Reuters – May 16, 2011
Muslim creationists are currently touring France preaching against evolution and claiming the Qur’an predicts many modern scientific discoveries.
Followers of Harun Yahya, a well-financed Turkish publisher of popular Islamic books, held four conferences at Muslim centers in the Paris area at the weekend with more scheduled in six other cities.
Harun Yahya, one of the most prolific publishers in the Muslim world, gave proudly secularist France a scare in January 2007 by mass-mailing thousands of free copies of his “Atlas of Creation” to schools and libraries across the country.
The Education Ministry quickly ordered headmasters to seize and hide copies of the large format book. It followed up with a special seminar to train teachers how to counter a small but growing group of pupils who challenge evolution with creationist theories. In October 2007, with strong French support, the Council of Europe denounced the creationist views laid out in the “Atlas of Creation” as a religious assault on science and human rights.
“People who defend evolution can’t accept the existence of a Creator,” Sadun said at La Reussite (“Success”), one of the few Muslim-run private schools in France.
“Life is not the result of chance, it’s the creation of a higher power, which of course is Allah,” he said in fluent French, adding that the confiscation of the “Atlas of Creation” was similar to book-burnings staged by the Nazis in the 1930s.
A teacher at the La Reussite meeting said French educators called him an Islamic fundamentalist for his creationist views, but he thought they were actually secularist fundamentalists.
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A college dropout and Muslim convert who threatened the creators of the “South Park” cartoon series and then tried to join an al-Qaida-linked terror group in Somalia was sentenced Thursday to 25 years in prison.
Zachary A. Chesser, 21, of Bristow, Va., pleaded guilty last year to supporting the al-Shabab terrorist group in Somalia and posting online threats against the “South Park” creators for an episode that he perceived as insulting to the prophet Muhammad.
Chesser’s lawyer portrayed his client as a drifting teenager who latched on to activities and philosophies with a freakish intensity. Before Chesser converted to Islam, he participated in high school sports and later joined a Korean breakdancing team at his school. He spent years as a vegetarian and dabbled in Buddhism. He became so fascinated with Japanese anime that he spent four years studying Japanese and traveled to Japan on a school trip.
And, when he became infatuated during his senior year with a Muslim girl, he converted to Islam. He quickly drifted toward a radical, fundamentalist interpretation of the religion.
After a young Muslim girl published on YouTube a video by a Facebook group called “no all’ Islam in Italia” (No Islam in Italy), and her warnings of the video’s clear incitements to racial hatred against Muslims, the group has been banned from Facebook. The article’s author accuses Facebook authorities of their treatment of Muslims with kid’s gloves and favoring them over other categories. He denounces the fact that it has become virtually impossible to criticize Islam or to participate in a public debate on it. He thinks this “two weights two measures” approach is unfair since there are a lot of fundamentalist groups who preach against the West and Christianity on the Internet without being subject to equivalent control. The group however will continue its mission that, according to the members, seeks to create local platforms for discussion without falling into political propaganda.
The Egyptian philosopher and theologian Nasr Abu Zayd, participated at the event “The Dialogue Among Cultures” organized by Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies and Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations the 2nd of March in Pisa, Italy. Abu Zayd proposes a humanistic interpretation of the Qur’an challenging the fundamentalist and dogmatic interpretation of the holy book. Due to his position, he had to abandon Egypt and move to The Netherlands where he teaches at the university of Utrecht. Abu Zayd’s thesis is that the Qur’an is not just a text, but mainly a plurality of discourses that need to be interpreted. The Qur’an, from his point of view, is a recitation and, as such, it was originally addressed to a multiplicity of recipients and is constituted by a plurality of voices. Moreover, it encompasses different types of discourses: dialogical, polemic, exclusive, inclusive and many others. He claims that overemphasizing the divine element brought to the preponderance of the literal interpretation in light of which many historical decisions were taken for divine injunctions. He defends the human dimension incorporated in the structure of the Qur’an and, consequently, a humanistic hermeneutics of it. Adopting this perspective will demonstrate to Muslims that issues such as modernity and democracy should be discussed independently from theological or juridical limit. At the moment, he is committed in setting up a net of people, intellectuals and not intellectuals, devoted to encourage autonomous thinking in the Muslim world.
From December 25, 2009, there has been ample news coverage in the UK on the attempted terrorist attack on a flight to Detroit, as the alleged bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had formerly been a student at University College in London. News reports try to uncover whether Abdulmutallab had always held fundamentalist views or whether he adopted them in London, during his studies 2005-2008 or only afterwards while in Yemen.
