether. It is the people of the middle way that we should be seeking for a revival from within the sources of Islam. Literalists and liberals will always be on the margin. The middle way people (ummatan wasat) seek to understand the sources and apply within the context and time without rejecting. What we need is an awakening between rejection and extremism.
Hussain Shefaar, London, England
I'm a cautious convert to Islam who has found the fanaticism of the most vocal clerics and activists profoundly depressing.
Watching Ziauddin Sardar and his refreshingly optimistic take on the faith was an inspiration. It is so heartening to see local, ordinary and progressive people reclaiming Islam as the diverse, adaptable, thinking culture it has often been. Even better that such people are not aping the rhetoric of the West but are taking such progression directly from the Koran.
This is an inspiring change from the rigid, bankrupt, stagnant, deadening and ignorant religious and cultural life that seems to hold such comfort for clerics in the UK and the Middle East.
Thank you for bringing this issue for discussion. This is real concern for millions and millions of Muslims around the globe. Real Muslims, who are not involved in horrible political games, are wishing peace, prosperity, justice for everyone regardless of religion and nationality. The vast majority of Muslims are living in poor countries and their concern is not to terrorise the powerful countries but to earn bit of food for their children who are dying of hunger. We should not forget that we are all HUMAN BEINGS regards of religion.
Seymour Yousifli, Ganga city, Azerbaijan
I found Ziauddin Sardar's documentary on Islam and its impact on different people around the world absolutely fascinating. It was so refreshing and reassuring to see for a change that there are more positive and progressive Muslim practices in the world than what we usually see. The documentary was a more intelligent and mature exploration than the narrowness that we usually see. Let us have more, more, more on the intelligent, humanitarian, ordinary Muslims in the world, with all their goodness and their flaws, which this film shows exist, rather than the ones who consider themselves, and only themselves, to be perfect.
Aisha , Batley, England
If we truly want Muslim countries sorted then we must use the method that works best. In this case it is Sharia law. People tend to forget that when Sharia law was implemented properly, Muslims led the field economically and morally. Sharia Law is not only best for Muslims but for Non-Muslims too.
Khalid, London, England
Although Mr Sardar presented various faces and changes in the Muslim world to show diversity and progress, I was shocked that he did not even mention the ban on wearing hijab in public/government spaces in countries like Turkey. Many women are denied access to higher education and civil service jobs because of their choice and belief in the hijab. Islam should be able to modernize but still allow traditional practices done by choice.
Layla, London, UK
I have just watched the TV programme and was most impressed. Well done. I think there could be an interesting dialogue between people trying to relate Islam to the modern (or maybe post-modern) world and Christians and Jews trying to do the same. This was a very important and timely programme which will, I hope, have an impact on the perceptions people have of Muslims.
You cannot divorce politics or law from Islam. Islam is a complete code of guidance and the Sharia law is an intrinsic part of the religion. This is probably what makes living with the western dominated world so problematic. Islam, as a divinely inspired religion with the Koran as word of God, naturally cannot be altered, so it is not the religion that needs to adapt but society is required to follow the guidance within Islam. If the principles of piety, equality, shura (or democracy), accountability to God, compassion and brotherhood, and of course justice and deterrence, are properly applied, the world would be a better place.
Yusuf, Bradford, UK
Just watched the film. A brilliant documentary - the best I've ever seen on the subject! And totally engaged. Great photography, music, commentary, real people talking, blasting stereotypes, the lot. Hope it wins all the awards. I was very moved.
I personally think that a change in media attitudes to reporting in the world could change the world for a better place, more so than a change in religious ideology.
I think that media news groups are the new fantasists. Western news groups reporting a biased anti Muslim perspective to a western audience. Eastern news groups reporting a biased anti west perspective to an eastern (majority Muslim) audience.
Television is the new bible, and peoples lives/attitudes/beliefs are based more on media reporting than any religious text.
Tom, Birmingham, UK
A truly inspiring and refreshing documentary. This programme managed to convey the voice of the silent Muslim majority explaining what the true essence of Islam is, humanity, justice and equality for all.
Hanif Rehman, Dewsbury
I found this programme very interesting. It basically confirmed what I've always thought, that in many respects the people who live in Muslim countries (such as the country of my parents, Pakistan) are more progressive and looking towards a more "modern" solution to the friction between religion and state, than the Muslims who live in the UK.
