Friday, August 31, 2007

Islamic Warriors of God

CNN's, second program in its series, God's Warriors, focused on Islamic warriors --those who come to mind when the average America hears the word -- terrorists.

The photos (clockwise) are two sisters holding
a poster glorifying their brother who martyred himself for Islam. All members of the family felt pride in what the brother did. Martyrdom is considered a holy act -- not a despicable act of terror. The second photo is of Cairo, a city of over 12 million, which many consider the heart of Islam. Third, a quiet street in Tehran, quiet because of the Holy Day, Ashura, which commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Mohammed in 680 A.D.

Fundamentalist Muslims see the cultural and political expansion of Western, especially American influence throughout the world as endangering the religious ethos and morals of Islam. This is why the U.S. is seen as The Great Satan that threatens the purity and purpose of Islam, which in turn is seen as the religion which God wishes all the world to belong.
They resent any attempts to "tamper" with Muslim countries in ways that weaken Islamic culture and faith.

They see this political and cultural influence as an invasion of Islam. The Koran clearly states that when Islam and Muslims are threated --- Muslims may wage war.

It seems that younger Muslims, even those who live in Western countries, are more interested than some of their elders in practicing Islam. Young women are voluntarily moving towards modest dress for women ranging from the all enclosing hijab to a simple head scarf.

Fifteen millions Muslims live in Europe and their birthrate is three times that of
traditional Europeans. Europe has three times more Muslims than the United States and this affects many things including foreign policy. For example, there are seven million Muslims in France in contrast to the 700,000 Jews living there. France's foreign policy cannot help but be affected. They must be wary of inflaming their large and growing immigrant community.

There is no question that the poverty and lack of opportunity in many Muslim countries helps to promote radicalization of young men. In times of crisis many, and not just the young, take greater interest in their faith.

Islam is the fastest growing religious tradition in the world with an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims in 2007.

The program spent time in the Netherlands, a small country, with one of the highest population densities. The influx of Muslim immigrants into Europe, especially Western Europe including Britain has been a cause of conflict, turmoil and, at times, violence.
Why? Culture and Religious Clash. Europe has been predominantly Christian, although progressively over the years -- more secular. Most Muslims are devout, serious about their faith, its teachings and moral strictures. They tend to build large mosques -- when they can afford them. In some Dutch cities -- the mosques are taller and larger than the Christian churches. The Dutch according to a recent poll are --
Religion atheist 39%, Roman Catholic 31%, Dutch Reformed Church 14%, Calvinist 8%. ( This source did not list the Muslim percentage, but they are rapidly growing. Most of them are lower income people.

The Dutch, in general, fear that their identity as a people is being diluted; their values compromised; their landscape changed; their emotional comfort level negatively impacted.
They pride themselves, generally, are being one of the most liberal, secular, open societies in Europe. These very qualities put them in conflict with most Muslim immigrants who are conservative in values and morals; very religious and not open to much outside influence.

These factors have led to the rise of Dutch far right political parties: anti-immigration; law and order oriented; nationalistic.

A fairly recent incident shows what a tinder box the placid Netherlands has become.
Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh, a distant relative of Vincent van Gogh, was murdered by an Islamic "warrior of God". Van Gogh was riding his bike home when attacked. He was stabbled in the chest and his throat was slit almost decapitating him. Attached to van Gogh's body was a five page letter in both Arabic and Dutch explaining the murder. Part of it spoke of a threat of jihad against the West. The man charged with murder said in his note:
"I surely know that you, Oh Europe, will be destroyed."

Theo van Gogh was a libertarian, a film and television producer, news columnist and very controversial. He took strong stands. The possible act of van Gogh that brought about his death was a motion picture he made with the help of liberal Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali refugee who fled an arranged marriage. (This woman, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, has received many death threats from Islamic warriors of God -- and lives her life under constant 24-7 police guard.

The film Submission told the story of a Muslim woman forced into an arranged marriage who is abused by her husband and raped by her uncle. It triggered an outcry from Dutch Muslims.

In one scene the film showed an actress in see-through garments with Koranic script written on her body, which also bore whip marks. (from the BBC online:

The Netherlands is home to nearly one million Muslims or 5.5% of the population.

France has the largest Muslim population because Algeria, a Muslim nation was at one time France's colony.