|Fundamentalism and Islam by David Holloway|
Heaven and hell
That a person should die for their faith is hard for many Western Europeans to believe. But this is what, it seems, four young men did on the morning of 7 July in London when they became the first Muslim suicide bombers in British history and, terribly, killed 52 people and injured 700. Part of the reason why this is so unimaginable for many today is that current secular Western Europeans have little concept of heaven and hell. For the devout, Koran-believing, Muslim heaven and hell are very real and of eternal significance. The Koran has the phrase, "to believe in Allah and the Last Day". The Koran shares with Christianity a strong belief in the final judgment.
But the Koran denies that Jesus Christ truly died on the Cross for our sins. So Muslims do not have any assurance of heaven. The Cross, however, provides great assurance. It demonstrates God's love with Christ, the divine Son, dying in our place. That penal and substitutionary death of Christ is at the heart of the "good news" that relates not only to time but also to eternity.
The final judgment, therefore, for the Muslim depends entirely on how you live the current life. For the Muslim right living is living according to the teaching of Mohammed. Mohammed, they say, had been given direct teaching from Allah (when in a trance like state and, allegedly, through the Angel Gabriel). That teaching is recorded in the Koran and the Koran is strong on the final judgment. So securing a passage to heaven is very important for a devout Muslim. Some say suicidal martyrdom secures that passage.
In the Spectator for 30 July, Patrick Sookhdeo wrote a piece entitled "The myth of moderate Islam". He began by talking about Shehzad Tanweer, one of the four suicide bombers:
"The funeral of British suicide Shehzad Tanweer was held in absentia in his family's ancestral village, near Lahore, Pakistan. Thousands of people attended, as they did again the following day when a qul ceremony was held for Tanweer. During qul, the Koran is recited to speed the deceased's journey to paradise, though in Tanweer's case this was hardly necessary. Being a shahid (martyr), he is deemed to have gone straight to paradise. The 22-year-old from Leeds, whose bomb at Aldgate station killed seven people, was hailed by the crowd as 'a hero of Islam'.
Some in Britain cannot conceive that a suicide bomber could be a hero of Islam. Since 7/7 many have made statements to attempt to explain what seems to them a contradiction in terms. Since the violence cannot be denied, their only course is to argue that the connection with Islam is invalid. The deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Brian Paddick, said that 'Islam and terrorists are two words that do not go together.' His boss, the Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, asserted that there is nothing wrong with being a fundamentalist Muslim.
But surely we should give enough respect to those who voluntarily lay down their lives to accept what they themselves say about their motives. If they say they do it in the name of Islam, we must believe them. Is it not the height of illiberalism and arrogance to deny them the right to define themselves?"
Fundamentalism and Peter Berger
So what is going on? The social reality of committed religious belief is something, sadly, beyond the conception of many ordinary citizens as well as of those now in leadership in Western Europe. But why is that? So many people around the world find no difficulty is understanding religious commitment. Let me try to explain.
Around the world there is a process of desecularization that is going on. An important book was published in 1999 entitled The Desecularization of the World. Its subtitle was "Resurgent Religion and World Politics".
Let me quote from the opening chapter on "A Global Overview" by Peter Berger, the doyen of social scientists and the book's editor. He is referring to the Fundamentalism Project - a project that was very generously funded by the MacArthur Foundation and chaired by Martin Marty, the distinguished church historian from the University of Chicago. Peter Berger writes:
"A number of very reputable scholars took part in it, and the published results are of generally excellent quality. But my contemplation of this first volume gave me what has been called an "aha! experience" ... So I asked myself, why would the MacArthur Foundation shell out several million dollars to support an international study of religious fundamentalists?"The important answer he came up with was this:
"'Fundamentalism' is considered a strange, hard-to-understand phenomenon; the purpose of the Project was to delve into this alien world and make it more understandable. But to whom? Who finds this world strange? Well, the answer to that question was easy: people to whom the officials of the MacArthur Foundation normally talk, such as professors at elite American universities. And with this came the aha! experience. The concern that must have led to this Project was based on an upside-down perception of the world, according to which 'fundamentalism' (which, when all is said and done, usually refers to any sort of passionate religious movement) is a rare, hard-to-explain thing. But a look either at history or at the contemporary world reveals that what is rare is not the phenomenon itself but knowledge of it. The difficult-to-understand phenomenon is not Iranian mullahs but American university professors - it might be worth a multi-million-dollar project to try to explain that!"
