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The Islamic Challenge: Religion and Politics in Europe of the 21st Century.

The Islamic Challenge: Religion and Politics in Europe of the 21st Century

Bassam Tibi

Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 3rd Edition, 2008

The author, a professor for International relations at the University of Gottingen in Germany and also the A. D. White professor at large at Cornell University in the United States, is a Moslem immigrant who expresses concern at signs of rising resentment amongst native Europeans at the increasingly massive flow of Moslems into Europe, and purports to propose how such tensions can be countered.

He advances two main theses in this book. First, he describes what he considers to be the cause of the confrontational relations between Islam and the Western nations, speaking of a Moslem hatred originating in the economic and technical inferiority of the Islamic world. Second, he claims that multiculturalism has failed and argues that the Western nations are too secular and need to reintroduce a sense of the "sacral," by which he seems to mean an acceptance of monotheistic omnipotence and strict religious rules, into their politics and everyday life. To Tibi, Europe needs to modify its culture in an Islamic direction, rather than aim for state of multiculturalism in which secular Western culture remains dominant. He talks about the "basic right" for strong religious rules and the "sacral," which he does not define but we may assume implies the acceptance of omnipotent monotheism into the politics of a nation.

He notes that the Mediterranean has ceased to be a dividing frontier between the Moslem world and Europe. Accepting the fact of an already massive Moslem presence in Europe and anticipating a continued flow and acceptance of Moslem immigrants in the future, he argues for the Islamization of Europe and a corresponding Europeanization of European Moslems. Europe, he claims, will ultimately benefit from the massive acceptance of Moslem immigrants because they will reintroduce religion into secular Europe. European culture will be integrated into the Islamic idea of the "sacral" absolute.

We suspect that Tibi has obtained his professorships in two eminent Western universities because he understands Islam but protests the violent antipathy that most Islamic activists show toward the West. However, he seems to be something of an Islamic Trojan Horse in that he argues that Europe should accept increasing Moslem immigration and modify its own culture accordingly. As we will see, Tibi urges a somewhat confused synthesis of these opposite alternatives, and does not explain how a scientific secular culture that believes in causality can be combined with religious beliefs that attribute all events to divine will and submission to a supposedly omnipotent monotheistic god.

Tibi coins the expression "the politicization of religion" for the process of melding the "sacral" into European culture. Secularization, in his opinion, means only the separation of belief and politics, and he says that as a result of Islamic immigration Europeans may once again acquire a stronger belief in the absoluteness of God. He acknowledges the strong enmity between the different forms of Islamic religiosity (i.e., Shi'ites against Sunnis), but implies that it is the influence of the West and the Jews that has revived these ancient antagonisms. To this reviewer, it would seem more correct to argue that the pressure of overpopulation is a major contributor to such conflicts.

Tibi recognizes that the secular culture of the technical-scientific countries has facilitated the rapid growth in population in Africa and much of Asia, resulting in the rapid rise of overcrowded city-slums, by providing medicines and enhancing the food supply, and that at the same time the populations of the developed nations are either growing only slowly or are actually declining.

He creates the expression "religious analphabeths" to define those Western states that have replaced religion by politics. The "return of the sacral" means a reassertion of religion in the political life of a country. Tibi thinks that such a return would give Europeans more understanding of why Moslems are willing to kill themselves and others with a bomb around their waist, just for "religious reasons."

In connection with Islamic extremist violence, which he deprecates, such as the murder of the Dutchman Theo van Gogh in Holland by a Moslem, Tibi considers that it is Islamic extremism that is the reason why multiculturalism has lost its glamor in the West.

In Chapter 2 the author discusses the possibility of corresponding Europeanization of Moslems in Europe, in place of aggressive Shari'a Islam. Along those lines, he points to the peaceful construction of mosques in New York as a desirable alternative to suicide attacks on the World Trade Center. He does not mention the significance of the fact that the immigrant American Moslem group, responsible for wishing to build a mosque close to where the International Trade Center stood before its fiery destruction by radical Islamic terrorists, had chosen to call itself the "Cordoba Foundation"--a conscious reminder of the days when conquering Moslem immigrants ruled Spain from the ancient Spanish city of Cordoba.

Tibi's advice is that modern Muslim immigrants into Europe should look upon themselves as "European Muslims." He does not think that multiculturalism has been successful in either the US or Europe, because most Moslem immigrants have rejected assimilation. Though immigrant North African and Middle Eastern youths flee the overpopulation of their own countries in search of a better life their activities in the new European home country are too frequently a criminal exploitation of the secular country's openness. Tibi blames their conduct on the low level of "religious controls" in Europe.

As an immigrant himself, he ignores arguments for the restriction of immigration into Europe, and advocates the development of a Euro-Islamic culture as the best solution. This may seem to be an attractive solution, but completely overlooks the inherent conflict between European science and secularism and the narrow range of thought permitted by the Koran.

In Chapter 3 ("Europe and Islam in a Time of Global Migration"), Tibi develops the view that the Europeans do not appreciate the important role of "the religious" in most global conflicts. He emphasizes that religion is derived from the particular, and cites here a "Moslem world-view," linked to the Islamic Shari'a. He points out that the different forms of Islam (Afro-, Indonesian-and Arabian) are closely similar, in the same way that the cultures of Sweden and Italy are with respect to European culture.

