January 15, 2003

Fundamentalists Not All the Same

by Donald G. Mashburn

The mainstream media often lump together fundamentalists from all religions when they talk of “religious fundamentalists” and how they’re a danger to world peace. Media liberals bash Christianity while viewing Islam in the soft glow of tolerance.

But fundamentalists are not all the same, as we’ll see when we examine Christianity and Islam, and how they treat people, and how they view basic human freedoms.

Jesus told His followers, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Nowhere does Jesus teach violence toward others. Jesus’ authority came from His unique position as the Son of God, as God in the flesh (John 1:1, 14), and from an empty tomb that proved He was who He claimed to be.

Mohammed (c. 570-632), founder of Islam, said, “I am not an innovator among the apostles.” A basic tenet of Islam holds that Mohammed was merely a conduit for what Muslims believe was the divine revelation of the Quran.

When Mohammed established a community at Medina, Islam took root in a small group made up of members of Mohammed’s family and close friends. Islam spread when Mohammed, as a politician-ruler, extended his authority over the Arabian Peninsula.

Christianity spread as transformed believers like Peter and Paul carried the Gospel of Jesus Christ to much of the then known world. Violence was never part of Christian faith or practice. History’s “religious” wars came from the failings of man, not from the teachings of Christ.

Outside television, “Christian Fundamentalist” refers to a devout follower of Christ. Jesus taught us to love God and one another. Believers are taught to pattern their lives after Jesus, the Perfect Servant, and the Prince of Peace.

Mohammed’s life was neither perfect nor peaceful. Scholars believe he may have had from 15 to 25 wives, and many concubines. Mohammed “married” a six-year-old girl, but the marriage wasn’t consummated until the child was 9. When he died he left nine wives, and at least one concubine. He was not, by Western standards, a paragon of familial virtue.

As a leader, Mohammed apparently ordered hundreds of victims beheaded. He also is said to have added to his harem wives of his beheaded victims. Secular Muslims who claim Islam is a “peaceful religion,” are seldom familiar with the Quran or the historical violence and intolerance of Islamic fundamentalists. Muslim zealots, however, focus on the aggressive and violent statements found in the Quran, and use them to justify violence against “infidels.”

In the treatment of women, Islamic fundamentalists and Christians are worlds apart. Christian teaching protects and honors women, and a woman’s legal rights are equal to a man’s.

Islamic women have neither equality nor freedom. Maryam Namazie, at a conference on “Women in the Middle East,” said, “Women living in Islam-stricken societies and under Islamic laws is the outrage of the 21st Century. Burkah-clad and veiled women and girls [subjected to] beheadings, child sexual abuse in the name of marriage and sexual apartheid are the most brutal aspects of women's third class citizen status in the Middle East.”

A harsh indictment of a religion hailed by some as “peaceful.” In Islamic law, women are viewed as “deficient” and some laws equate a woman with one-half a man.

Finally, consider the idea of freedom in general. Or better yet, ask: “Where are the free nations?” The answer: Not in the Islamic World. Then ask, “Where are the truly free nations of Islam?” The answer: They don’t exist!

Islamic laws, interpreted to allow violence and intolerance, gave birth to the political Islam that’s now a big problem for the free world. Further, independent thought and free expression are banned. In Iran, Hashem Aghajari, an ally of President Mohammad Khatami, has been sentenced to hang for “insulting Prophet Muhammad” and questioning the right of clerics to rule Iran.

Critics like Aghajari echo Maryam Namazie’s declaration that “The 21st Century must be the century that rids itself of political Islam.” Political Islam is Islamic fundamentalism used to perpetrate brutality and other violence under the guise of religion.

Commentators like Dan Rather and Bill Moyers know better than to lump together “Fundamentalists” from different religions. They should call extremists, murderers and terrorists by their correct names.

Such a change would dramatically improve the “truth quotient” of television news.