A global overview
In his global overview, Peter Berger points out that "on the international scene, it is conservative or orthodox or traditionalist movements that are on the rise almost everywhere. These movements are precisely the ones that rejected an aggiornamento with modernity as defined by progressive intellectuals. Conversely, religious movements and institutions that have made great efforts to conform to a perceived modernity are almost everywhere on the decline. In the United States this has been a much commented upon fact, exemplified by the decline of the so-called mainline Protestantism and the concomitant rise of Evangelicalism; but the United States is by no means unusual in this."
He doesn't find the word "fundamentalist" particularly helpful "not only because it carries a pejorative undertone but also because it derives from the history of American Protestantism, where it has a specific reference that is distortive if extended to other religious traditions." However, he lets people use it as "it suggests a combination of several features - great religious passion, a defiance of what others have defined as the Zeitgeist, and a return to traditional sources of religious authority." These conservative "upsurges" are taking place around the world and outside Protestantism and outside Christianity. They are taking place in Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism as well as being in revival movements in smaller communities (such as Shinto in Japan and Sikhism in India). But they differ greatly in their social and political implications. However, "taken together they provide massive falsification of the idea that modernization and secularization are cognate phenomena. At the very least they show that counter-secularization is at least as important a phenomenon in the contemporary world as secularization." And the "differences" are nowhere clearer than in "what are arguably the two most dynamic religious upsurges in the world today, the Islamic and the Evangelical."
With regard to the Islamic upsurge "it affects every single Muslim country from North Africa to South-east Asia. It continues to gain converts, especially in sub-Saharan Africa (where it is often in head-on competition with Christianity). It is becoming very visible in the burgeoning Muslim communities in Europe, and, to a much lesser extent, in North America." Nor are these revivals limited to the "less modernized or 'backward' sectors of society, as progressive intellectuals still like to think. On the contrary, it is very strong in cities with a high degree of modernization, and in a number of countries it is particularly visible among people with Western-style higher education - in Egypt and Turkey, for example, many daughters of secularized professionals are putting on the veil and other accoutrements of Islamic modesty." But, of course, there are great differences within Islam. Even in the Middle East and the Islamic heartlands you have Sunni and Shiite revivals that differ religiously and politically. Islamic conservatism, as the new King realizes, means different things in Saudi Arabia to what it means in Iran. Indonesia is different again.
The European Exception
So the world today is getting "religious"; that is not according to the secularists' plan. But there are two notable exceptions. The first exception is Europe west of the old "Iron Curtain". Secularization theory seems to be holding up in Western Europe. Here, increasing modernization has seen a decline in religious belief and religious practice - certainly in terms of church attendance, church related codes of moral and sexual behaviour and in terms of recruitment to the ordained ministry. The rejection of Rocco Buttiglione (a Roman Catholic) last Autumn as EU Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security and then the failure to acknowledge Europe's Christian heritage and value system in the proposed European Constitution is recent evidence of this "European Exception". However, that Constitution's rejection by the Netherlands and France may prove what some social scientists are saying, namely that there is still a significant body of silent religious and Christian attachment in Europe. (Let's pray it becomes audible.) The second exception is made up of an international subculture. It contains people with Western style higher education.
"This subculture is the principal 'carrier' of progressive, 'Enlightened' beliefs and values. While its members are relatively thin on the ground, they are very influential, as they control the institutions that provide the 'official' definitions of reality, notably the educational system, the media of mass communication, and the higher reaches of the legal system. They are remarkably similar all over the world today, as they have been for a long time (though ... there are also defectors from this subculture, especially in the Muslim countries).This globalized elite culture is, of course, particularly strong in Europe and in Britain. So there is a "double whammy" from both of these exceptions as far as the people of Britain are concerned. And this is the reason - this exceptional secularism - why so many people in Britain cannot conceive of how anyone can believe anything to be worth dying for.
