While going through my papers, I stumbled across a tract I had been given earlier, when I visited the local mosque on one of its open days, titled: “What is Islamic Fundamentalism?” Given a discussion I had just had with a Christian friend about supporting Muslims, particular through this holy month of Ramadan, which we are now in, and some of the events taking placing in the world at this time, such as the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and the involvement of the fundamentalist group, Isis, it seemed right to read on and think about the issue and consequences of Islamic Fundamentalism.
The leaflet begins with a quote: “Muslim fundamentalism is fast becoming the chief threat to global peace and security as well as a cause of national and local disturbance through terrorism. It is akin to the menace posed by Nazism and fascism in the 1930’s and then by communism in the 50’s” New York Times 9/9/93, and asks “do you think this is true?” The leaflet, while seeming to condemn terrorist acts committed by Muslims, makes an interesting point that many terrorist acts are committed by non-Muslims and there is often prejudice in condemning one but not the other.
The leaflet rightly tries to define terms, and starts by saying: “According to the Reader’s Digest Universal Dictionary “fundamental” means “having to do with the foundation; elemental; basic”, and “fundamentalism” an “unswerving belief in a set of basic and unalterable principles of a religious or philosophical nature”. The term was traditionally used for Christians who believed the Bible to be the literal truth even when it was found in conflict with modern scientific discoveries. “Fundamentalism” soon became a derogatory term”, which is essentially correct, and goes onto make some further important points such as the contribution of early Islam to scientific progress.
From the point of view that Islam is essentially about submission to God and obeying what God tells us to do, in particular through the teaching of the Koran, it can be argued that all true Muslims are fundamentalists. Indeed, something similar could be said about Christians and the Bible. The leaflet argues, quoting a number of verses from the Koran, that Muslims are only fundamentalists insofar they obey God, but not in the derogatory way implied by quote stated at the beginning, which many tend to believe.
While I know bits of the Koran and have a rudimentary knowledge of the tenets of Islam, I am not in a position to theologize as well as I might on whether or not Islam is fundamentalist in essence and in the more sinister way the quote suggests, although I am trying to come to a view and do so, for example, by considering history and how Islam spread, often through force, and that it is a religion to do with all aspects of family, community and national life, and not just individual belief, unlike Christianity for example, and this is generally not recognised by those who are wanting to embrace Muslims as valued members of our societies, as indeed we ought.
Even if terrorism is not the means used to propagate Islam, one goal many Muslims share is to win whole countries for Islam and to implement Sharia law, as compared with Christians, for example, who tend merely to focus on individual conversion. Moreover, it should be understood that in many Islamic countries, coercion is the norm and the freedoms, including that of religion, taken for granted in the West, do not apply. For example, those who convert from Islam are often regarded as apostate and face dire consequences. The insistence of certain practices and penalizing those who don’t comply means, depending on one’s definition, that countries where this happens are dominated by those of a fundamentalist ilk that many in the UK would find unacceptable.
The author of the leaflet, and most Muslims I know, and I daresay most Muslims who live in the UK and maybe most other countries come to that, are peace loving people who would want to distant themselves from some of the excesses that often get reported. Evidently, this is the picture that our political leaders would want to paint, for example in David Cameron’s recent greeting to coincide with the start of Ramadan. Sometimes one feels our politicians are keener to appease Muslims than Christians, given the many recent instances of Christians falling foul of officialdom as a result of exercising their consciences. That is not sour grapes but rather a dig at political correctness, and I am all for welcoming Muslims to my country on the basis of Christian hospitality, but I digress …
But there is a big but, which we ignore at our peril. One of the things that continues to burden me is regarding the oppression and persecution of Christians. In the majority of countries, and parts of countries where this is most severe, Islam is the dominant religion and those leading the attacks may well be regarded as Islamic Fundamentalists and often hold power. Even if it is true they only represent a minority of the world Islamic community, it is nevertheless a significant one. Just as Christians don’t all sing from the same hymn sheet, the same can be said of Muslims, and no-one can be sure which variant will prevail. The indications are it will be this less agreeable brand that will come to hold the reign of power.
I have gone on record by saying we need to understand Islam and befriend Muslims. Much of my life has been devoted toward this end. I know a number of Muslim folk who I deeply respect as good, God fearing people that contribute a great deal to community life. But when I see the oppression in many Muslim dominated countries of non-Muslim, often Christian, minorities, the rise of radical groups like Al qaeda and Isis, the power of Islam and the hold they have in financial aspects of UK life, the unresolved Palestinian situation and the part played by Islamic states in opposing Israel, the call for Sharia law, the debacle over Halaal meat, the attempt to take over schools with an Islamist agenda, the likelihood that soon there will be more Muslims than Christians in the UK, all these things fill me with concern and they should concern you and our leaders also.
But I have a bigger concern. Both Christianity and Islam, when rightly practiced, are missionary religions, but they both can’t be entirely right, and it is possible that both are wrong. That is not what I believe of course and for what I do believe, check out my gospel presentation. One of the tragedies of church history is that the thriving churches in the area of the Middle East that existed in the early years have been largely, although not entirely, superseded by Islam. If Islam were a purer form of religion than Christianity then that could be seen as a good thing, but I don’t believe it is, because Jesus said he is “the Way, the Truth and the Life“.
The concern I have for my country at this time is that we live in what is approaching a moral vacuum, where truth is seen as relative and hedonism holds sway. Secularism and materialism do not satisfy our deepest needs and people will look elsewhere, and that will include at Islam because it has many attractions. My fear is that unless Christians live as they ought, and churches are as God intended, then people will embrace further deception and be diverted away from the truth … and yet it is the truth that sets us free!
The Islam equivalent to Deo Volonte (DV) is Inshalla – God willing. This I believe is God’s will: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls:Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19.