Some claim that Abdulmutallab had reached out to extremists that were under MI5 surveillance during his studies. On the other hand he served as president to the Islamic Society of University College, with the majority of such societies being very mainstream, cooperative and pursuing inter-faith dialogue. Then again, this particular Islamic Society organized some events with controversial speakers during Abdulmutallab’s presidency, for instance a strong homophobic speaker, and had disputes with the university’s Jewish society over the definition of anti-Semitism. The Federation of Islamic Societies has expressed their shock about the incidence, but also demanded that Islamic Societies at universities not be condemned across-the-board.
In London, Abdulmutallab also attended a mosque in central London, Goodge Street. This is run by the Saudi-based organisation Muslim World League, which promulgates a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam, but has repeatedly condemned terrorism. It is most probable that a variety of sources for Abdulmutallab’s radicalisation will be found, and that some of them are British, while their actual influence has been underestimated by security services.
When two young British Muslims debate whether or not it is religiously permissible to wish their neighbors a “happy Christmas”, this indicates an ideological battle between prominent Sunni scholars of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, fought over in the UK.
Such a debate would have been almost unthinkable in London two decades ago. But today it is frequently the internet that young Muslims turn to when looking for spiritual advice. And what they find in cyberspace is often shockingly intolerant. “Do not congratulate [the unbeliever] on their festivals in any way whatsoever,” warns one prominent site. “That implies approval of their festival and not denouncing them.”
While the real world provides a vast array of interpretations from a variety of Islamic schools, more often than not it is the intolerant strands of Islam taught by Saudi Arabia’s fundamentalist Wahabi scholars that dominate online. Backed by billions of petrodollars and an army of tech-savvy graduates who are more than capable of capturing the YouTube generation’s imagination, the internet has long been a stronghold for the most intolerant forms of Islam.
But now, as the Hajj gets under way in Mecca, one of the world’s oldest Islamic institutions has come to Britain to remind young Muslims who might be tempted by the Wahabi rhetoric that there is an alternative way to worship. Scholars from Al-Azhar in Cairo have been touring Britain’s mosques to launch a new online book of fatwas (Islamic judgments) which directly challenge the Saudi way of thinking.
The 200-page book, entitled “The Response” and published by the Islamic Hotline Service, has been available in the Middle East in Arabic for two years but this is the first time a comprehensive list of some of the most commonly asked questions encountered by Al-Azhar’s scholars has been available in English, and equally importantly, Urdu, the national language of Pakistan. The issues answered in the book range from whether the Earth revolves around the Sun (Sheikh Ibn Baaz, Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti during the 1990s, insisted that the Sun revolved around the Earth) to whether a Muslim is allowed to perform magic tricks (Wahabis forbid it).
According to a study released by the Dutch National Coordinator for Counterterrorism (NCTB), extreme-right youth strongly define themselves against Muslims, while fundamentalist Muslim youth barely bother with the right-radical subculture. The survey also suggests non-Muslim youth think, on average, more negatively of Muslims than the reverse.
The study was conducted by the Universities of Amsterdam and Utrecht for the NCTB, to investigate why youth radicalize. It included interviews with extreme-right and fundamentalist Muslim youth, as well as an internet survey of over 1300 13-21 year olds.
The survey notes that Muslim youth experience “symbolic threat” while extreme-right youth experience a more “concrete” danger. Neither group radicalizes because of perceived individual lack of opportunity, responding rather to feelings of injustice for their “own group”. Both groups reject terrorism but tend more strongly towards violence when they feel the system of authority is not legitimate.
This documentary shows the increasing fundamentalism in Belgium among Muslim youth. A young female researcher has conducted covert research in Molenbeek, Brussels, and discovered strong Islamisation and isolation of the Muslim community, and to a strong extend also among young women.
This Le Figaro report suggests that both moderate and radical Muslims in France seek support on the web, that the Imam is only one of many possible guides. While it offers a place for more fundamentalist interpretations like Salafism from Saudi Arabia, the internet is also revolutionizing Muslim thought.
As Jocelyne Cesari, a scholar of Islam at Harvard University, explains, the web allows access to a multitude of perspectives, from orthodox positions to those from outsiders or liberals. This range is apparent on topics as broad as veiling to translations of the Koran. This “democratization” of the sacred text has allowed a greater number of interlocutors on all matters related to Islam.
Thousands of polygamous marriages have sprung up throughout Italy, as a by-product of fast and voluminous immigration of Muslims to the country. Souad Sbai, a Moroccan-born Italian lawmaker believes that Italy has turned a blind eye to the phenomenon. It is absurd that in a civilized country like Italy, so little is acknowledged about this, says Sbai. Sbai estimates that 14,000 polygamous families live in Italy, while other estimates put the number higher. Sbai is convinced that Muslim polygamists in Italy practice a more fundamentalist and abusive form of marriage, often imprisoning women and confining them to a life of solitude, wholly dependant on their husband. Many of these polygamous families take advantage of the orfi marriage – a less formal union that is performed by an imam, which does not carry the same social and legal standing as a lawful marriage.