Fanatics Leading Islam Away From Progress
Sun Media -Saturday, February 26, 2005
A new report has revealed that by 2035 almost 35% of the population of some European countries will be Muslim. Because of the often-negative population growth of Europe's nominal Christians, the majority of young people will be Muslim. Similar, if less pronounced, trends are found in North America.
So what? Demographic change is inevitable and by no means regrettable. The growth of Islam, however, has led to different conclusions and questions, provoked by a series of campaigns of terrorism and national oppression committed in the name of the Muslim faith.
And here lies the issue. Is it Islam itself or a distortion of Islam that appears irreconcilable with pluralism, human rights and Western values?
It is gratuitous but necessary to explain that this is in no way an attack upon those Muslims who are moderate and reformist. It may be that genuine believers are the solution, not the problem.
But we must also look at specific disturbing things that have been done in the name of Islam, both in the Muslim heartland and within the Islamic diaspora.
The recent increase in the number of attacks on Jews in Europe, for example, is quite extraordinary. Almost all come from young Muslims. Poverty and despair are contributing factors, but only a myopic zealot would believe that such systematic racism and violence is due to the suffering of the culprit. Other groups are in a worse situation, and many of those convicted are not poor or marginalized at all.
On a larger scale, we cannot dismiss the fact that Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Libya, Ethiopia, Jordan, Egypt and almost every other Muslim nation-state are to one extent or another oppressive, discriminatory and misogynistic.
Blaming the U.S. and Israel for the troubles of the region just will not do. Many of these countries possess great wealth and power and are dependent upon nobody. They choose a form of religious extremism and justify it by convenient scapegoats.
We should also remember that the Middle East was not always Islamic and was in fact the heartland of Christianity, and that marauding Islamic armies conquered the region and imposed their religion on a subdued people. How ironic it is that we routinely condemn The Crusades but say nothing about the horrors that provoked such a response.
It is undeniable that the Muslim world has been exploited by superpowers, be they Ottoman Muslims or Anglo-American Christians. The war in Iraq, for example, is difficult to justify on a number of levels.
Yet there is a difference between resistance to an invader and bloodthirsty brutality.
The videos of western hostages in Iraq being murdered express much. In one far-from-unusual case, a pro-Iraqi westerner who opposed the war is hog-tied on the floor. His captors scream that Allah is great and that Islam is the only true religion.
They then pounce on him and begin to saw his head off. It takes almost two minutes and the victim screams until the last pieces of flesh are severed. With more shouts of Islamic triumph, the gang's leader holds the head up to the camera and cheers.
To say that this is typical of Muslims would be absurd. But it would be equally absurd to say that it had nothing to do with Islam. The murderers claim it was a Muslim act, and many of their supporters concur.
A radical film director killed in the middle of the street in Holland for making an anti-Muslim movie; European MPs threatened with death for opposing Islamic aspirations; novelists issue with fatwas, translators of their work stabbed to death; bookstore windows smashed and owners promised death if they stock offending literature.
I merely ask a question: Is it Islam that seems irreconcilable with Western virtues or the thugs who do and say evil in the name of that faith? All of us, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, deserve an answer.
Michael Coren is a Toronto-based writer and broadcaster. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org and his web site is michaelcoren.com. Letters to the editor should be sent to: email@example.com