Why it’s wrong to stereotype Muslims as extremists and fanatics
Most Muslims are conservative but this does not mean they are radicals and, indeed, reformers have traditionally formed a large minority in the Islamic world
By Muhammad Habash
The dominance of conservative Islam in the Middle East reflects a fundamental reality of Muslim society. But this conservatism should not be mistaken for violent radicalism, as America, unfortunately, has done. While conservatism may claim a majority of the "Arab street" (and the Persian street), this does not mean that violence and terrorism will inevitably rule the region.
A recent study published in Damascus by the Center of Islamic Studies pointed out that conservatives make up about 80 percent of the population of the Middle East’s Islamic societies. Reformers make up most of the other 20 percent. Radicals can count on support from no more than 1 percent of the population. In my view, these rough proportions have been stable throughout ten centuries of Islamic history, with slight differences.
Islamic terminology has been established to describe these differences. Radicals first emerged as Khawarij, a fanatical group dating to the first century of Islam, which used accusations of blasphemy — and violence — to suppress even small differences of opinion. Today’s conservatives are known among religious scholars as "People of the Letter" — those who adhere to the letter of the Islamic texts. Reformists, as they are known today, are the equivalent of "People of Intellect."
The difference between Muslim conservatives and reformists can be measured in two ways: their stance on the possibility of making personal judgments on religious matters (known in religious terms as "diligence") and their attitude towards non-Muslims.
Conservatives believe that the revealed law was settled during the glorious days of Islam, and that individual interpretation should therefore be restricted. As a result, they don’t look for new solutions to the problems that Muslims now face. Banks and insurance companies are to be avoided, on the theory that their activities are usurious and thus prohibited. Likewise, head covering for Muslim women is considered a requirement.
For conservatives, Islamic law is based on the Koran and the verified sayings and doings (the Sunnah) of the Prophet Mohammed, as these are unanimously viewed by respected scholars. Thus, conservatives reject democracy, because it subjects the will of God to popular opinion. For them, the ultimate authority within a society is God’s revelation to the people.
Reformists, on the other hand, argue that individual judgment — diligence — is permissible, and that society is empowered to make choices based on contemporary needs, regardless of the opinions of previous religious scholars. Reformists also take an expansive view of religious law (Shariah), incorporating ideas of public welfare within a continually developing legislative process.
Thus, for reformists, banks and insurance companies serve the welfare of society, and this takes precedence over a traditional reading of religious texts. They also adopt a liberal attitude toward women’s head covering, as well as their political participation and travel, which should be determined individually. Finally, reformists see no contradiction between democracy and Islamic teaching, though democracy does conflict with centuries of tradition governing how Muslims actually have been ruled.
As for attitudes toward non-Muslims (or non-practicing Muslims, for that matter), conservatives believe that the coming of Islam abrogated all other religions, while reformists believe that Islam completes other religions, but does not invalidate or disprove them. Conservatives draw their proofs from the texts of the Koran, while reformists argue that the Koran mentions and recognizes both the Old and New Testaments.
In this manner, the reformists reject an Islamic monopoly on salvation, paradise, or the truth. They believe that the ways to God and paradise are numerous. Conservatives, by contrast, are unyielding on this point, believing that there is but one path to God, and that salvation comes only through following Islamic teachings.
However, conservatives do not support the use of violence against non-Muslims. On the contrary, the jurisprudential traditions of Islamic conservatism obligate Muslims to be just in their treatment of non-Muslims. Thus, conservatives and reformists agree that the rights of others should be observed and preserved.
Although radicals represent no more than 1 percent of the Muslim population, their influence is based on the widening effects of their violence and their rejection of compromise. The radicals totally repudiate the Other, and do not see a place for the non-Muslim either in heaven or on Earth. This stance sanctions the use of violence against the Other, whether Christian, Jew, or even other Muslims who do not share their beliefs.
This devotion to violence stands on two legs: radical culture and injustice. When radical culture prevails, it brings people over to violence. And the extremism of radical culture is fueled by the many inequities and grievances that face the peoples of the Middle East.
Unfortunately, Iraq has become a breeding ground for radical Islam, owing to the brutality that the Iraqi people suffered under Saddam Hussein and now at the hands of the occupation forces. But this scenario is not limited to Muslims. Radicalism threatens any society where human dignity is lost and human rights mean nothing.
Muhammad Habash, a member of the Syrian Parliament, is director of the Islamic Studies Center in Damascus.
