QE discussion topic: Muslim Identity in the modern world [Bryn’s topic; sub-questions by Thor]

19 February 2017

Bryn's question for this meetup is: The past year has been awful in the middle east with the Syrian/ISIS etc conflicts. Can Islam (as a religion) overcome the political extremist (Islamist) outworkings seen in this area and carried abroad by terrorism? Will it be possible for Muslims to be accepted into other cultures and societies as being separate from the extreme or is the hegemonic already fact?


1. 23% of the world’s population belongs to some branch of Islam. Even countries where Muslims form a minority, it is often a large minority. 138 million Muslims live in India, over 21 million in China, 20 million in Russia, 44 million in Europe (19 million in the European Union), 3.3 million in the United States, 72 million in Nigeria ... and so on. Given these huge numbers, what could a “war on Islam” possibly mean?

2. Which sect or sects of Islam are prominent in terrorist activities, and which are opposed to them?

3. What are some differences, if there are any, between the mindsets of Islamic fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism?

4. In countries like Australia, the largest number of “Christians” are only nominal followers of the religion at best. They scarcely follow any explicit religious practice. To what extent is this true in the many diverse Muslim communities worldwide?

5. To what extent is religiously identified “terrorism” really about religion, and to what extent is more about deep seated social and political conflicts in particular areas - conflicts which have been manipulated for political purposes under the cover of religion? [Compare to ‘communist’ revolutions of the 20th Century].

6. Like Christianity at various times, Islam has proven attractive to some marginalized communities and individuals. What is it in Islam that they find attractive?

7. What are some of the core competing interpretations of Islam in the modern world? (e.g. see http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/lifestyle/news-and-views/opinion/why-its-not-enough-to-counter-fear-of-sharia-law-by-insisting-islam-is-feminist-20170216-guec5m.html )

8. The United States and others have a heavy political and commercial investment in the conflicts of the Middle East, which are often conducted under the mantle of a “clash of civilizations” with Islam being a banner cause, at least on the surface. How do you think this will play out over the next decade?

9. Intolerance breeds intolerance. A key sticking point for many who would prefer to live and let live as far as Islam is concerned is that much Islamic practice (especially in states where Islam is dominant) is highly intolerant of challenge, of intermarriage, of gender options, of those born into Islam who choose to reject its beliefs, and of other religions. A few centuries ago when Christianity and politics mixed, Christian practices too were brutally intolerant. In the case of Islam, how is this historic dilemma likely to be resolved?

10. Religions, including Islam, will not go away anytime soon. Huge numbers of people seem to need them as an organizing principle and focus for social practice, regardless of any rational or scientific challenge. However belief systems, including religions, have been used in the past by political opportunists as weapons for terrible persecution. How can the negative potentials of religions be kept under control?

Muslim Identity in the Modern World  Discussion Questions ©Thor May 2018

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