Syrian intellectual Hashem Saleh said in a January 6, 2023 interview on Al-Arabiya Network (Saudi Arabia) that Islam is in "dire need" of religious "enlightenment." He said that Islam still suffers from extremism, ignorance, takfir, and sectarian wars, and he said that it needs to abandon its medieval views on religion in favor modern perceptions. He added: "We cannot keep despising other religions." For more information about Hashem Saleh, see MEMRI TV Clip No. 7250.
Hashem Saleh: "No one can deny that we have problems today — extremism, ignorance, takfir, sectarian wars, and so on. We cannot deny their existence.
"Europe got rid of these things 150-200 years ago. This is the historical distance between European progress and Arab and Islamic backwardness. There is a historical distance of 200-300 years when it comes to interpreting religion and religious enlightenment. We are in dire need of religious and philosophical enlightenment.
"How can we interpret our heritage from the perspective of enlightenment and liberation, and not from a perspective of takfir, prohibition, rejection, and the exclusion of others? This is a major issue, because we are immersed in medieval mentality. There is a medieval mentality, and there is a mentality of the modern era. They are not the same.
"In the Middle Ages, they believed that there can be only one true religion on earth, and even within the framework of that religion, there can be only one true denomination. We can no longer live like that. That is takfir. For example, the Christian Church used to deem all other religions heretical — Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even within Christianity, it used to deem Protestants and the Orthodox as heretics. This is the mentality and notions of the Middle Ages. This cannot exist in the 21st century.
"We cannot keep despising other religions. We must recognize other religions — Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism.
"We must respect the heritage of other societies, in order to live in the 21st century, not the 9th or 10th. We are no longer in the Middle Ages."