Is allah real

Fundamentalism is spreading: the real misery of Islam

The sociologist Ruud Koopmans dissects the situation in the Muslim world as relentlessly as it is precisely. In doing so, he sticks to empiricism - and refrains from ideological discussions.

While there is currently a broad social debate about racism, a student official at Berlin's Humboldt University recently tweeted that HU professor Ruud Koopmans is letting his “anti-Muslim racism run free”. It is always the same club. And nothing new for Koopmans, the Dutch sociologist and migration researcher who teaches there. It is no coincidence that he begins his new book “The Dilapidated House of Islam” with the following sentences: “This book is critical of Islam, but not anti-Islamic. Anyone who cannot distinguish between criticism of a religion - or rather, of its currently dominant interpretation - and racism should put this book aside. "

That would be a real shame, because these people are missing out on nothing less than one of the most important German-language books that has been written about Islam in recent years. Certainly there are xenophobic haters of Islam, but the author of this book is certainly not one of them.

Koopmans, a “leftist disappointed by the left”, married to a Kurdish woman from Turkey, provides a relentless analysis of the “religious causes of lack of freedom, stagnation and violence”, free of polemics and precisely for that reason so uncomfortable. Layer by layer, he exposes the apparent misery of the Muslim world until he penetrates to its core: Islamic fundamentalism, which has been on the advance in Iran especially since Khomeiny's revolution.

Backward religion

Koopmans does not even get involved in a battle of quotations about “true Islam”. Rather, he is interested in the real conditions in the 47 Muslim countries on earth.

Why, so the crucial question, is democracy, human rights and economic well-being in such a miserable state in these states? Is it a coincidence that half of all dictatorships can be found in Muslim countries, even though they only make up a quarter of all states? Is it really because of the "Islamophobia" of the West, which is so often sought after? Or the late effects of European colonialism? Or in the end just about religion itself?

Koopmans researches consistently with the instruments of the empirical social scientist. He analyzes statistics and looks for causalities. Its most important instrument is the systematic comparison of Muslim and non-Muslim countries, for example the island states of the Maldives and Mauritius. Both were colonized for a similar length of time, both have been independent since the mid-1960s, both live mainly from tourism. But Mauritius has been a politically stable democracy for decades, the Maldives, on the other hand, is ruled authoritarian. The key difference: religion.

Sunni Muslims dominate the Maldives. This example is not the exception, it is the rule. "While the rest of the world has become much more democratic in recent decades, authoritarian regimes have continued to spread in the Islamic world."

If it was all about money, Saudi Arabia would have to be a haven of freedom. Instead, it is a stronghold of fundamentalism where homosexuals are beheaded. "Even in the poorest non-Muslim countries there is much more freedom than in the Islamic world," Koopmans notes.

He also thoroughly does away with the thesis that is now popular again, according to which it was European colonialism, the consequences of which the Islamic countries have suffered to this day. "The opposite is the case. The Islamic world was less influenced by Western colonialism than the rest of the non-Western world, and it is precisely this lesser historical influence from Western ideas and institutions that has negative effects on the possibilities of democracy in the Islamic world.

Reform and tolerance

As Koopmans shows, economic decline is also a direct consequence of Islamic fundamentalism. While non-Muslim countries such as South Korea or Taiwan have long since overtaken or overtaken the western states, those countries are in dire straits where the Koran or its self-appointed guardian is paramount. Women, whose rights are nowhere inferior in any case, remain practically excluded from the labor market. Where fundamentalism hinders free education there is no research, no innovation, no progress.

How can the Islamic countries break away from this fundamentalism? By finally reforming, writes Koopmans.

Of course, he also knows that this is much easier required than done. Just think that a liberal Muslim woman like Seyran Ates is threatened with death hundreds of times just because she dared to found a mosque in Berlin to which women also have access and where it is not announced what is happening in Saudi Arabia or Egypt was decreed. But for Koopmans there is no getting around the fact that “Muslims who stand up for a different, modern and liberal Islam must rise en masse against global intolerance and violence in the name of their faith”.

It would also be a nice start if a book like this were first translated into French and English and then - inshallah - maybe even into Arabic so that it sparked the widest possible debate in the Muslim world. But that remains a pious wish for now.

Ruud Koopmans. The ruined house of Islam. The religious causes of bondage, stagnation and violence. Verlag C. H. Beck, Munich 2019. 288 pp., Approximately CHF 34.90.