Monday, March 31, 2008

Fitna and the Vatican

As a seventh or eighth grader, I was trying to challenge my history teacher who was telling the class that Islam had spread in its early years from the Arabian Peninsula with the force of the sword. I attended Iranzamin, an international school in Tehran, our lecturers were American or European and most of our textbooks, including the history book our teacher was referring to, was American.

The textbook said exactly the same thing; that Islam had spread not due to the belief and conversion of people who had got the reviving message and were persecuted by their rulers and tyrants, but by force of the sword. A commonplace evident distortion of history by Christian historians, reflects the policy of denial that was practiced for a long time.

That history book was full of references to the merits of the Roman Civilization and excessive references to the services that European civilization had rendered to humanity and of course the American civilization. Very little, if any, mention was made of the great services that Islamic scholars, scientists, artists and leaders had provided. That was back in 1974.

Today, there is more understanding and recognition of the Islamic civilization in many dimensions, there are many sincere attempts on behalf of Christian authorities and scholars to appreciate the role of Islamic culture in the scientific, technological, social and political advancement of the human civilization.

Yet, there still are malevolent attempts to incite religious hatred and to depict a distorted image of Islam for the world. There seems to be a well orchestrated ongoing effort to portray Islam as a religion of violence, hatred and revenge. The film "Fitna" by Dutch far-right MP Geert Wilders, which features images of attacks in New York and Madrid intertwined with recitations from the Holy Quran, has provoked widespread condemnation.

I saw the film on the internet last night. It is very unfortunate that under the disguise of freedom of speech, which is a highly valued principle, a European politician would go to the extremes of insulting a divine religion known to be the fastest growing religion on earth.

The coincidence of the news given by Monsignor Vittorio Formenti, the compiler of the Annuario Pontificio, the Vatican yearbook is striking. He said "For the first time in history, we are no longer at the top: Muslims have overtaken us." He added that figures for 2006 showed that Catholics accounted for 17.4 per cent of the world population while Muslims accounted for 19.2 per cent.

Asked for an explanation Monsignor Formenti observed that "While Muslim families, as is well known, continue to make a lot of children, Christian ones on the contrary tend to have fewer and fewer". He said the figure for the Muslim global population was derived from data submitted to the United Nations by Muslim countries. He did not mention the high number of converts particularly in European countries.

I think there is an ongoing effort to create tensions leading to a collision course between Muslim and Christian societies who have been living together in peace for centuries. Muslims in Europe are emerging as a reality that has to be dealt with in a just and dignified manner. Up to now they have been generally excluded from the political and economic processes of their societies. Contrary to Iran, where religious minorities have a quota in the Parliament, Muslims lack any political representation in many European countries although they have strong minorities. These populations are mostly peaceful, law abiding and hardworking citizens.

The Fitna is a test for the values of democracy, tolerance and respect for diversity of opinions that Europeans claim to cherish and promote.


Tom's adventures said...

Thank you mrs Ebtekar for your words. I'm Dutch myself and I am also very worried about the ongoing polarisation which is taking place in the world nowadays. Actually, we checked the knowledge among the people of Iran about this Dutch MP, and this is the result (partly in Dutch):

Anonymous said...

You cite no information supporting the non violent spread of islam, which there is little of. Of course it is difficult to find for a reason isn't it? And it should be noted that European histories don't focus on the violence of islam, they ignore it completely. I was taught that the Roman Empire was the largest in history but the caliphate was far larger and easily the largest in south central Asia. It is noted that it ended its expansion on the fields of France and upon the city walls of Vienna but only in passing. The caliphate destroyed Byzantium and divided eastern and western Europe as a result. How can Eastern Slavs every trust westerners now when we turned a blind eye to their destruction? Believe me when I tell you that this was never addressed in our history books. Islam destroyed nation after nation, wiping Christianity from the face of northern Africa. In our pathetic history books it is noted as being a period of unrest and instability in Europe. In the end Spain was retaken and the turks were repelled and all was well. In reality Europe was being assaulted, most European powers had written eastern Europe off as lost and Columbus wasn't off to discover new lands but was looking for a trade route to China and India that didn't include Muslims. The fact that they found lands in between Europe and China was an initial frustration which turned out to be boon as it gave European civilization some where to retreat too, but don't tell them that... they were in control the entire time. They are deluded, we are most definitely not. Our lands are not being overrun by "refugees" from the middle east as Europe is but by those afflicted by islamic policy and they are starting to be listened too.

Give me Liberty, or Give me Death said...

The truth hurts. It is interesting that you would use the term "unfortunate" in describing Mr. Wilder's film. I have seen it, and agree with his "statement." I have also read Mark Bowden's book about your part in the hostage crisis of 1979. To say that Islam is a peaceful religion is akin to saying that the holocaust of WWII never happened.

Anonymous said...

Why should we fear insulting something that is fast growing. Cancer grows quickly as well.