Bernardo M. Villegas
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The Dangers of Islamic Fundamentalism (Part 1)

          Some time in August 2006, then Pope Benedict XVI (now Pope Emeritus) was severely criticized by some sectors in the international media when he considered it his duty to speak out about the way in which violence in the name of religion seemed to be tolerated by some Muslim clerics and actively encouraged by others.  In a meeting with Muslim leaders in Cologne, Germany he challenged his audience to condemn “any connection between your faith and terrorism.”  He was especially concerned about the education of the Muslim youth when he said: “Words are highly influential in the education of the mind.  You therefore have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism.”  He had all the moral authority to speak about the way the Muslim religion can be distorted by some clerics and other leaders to rationalize the use of violence.  As the guardian of the Catholic doctrine under St. John Paul II, he severely criticized the proponents of Liberation Theology among Catholic priests and lay people who justified violence under the guise of an impossible mix between Christian charity and the dialectic philosophy of Karl Marx which is a justification for class struggle.

      Those among us who were already adults in the late 1960s and 1970s know very well the harm done by a distorted interpretation of Liberation Theology.  Among those infected with the errors of Liberation Theology were a few nuns and priests who went to the hills and joined the communists in waging a class struggle under the name of Marxism cum Christianity. To help the poor, they encouraged hatred for the rich through the class struggle fostered by Marxists.  To correct this distortion of Christianity, then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger made it clear that the “preferential option for the poor”—a very Christian concept—should neither be exclusive nor excluding.  It should not be exclusive in the sense that promoting the welfare of the poor should go much beyond liberating them from material poverty.  More importantly, it should also be concerned with the spiritual welfare of the poor through doctrinal and spiritual formation.  It should not be excluding in the sense that one can love the poor without hating the rich.  In fact, Jesus Christ himself showed that his preferential option for the poor was not incompatible with his close friendships among the upper class of Jewish society like Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.

         There is no question that religion can be abused by some fanatics or fundamentalists to justify violence or terrorism.  More recently, it is Islam that is being distorted by a minority of Muslims to perpetrate acts of violence against humanity.  This is not to deny that the vast majority of Muslims are peace loving and do not condone terrorism.  In this regard, let me share with my readers what a Canadian Paul Marek published on his blog Celestial Junk last February 21, 2006.  Marek’s essay warned about the dangers of Islamic fanaticism and dismissed as irrelevant the notion that the overwhelming majority of Muslims are peaceful.  In his words, “We are told again and again by ‘experts’ and ‘talking heads’ that Islam is the religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace.  Although this unquantified assertion may be true, it is entirely irrelevant.  It is meaningless fluff, meant to make us feel better, and meant to somehow diminish the specter of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam. The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history.  It is the fanatics who march.  It is the fanatics who wage any one of 50 shooting wars world wide.  It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent in an Islamic wave.  It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honor kill.  It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque.  It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals.  The hard quantifiable fact is, that the ‘peaceful majority ‘is the ‘silent majority” and it is cowed and extraneous.

         “History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt, yet for all our powers of reason we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points.  Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by the fanatics.  Peace loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence.  Peace-loving Muslims will become our enemy if they don’t speak up, because… they will awake one day and find that the fanatics own them, and the end of their world will have begun.  Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Bosnians, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late.  As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts:  the fanatics who threaten our way of life.”

         The authorship of these words is being debated in the internet.  But it doesn’t really matter.  The substance is what is important.  All of us must work very closely with the peaceful Muslims to help them speak up more and more.  I personally have the happy experience that Muslims who have taken graduate courses in education or economics in the University of Asia and the Pacific have been very vocal about their opposition to the fanatics among their fellow Muslims.  Especially in the masteral programs for values education, some of our Muslim graduates have been playing a major role in combatting the fanatics in the classroom, preparing a new generation of Muslim youth for a peaceful co-existence with people coming from other religions and cultures, especially in Mindanao.  Also, thanks to a column written by Teresa A. Abesamis in the Business World (June 21, 2017) entitled “Silver linings amidst the Marawi tragedy,” we have a list of Muslim leaders who are addressing the general public and their own adherents to enlighten them about authentic Islam culture and religious beliefs and practices which absolutely do not condone violence and terrorism.  Among these leaders are Ghazali Jaafar, Congresswoman Sanara Sema, Amina Rasul, Samira Gutoc, Norkaya Mohamad, Sittie Nur Dyhanna Mohammad, Norausak Sani, and Sahria Multi Pandi.  I am sure there are many others.  (To be continued).