Paragraph 1~2: brief introducing Islam
Paragraph 3~10: contrast views about tradition between conservatives and reformists
Paragraph 11: compare conservatives and reformists
Paragraph 12~13: discuess radical Islam
Paragraph 14: author’s thought about the relationship among Iraq, radicals, and other societies
indicate that " Muslim <> radicalism "
Muslim = about 80% is conservatives + almost 20% is reformist + lower than 1% is radicals
radicals = a fanatical group
conservatives = people of the letter [Koran]
reformists = people of intellect
differences between conservatives and reformists:
1. position on personal judgement
2. attitude toward non-Muslim
conservatives believe that
1. the law of Islam is so perfect that not necessary to argue it
2. individual interpretation restricted
3. avoid from banks and insurance
4. women have to cover their head
5. reject democracy
6. God’s ( the Sunnah ) authority
reformists believe that:
1. diligence is permissible
2. make choices (which are) based on present time
3. public welfare should have a continually developing legislative process
4. functions of banks and insurances > religious texts said
5. liberal attitude toward women’s head covering, political and travel rights
6. no conflict between democracy and Islam teaching
conservatives : 1,2,3,4,5,6 are contrast to reformists by 2,1,4,5,6,3
attitude toward non-Muslims (contrast)
1. abrogated other religions
2. draw from the Koran
1. completed other religions
2. argue the Koran
contrast conservatives and reformists
conservatives: believe an Islimic monopoly but argue have more than one way to the God
reformists: believe have more than one way to the God but argue Islimic monopoly
compare conservatives and reformist
they all believe that rights of Other should be preserved
radicals: large influence because of violence and rejection of compromise, and repudiate Other.
1. radical culture
2. injustice and inequities
Iraq ~ radical, but radicalism threaten any other society.
Vocabularies: ( English – English )
- dominant = more important, powerful or noticeable than other things
- fanatic = a person who is extremely enthusiastic about sth, or holds extreme or dangerous opinion
- accusation = a statement saying that you think a person is gulity of doing sth wrong, especially of committing a crime
- blasphemy = behavior or language that insults or shows a lack of respect for God or religion
- suppress = (1) to put an end, often by force, to a group or an activity that is believed to threaten authority. (2) to prevent yourself from having or expressing a feeling or an emotion. (3) to prevent sth from growing, developing, or continuing.
- adhere = (1) to behave according to a particular law,rele, set of insteuctions. (2) to follow a particular set of beliefs or a fixed way of doing sth.
- intellect = (1) the ability to think a logical way and understand things, especially at an advanced level; you mind. (2) a very intelligent person.
- stance = the opinions that sb has about sth and expresses publicly.(=position)
- reveal = to make sth known to sb; to show sth that previously could not been seen
- settle = and a argument / decide (arrange) / choose permanent / into comfortable position (state) / come to rest / sink down / pay money
- therefore = used to introduce the logical result of sth that has just been mentioned
- usury = the practices of lending money to people at unfair rates of interest
- verify = to check / show / say that sth is true or accurate
- unanimous = (1) if a decision or an opinion is unanimous, it is agreed or shared by everyone in a group. (2) if a group of people are unanimous, they all agree sth.
- revelation = (1) a fact that people are made aware of, especially are that has been secret and is surprising. (2) the act of making people aware of sth that has been secret. (3) sth that is considered to be a sign or message for God.
- contemporary = belonging to the same time; belonging to the present time; a person who lives or lived at the same time as sb else, especially sb who is about the same time.
- precedence = the condition of being more important than sb else and therefore coming or dealt with first.
- contradiction = (1) to say that sth that sb else has said is wrong, and that the opposite is true. (2) to be so different from each other that one of them must be wrong.
- abrogate = to offically end a law, and argument, etc.
- salvation = (1) the state of being saved from the power of evil. (2) a way of protecting sb from danger, disaster,loss.
- jurisprudence = the scienfic study of law.
- repudiate = (1) to refuce to accept sth (=reject) (2) to say officially and / or publicly that sth is not true. (=deny)
- sanction = to give permission for sth to take place (2) to punish sb / sth
- devotion = (1) great love, care, and support for sb / sth (2) the action of spending a lot of time or energy on sth.
- prevail = (1) to exist or be very common at a particular time or in a particular place to be accepted, especially after a struggle or an argument.
- injustice =
- grievance = sth that you think is unfair and that you complain or protest about.
- brutal = (1) violent and cruel (2) direct and clear about sth umpleasant (3) not thinking of people’s feling
同義字 ( 近義字 / 反義字):
Signal words (location) :
因 => 果：reflects (para 1), As a result (para 5), thus (para 5), Thus (para 11)
果 => 因：because (para 6)
Compare / Contrast：on the other hand (para 7), regardless (para 7), while (para 9), by contrast (para 10), On the contrary (para 10),
承接：Likewise (para 5), Thus (para 6,8), For (para 6), In this manner (para 10),
轉折：But (para 1,14), unfortunately (para 1), However (para 11), Unfortunately (para 14)
作者進來：In my view (para 2)