Sunday, February 25, 2007

Fanatics demand, we concede.
(Disturbing) Excerpt:

Strangely, while the practitioners of Islamic fundamentalism insist it is their right to be fanatical about their faith, they are unwilling to allow those who subscribe to other faiths similar fanaticism. I recall getting into an argument with the venerable editor of an Arabic magazine, published from Cairo, over lunch at India House while the Ambassador looked increasingly alarmed. The editor, an accomplished man who had spent the better part of his life in Paris and was no fire-breathing Islamist zealot, was remarkably passionate in his defence of Islamic fundamentalism and fundamentalists. "We don't just believe in Islam, we practice it. And only when we practice the fundamentals of Islam can we claim to be good Muslims. If those fundamentals make us fundamentalists, so be it. And if those fundamentals militate against what others believe in, it is the others who must compromise on their beliefs and accommodate our fundamentalism," he said, his voice, stridently shrill, rising with each sentence. My post-lunch notes also refer to some other points made by him, but they are not really germane to the issue.

If Islamic fundamentalism is justified, then so is Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism and Hindu fundamentalism, I suggested to him, half in jest, mindful that it was an official lunch. "No. No other religion demands of its followers to be fundamentalists. They can't just decide to be fanatical about their faith. Fundamentalism of any other variety is wrong and unacceptable," he asserted. In brief, in the cloistered world of fundamentalist Islam, everything else is wrong, including legitimate criticism of Islamic fanaticism that rejects rational, secular politics but expects accommodation and compromise, both on its terms.

Seen from the perspective of those who subscribe to - and defend - fundamentalist Islam and the fanaticism that it breeds, it is perfectly alright to use textbooks in schools that denigrate other faiths. Hence, King Fahad Academy in London uses books that teach Muslim children Jews are "repugnant" and Christians are "pigs". Hindus, being 'kafirs', do not merit mention in such texts, thank god for small mercies. Hence also the demand that hate speech laws should not apply to Muslims because it is their religious duty to denigrate others, but others do not have the right to either protest against such denigration or question the basis of this presumed right of the fanatics.

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