Religion 21st Century

Some Topics

Islamic Militants  & Terrorists

There is no place and time in human history that was free of wars. Human males enjoy fighting and when they do, they destroy property and kill other humans, often in a cruel, extravagant manner. Somehow, even in relatively civilized countries, war was and is still viewed as a normal expression of nations and war-making governments as valid expressions of the people. In an ideal future, war would not be considered a legitimate expression of governments. Instead, humans who proposed war would be recognized as mentally ill and would be confined to special institutions for the politically insane. History records wars that appeared to have a religious purpose or justification, although many group dynamics are usually at work, including the sheer delight one group enjoys when waging war against other groups. The delight is enhanced by winning a war and growing richer. The delight is diminished by losing a war and growing poorer. The convergence of three conflicting religions in the middle east, a tiny piece of land, continues to this day.

Despite the obvious incorporation of Judaism and Christianity into Islamic theology, Muslims continue an adversarial relationship with members of the antecedent religions. Iranian mullahs, for example, issued a death sentence for a citizen of England, Salman Rushdie; his crime was writing a novel, Satanic Verses that they believed insulted Islam. The western world was aghast at the arrogance and extremity of this idea and received notice that an ancient religious intolerance was still at work in the world. Mr. Rushdie, a smart Englishman of Indian descent wrote stories in the sophisticated manner of world-class literature. Rushdie was not the first gifted author to be persecuted for his story telling, but the first to require state protection in England for many years against an Islamic death decree. Iran, at the time of the Rusdhie decree was a throwback to old-style theocracy – dictatorship with religious leaders enforcing old Islamic laws. Rushdie's experience in retrospect was a minor incident. Islamic militancy is expressed as a world-wide Jihadist battle against non-Islamic states. In addition, the old Shia and Sunni split continues to fuel fighting among Muslims. News reports of Islamic terrorist attacks in many countries have become regular events. Anyone who insults Islam has committed a major crime punishable by death.

If you return to the original teachings of Mohammed, you might find evidence of tolerance and compassion. In July 1999 Iranian students took to the streets to demand the resignation of religious dictators and the institution of democracy in Iran. In February 2000 free elections in Iran elected a reform party majority, but the battle between nicer people who want progress and meaner people who want the old repressive regime continued. Even when democracies develop, this dialectic persists.

Outdated and cruel moral authority can be "overthrown", but ignorance and oppression tend to recur unless a solid democratic infrastructure is built from free speech, liberal education, international commerce and affluence. Freedom must be defended vigorously and continuously by nice, smart, well-educated people. The emerging Islamic militancy is challenging many countries and alliances who feel sufficiently threatened that they resort to increased military interventions that only add to death and destruction.

If take a snapshot of world disorder in 2015, Islamic militants are conspicuous contributors. An Economist review of Islam stated: " Western leaders have long urged Muslims to do more to counter jihadist ideology. This month Barack Obama said moderate Muslims, including scholars and clerics, had a responsibility to reject twisted interpretations of Islam. The doctrines of jihad and takfir are central to the debate. Extremists interpret jihad as mandating offensive holy war, though they may disagree about when and against whom it should be waged. The evidence from the hadith (the Prophet’s sayings) and renowned scholars that Islam is a religion of the sword is so profuse that only a heretic would argue otherwise, claims the most recent issue of Dabiq, the magazine of the Islamic State (IS). Extremists differ, too, about takfir, the process whereby Muslims declare other Muslims to be apostates or unbelievers, for which the penalty is death. Al-Qaeda applies the doctrine with some limits to avoid alienating Muslims from its cause; ISIS invokes takfir wholesale, especially against Shias, perhaps in the belief that cinematic gore is the stronger lure… Imposing state-sanctioned creeds has in the past pushed jihadists underground. And these versions of Islam are by no means sure to be more liberal: the Saudi regime uses harsh sharia punishments such as beheading and last year al-Azhar launched a campaign to rid Egypt of unbelief after a survey claimed the country held precisely 866 atheists. But the alternative, attempting to promote liberal doctrines in a free market of religious ideas, has dangers, too. Georges Fahmi, an Egyptian scholar, detects a conservative mood among Muslims: “What is shocking is how many people support IS’s actions even if they would not do them themselves.”

  • Religion for the 21st Century is available as an eBook download. The book is intended for a well-educated smart reader who is interested in a world view of religious expressions past, present and future. The main theme is that each religious group has its own claims and stories and will tend to reject others. A reader committed to one point of view may not accept the egalitarian review presented here. Innate tendencies are expressed as religions and in the past have created conflicts that hinder progress towards the real and true. The book examines paths for religious renewal in the 21st century.

    The author is Stephen Gislason

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