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Saturday, January 22, 2005

Fundamentalism and Fanaticism in Any Religion is Dangerous

I succumbed to the temptation of reading One Hand Clapping from JollyBlogger's recommendation after having told myself that I will not waste my time on that site. I lost respect for him when he failed to engage his commenters after making what I thought were arrogant, irresponsible and unfounded remarks about the moral superiority of the West. This time Sensing argues that Islam is conducting a sinister crusade against the West, Christians and Jews and I can't help but respond.

After quoting from some Islamic cleric, he cited twelve reasons why Islam opposes democracy, and since President Bush declares in his inaugual speech that his new term's agenda is that of promoting freedom and erradicating tyrany around the world, this puts Islam and America on a raging collision course.

Jollyblogger believes his arguments to be convincing but I would like to add a few words of caution. Let us have a look at the twelve points:

  • Leaders in Islamic societies are to be chosen based on their religious credentials alone. But elections "eliminate these prerequisites."

  • The role of leaders in Islamic societies is to implement the laws of Allah, not laws made by human beings, which is what Jews and Christians do.

  • Legitimacy comes not from elections but from the laws of Allah. To think otherwise is idolatry, "the idolatry of democracy."

  • In democracy everyone is equal, however the laws of Allah do not.

  • Rules for enfranchisement in a democracy include no assessment of piety, but are instead arbitrary.

  • Any Muslim participating in an election or democracy becomes an infidel. Anyone establishing a constitution based on "garbage from infidel ideologies becomes even more of an infidel."

  • Democracy is a trick used by Jews and Christians to deceive the people.

  • There are really two problems here. First, the President seems to understand that God is on the side of America and Western democracy. His determination to advance freedom abroad and eradicate tyranny around the globe, he believes is given to him by divine mandate and legitimized by popular support. He believes that this is the most prudent course to take in order to secure for America it's coveted liberty and long-term national security. Second, there is a confusion in the rhetoric that Islam is fundamentally opposed to modernity's quest for freedom. Such rhetoric only fans an unfortunate flame that, if Christians buy into it, will subvert the true mission of the church.

    While I do not doubt that Islam has within its religion, and its scriptures, references that are suspiciously alarming to the West, the same can be said for fundamentalist Christian religion and Christian texts, read out of its context, to those outside the faith. It is tempting for us we read some Islamic leaders rallying their followers to vigorously contend with those who oppose their holy faith and assume that every Muslim in the world and every Islamic country buys into this propaganda. Let us also not forget that fundamentalist Islaimic fanatics who read into the rhetoric of both the President and those who support the idea that Islam is the fundamental evil that is opposed to democracy and the historic Judeo-Chrisitan faiths, might also be alarmed by what they assume is our malevolent intent towards their religion. It is just amazing that after having endured the idiocy of bigotry and facisms in recent history of the world, cross-cultural misunderstanding is as rampant as it is today.

    Try this exercise. In each of the above point arguing why Islam is so opposed to America and its fundamental principles, try replacing "Allah" with God and references to Islam to fundamentalist Christian religion, and you find that nearly every one of the points above might be made by a fundamentalist Christian in highlighting the fact that modernity is at cross-purposes with the religion of the Bible. I believe an Islamic alarmist could very well search through the texts and speeches of fundamentalist Christians and paint the same picture that Donald is painting about Islam.

    As Christians, I believe we need to hold our patriotism and our modernity at a healthy arm's length. We need to understand and embrace the gospel message and the ministry of reconciliation to which God has called us. If we do not separate the fanatical Islamic minority from the general Muslim population, and if we do not separate our Westernism and nationalism from our Christian calling, we will all fall headlong into an inevitable apocalyptic end that both sides seem to be heralding. Prophetic fulfillments aside, aren't Christians supposed to be occupied with more urgent tasks?