By Bre Payton.
Patrick Henry College
Speaking to PHC students and faculty Tuesday in the Hodel Center Coffeehouse, Michael Nazir-Ali told a story about Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman who was sentenced to death after being convicted of blasphemy. When the governor of the province where she lived spoke out against the blasphemy laws, one of his body guards shot him 36 times at point-blank range. The guard was brought to trial and showered with rose petals by other Muslims.
Nazir-Ali, former Bishop of Rochester, speaking on Muslim-Christian relations and their importance for policy development, said the point of the story is that radical Islam is not a minority interest. “It has permeated Islamic societies very widely and deeply.”
Explaining that, while moderate voices do exist within the Islamic community, westerners shouldn’t think of radical Islamists as a small group but rather a growing, influential religious faction that has been gaining traction for 50 years.
During the Arab Spring, for instance, he observed how the western media became infatuated with the word democracy. “When we look at what happened during Arab Spring, the conclusion, which I am led to, is that democracy is not enough.”
Western leaders often have two misconceptions about Islam, he added, believing, for one, that if the Middle Eastern economic system were improved, then radical Islam would disappear.
“This is true to an extent,” Nazir-Ali said. “Radical Islamists recruit from economically disadvantaged areas.”
The other misconception is that if certain political grievances were solved, like the conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims, or between Israel and the surrounding Muslim countries, then radical Islam would slowly fade.
Nazir-Ali explained that the objectives of radical Islam are much wider than that, and that their numbers are greater than those presently accounted for.
In many countries where Shia Muslims are the minority, he explained, they’re required to not disclose their religious associations. Consequently, the number of Shia Muslims is drastically underestimated.
And at the same time that radical Muslims are working to ensure that Sharia Law is recognized in western countries, leaders in countries like England and the U.S. have proposed that Sharia Law ought to be legitimized. “This would contradict basic principles of western law,” he said. For example, polygamy is allowed under Sharia Law. In the U.S., it is illegal. Recognizing Sharia Law as legitimate would be problematic and inconsistent.
Understanding democracy as it really is, and understanding the impact radical Islam has is important for western leaders, he said.
“The true test of democracy is not in gaining power through the ballot box, but in losing it,” he said. “We need bill of rights in Egypt which safeguards a commitment to one law for all, safeguards equality to all before the law, and safeguards common citizenship.”