As much as I wish it wasn’t true, it seems to me that Islam and western liberal democracy are in danger of becoming fundamentally incompatible.
For some years I have gone along with the notion that Islam is not the problem, only fundamentalist Islamics, just as fundamentalist Christians do not represent all Christianity.
The trouble is the proportion of the followers of each religion which one would classify as fundamentalist and what I call “extreme fundamentalists”. Now I certainly agree an extreme fundamentalist Christian who kills a receptionist who works at an abortion clinic is just as evil as the extreme fundamentalist Muslim who blows up a school bus.
There are around 2 billion Christians and 1.3 billion Muslims. Now I would say at most 1% of Christians are fundamentalist or around 2 million. And of that 1% only say 0.1% are extreme fundamentalist who think it is okay to kill in God’s name, so you have 20,000 or so Christian lunatics.
But with Islam I would say at least 10% are fundamentalist and of those 130 million perhaps 5% or more are extreme fundamentalists who believe killing in God’s name is okay. This is highly conservative estimating only 7 million extreme fundamentalists – it could be way more than that.
So the number of lunatics on the Christian side who think it is okay to kill on behalf of God (outside any legal framework) is 20,000 vs 7 million with Islam.
Then one has the leadership issue. When you do get the odd lunatic Christian who blows up an abortion clinic, they are condemned by almost every figure of authority from the Pope down. Any church leader which openly preached that Christians should kill outside the law would be sacked.
As far as I can tell, there is no clear supreme authority in Islam, like the Pope is to Catholics, but a huge proportion of very senior Muslim clerics have praised and supported suicide bombings and the like. Not just in the Middle East but the senior most cleric in Australia, and what seems like a huge number of clerics in the UK.
So the message the “average Muslim” gets from his religion is mixed at best. I know that in theory Islam is a peaceful religion, but a massive number of senior clerics have perverted it so that many think God wants them to kill those thought to be against Islam.
And the final issue for me is that concepts such as seperation of church and state are not generally supported by Islam, not withstanding the occasional example of Turkey which is very welcome.
Now I don’t believe in treating people just as a member of a group, and I know there are many many Muslims who are not extremists. NZ has a Muslim MP who does his job well. I would never pre judge someone off their religious affiliation.
But that doesn’t change the problem that such a large proportion of Islam has been taken over by extreme fundamentalists, that it may not be possible in future to distinguish between the good and bad strands of Islam, as much as we might wish to.
One of the documentaries I saw which changed some of my thinking on this issue, was one of a private Muslim school in the US. The kids at that school were real average American kids – loved basketball, dressed casually, did normal things, but happened to be devout Muslims. I thought watching it, this was a fine example of how cultures and religions are meant to co-exist. But then they were asked about whether suicide bombings were okay, and whether those who did them would go to heaven, and all these kids turned around and said yes they were okay. They later showed the teachers explaining they did not really mean this, and the kids later said they were confused (yet they had perfect English) but it made me despair that if even kids growing up in America (and liking it there) had beliefs that killing on behalf of Allah is okay, what hope is there for the future when millions or tns of millions may share that belief?
I wish I knew an easy answer to this dilemna. I suspect there isn’t one.