The Clash of the Fundamentalists
by Anisa Abd el Fattah
“The war against terrorism, rather than a war against all forms of political violence is becoming a very dangerous war of extremist ideas, all fighting for primacy in a world that is shrinking due to technology and globalization.”
Syndicated columnist Nicholas D. Kristof wrote in the article, “Scholars find flaws in Islam’s fundamentalist interpretations” the following: ” a growing body of rigorous scholarship on the Qur’an points to a less sensual paradise, and more important, may offer a step away from fundamentalism and a reawakening in the “Islamic” world. From the looks of the article, Kristof seems to think that non-Muslims, who have come to call themselves “Qur’anic scholars” will be the re-interpreters of Qur’an who will bring us a more acceptable Islam. They will initiate this renaissance with revolutionary ideas like, Hur actually means grapes, and ummi, rather than meaning “unlearned” means “not of the book.” That of course implies that the prophet Muhammad was not one of the people of the Book, even though he is a descendant of Ishmael, the eldest son of the patriarch of monotheism, Abraham. He also seems impressed by a German re-interpretation that says that! verses of the Qur’an which say that Muslim women should cover their bosoms, actually means that we should “buckle our belts around our hips,” assuming that we all wear belts. Presidential candidate John Kerry in a speech before a gathering of journalists, said that, Islamic fundamentalists and extremists have isolated the United States. The well known Arab secularist, and Daniel Pipe’s appointee to the United State’s Institute for Peace, Kamal Nawash, appeared on the Bill O’Reily show to say that US Muslim organizations are bastions of Islamic extremism whose leaders are all in denial… sound familiar? Earlier on the same day, an MPAC representative tells MSNBC that focusing on Muslim and Arab men alone will not make the US safe, perhaps suggesting that closer scrutiny of Muslim and/or Arab women will.
As predicted, following the release of the 9/11 Commission report which announced that the US is at war with “Islamic fundamentalism” a new media campaign has began against Muslim organizations and perhaps any Muslim who refuses to accept the supposition that Islamic fundamentalism is also terrorism, and who holds on to traditional interpretations of the Qur’an. At the same time, there seems to be an attempt by the Justice Department to further intimidate Muslims in the United States by arresting two Muslim men who supposedly accepted money from a former prison inmate posing as a terrorist, to purchase a rocket launcher on his behalf. There are no reports suggesting that a rocket launcher was ever actually purchased, or delivered, only that they had taken the money with the intention, which it seems is a crime. As the Department of Justice representative was announcing this latest Muslim arrest, a non-Muslim was found parked in front of a federal building in! Chicago with a truck loaded with fertilizer. According to the media, this 66 year old man was part of a sting operation. The news reported that he had hoped to sell the 15,000 pounds of fertilizer to potential Muslim terrorists, which might explain why there was no DOJ press conference to announce his arrest.
The clash of the fundamentalists is a clash between secular, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, fundamentalists. The secular fundamentalists, who are mostly leftists, would like for the religions to adopt theologies that do not challenge their belief, that there are no truths, and that all beliefs are relative, and subject to any type of interpretation, except of course their absolute belief that there are no absolute truths. Those who refuse to come over to this thinking will of course be marginalized and destroyed in the war against terrorism. Jewish fundamentalists would perhaps like for us all to accept a literal interpretation of the Old Testament of the Bible, most specifically the Book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy says, in chapter 2 verse 25,” This day I (God) begin to put the dread of thee, and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee.” They probab! ly would not want us to take literally the passage in chapter 4, verse 26 which says, ” I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that you shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto you go over Jordan to possess it, you shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.” Likewise, Muslim fundamentalists are likely to get very upset when you remind them that the verses of Qur’an that speak of jihad are not instigating holy war against Pagans, Christians and Jews only. If we accept the idea that God called on certain groups to annihilate others because of their sins, Muslims who sin would be included, and are also in line to be annihilated by someone, or group for lying, cheating, stealing, etc. Such interpretations also ignore the truth that God never suggests in the Qur’an, that He is out to destroy people because of their race, or religion. Christian fundamentalists believe that all of us, excluding Christians, are going to be dest! royed with the material things of the world, and eaten by buzzards, as they ascend into heaven.
The war against terrorism, rather than a war against all forms of political violence is becoming a very dangerous war of extremist ideas, all fighting for primacy in a world that is shrinking due to technology and globalization. But who says that a globalized world can only have one idea about life? That would be all right if the extremists who want to fight until the last man, or idea is left standing, were the only ones hurt, or killed in the wars that will result as each idea seeks to eradicate the other, rather than learn to cooperate with the other. When we consider all of the lives that are being lost, the property that is being destroyed, the money that is being wasted, and the fact that there is no way to reconcile these differences except to accept that we are all different, it makes less, and less sense to continue the war.
Perhaps our differences suggest that we can only accomplish good things when we cooperate, since each of us might have something unique to contribute to the human effort to continue. There is also the chance that none of us possesses the absolute truth (Al-Haqq). Most religious scholars will tell you that this absolute truth is God, and to date no one has professed to see Him, except through words, and different languages, symbols, and observations of life, in all of its many colors, shapes and tastes. Could that mean that we are fighting over bits and pieces of truth that might distinguish us, but should not diminish, or provoke us? Perhaps, the imperfect truths that we own could uplift us. This is not to suggest that the truths that we own, or believe in, are imperfect because God is imperfect, but rather they are imperfect because we have understood them imperfectly. One world, one God, one humanity cannot possibly mean one faith, one idea, one race, or one gender, since nature itself is a testament to life’s diversity, and our absolute interdependence. One need only to observe a bee pollinate a flower and then taste honey, which is known to be health-giving, and also delicious to eat, to understand this theory. To date, there is no example of a single, self sufficient thing that can survive alone, never changes and is permanent, except God.
The writer is the Founder and President of the National Association of Muslim American Women. The author is also head of the International Assoc. for Muslim Women and Children, an accredited NGO with the UN Division on the Rights of the Palestinians.