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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 29 Dec 2015, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Religious Extremism or Extremely Religious; A Feminine Perspective




By Inas Younis, New Age Islam

30 December 2015

Headline: Extremist Peace Lovers Unleash Violent Acts of Kindness on the World.  Famous comedian responds, “You could easily spot any religion of peace. Its extremist members would be extremely peaceful.” His point of course, is that there is no such thing as moderate or extreme peace. Peace, like all religious principles does not require hyphenations. It is what it is. And since religion deals with the infinite part of human existence, it too should be immune to extremism. Once religion becomes extreme, it is no longer religion but a secular ideology. It changes nature the minute it steps out of its own atmosphere. But the restraints imposed by religion are not the only factor that keeps true men of God from becoming extremists. Reality also has something to say about the matter.

Extremism is a largely secular phenomenon, because extremism is actually a necessary condition to the application of natural law. The laws of physics do not change and one must be extreme and precise in applying them. A mathematical equation has only one answer, and an approximation no matter how close is not close enough.  One cannot be moderately dead, or moderately pregnant. And when a tree falls in the forest it does make a sound, even if no one is there to hear it.

In the secular world our perceptions are irrelevant. In the secular world logic rules and all of existence is the result of an extreme commitment to order and precision. Religious extremism is no exception to this process. Religious extremism is really just the unsuccessful attempt at applying static laws to fluid timeless principles; an attempt that is both futile and fatal.

The desire to apply mathematical-like logic to govern a man’s consciousness stems from the masculine need for objectivity.  Men function best in the physical realm because it is something they can master as masters of the material world. Men do not fare well in a world of ambiguity, and so it is tempting to reduce religion to the black and white formulas of science.

We often get defensive when we are told that our religion is full of contradictions, forgetting that the built in contradictions in religion, or what we euphemistically refer to as paradox, are injected to preserve the integrity of a thinking mind. They are there to provide us with flexibility. For example, we are called to make peace and make war. Turn the other cheek, but slap them with the other hand. Say yes to chastity and oh yes to sex. Choose mercy and choose justice. Accept that good deeds will save us but ultimately concede that its God’s will and not our actions that lead to our salvation. We must believe in free will and predestination. In order for man to negotiate his way through these, the paradoxes of religious jurisprudence, he must evolve the capacity to think abstractly.  He must be able to integrate concepts and apply them to various contexts. To be religious is to be intelligent. To be religious does not mean to have an open mind, because those can be just as dangerous as closed ones. It means that you must have an active working gushing moving feeling one. To be religious means to be alive. Extremism on the other hand, is the negation of all such emotional considerations in the interest of social order at any cost.

All the various manifestations of extremism are clearly not driven by God or religion but by a man’s desperate need to prove that he can control the one thing that refuses to submit to static laws of nature- human consciousness. Extremists do not desire worldly pleasure, they desire predictability. Whether it’s a psychiatric condition or a politically induced one, anxiety and fear is at the root of all forms of extremism.

The tragic irony is that the greatest antidote to religious extremism is in fact religion itself. And we have made a terrible mistake in calling a man with a secular ideology, like Hitler, evil. But we refer to a man with similar designs, as a Muslim extremist. By associating extremism with religion, we may have neutralized the only power that can vaccinate men from this proclivity. And although we moderates are not responsible for the rise in extremism, we are in fact responsible for solidifying this association even in our own minds. For one thing, we have remained fixated on the mechanics of religious observance at a time when love and compassion should have been taking precedence. We have relinquished the spiritual ambiance of a religion that promises infinite possibilities to the daily drum rolls of religious limitations and opportunistic politicking.  But even worse, we have made the mistake of equating moderation with social liberalism and relaxed religious observance, which has made some buy into the conservative smear campaigns against us.

A moderate is not a person for whom anything goes. A moderate is a person who honours pluralism and creative tension as a precondition to our social and spiritual evolution. A moderate person is uncomfortable with the status quo because he has surrendered himself to God, and does not feel the impulse to accrue social capital or achieve status by association. To be moderate does not mean being washy washy.  On the contrary, it means being very firm in the belief that freedom of conscience cannot co exist with any institutionalized forms of coercion or psychological intimidation of any kind. Where moderates have failed, is in not appropriating enough juridical authority to officially make this case.

