Here is my (unauthorized) translation of a review in German from my Swiss newspaper about a new book by Ruud Koopman, a Dutch Sociology professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin. ‘Das verfallene Haus des Islam’ – ‘The decaying House of Islam: the religious origins of the lack of freedom, violence and stagnation’.
In his study, based on empirical data and facts he outlines differences between open, secular societies and their superiority in comparison to closed societies. One concrete example is the simple fact that between 1979 and 2014 more books were translated into Finnish than into Arabic or Turkish. If in one country with 5 million citizens more translations are available than in a region with half a billion Muslims, then something is wrong with globalisation. Rejectionism and self-isolation have never been the drivers of civilized progress declares Koopman’s study.
He points out that open societies foster a competition of ideas. There isn’t just one idea or one solution which is for ever and always the only one. Flexible thinking and action have furthered western and open societies. If a religiously or ideologically formed perspective tries to steer societal behavior then it impedes developments and cuts short dynamic process.
While in western countries cultural diversity grows, religious cleansing in the Islamic world is resulting in an increasingly homogenic cultural desert, in which only one truth has the right to exist. That’s why the missing separation of religion and state – according to Ruud Koopman – is a major factor in the stagnation of the Islamic world.
Only the infusion of petro-dollars into some Arabic countries is able to distract from the economic misery of the region – otherwise the economic situation in those countries would be equally bad as in other Muslim countries. The lack of being able to adapt has rendered them hopelessly left behind and the age when the Muslim world was in every aspect superior to the Christian one is long gone.
The main reason why the Islamic world has stagnated on every front in the past 50 years and in some cases has reverted to barbarism, is the rise of religious Islamic fundamentalism. Since the return of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, many countries have followed an unhealthy combination of nationalization of Islam and the Islamisation of the state – with negative consequences for democracy and human rights.
Apart from religious minorities, converts and atheists, women are the main victims of religiously inspired suppression in Islamic countries, Koopman writes. He is wondering why the west is united with all manner of global injustices, just not with the millions of Muslim women who are suffering under regimes and systems reminiscent of apartheid. ‘And why’, asks the author, ‘are Muslims upset when Belgium and France prohibit burkas, but are deafening silent with regards to the much worse oppression and persecution of religious freedoms and minorities in the Islamic world.’
Of the twenty countries with the most severe discrimination based on gender, sixteen are Islamic. The author, convinced of the universality of human rights, rejects cultural relativism equally with the thesis that western colonialism is the culprit of the Islamic misery. He cites the fact that in the countries which were not colonized the interpretation of the Koran is the most fundamental.
Ruud Koopman sees the strongest prime mover of progress in the 20th century in the emancipation movement. In many ways, the equalization of women has changed society basically and essentially. From this inspired and beneficial boost which propelled the west forward, the Islamic world did not profit. To the contrary: The re-introduction of Sharia law has led to a major backlash. In 2018, Sharia law was the explicit foundation of the judiciary system in 29 of 47 independent countries with a majority of Muslim citizens. ‘The kind of Islam, which enshrines it’s laws and the organisation of the state based on Sharia law cannot be compatible with democracy and human rights,’ Koopman writes.
In his analysis, Koopman concludes that the main reason for the problems of The House of Islam do not originate outside of Islam but in the midst of their societies. The civil wars and terror syndicates who kill their own citizens with impunity highlight how torn and dysfunctional many of these societies are.
Koopman also argues that the difficult integration of Muslims in Europe, has more to do with the situation in their countries of origin, than with the much-cited discrimination in the west. ‘Antisemitism, homophobia and the contempt and disdain for women does not evaporate with their flight,’ he says.
What solution does the author prescribe for the stagnated and volatile regions of the Muslim world? ‘Only a radical break with fundamentalist elements of Islam can solve the blockade and since all intervention from outside is doomed to fail, the revolutions and changes must come from within.’