The massacre of schoolchildren and other innocent people at Beslan by Chechen terrorists has once again brought the dangers posed by Islam to the forefront and it is high time to tackle this problem.
It is not enough to identify the perpetrators of the particular crime; it is time to solve the larger problem of the violent nature of Islamic societies.
While taking power away from religious leaders is part of the solution, the other part lies in converting Islamic countries into multicultural societies as this is bound to temper them down. History teaches us that this method worked in the United States. Laws against segregation broke down racial barriers. While the anti-slavery laws gave rise to the discriminatory Jim Crow laws, the removal of segregation exposed people to other races and changed attitudes. Similarly, merely changing governments in Islamic countries is unlikely to work, but social change is likely to help reform these societies.
Islamic countries deny citizenship and other basic rights to foreigners who live and work in them. Integrating these foreign workers into the mainstream of the countries in which they live will make the people of these countries respectful of diverse cultures. Since the workers already live in these countries, the process of assimilation will be peaceful in nature.
Muslims do not treat others the same way they expect others to treat them. Muslims in the American state of Michigan loudly demanded that they be allowed to broadcast prayers from a mosque over a loudspeaker, protested any discussion over the issue and got the local government to give in to their demands. However, people of other religions in Islamic countries do not have any freedom to worship as they please. When France proposed a law to ban headscarves in public schools, Saudi Arabia’s highest religious authority, Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh called it an “infringement of human rights,” but within a week after that, he gave a stern warning to women who did not wear veils at an economic conference at Jeddah.
Over the years, even though Muslims as well as others judged non-Islamic countries based on the implementation of the concept of separation of religion and state, Islamic countries were allowed to become fundamentalist in nature. Indeed, the first country formed based on a religion – Pakistan – is a country meant for Muslims who refused to live peacefully with people of other religions. In other places where Muslims form a minority, they have demanded the right to secede and set up a theocracy on the basis that they are Muslims.
It is no secret that many Muslims harbor the desire to change the demography of the world and make it predominantly Islamic in nature. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are already active in making this dream come true. These countries make sure that they have safe sanctuaries to further the growth of their fundamentalist ideology while they expect other countries to be open to them and embrace multiculturalism. The world must reject the existence of such exclusive territories that are breeding grounds for Islamic fanaticism.
When South Africa practiced apartheid, many countries boycotted it, but there is no such pressure on Islamic countries to reform. There is no reason that Islamic countries should get away with gross violation of human rights and utter disregard for ideas like freedom, immigration by non-Muslims, scientific progress, respect for women and equality of races.
It is often pointed out that Islam and liberty are incompatible or that democratic systems cannot survive in Islamic countries. Islamic societies are bound to change if they become pluralistic in nature. Voltaire, the French philosopher, was not too far off the mark when he wrote in his letter on that England would have to fear despotism if it had just one religion, that they would cut each other’s throats if it had two, but there were thirty of them and so the people lived in peace and happiness.
Any attempt to take power away from the religious leaders without changing the demographic structure is bound to fail, as fanatic religious leaders who advocate violence will crop up like hydra-headed monsters in territories where fundamentalists have a free reign. The international community should ask the Islamic countries to reform and open up their countries to immigration. A change in the demography of Islamic countries is bound to benefit everyone, most of all the Muslims who will become free from the clutches of authoritarian rulers and will progress.