Richard Reid and the Sunday programme
On the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme on 24 July 2005, there was a discussion on the subject of "What makes someone blow himself up and kill anyone in the vicinity - be they man, woman or child, Christian, Jew or Muslim?" The presenter of the programme was Roger Bolton. For this item he was joined by Dr Zaki Badawi (the President of the Muslim College) who was described as being "in the forefront of interfaith dialogue"; he was also joined by Oliver Mcternan, a Roman Catholic priest who was described as the author of the book Violence in God's name - religion in an age of conflict.
Zaki Badawi clearly thought the primary motivation of these bombers was political. "These youngsters," he said, "were mislead by people who have political ambitions and are using religion for that particular ambition." Oliver Mcternan "profoundly" disagreed: "The cause is political but inspired and motivated by religious belief (albeit misguided); but it is religious belief that motivates."
To prove his point Oliver Mcternan referred to Richard Reid, the British shoe bomber who tried (but failed) to blow up a Trans-Atlantic airliner on the 22 December 2001 and is now in prison in America. He was an enigma to many people. But Oliver Mcternan spoke of his conversation, while in Boston, with the two public prosecutors who had been appointed to defend Richard Reid. This is a transcript of what Oliver Mcternan said:
Dr Zaki Badawi
But who does have the right understanding of the Muslim faith tradition? Does Zaki Badawi? He certainly has the understanding most people want to hear in Britain. Not surprisingly he was the Muslim asked by BBC Radio 4 to give their Thought for the Day on the Today programme on 13 September 2001. That was just two days after the terrible events of 11 September when the twin towers of the World Trade Centre were destroyed by Muslim suicide bombers and thousands were killed. (On the morning immediately after that awful destruction, an English bishop had been asked to give the Thought for the Day.) Dr Badawi concluded his short address with these words:
"In the Koran our Sustainer says, 'We ordained that if anyone killed a person ... not in retaliation of murder or in punishment ... it would be as if he killed all Mankind. And if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of all Mankind.'
Those who plan and carry out such acts [as the destroying of the twin towers] are condemned by Islam, and the massacre of thousands, whoever perpetrated it, is a crime against God as well as against humanity."But Zaki Badawi did not mention the very next verse of the Koran that follows the one he quoted (which was Sura 5.35). Sura 5.36 says this:
"The punishment of those who wage war against God and his Apostle [Mohammed], and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter."Some have used this text to deal with converts from Islam to other religions. But the clearest verse on punishment for apostasy suggests that punishment takes effect after this life: "If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to God) never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good)" (Sura 3.85).
If you take the text of the Koran literally, you cannot deny that it does seem to validate force or violence to achieve spiritual goals. However, there is one verse the moderates can appeal to: "Let there be no compulsion in religion" (Sura 2.250). Much of the Koran is ethical teaching that is not controversial. Certainly the Christian distinction of General Revelation (that is open to all and can be discerned by all) and Special Revelation (that comes through Christ and the Bible alone) means that there is material in the Koran that Christians can agree with as Sura 2.250. But there is also material that the Christian has to reject. Nor is the Koran progressive as a revelation like the Bible is. For the Christian the Old Testament clearly has to be interpreted in the light of Christ. As Article VII of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England says: "Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts [the political and legal arrangements] thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet not withstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral." Those same articles make it clear that the Bible, "God's Word written", has to be the supreme and final authority for the church. Nevertheless, the supreme revelation is God's Incarnate word, Jesus Christ. For the Muslim it seems that the Koran takes the place of Christ and is quite absolute. And the Koran has clear instructions for the use of force or violence.
Sura 2 of the Koran is the Sura that the British Muslim Marmaduke Pickthall says, "might be described as the Koran in little. It contains mention of all the essential points of the Revelation, which are elaborated elsewhere." Most of it, of course, is not about fighting. But let me list the following (from the Yusuf Ali translation of Sura 2). Sura 2.190: "Fight in the cause of God those who fight you, but do not transgress limits; for God loveth not transgressors." 191: "And slay them wherever ye catch them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out; for tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. But fight them not at the Sacred Mosque, unless they first fight you there; but if they fight you, slay them. Such is the reward of those who suppress faith." 192: "But if they cease, God is oft-forgiving and most merciful." 193: "And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in God; but if they cease, let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression." 216: "Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But God knoweth and ye know not." 217: "They ask thee concerning fighting in the prohibited month. Say: 'Fighting therein is a grave offence; but graver is it in the sight of God to prevent access to the path of God, to deny him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members.' Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter. Nor will they cease fighting you until they turn you back from your faith if they can. And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein."
