Crisis and Ambiguity

reading koran

Islamist extremists are seeking to radicalize disaffected people on the fringes of society. Yet, in a land of social cohesion, peaceful coexistence and cultural diversity, such things seem far away. It is meet and fitting that Islam be understood as a religion tolerant of ambiguity and the ability to adapt to local conditions without force. We bring you one thoughtful, simple article from a german scholar who makes this point succintly.

Islam in crisis

There is no doubt that Islam is currently mired in a deep crisis. The majority of Muslims - whether in Turkey, India or Indonesia - live in democracies. The problem lies with Arab Muslims. Since 2011, the landmark year of protests, the Arab world has been experiencing the end of its post-colonial phase. After the Second World War, Western powers left their former colonial states with arbitrarily drawn borders. The people living within these borders could not identify with these countries and so turned to Islam as a means to define their identity and as a replacement for nationalism. Today, some of these states are disintegrating, and militias who invoke Islam are striving for power.

In the process, we are observing the results of the seeds sown by Saudi Arabia over many decades. The kingdom bases its legitimacy on a symbiosis of its ruling family and the teachings of the puritan Wahhabism. Like no other, these teachings stand for intolerance and the call to fight "non-believers" and those of a different faith.

Muslims must recognise that this form of being a Muslim has no place in the contemporary world and lacks any of the positive energy that is necessary to build a civilisation. This is why "Islam" is perceived as a threat.

Rainer Hermann
© Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2014
Translated from the German by John Bergeron

The full article can be read at Rainer Hermann, “Islam and the modern age”, 9/9/2014 at

The tolerance of ambiguity: "Goethe was deeply impressed by Hafez' liberal observance of Islam, convinced that such a free spirit could never have been inspired by a totalitarian form of Islam," writes Rainer Hermann


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