A Thought About The Rise of Fundamentalism

by Michelle Gunaselan
I was reading this in Islamica magazine today, which is btw a damn good read. I urge everyone to go and baca, I love their pieces. Oh, I was led there because of the open letter some ten Muslim leaders put up defending Anwar… which I found a bit hmmm.

But anyways, was reading http://www.islamicamagazine.com/Issue-20/Divisions-in-our-world-are-not-the-result-of-religion.html

It’s an interview with Karen Armstrong who I love, who most Bible literalists have a problem with as she comes from the apologetic camps. Which is where noted people like Thomas Aquinas, Paul of Tarsus and CS Lewis have also been active in.

I take apologetic view as well, and prefer to be open to “defense of Christianity on favoring interpretations of historical evidence, philosophical arguments, scientific investigation, and other disciplines.”

I have great distaste for literalists, and find their arguments to be very simplistic in nature. I mean, really, God created the world in six days. But what is the measure of that six days? Is it our six days? Things like that. Some people genuinely believe it did take 144 hours. I mean, really. Please. -_- It’s a contextual six days people! Not like 24 hours x 6 days. But, you know literalists to each their own. I suppose everyone has a right in believing what they want to, including me. It’s just something I find strange and wonder about.

Sometimes, their arguments belie their belief that Christiniaty is a “perfect” religion. And I use perfect here in the loosest sense of the word, ok. I don’t think any religion is perfect, I think perfect is as perfect does. We are but perfection, only when we are driven by the grace, love and kindness of a God-head. Because I mean, if it were perfect, we could resolve this perfection without question, right?

But literalists aggravate me, in that they believe everything the Bible say with no point of reference to historical contexts, political climate, scientific findings or other arguments that weave in true and real time experiences and accounts from the period in which the Bible was said to be written in. To actively reject that the existence of the Bible as written to suit a particular time and space, is ignorant… I mean, we don’t read other books without considering these things right? (Yes, I know it was divine, but it was also written in languages that have practically vanished and adapted to the English we speak, so much may have been and is lost).

Maybe it’s also because, I was raised in Sunday School by a great priest who told me to never fear asking questions about my faith, and believing but also opening my heart to my religion and being inquisitive like a child, because that was the path to understanding its depths.

So Karen Armstrong is a big fan of mine, her attempts to bring greater understanding to Muslims, Jews and Christians about their faith to me, and her writings and books are a great insight into how things were in a historical, political, scientific context. Blind faith is amazing, miracles are amazing, but to choose to ignore facts and findings that are so readily available, then aren’t just simplistic, but ignorant and dare I say it, stupid? 🙂

So in this article she mentions the rise of fundamentalism, in all major religions. And how it shows its ugly, aggresive face when secularity that is foisted upon usually post-colonial nations makes them scramble to bring religion to the forefront, in their attempts to bring some sort of order or roots to take the place of the secularist way.

Globally, there is a real threat against Islam I think. From within as well as from the outside, ironically from a government (US) that is also, not only conservative, but fundamentalist and lacking in experience and knowledge in understanding history and people, especially of the Middle East. Of course, like Armstong says, much of this is politically motivated and is not, like Huntington says, a clash of civilizations, at all. To view it as such, would be ignorance again. Taking a rather easy, and obvious way out.

So my question, or thought is that, in Malaysia when Islam and being Malay takes center stage, and Utusan keeps going on about how Islam and Malays are under threat (i bring in the race bit, because here it adds a twist to the argument because both go hand in hand) are they seeing a real or perceived threat?

Globally, I see it. I see it all the time, because I have Malaysia as point of reference when I hear idiot Americans talk about race/religious issues in my country, and how much they fear for me and all that BS.

But, I want to know, in Malaysia where so much of Muslim/Malay rights and privileges are protected, Islam is officially, and unofficially recognised, and is so pervasive, with no contention (albeit silently I’m sure there is), what or who is this threat?

The situation seems to be quite inverse here. I mean, Muslims are the majority, their status recognised, and etc. It would seem in fact here, it’s completely on the other side, that non-Muslims and non-Malays should be the one facing the perceived threat? Are we? And what can we do about this? It’s all very interesting to me, this.


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