Are Modern Muslim Fatwas Fueling Islamic Extremism?

Muslim Fatwas, the religious dictates issued by the preachers, often lead to hot debates regarding their relevance in modern democratic societies, particularly in cosmopolitan societies. While followers of most other religions have begun to balance such dictates with rationality, these dictates are still hold in high esteem in Islamic communities, leading to arguments that they fuel communalism and even extremism.
Are Modern Muslim Fatwas Fueling Islamic Extremism?
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Modern cosmopolitan societies are based on certain broadly accepted social values and human rights that allow humanity to peacefully co-exist harmoniously, in a manner that everyone is able to enjoy the fruits of the human civilization. While common denominators like religion, language and culture can play very useful role in strengthening the bonds of relationship, when taken to extremes at the detriment of the society as a whole, they divide the people – leading to communal divisions of the society, laying down the seeds of communal and sectarian conflicts.

This makes it important for people to choose humanity, harmony and peace

over communalism and sectarianism.

The Line Separating Religion from Communalism

There is a very thin line between religion and communalism. While religion is a matter of personal faith and belief, an individual's very personal identification with spirituality and his or her para-physical relationship with the almighty power of the universe, communalism is a political formation of groups of people with like-minded beliefs. Communalism is therefore not a spiritual activity, but a political process that uses, or to express it correctly, misuses religion to serve the ends of political power.

While religion is a very holy domain, and a very private one as well, communal groups are neither holy nor private. They are invariably characterized by a hierarchy, where certain aspirants of power hold a much higher and stronger position in dictating the actions of the group.  Sometimes, those who become leaders of religion are themselves not power hungry, but instead become tools in the hands of some other ‘behind the curtain’ kingmakers who actually use them for their own ends.

What are Fatwas?

Fatwas by Muslim religious leaders are not very different from declarations and dictates that used to be issued by leaders of other religious leaders during the course of human history. No religion has ever been immune from them, but followers of most other religions have successfully curbed their own vulnerability to be used as pawns in this

game of power. The history of religious renaissance of every single religion has the same story. The best example of curbing these political tendencies in the name of religion is provided by the separation of the state from the Church in Europe.

All such dictates are dangerous, irrespective of religion, for they are often issued by those who want to ensure that their grip on their followers is not weakened by rationality, logic or tolerance for others. Fatwas do the same. They virtually create a parallel authority of governing the conduct of their people, and by using it in the name of religion, it become a tool to ascertain its supremacy over the rulers and the governments. What is worst, it is often, though not always, used to kindle hate and aggression, and thereby promote intolerance, rigidity and extremism.

Will Rationalism Enter Islam Too?

While followers of most other religions have seen through this game of power, and revolted against its use, unfortunately the same is yet to happen in case of Muslim communities. The lack of democracy in the nerve center of Islam has prevented free expression, stifled logic and allowed irrationality, aggression and hate to prosper. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has mutely been an indifferent spectator to this irony. What is even more pathetic is that a large part of the world is now trying to struggle against the manifestations of this extremism, without understanding that the root cause of the whole problem lies within the religious, or communal structure of Muslim hierarchy where a holy religion has been hijacked by power hungry elements, who have little concern for lives or welfare, and who have got the whole community caught in a self-woven web of distrust. 

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