Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Burning mosques, fasting and the world's extremists

These days it is the Islamic world which typically finds itself on the wrong side of human freedoms. The list of 'taboo' subjects not addressed by most Muslim societies is long. Often the subjects are dominated by issues pertaining to religious orthodoxy and women's rights. Witness the mental energies spent discussing the participation of Saudi Arabian women (two in total) in the 2012 Olympic Games.

Sometimes, however, the shoe is on the opposite foot.
I am not referring only to the Norwegian white supremacist who tragically shot many of his compatriots about one year ago. There are several other instances which beckoned me to write this post.

Consider the firing of four French local government workers for fasting (it is the fasting month of Ramzan for Muslims) during working hours. The town council is managed by the French communist party and it seems communists are as rigid in interpreting Marxist 'Holy Scriptures' as Muslims. However, at least this is not a case of white supremacist ideology but rather a particular version of 'secularist' philosophy.
Farther afield, in the US, circumstances are slightly different.
The shooting of American Sikhs allegedly by a 40 year old US army veteran seems very much like a hate crime. The shooter is apparently a neo-Nazi targeting non-white Americans. Or the mosque burnt to the ground in the state of Missouri. It may be too early to point fingers at white supremacists in the mosque burning incident, however, it is difficult to argue the Muslim place of worship was a random target.

There is no dearth of international 'hate crime' incidents for me to cite. But preparing a longer list serves no useful purpose, other than perhaps providing more empirical evidence. Instead, it is more helpful if to draw some conclusions from the facts.
  1. Islam has no monopoly on extremist nutcases;
  2. Extremists are dangerous, period. Any ideology taken to an extreme and rigidly interpreted is dangerous;
  3. Stopping violent crimes is important but is only one part of the equation. Longer term, addressing the philosophical underpinnings of violent extremism is as important, if not more, in arresting the proliferation of dangerous ideas.
Undoubtedly, the Muslim world has problems with extremist thought. However, the problem is not Islam's alone. Islam's dangerous ideas did not develop in a vacuum. These ideas developed in a post-war world dominated by Western powers often demonstrating brutally arrogant behaviors against ideological opponents, Islamic or otherwise.
Extremists from differing sides of the secularist and / or white supremacist - Islamist divide have a symbiotic relationship which thrives on each others' unreasonableness. After all, politics is not immune from Newton's Third Law of Motion which states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Imran is a business and management consultant. Through his work at Deodar Advisors and the Deodar Diagnostic, Imran improves profits of businesses operating in Singapore and the region. He can be reached at imran@deodaradvisors.com.

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