Sunday, November 14, 2010

Islamist extremists or fundamentalists?

The media in Canada tends to describe those Islamists such as members and supporters of al-Qaeda as extremists. But are they? Or are most of them not just Muslims who believe in the literal word of the Koran, and believe in strict adherence to its theological doctrines? In other words, aren’t they fundamentalists. And if so, are Muslim fundamentalists and Muslim extremists more the less the same? Or does this even matter?

I believe it does matter since there are very many Muslims who are fundamentalists in that they believe the Koran is the word of God, and that it must be read as if God Himself had spoken the words contained in that book. Stated another way, many—probably most—Muslims believe the Koran contains the ultimate truth, making them fundamentalists and therefore extremists.

In articles and discussions about Islamist extremists, we are almost always reminded that extremists make up only a tiny percentage of Muslims in Canada. I suppose this is due to political correctness, or perhaps it is meant to mollify us so we don’t rush off to arrest the first Muslim we run across.

But seriously, if the Koran is the actual word of God, won’t most, perhaps all, real Muslims be fundamentalists?

Unlike Jews and Christians, Muslims cannot modernize the teachings and messages of their religion as the words of the Koran are frozen in the dark ages of the seventh century. How do mere mortals “modernize” the final revelation from God? Cannot be done.

So if thirteen hundred years ago hands were chopped off as punishment for theft, and women were stoned for adultery, so it must forever be. And the only thing standing in the way of such punishments is enlightened Western law and the adherence to such by our Muslim residents. A sort of Biblical “render unto Caesar” philosophy as taught by Jesus Christ.

But surely a very large portion of the fundamentalists among the Muslim community must chafe at not being allowed to practice the word of God. And certainly many must see our laws and culture morally bad in principle or practice—in other words—wicked. And if our laws are wicked, certainly they must be ignored or overturned.

And if Canadian laws are to be ignored or overturned so that Muslims can live their lives according to the word of God, how can fundamentalist Muslims be productive law-abiding Canadians?

Just wondering …


© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.


  1. Excellent comment. Personally, I refer to the sharia wannabe terrorists as "literalists" since fundamentalist can be used to imply someone is dedicated but harmless.

    But you're right, a fundamentalist or literalist muslim is compelled to overthrow our society and replace it with the koran's hell on earth. They don't fit in because they can't.


  2. Fundamentalist Muslims cannot become part of the fabric of Canada.
    Its kinda ironic that the political Right has allies with the Muslim political Left.It would be wise to court such allies to help moderate countries like Iran, Syria, Indonesia, Central asia and other areas.
    The world is more liberal than it was and we can turn it to our advantage especially by compromising.
    A recent article in the Post made laugh as Mr Iverson referred to Iggy as Wile E Coyote!LOL!Hes right.
    Mr Harper continues to play chess while Iggy and his cohorts play checkers.
    Yes, it is time for Canada to step up in the world.Let it start with Mr Harper.


  3. I wouldn't call the Al-Qaeda, Taliban or other extremists groups as being literalists at all and therefore not fundamentalists.

    They have perverted the very words of their own religion.

    For example, they will slaughter or harm women for walking alone or getting into an unapproved relationship (even non-sexual) or even not covering herself up or getting an education.

    None of that is sourced in the Koran.

    Suicide is expressly condemned in the Koran.

    Don't take this as a defence of the Muslim faith. Just my view that calling them fundamentalists - as though they are the purist distilled form of the religion - is inaccurate and calling them extremists is completely accurate.

    As for "modernizing" the faith, I don't see the extremism or strictness of most of the muslim world any different than the Christian world some 500 years or so ago. The things that helped us "modernize" ourselves away from the dictates of the Roman Catholic Church of that era are the same kinds of things that will slowly work with muslims. Plus they have our example.

    In fact, I believe that the extremism we see today is a reaction to the real modernization of the muslim faith that is in fact already ongoing in the east and under-reported in the west. It isn't about the west as much as it is about a reaction to what has been happening in their own lands for decades. In part an imported westernization (especially in places like Egypt and Jordan and Lebanon) and in part internal enlightenment.

    I think a review of the history of extremist muslim groups bears this thought out.

    That's my two cents at any rate.

