Categories
History of religion

Threat from religious fundamentalism

Published in GralsWelt 22/2001) 
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001: 
In the Grail World 14/2000 I wrote under the heading "Where is the hope for the world's poor?" argue that after the collapse of communism, from which many people living in hopeless poverty hoped to find a solution to their problems, a gap has remained that may be occupied in some countries by Islam as a new beacon of hope. 
Now we have to get acquainted with the fact that fundamentalist Muslims of many nations do not only expect an ideal, just state from Islam, but also oppose the West and its civilization with abysmal hatred; because from the Muslim point of view 
* the Islamic world has been oppressed and exploited by Western colonial powers for centuries, 
* the Western, the Occidental, the Christian civilization wants to destroy Islam, 
* the West is "godless" and therefore the natural enemy of the "true believer", i.e. the Muslim, 
* Muhammad was the only founder of religion who became the founder and ruler of an empire that was an ideal state - because founded on the laws revealed by Allah according to their conviction - and which remains exemplary for all times.
Thus, Islam also knows no difference between religious law and civil law, because the commandments of Islam regulate all areas of life.
Moreover, the conversion of a Muslim to another religious community is considered by strict Muslims to be a crime worthy of death. In practice, therefore, there are virtually no converts.
 
ORIENT AND OCCIDENT 
It cannot be denied that most Islamic states have suffered from the colonialism of both Western and Islamic states (e.g. Turkey).
However, one cannot justly attribute all the problems of current Islamic states, among which there is hardly a democracy, to colonialism and "absolve" the people, religion and government of any responsibility. (Whereby "absolving" someone of any responsibility ultimately implies a violation of his human dignity. It basically means not granting him spiritual self-determination).
 
One can also see a danger to religions in Western civilization, which is built on secularism, democracy, and economic prosperity; for no religion is democratic by origin.
Modern life is moving further and further away from traditional beliefs. Muslims fear, not without reason, that under the influence of the West many "orthodox believers" could become as "lukewarm" toward Islam as Europeans or Americans are toward Christian denominations.
The attitude of many imams is correspondingly defensive, so that it is almost impossible to implement reforms in Islamic states unless they can refer to the Koran.
 
Moreover, monotheistic religions tend to be intolerant anyway, and the principle of "one God, one (true) faith, one (legitimate) church" has justified many, too many acts of violence.
Religious tolerance, respect for other religions, was more common in polytheistic cults, e.g. in antiquity, than in the European Middle Ages, which were characterized by monotheism.
 
Already the Old Testament of the Bible, the basis of Judaism, one of the oldest monotheistic religions *), is full of abhorrence towards "idolaters" and "pagans".
Christianity, too, has often enough forgotten the love of neighbor preached by Jesus and practiced Old Testament hatred.
Islam, which according to its own chronology now lives in the 14th century **), oscillates between moderation and hatred of the infidels, who are to be converted or else destroyed by Allah's command. Both can be proven from the Koran ***).
In the absence of a binding interpretation of the Koran and the Sharia ****) for every believer, there are many groups whose preachers arrive at quite different interpretations. What they all seem to have in common is the goal of spreading Islam throughout the world.
 
Muslims also lack experience of living among people of other faiths.
In the first Islamic centuries, the southern Mediterranean coasts and Spain were conquered from Arabia, and the new subjects were largely converted to Islam.
Then Turkic tribes, Mongols, Tatars invaded Islamic lands and soon adopted their faith.
Islam endured - as in the Crusades - or the enemies were converted.
Then Islam spread to parts of India, Southeast Asia and as far as the Philippines through conquest or peaceful missionary work. In most cases, Islam then became the dominant religion. Its rapid growth, in the view of Muslims, shows the visible work of Allah. In Islamic states, the believers claimed privileges over the merely tolerated dissenters, who were taxed more heavily, for example.
It is only in the last few decades that significant Muslim minorities, e.g. in Europe, have been living among peoples with a different understanding of religion and state and have had to recognize that the sense of superiority over the "infidels" that they have been taught is not approved of in these civilizations, and even violates existing law, and that the integrity of the lives of even those who think differently is an indispensable part of Western culture. These "Western" civilizations also do not regard their attitude at all as an expression of weakness, but as a valuable cultural achievement.
 
RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM 
In the western world, towards the end of the 20th century, religious fanaticism was believed to have been overcome, and the fundamentalist “state of God” Iran was regarded as an exception. It was ignored that religious intolerance is still virulent, even in the middle of Europe: 
In Northern Ireland, decades of hatred between Protestants and Catholics, incomprehensible to uninvolved observers, led to civil war, and in Yugoslavia, Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims savagely slaughtered each other.
In India, there were hate-filled riots between Hindus and Muslims, and religious hatred broke out in Sri Lanka, Malaysia or the Philippines.
Not to mention Palestine, where on the one hand Arabs do not recognize the right of the state of Israel to live, while on the other hand Jewish extremists demand all the land that was once Jewish in biblical times and want to expel the Palestinians. Extremists and fundamentalists who use religious arguments as a pretext for nationalism and racism, envy and hatred, can be found on all continents.
 
