Thursday, 11 November 2010

On Fundamentalism in Islam and Christianity

Worldwide religious fundamentalism is on the rise and threatening world peace. Witness the Oct, 31, 2010 attack on a Catholic Church in Baghdad killing 58 Christians by Muslim militants. Religious extremism is born out of a fundamentalist understanding of the Islamic faith according to the, author of 'Why I Am not Muslim' (1995). Written under the pseudonym, Ibn Warraq, the author speaks as someone from a Muslim family with a deep understanding of the Koran, the Hadith and Sharia.

Warraq shows that the Koran evolved over several centuries (just like the Christian Bible), and is filled with contradictions, absurdities and incomplete thoughts (again, just like the Bible). As for Islamic tradition and practice, Warraq shows how Muhammad simply incorporated a number of elements from Arabia's Pagan history into his 'new' religion.
Perhaps the most important thing demonstrated by Ibn Warraq is that Islam is fundamentalist by nature, and not by some peculiar and aberrant recent development. All Muslims, not just the fanatics, believe that every word of the Quran is quite literally the word of God.
But Warraq's best work is done in showing exactly how dangerous Islam really is. Beginning with Muhammad, violence, intolerance and human rights abuses have been part and parcel of Islam to this very day. This cannot be ascribed to isolated Fundamentalists, but is built into the very core of the religion. Islam is Fundamentalism - it cannot be otherwise.
Islam was never a religion of tolerance and it is not tolerant by nature. Despite the way the apologists would like to depict it, Islam was spread by the sword and has been maintained by the sword throughout its history.
There is no way that Islam can reform itself and remain Islam, no way can it ever be made compatible with pluralism, free speech, critical thought and democracy. Anyone convinced they already possess the truth have no need for such things.
Islam succeeded through aggression and intimidation. The early Islamic conquests, for example, were extremely aggressive:
"Islam, in particular political Islam, has totally failed to cope with the modern world and all its attendant problems-social, economic, and philosophical." Nor does the author hold out hope for improvement. Take the matter of protecting individuals from the state: "The major obstacle in Islam to any move toward international human rights is God, or to put it more precisely . . the reverence for the sources, the Koran and the Sunna ."
Ibn Warraq's assessment of Islam is exceptionally severe: the religion is based on deception; it succeeded through aggression and intimidation; it holds back progress; and it is a "form of totalitarianism." Surveying nearly fourteen centuries of history, he concludes, "the effects of the teachings of the Koran have been a disaster for human reason and social, intellectual, and moral progress."
The apologists of Islam dishonestly tried to play down the terrorism and barbarism of the group they themselves insisted on calling "Islamic fundamentalists" by insisting that these latter had nothing in common with the real Islam - "the real Islam is peaceful" they claimed, "the real Islam respects human rights, the real Islam treats women as equals, etc."
When he imposed the death sentence on Rushdie, Khomeini was but following a precedent set by Muhammad, the founder of Islam, himself, who was not above getting his revenge or settling disputes by political assassinations.
Jihad as Warraq shows, is clearly enjoined by Islamic Law, and there are numerous passages in the Koran which exhort the faithful to kill the non-believers or non-Muslims. Warraq also explodes the myth of Islamic tolerance - Islam conquered by the sword, and in the process destroyed Eastern Christianity and the ancient Persian culture, looting and burning churches and fire temples; devastated India and plundered literally thousands of Hindu temples.
The sorry plight of women in the Islamic world is also shown by Warraq to be a consequence, a logical consequence of the misogynous principles scattered throughout the Koran, the Hadith and the Sharia: a woman is seen as inferior in every way, both morally and intellectually; she can only inherit half the amount that a man does, her testimony in the court of law is worth half that of a man; she cannot marry a non-Muslim, she cannot divorce her husband, certain professions are forbidden to her, and so on.

Warraq underlines the totalitarian nature of Islam, showing why it is incompatible with respect to human rights. Not only women are inferior under Islamic Law, but so are also non-Muslims living in Muslim countries. Nor does one have the right to change one's religion or belief under Islam - an apostate is to be killed.

Christians must not assume that they have been any less violent through the ages. Church history is filled with examples of horrific slaughter and torture of untold hundreds of thousands of innocent victims. Christian fundamentalist have been responsible, almost from the very beginning, for the persecution of Jews, heretics, and pagans, by means of the Crusades, Inquisitions, witch hunts, including the enslavement and oppression of indigenous or native peoples. Fundamentalism continues to find its way in the Catholic Church on such sensitive issues as abortion, gays, birth control, same-sex marriage, the role of women in the Church and so on. To date the Catholic Church does not hold a prominent position among the World Council of Churches while as recently as 2008 the Vatican refused to sign a UN Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality.
Religious fundamentalism for the purpose of protecting the 'purity of the faith' cannot be the way to God. By its very nature it will never promote dialogue and understanding necessary to bring about harmony and peace in this world.

Note: Religious Fundamentalism refers to a belief in a strict adherence to specific set of theological doctrines typically in reaction against what are perceived as modern heresies of secularism. When these beliefs are translated into a means of issuing punishment or militant action they can be classed as extremist fundamentalism.

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