So until we iron things out to the extent that we have an identity that is impervious to the emotional blackmail of some of our co religionists, we should not be peaceful, but always struggling, always negotiating, always growing.  We should never be peaceful but we should always be at peace, with one another and with ourselves.  And peace be with you.

Inas Younis is a freelance writer residing in Kansas. She has written for Muslim Girl Magazine and her work was featured in the anthology Living Islam Out Loud. She contributed this article to New Age Islam.

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/inas-younis,-new-age-islam/religious-extremism-or-extremely-religious;-a-feminine-perspective/d/105799


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  • 12 .
    There is a metaphysical way of interpreting everything in religion.  Whether it happened is less relevant than what it means.  

       Faith is not a choice, but humility is.  Choose to be humble and you will experience faith. And that  experience will  register as evidence in the mind of anyone with five senses.  But you cannot believe in God without connecting with him. A spiritual practice is as fundamental to a relationship with God as language is in a relationship between two people. Religion is a spiritual practice.  You can't make religion up anymore than you can make up a language just for yourself and expect your partner to understand you.  You must first teach it to her.  Teach her the alphabet you invented.  God has taught us the alphabet,  now we must write him our love letters. 

    Religious principles are informing your secular ideology whether you are conscious of it or not.  If you get hung up on the historical and the horrors of humanity, you are employing the same interpretive strategy that literalists who resort to violence are.  In other words, you are perceiving religion with the same lens as the haters and rightfully choosing to opt out. They are merely opting IN. But both of you are seeing through the same warped lens and deciding that religion is evil. They simply are acting on that evil.  And kudos to you for not acting on it.  But you should consider looking at things from a completely different angle.  Because if i were to look at them from your vantage point , then i would totally agree with you.  
    By inasy 04/01/2016 22:27:44
  • 11 .
    Dear Inas:

    I was hoping to discuss the foundation level first; every religion is man-made and has no divine value to it; thousands of prophets have arrived with same package based on fear and greed, some did better than others. Islam recognizes the Torah (Moses), the Zabur (David) and the Injeel (Gospel) (Christ) because they all provided a version of monotheism. Now if you believe that Moses came back from mountain with a tablet, Jesus flew after he was crucified and Muhammad went to a cave and spoke to angles then you must also believe in Santa Claus.
    Please allow me to share a passage form my upcoming book Taming the Belief: "If we were to communicate with a bat and ask about what she sees, she will respond with question, what do we hear. If you are believer then you have shut off all senses to hear any other view point and that is the basis of discord between believers and between believers and atheists or agnostics."

    Religions are political attempts to dominate people, create dominions and the only way it can succeed is by creating common enemies; why would there be a religious dispute between a Jew and a Muslim? It is beyond territorial, it is emotional. So, the way it works is to appeal to the most basic instincts and insecurities of man--survival and procreation, both generically programmed. Teaching of hating others, which are abundant in every religious text, gives us the vent for our barbarism; the fear (not love) of a Being who loves the smell of burning flesh works because we know how fire hurts; and finally, the perpetual rewards that we all desire because we know that our lives are limited. Religions that have gone mild on any of these recipes never thrived.

    And now beyond foundation; it is true that for the masses, the religion offered an opium they need to be civilized but that was a story a century ago; today, we live in a civilized society, where we have learned to respect others not because of fear of God but because of our love for each other. There is no longer a need to fall back on the few morsels of morality taught by a religion on the shoulders of heavy hatred and destruction that all successful regions teach.

    The problem I face is that a believer is more likely to have a bat's vision and that closes doors to a constructive discussion and I do not see that changing soon. We cannot begin by quoting a religious text, which in itself is disputed between the parties.

