Extremism, Fundamentalism, Islamism and Jihadism – Understanding the Difference

Although several Muslim countries are democracies – including most notably Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim majority nation – arguments about the incompatibility of Islam and democracy continue. On the one hand, research reveals a positive correlation between the proportion of a country’s population that is Muslim and its propensity toward authoritarianism. On the other hand, analysis of the World Values Survey, find that “surprisingly similar attitudes toward democracy are found in the West and the Islamic world.” While debates about the compatibility of Islam and democracy in general continue, the specific political ideology of islamism is an extreme, fundamentalist, political ideology that is vehemently opposed to the basic tenets of democracy.   Continue reading

Advertisements

Love and Hate in the World’s Religions

Heracles, son of Zeus, is one of the great heroes of ancient Greek mythology. His most famous feat was to slay the fearsome Hydra, a multi-headed creature whose breath could kill instantly. Even the Hydra’s smell was said to be so poisonous that anyone who approached it died in agony. In his effort to kill the Hydra, Heracles smashed at its heads with his club. However, no sooner had one head been destroyed than two more grew in its place, an expression of the hopelessness of his struggle. Realising that he could never defeat the Hydra alone, Heracles called for help to his charioteer Iolaus, who burned the stump of each head as soon as it was struck off to prevent others growing in its place. In this way Heracles was able to finally cut off all the heads, including the final immortal head, of the Hydra.    Continue reading

How to Stop Religious Extremism

After watching the evening news, it’s hard to believe that religion makes us kinder to one another.

This month’s murder sprees by fundamentalists in Paris and Nigeria follow months of slaughter by ISIS and the Taliban in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

And adherents of Islam are not the only ones to engage in violence. Israel’s merciless bombardment of Gaza last summer resulted in the deaths of hundreds of women and children. In parts of Africa, evangelical Christians continue to campaign for the death penalty for gay men. And in Burma, Buddhist monks preach hate against that country’s persecuted Muslim minority.

So what is it about religion that so readily incites hatred?   Continue reading

The Psychology of Power – Why Revolutions Fail

During Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972, the Chinese premier, Zhou Enlai, was asked about the impact of the French Revolution. He famously replied that he thought it was too early to say. Although it appears that Zhou may have misunderstood the question, it was as one diplomat remarked, a misunderstanding that was ‘too delicious to invite correction’.

As is well known, the French revolution, like the Chinese revolution in which Zhou played a leading role, resulted in a prolonged period of death and destruction. Here are 8 reasons why revolutions often fail.      Continue reading