Tibi acknowledges that the argument that the Moslems' loss of science after their expulsion from Spain was somehow due to the crusaders and the Jews (as often claimed by Moslem apologists) is wrong. In reality, this reviewer would suggest, the backwardness of the Moslem masses in matters of modern science and technology is simply due to their concentration on a day-filling religion, and an emphasis on sex-life and resulting high level of procreation. Rapid population increase, when combined with backwardness in matters of food production (modern agriculture), energy technology, education and modern civilization, is pressuring the rapidly growing Moslem population of the world to migrate not only to secular Europe, but also to Australia and the USA, where they gladly accept governmental hospitality and generous welfare support.

According to Tibi, the French multicultural attempt to accept or even assimilate Islam (laicite, equal treatment of all religions) should be a model for other European countries receiving this vast mass of legal and especially illegal migrants.

Islamic Conservatism

According to Tibi, the women's head shawl, scarf or nicab, and especially the burqua (with only eye-slits), are typical products of the Islamic emphasis on sex, steady restraint being necessary in a culture where male sex drive is foremost in human interaction and finds satisfaction in polygyny. Much of the Moslem world is experiencing a vast population explosion (i.e., population doubling in 20 years), and the result is ever-increasing pressure to migrate into European states that offer a generous welfare net to all who live within their borders.

Tibi enters into long discussions about the early Mediterranean civilizations and the Renaissance. He recognizes that the philosophy of reason, based on the worldview of the Renaissance, should be the basis of modern thought. He argues that Moslems should not refuse reason and should adopt the idea that modern man can, through the use of reason, form the world around him. In this he is right: Modern science harks back to the old pre-Christian theme of the Greek philosophers that there is a causal force in nature, and that man, the world, and the universe are not the products of a monotheistic God. Like the dogmatic early Christian rulers, who closed Plato's Academy, strict Islamists still reject the primacy of reason and retain a God-centered world-view of fantasy. Tibi takes pride in the historical fact that after dogmatic Christian monotheists had suppressed pre-Christian scientific inquiry, Aristotle's ideas for a time survived only amongst Arab scholars, and that it was from Arabic books that these were eventually reintroduced to Europe. However, the rationalism of the ancient Greeks and the modern scientific position that man can define his fate on this planet was rejected by subsequent Arab thinkers like Sayyid Qutb. Tibi sees a difference here insofar as the difference between Theocentrism and Humanism was solved in Europe, but not in Islam.

In the course of Islamic history, Moslem clerics suppressed any rationalism that early Arab scholars espoused. "Without humanism and Rationalism the Islamic civilization will not overcome the general crisis and their obvious self-victimization," says Tibi. In Islam, the illusion prevails that it is possible to combine modern science and technology with a belief in an all-powerful God who is responsible for all that happens--"the will of Allah." Strict Islamic beliefs reject post-Renaissance thought, and Tibi admits that Moslem immigrants to Europe tend to ignore earlier Islamic rationalism, which was in fact largely restricted to a talented minority. But one is left wonder whether it is possible for the "religious absolute" that dominates contemporary Islam to come to terms with secular Western scientific thought.

In Chapter 5, the Islamic diaspora in Europe is described. Jihad Islamism is in full swing, as Europe and the USA have discovered. Tibi seems to recognize the fact that Islamist jihadists are enemies of the open society of the West when they aspire to an Allah-defined community. This became clear when Van Gogh was slaughtered by the fundamentalist Moslem Mohammed Bonyeri in accordance with Shari'a. The murderer was not alone, but belonged to a group. Though the police knew about this plan, a preventive arrest was not possible under present day European law. While the British police could not prevent the attacks of July 2005, under British law in August 2006 they were able to prevent a mass murder, planned for passengers on ten airplanes.

Islamic World Revolution

Tibi observes that Moslems who commit crimes in the name of their religion are behaving in a primitive manner that is inimical to secular European concepts, and he expresses concern about the existence of an Islamic totalitarianism, which he sees not as the religion of Islam, but as the product of a powerful movement known as Jihadism. Jihadism is inspired by the desire to achieve a worldwide revolution that will impose Islamic Shari'a law on all peoples an donations. In opinion polls in Morocco it is stated, 74% of respondents indicated that they had favorable feelings toward suicide bombers, while 45% felt positive about bin Laden.

From Tibi's discussion, readers may well conclude that most countries with a Moslem population have an enormous pressure to migrate to obtain the benefits of Western prosperity due to the fact overpopulation and that their technical abilities are underdeveloped. In spite of the rich oil deposits in many Arabic countries, the demographic and economic conditions in less favored Moslem countries are flooding Europe with unassimilated Moslems who cannot participate in the modern, secular and techno-science communities of the receiving countries, and as a result readily turn to crime and violence.

In some countries the wealth from oil deposits has slowed down revolutionary pressures. But to this reviewer the trend is clear: the ongoing pressure of overpopulation in the Moslem countries will result in chaotic changes not only in their original homelands, but globally, unless secular approaches to the problem of human survival on this planet can overcome antiquated beliefs grounded in ignorance and win a broad acceptance of scientific reality. Tibi's desire to reintroduce the role of religion in the political life of the West may be well-meaning, but scientific objectivity is essential if we are to guide mankind away from the current demographic and ecological threats to the survival of humanity, and indeed possibly of all higher forms of life, on this tiny planet.

Herbert F. Matare
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Author:Matare, Herbert F.
Publication:The Journal of Social, Political and Economic Studies
Date:Jun 22, 2011
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