I was also glad to see that women are driving the changes to a large extent. I feel that for any progressive solutions to work and be fully implemented, women must be consulted and included in the process.
All in all, one of the best and most honest programmes I've seen on Islam in the wake of the London terror attacks.
Zainab, London, UK
The first thought that crossed my mind when I read the question was: "How is that different from those fervent crusades of the middle ages?" Any religion will go through turmoil and identity crises. The question asked "how can Muslims around the world reclaim their faith from the extremists?" is a falsehood, as faith and religion lives in individuals not the masses; as long as the people practicing the religion can feel the truth in their hearts what need is there to reclaim a religion?
John Lee, Toronto, Canada
These so-called "Muslim" terrorists should not be reported as Muslim. Why do the media worldwide insist on calling them Muslims when they are clearly hell-bent on revenge which is un-Islamic? Islam is a religion of peace NOT war. The type of brainwashing that breeds such men/women/children should have been prevented rather than left to grow roots.
I really doubt it can; after all one of the tenets of the faith is that the Koran is the literal word of God and is not open to any alteration or adaptation.
Dave Lowrie, Glasgow
Islam is a relatively young religion and it seems this Jihadist movement is very similar to the days of Crusaders in the 11 - 14th centuries. Just as the Crusades were far from the actual Christian ideal but had strength and support anyway, so do the terrorists. Christianity has since reversed itself for the most part and strives for peace. Maybe time is the only solution.
Thomas, Washington DC, USA
I found the travelogue approach refreshing and thought that Ziauddin made some astute observations without reams of justification, allowing juxtaposition and the various voices to speak for themselves. The tension between belief and identity is true of all who are questioning of their faith (in a good sense). Where honest dialogue is possible, I see hope for us all, whether Christian, Muslim, or Jew.
I have great empathy for moderate Muslims. In the USA we are facing a similar hijacking of religion by the religious right.
In their world view, all who do not agree are enemies of God. You can hear it most powerfully in the debate regarding the confirmation of our Supreme Court justices.
Any potential jurist who doesn't hew to a political line dictated by the likes of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson is deemed not only unacceptable but treasonous.
When there are no grey areas, only black and white, debate is nearly impossible. If the moderate Muslims can find a way to deal with the issue, they may give the West and the USA, in particular, a model for dealing with Christian religious extremism.
Warren Nelson, Vancouver, WA USA
One thing the West needs to understand is that Muslims cannot separate Islam from any aspect of their lives, whether politics, finance, or social matters. We as Muslims believe that Islam defines our way of life. Without Islam, we have nothing. What the West should do is to stop imposing their values and systems and let us practise the way of life what we want otherwise this confrontation would never end.
Arshad , Chicago, USA
It is easy. Do as the Christians did: instead of remaining stuck in history with all its archaic traditions, we moved on with the times. Islam needs to reform to survive in this day and age, otherwise, the religion will regress back into the very dark ages. Sorry for being obtuse and saying the truth.
Carlos, Rio, Brazil
Heartening to see a focus on people who are using their belief to unfold their spiritual qualities. Qualities latent within all of us, whether we utilise a particular religion or none at all.
Islam has so far failed to produce a charismatic leader for peace who can stand up to the likes of Bin Laden. The war-mongers with their terrifying, but televisual, atrocities are now in control of the Muslim message to the world. I say to them: find your leader for peace, act boldly in the cause of peace and retake the airwaves.
L H Kirby, London, UK
Muslims can reclaim Islam from extremism in the same way that neighbourhoods are reclaimed from thugs, the same way bad schools are turned good, the same way greedy political systems are turned good: by creating standards and holding people accountable. People feed off their surrounding environment and if this is extremism, that is what they will grow into; if it is love and peace and tolerance then love is what they will grow up to share.
Ian August, Long Island, USA
Islam needs reformation just like the Christians did from within. That may mean a inter-religious war - however it needs to happen.
Sharia law is very compatible with the modern world. As Muslims we don't dictate to you how to run your own affairs and if we want to rule our own countries with Sharia law the Western world must respect that. As Muslims we should teach our young the true Islamic teachings of prayer and peace and make it clear to our young people that Suicide is not allowed in Islam. Our religion does not allow the killings of innocent people like the New York bombings, or the recent bombings in London and Sharm-al Sheikh. Our religion has been hijacked by very few extremists with help of the Western media.