But Jesus says, "all who draw the sword will die by the sword" (Mat 26.52). This is not what a Koran-believing Muslim would naturally say. Of course, there are many different nuances within Islam within all its subdivisions. As in Christianity you will have liberals, middle of the roaders and conservatives. But as the world of the 21st century is discovering, it is the theological conservatives who are the true believers or those who are true to their founding authorities. So Dr Badawi may be seen as a "liberal" by more conservative Muslims who do not "pick and choose" their texts and who follow the generally agreed traditions regarding Mohammed. One such "conservative Muslim" was the Ayotallah Khomeini. He understood the common sense reading of the Koran that makes God always powerful and, apparently, successful. This gives you the sword rather than the cross. Bill Musk in his book Holy War - why do some Muslims become Fundamentalists? has this perceptive comment about Jesus and the way of the cross:
"Mohammed was a prophet of God and as such learned in Medina to model his caliphate or leadership on a philosophy of 'God's side is always successful'. Endemic in the common Muslim interpretation of the Koranic record of Jesus is the conviction that God could not possibly have allowed such a prophet of his to have failed. God would never have allowed the Jews to grab and kill this man. The truth must have been that God took the visage of Jesus and imposed it upon another human being at the crucial moment. Thus Jesus was raised to heaven and someone else (maybe Judas) was crucified in his stead."He then quotes Khomeini on the possibility of a "weak" Jesus and saying:
"This idea of turning the other cheek has been wrongly attributed to Jesus (peace be upon him); it is those barbaric imperialists that have attributed it to him. Jesus was a prophet, and no prophet can be so illogical.""Islam cannot cope," says Musk, "with a 'suffering' Messiah." The distinction between Islam and Christianity was summed up by Bishop Lesslie Newbigin: "The Prophet [Mohammed] rode into Mecca to conquer; Jesus rode into Jerusalem to die. The crux lies there."
The Muslim Manifesto
Those words of Lesslie Newbigin were written during the public debate that followed the issuing of a Muslim Manifesto in 1990 by the London based Muslim Institute and that resulted in the founding of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain. Right at the start there were was a section on Assumptions. Key among them was the following: "Of all the major religions of the world, Islam is the most 'politicised'. At its inception Islam created a political platform from which Muslims were to launch themselves on a global role as founders of great States, empires and a world civilization and culture. Political and cultural subservience goes against their grain. Yet in Britain today Muslims are being asked to accept subservience and the total disintegration of their identity, culture and religion, as the only real options open to them." So another key assumption was "that the option of 'integration' and/or 'assimilation' that is on offer as official policy in Britain must be firmly resisted and rejected."
Now, undoubtedly these views of Dr Kalim Siddiqui, the drafter of this manifesto, are not held by all Muslims in Britain. There must be a good number, perhaps the majority, who are very uncomfortable with this sort of approach. For the manifesto supports jihad: "Jihad is a basic requirement of Islam, and living in Britain or having British nationality by birth or naturalization does not absolve the Muslim from his or her duty to participate in jihad: this participation can be active service in armed struggle abroad and/or the provision of material and moral support to those engaged in such struggle anywhere in the world." And this claims Koranic support. But which is the voice of true Islam - such a conservative statement, or statements of moderates or modernizers? Take Tariq Ali for example. Having given up his revolutionary Marxism of the 60s, he now seems to be a reformist Muslim:
"We are in desperate need of an Islamic Reformation that sweeps away the crazed conservatism and backwardness of the fundamentalists but, more than that, opens up the world of Islam to new ideas which are seen to be more advanced than what is currently on offer from the West. This would necessitate a rigid separation of state and mosque; the dissolution of the clergy; the assertion by Muslim intellectuals of their right to interpret the texts that are the collective property of Islamic culture as a whole; the freedom to think freely and rationally and the freedom of imagination."I suspect that many Muslims' view such comments as Evangelical Christians view certain comments of liberal bishops.
