The religion that fights itself

I’m interested in religion. It doesn’t make life any easier, so it certainly isn’t about making the easiest choice. It’s about making an important decision, and I have chosen Christianity because it’s the least flawed religion. All religions have contradictions, but it seems to me that no one has bigger ones than Islam.

Norwegians have, together with the rest of Europe, turned their backs on the religion that built their civilization, and they seem to to have chosen Islam. No, we don’t want to become Muslims because that involves a much stronger blind loyalty than in Christianity, but we want Arab immigrants to bring their religion to our countries. There’s been a power struggle in Islam ever since the prophet Mohammad died in the 7th century. A lot of the unrest in the Middle East and Northern Africa has to do with power. Who has the right to govern the Muslims? I think you are more likely to understand the violence that Islam is known for if you understand the conflicts between the different sects. It seems that many of us gladly ignore this point, though.

It’s been said again and again that Islam is the religion of love and tolerance, but it’s still a religion with an extreme duality. The prophet Mohammad taught both virtue and violence. Clearly it’s not possible to reconcile these two opposites. You have to reject one of them, but that’s where you get into difficulties. You can’t ask questions and take away anything in Islam, and if you insist on doing it anyway, you are labeled an infidel, an enemy.

I have noticed that there are always some Muslims, after every terrorist act on European soil, that maintain that they don’t belong to the same religion, but Islam is not one religion. Talal Asad says that Islam is a series of religious symbols that get their meaning and expressions from different social and political situations. This isn’t as simple as media would have it, and you can’t say that Islam is violence or that Islam is peace. Islam is both, along with a lot of other things that can’t be reconciled with a social liberal society. This is a misconception that many Muslims are guilty of too, and there isn’t much evidence to suggest that countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria and Indonesia really want the same thing. Yet, everyone pretends that Islam is one and completely apolitical.

The most serious development in The Middle East could be the disheartened Christians.The Norwegian pundit Hanne Nabintu Herland knows the Middle East very well and has written about the close links between Christians and Muslims. One of the things she mentions is how Christians don’t want to accept charity if Muslims are not included. This is according to Christian traditions, but it’s also because Christians in these countries have seen the Muslims as their brothers. The Patriarch of Antioch and All the East said in an interview in January that the trust between these brothers is gone. This is serious!

Iraqi refugees in Damascus. The situation is more complicated than many realize. Syria has a long tradition of helping Iraqi refugees and according to the UN there were 1,2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria in 2007. Christians make up 5 % of the Iraqi population, but 40 % of the refugees in the neighbouring countries.
Iraqi refugees in Damascus. The situation is more complicated than many realize. Syria has a long tradition of helping Iraqi refugees and according to the UN there were 1,2 million Iraqi refugees in Syria in 2007. Christians make up 5 % of the Iraqi population, but 40 % of the refugees in the neighbouring countries.
Photo: James Gordon via Wikimedia Commons

It is certainly a Christian idea to help anyone regardless of what and who they believe in, but it still makes me wonder why they Christians in Muslim countries have been so steadfast. This page counts some of the people that have been killed because they were Christians. This article sums up what has happened since the Armenian genocide, the Ottoman Empire’s attempt to kill the christian minorities. The author of the article describes similar atrocities going on today, and not only in war zones.

It’s sad, and quite disturbing, to think of this during this Easter. Norwegians seem to have chosen the religion they have been told represents peace, tolerance and love. This isn’t exactly what we find in the Middle East, and it’s a great paradox that although dictators like Saddam Hussein and Muammar al-Gadaffi were not exactly virtuous, they seem to have controlled the forces that now might succeed in eradicating Christianity from this region. When Islam was being developed in the 7th century these areas had been Christian for at least 500 years. Now Christians are being forced to flee.

When it comes to terrorism, I think the sympathy we express depends on how much we profit socially. Countries like Turkey, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast have been hit by terrorist attacks in recent months. I think we would have given them a Je suis-moment or a Brussel-moment if we thought it would give us a lot of facebook likes. It’s pathetic how much we need approval.

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