    Best wishes for a brand new year.
    By Sarfaraz K. Niazi 04/01/2016 09:58:52
  • 10 .
    All religions properly understood are applications of natural law within a particular social context.  As Nasser said , Islam does not claim dominion.  All religions deal with rationality and reality. In fact they deal with the reality of that big universe as opposed to the little one that hard core radical rationalists cling to.  Religion deals with the reality of the unseen,  the undeniably transcend nature of the human spirit,  the sensations and demands of an eternal soul.  Religion deals with the reality that beneath the illusion of the ego mind is a divine prescience.  Religion does deal with the bigger reality.  And if man were exclusively rational his impulse to survive physically would override his impulse to risk his life to do what is right.  And the latter is a function of a person who believes in a transcendent reality.  Rationality,  as in complete logic unmitigated by the kind of compassion that stems from the "irrationality" of  religious teachings,  is logic that will become subservient to the ideals of social engineering. Evil is pure blind logic. There are golden eras in history made golden by religion.  What we are discussing when we talk about violence,  is human beings,  and not abstractions.  Human beings can become violent and if they can't find a God to sanction their lust for aggression,  they will create one and call him logic, or society, or ecology or a demagogue. Without religion proper,  what rational argument can you possibly impose against the very logical response people have against their own persecution,. Religion puts a stop to that cycle.   When the pious  Omar Mukhtar liberated the Libyians from Italian colonization.  He was asked why he was so kind to his prisoners after they had been so brutal to us?  And he replied "they are not our teachers." That was not rationality at work there,  that was a compassion born out of faith that God is the ultimate judge: 
    By Inasy 03/01/2016 08:17:22
  • 9 .
    All religions properly understood are applications of natural law within a particular social context.  As Nasser said , Islam does not claim dominion.  All religions deal with rationality and reality. In fact they deal with the reality of that big universe as opposed to the little one that hard core radical rationalists cling to.  Religion deals with the reality of the unseen,  the undeniably transcend nature of the human spirit,  the sensations and demands of an eternal soul.  Religion deals with the reality that beneath the illusion of the ego mind is a divine prescience.  Religion does deal with the bigger reality.  And if man were exclusively rational his impulse to survive physically would override his impulse to risk his life to do what is right.  And the latter is a function of a person who believes in a transcendent reality.  Rationality,  as in complete logic unmitigated by the kind of compassion that stems from the "irrationality" of  religious teachings,  is logic that will become subservient to the ideals of social engineering. Evil is pure blind logic. There are golden eras in history made golden by religion.  What we are discussing when we talk about violence,  is human beings,  and not abstractions.  Human beings can become violent and if they can't find a God to sanction their lust for aggression,  they will create one and call him logic, or society, or ecology or a demagogue. Without religion proper,  what rational argument can you possibly impose against the very logical response people have against their own persecution,. Religion puts a stop to that cycle.   When the pious  Omar Mukhtar liberated the Libyians from Italian colonization.  He was asked why he was so kind to his prisoners after they had been so brutal to us?  And he replied "they are not our teachers." That was not rationality at work there,  that was a compassion born out of faith that God is the ultimate judge: 
    By Inasy 03/01/2016 08:17:20
  • 8 .
    Sarfaraz Niazi asks "How many religions are there?"

    What can be truthfully said is that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) never claimed that he had brought a new religion and the Quran makes a connection with the previous Prophets and their teachings all of whom taught the same religion of Islam (submission to Allah) and were Muslimeen (those who willingly submitted to Allah). The differences in rituals make no difference. For example, the Christians turn towards East, the Jews towards Jerusalem and the Muslims towards Kaba in their prayers and the Quran clearly says in verse 2:177 that the differences of a ritualistic nature do not matter at all. In fact the Quran not only celebrates diversity but makes clear that diversity is divinely decreed as a blessing. Read:

    He further says: "rationality requires that we do not start with a pre-conceived notion"

    I am afraid that his views on religion shows a lack of rationality and pre-conceived notions about religion. He may read:

    Religion as a Civilizing Influence

    and

    Is There A Rational Basis For The Atheists To Oppose Religion?

    I however agree that the followers of Muhammad (pbuh) have claimed sole rights to the religion of Islam and on being called Muslims but it must be recognized that this runs counter to the message of the Quran and to the Prophet's teachings.



    By Naseer Ahmed 03/01/2016 05:37:01