  4. I take you point, Ted. But I see them as orthodox Muslims nevertheless.

    As far as your point: "The things that helped us "modernize" ourselves away from the dictates of the Roman Catholic Church of that era are the same kinds of things that will slowly work with muslims. Plus they have our example."

    Our Bible is man's about God. The Koran is believed by Muslims to be the unalterable word of God, so cannot be modernized.

    Nice to here from you.

  5. "Our Bible is man's about God. The Koran is believed by Muslims to be the unalterable word of God, so cannot be modernized."

    There are many many many Christians who would say the same thing about the Bible: that it is not man's summary notes of God's words but the very Word of God. They will tell you as well that you are not really a true Christian if you do not believe that every word of the Bible was dictated by God and that it is inviolate and unalterable.

    Most Christians in the wide world, like most Muslims in the wide world, realize that fallible Man wrote down the words over thousands of years and that to take them literally true is in conflict with the reality of history and the world around us now.

    Even the Pope doesn't take every word of the Bible to be the direct literal truth, but that fundamentalist/literalism is a core belief to the most powerful Christians in the US (including leading Republican politicians and Tea Partiers and many Republican Pres nominees like Sarah Palin).

    Back to the point though, I would not call these Christian fundamentalists extremists just because they put the words of the Bible ahead of science and history. But many of them are extremists because they extrapolate an application to the wider world that doesn't have any source in their holy book: like female attire or suicide bombing for extremist Muslims, or a divine America (and all that entails) or assassination of abortion doctors for extremist Christians.

  6. Ted:

    You said, "… most Muslims in the wide world, realize that fallible Man wrote down the words over thousands of years and that to take them literally true is in conflict with the reality of history and the world around us now."

    This is clearly not so. Some heterodox Muslims may, but, unlike Christians, the overwhelming majority of Muslims are orthodox and believe (or say they do) that Islam evolved from the time of Adam until the time of Muhammad and was completed with the revelation of verse 3 of Surah al-Ma'idah:

    "This day have I [Allah] perfected your religion for you, completed My favour upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion."

    And that "the Koran constitutes the final and irrevocable divine law.

    For the vast majority of Muslims, to believe otherwise is to not be a Muslim. In Islam, orthodoxy is the mainstream, with Christians and Jews, it is a minority of believers.

    Your last comment is filled with references to Christians and comparisons between orthodox Christians and Muslims. These are false comparisons and cloud rather than illuminate. All but a very small fraction of Christians are believe in the laws of the land and are not pushing for Biblical Law.

    Thanks for your comment.

    PS, "… or assassination of abortion doctors for extremist Christians." Really, you use this in what I thought was a serious debate? How many Christians have actually done this? About a dozen by my count, but you compare that to suicide bombings which occur, regularly with thousands of casualties over the past fifty years.

  7. Russ:

    I'm not sure how you conclude that "the overwhelming majority of muslims are orthodox". In my view, this is clearly not so. Look at North America and Europe for example. Or Egypt or Jordon or Lebanon or India or Iraq. Even in Pakistan and Afghanistan the leadership is very much not orthodox. Even in Iran, it is the opposite, there is a big disconnect between the people and the leadership/theocratic government.

    So I'm not sure what data you have looked at to conclude not just a majority but the vast majority of Muslims are so. I would be very interested in reading such a study, but I don't think it exists. Certainly, one would get that impression if you followed Fox News, Blogging Tories, Mark Steyn etc, but I don't think it bears out in reality.

    (And by orthodox, I presume you mean, as I do, a literalist view of the holy book.)

    As for comparing Christian and Muslim extremists, you wholly misunderstand my meaning there. I was not comparing the two religions, but just giving illustrative examples of what an extremist is and how they pervert the very text of their respective holy books while wrongly claiming to be fundamentalists. Sorry for the confusion.

    In fact, by highlighting what is an extremist I think it becomes all the more obvious that the violence and terrorism quotient is quite incompatible.

  8. Thanks for the article. I'm only 6 months late into this conversation, but I just came across your blog today.

    Ted, I have to support Russ on this. I have yet to see a Muslim - when actually addressing the issue of whether they think the Koran in the direct word of God, and Mohammad is the final prophet whose life is the example - say otherwise.

    Even the prominent American "reformist" Muslim, Dr. Zuhdi Jasser believes in these two fundamentals.