Ali, Brooklyn Center, USA
Muslim extremists complain that Westerners interfere and are occupiers in the Muslim countries, however, I find it ironic that many Muslims have immigrated into the West. Don't the extremists wonder why this is the case? I am certain that if Islam is not wrestled back from the extremists tainting their religion, then the West will send them packing and further ostracize them from Western countries. Already happening in some instances.
Marsha Bodary, Utica Michigan USA
It was an excellent documentary and was in itself an important step towards redressing the balance and showing the other, humane, peaceful - and much more common - side to Islam. There should be more of this in the media.
John, Leeds, UK
The majority of Fanatics aare uneducated and poor. Their main guidance comes from the Clerics (Sheikhs) who preach to them on how to live their lives. Those clerics are no better than the people they preach to. So what does anyone expect should be the end result? As long as there is no proper control over those clerics, as long as there is no proper education, and poverty is widespread, extremism will continue to be a problem.
Aisha, Cairo, Egypt
Our faith hasn't been "taken over" by extremists - it's the way the media portrays that it has. After all, most of these Muslim groups are unheard of and have no interaction with the wider Muslim community, and they do not represent us at all. The way the media has it is that these people speak for all Muslims everywhere - that's like saying the local seventh day adventist church speaks for every Christian everywhere (even though I think they would actually reach a wider audience than these Muslim groups).
Islam cannot be separated from politics - the morality expected from followers of Islam cannot do otherwise than influence the way decisions are made. As far as the Sharia law is concerned, well, there are no other successful systems in place - why not examine it closely? There may be something useful there...
Hope Full, UK
The problem with Islam is that you cannot separate the religion from the politics. Islamic laws dictate how you are to run your life and are the model for Muslim governments. There is no way to separate the two.
Matthew Ayers, Canton, USA
In one of his sayings Prophet Mohammad (may peace and blessings of God be upon him) said that: "There is no extremism in Islam". It should be easy enough for Muslims on the basis of this to disregard any association of extremists or extremism with Islam. Muslims should work, and the responsible have always worked, to filter extremist elements amongst them.
Mateen Mirza, Cambridge, Canada
People are not aware of the difference between jihad and faith, and need an explanation from scholars in the Muslim world. Until and unless this is done, most of the new generation is being diverted towards crimes which are against Islamic law. May Allah Subhanu Tala protect Muslims from evil.
Rabbani, Atlanta, USA
I can't answer that for Christians. How could I be so arrogant as to think I could for Muslims?
Law and Religion cannot be the same, they must always be separate. In the West if a judge makes a mistake you can question it, you can complain. Under Sharia law to question a judge is to question Islam. Judges are only people, people can make mistakes, mistakes must be questioned.
Michael Pearce, UK
As an ESL teacher in Kyrgyzstan, one of my students asked me, "Teacher, do you think terrorism is the downside of our religion?" "Extremism is the downside of every religion and every doctrine," I answered them, "from Islam to Christianity to Communism to Democracy. That's why its so important to know many things and understand and respect many ideas."
Islam is a rich faith and, as any great faith, full of multiple traditions and ideas sprouting from a single seed. A Muslim of faith must not be afraid to explore his own faith and he must search his heart. It is a simple answer but not an easy one.
Maureen Pritchard, Columbus Ohio
In my opinion theoretical or philosophical Islam is a victim of its own elegance and potency. I see Islam as the logical conclusion or apex of monotheistic thought. A belief in an all-powerful God with no partners and no family lends itself to fundamentalist absolutism. That in turn I think leads to intolerance and isolation and eventually conflict...
If you are certain that you are right and the rest of the world is wrong then you have a problem on the way. We all need a little more humility and tolerance. Sadly and paradoxically that may not be possible so long as we cling to religion.
Mark Floden, Dubai
I am not a Muslim, but I was brought up in an Islamic country. I feel that the media is over-hyping Islamic radicalism and extremism. There are radicals and extremist in all faiths. Unfortunately the world's poorest and most disadvantaged are often Muslim. They do not have the education most people in the West have. They will resort to whatever means at their disposal to fight "social injustice" from their perspective.
Pak-Hoe Pang, Essex, England