On the other hand, one often searches in vain for the peacemaking, people-binding influence of religions, although corresponding guidelines are contained in all world religions. Not surprisingly that many, especially also younger people turn away from religions and ask themselves whether the world history would not have run more happily and more peacefully without priests and their claims to power! 
THE WORLD RELIGIONS
Religion: Believers in millions
Catholics 1038
Protestants 346
Orthodox 216
Jews 14
Muslims 1200
Hindus 811
Buddhists 360
Shintoists 107
Der Spiegel No. 41, of 8.10.2001.  

CLASH OF CULTURES ?
 
In the course of the unstoppable globalization of the earth, peoples and nations are moving closer together, the different economies are interlocking, and the same economic principles apply in virtually all countries, while religious teachings, customs and traditions are still quite different.
Multinational cooperation can only be crowned with success if fundamental values, as a kind of "global ethic" (6), are recognized by all the inhabitants of the world and become globally accepted: Respect for the human dignity of each individual, religious tolerance, civil liberties, separation of church and state. The "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" proclaimed by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948, is not yet an applicable law worldwide, but could be a working basis for it.
Christian churches had to get used to the dwindling of their power in a centuries-long process and, under the pressure of the Enlightenment, finally accept states that guarantee constitutional rights, including religious freedom, for all.
Other high religions, such as Buddhism, did not have much political influence most of the time.  
Islam is different: Just as Mohammed was once the prophet and ruler of a state, Islam to this day knows no separation of state and mosque, no difference between religious and state law; for the divine law revealed by Allah to his prophet is, of course, above any earthly-human legal order. The goal of every devout Muslim must therefore be to enforce Islamic law in a state. This also applies to states in which Muslims are in the minority!  
There is no doubt that the vast majority of Muslims want to live in peace and are not aggressive against those of other faiths. But it is also not expedient to close one's eyes to the fundamentalists, as was practiced for many years in the West out of misunderstood humanity: For there is a hard core of fanatical human beings in Islam who, out of conviction and hatred of everything Western, call for jihad *****), who justify crimes, violence and terror with the Koran, and who strive for the destruction of the Western way of life and the spread of Islam over the whole earth as their ultimate goal. The target of this hatred is primarily the USA as the leading power of the free world. In Muslim eyes, the U.S. and Europe are continuing the colonial policies of past centuries, to the detriment of many millions in the developing world, and this accusation is unfortunately partly justified.
In the West, too, there are hypocrites who talk about human rights but trample on them out of greed for money ******).
The fact that Muslim fanatics use their intelligence and good (Western) education makes them even more dangerous as criminals. We see that it is a fatal mistake to think that intelligence and scientific education guarantee mentally healthy people.  
The majority of peace-loving Muslims will have to be judged by people of other faiths as to whether they support fundamentalists, whether secretly with money or only in thought, or whether they stand up for human rights and vote against extremism in their home countries. They are called upon to turn away from it decisively and this evil swamp will dry up.
If Muslims want to live in Western countries, they must respect their constitutions, which may mean cooperating with the authorities there in the prevention of crimes with religious overtones.  
Then it will be easier for us to find a respectful relationship with Islam and to recognize that Islam is a “high religion” that has produced great people and that it deserves respect.    

Addendum 2014:   
According to a WZB study from March 2014, one must assume that around half of the Muslims living in Europe are fundamentalist. (WZB Discussion Papar SP VI 2014-101. Berlin. WZB.) 

Endnotes:  
*) In "A Persian Bringer of Truth" we pointed out that historically it is not clear whether Zarathustra, Akhenaten or Moses was the first monotheist.  
**) The calendar of the Mohammedans begins with the "Hijara", the flight of Mohammed from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 AD.  
***) Compare e.g. B. Suras 9.5; 47.4; 61.4 with 2.59 and 46, 31-34. At the beginning of his missionary work, Mohammed hoped to win Christians and Jews over to Islam. When this hope was not fulfilled, his aggressiveness towards those of different faiths increased sharply. This explains the striking difference between the suras given in Mecca and those in Medina.  
****) Sharia = the Islamic law  
*****) Jihad = holy struggle. The idea of a struggle for a goal that is good in a religious sense. This does not necessarily have to be violence and war. Jihad is "considered one of the means of spreading Islam. Consequently, non-Muslims should embrace Islam either voluntarily, through wisdom and good counsel, or involuntarily, through struggle and jihad" (7, p. 71). Some Imams promise paradise to those who fall in jihad: "And verily, if you are slain or die in the way of Allah, verily, forgiveness from Allah and mercy is better than what you gather together. And verily, if ye die or are slain, ye shall be gathered to Allah." (Quran Sura 3, 151-152).
******) The vast majority of Americans have little interest in foreign policy. Therefore, they miss failures of American foreign policy, and they cannot understand why the U.S. is unpopular in many (not only Islamic) developing countries.  

Literature:  
(1) “The Koran”, translated from the Arabic by Max Henning. Reclam, Stuttgart 1960.    
(2) Essad Bey "Mohammed", DTV Munich 1991.    
(3) Glasenapp, Helmuth v. "The five world religions", Diederichs, Munich 1963.    
(4) Huntington, Samuel “The Clash of Cultures”, Europa-Verlag, Munich 1997.    
(5) Kepel, Gilles “The Revenge of God, Radical Muslims, Christians and Jews on the Rise”, Piper, Munich 1991.
(6) Küng, Hans “Project Global Ethic”, Piper, Munich 1996.    
(7) Laffin, John "Islam", Heyne, Munich 1989.    
(8) Tworuschka, Monika and Udo “Religions of the World”, Orbis, Munich.