A large part of the problem that Muslims are being faced with at this present moment is the call to "be British". Islam has, as have all religions, its share of hypocrisy regarding morality and sexual morality in particular. And the Muslim treatment of women is not always good. Nevertheless Koran-believing Muslims have a code that in a number of areas Christians share and they see this being eroded on all sides in modern Britain. They are not so sure they want to "be British" if it means being immoral.
Not so long ago I was asked to be a lead contributor in an ITV young people's discussion programme on homosexuality. It was a totally new experience for me. Often in programmes of that sort and on that subject I have been in a minority of one when arguing for the reasonableness of sexual restraint and Christian sexual ethics. Often I have been quite abused (verbally). This time it was a shock. I, with one or two other Christian young people, were in terms of our views and attitudes in the middle between the aggressive homosexual lobby and a number of Muslim young people who were also aggressive (and quite articulate) on the other side. It was clear that these Muslim young people did not like decadent Britain.
But it has been opposition to such decadence that is a factor behind extremist Islam. At the beginning of the rise of fundamentalist Islam, one of its modern founders Sayyid Qutb, the Egyptian Islamist ideologue who was executed by President Nasser's police in 1966, wrote this: "Humanity is living in a large brothel! One only has to glance at its press, films, fashion shows, beauty contests, ballrooms, wine bars, and broadcasting stations! Or observe its mad lust for naked flesh, provocative postures, and sick, suggestive statements in literature, the arts and the mass media!". That is over the top. But the rise of this new version of Islam coincided with the sixties and the breakdown of traditional sexual morality in the West. And many Muslims still do not like what they see of the West in moral terms. They then find it hard being asked to assimilate to something which is so against their own traditions and morality. One leader of resurgent Islam has said that the problem is not really political, rather it is at the level of ...
"... two cultures and civilizations, one based upon Islamic values and the other on the values of materialism and nationalism. Had Western culture been based on Christianity, on morality, on faith, the language and modus operandi of the contact and conflict would have been different. But that is not the case. The choice is between the Divine Principle and a secular materialist culture."In the Muslim Manifesto it was said that some British laws were in direct conflict "with the laws of Allah". Included were those relating to abortion and homosexuality. Then under "Goals of the Muslim Community in Britain" there were the following: "to develop the Muslim community as an island of peace, harmony and moral excellence, free of promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases, drinking, gambling, drug-addiction, fornication and the related social and moral disorders which plague our age."
Looking at the papers to see what people were writing on Islam in the last week of July, in one paper I saw a huge amount about the capture of the suspected 21 July terrorists. But on another page was a feature on filming gay sex scenes for a new BBC production. We were told that the corporation commissioned a producer "in part because of his willingness to portray bedroom scenes and to make explicit sex scenes where in the original book there might be only a subtle hint." And on the sofa besides me was the Church of England Newspaper with the main headline: "Church allows gay clergy to register partnerships". Then, of course, there was the BBC production of Jerry Springer the Opera with its blasphemy of Jesus not long before the bombings of July. Many Muslims would have been appalled at that production just as Christians were. All this is undoubtedly a factor behind suicide bombings. On 2 August a letter was published that was written from prision in America by Richard Reid. The report said that in it he "launches an attack on US foreign policy ... as well as hitting out at Western governments which 'glorify' and 'promote' immorality in the name of freedom."
There is indeed a clash of civilizations in the world and in Britain. What is currently being played out in Britain, however, is not a clash between Islam and the West. Rather it is a clash between Islam, Christianity and a secular decadent West, in which Christianity is in the middle. What is the way ahead? It is vital that we preserve those freedoms that were secured at the end of the 17th century after the Wars of Religion. In simple terms it was then agreed that no longer could the State enforce any religious belief. Nevertheless the State still could and must outlaw violence and sexual immorality. That meant in Britain that under an overarching Christian establishment there could be subordinate pluralisms. Of course, secularists are happy with outlawing violence and Muslims happy with outlawing sexual immorality. But Muslims must renounce violence more than they seem to be doing at present and secularists must work for a change in sexual behaviour and the reinstitutionalization of marriage. And with freedom secured, there can be open debate over the truth claims of each world view or "civilization". Then, as Christians, we must speak the truth in love, as it is, and only is, in Jesus.
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