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Doomsday can be averted

The war is not between civilizations, but between interpretations.


[16. March 2007] When the Norwegian Muslim convert Anne Sofie Roald threw the hijab for the first time in 22 years, it was not because she rejected Islam. It was because she realized that it is possible to interpret religious rules in several ways. As she writes in the book Are Muslim Women Oppressed ?: The more knowledge she gained, the more nuanced her image of Islam.

"The read and adopted idea that 'Islam' is an immutable entity and that there is only one 'Islam' came to me when it became clear to me how the law had been structured," Roald writes. She is one of those who is most important to listen to when Islam is high on the agenda and the population is characterized by fear.

Too many are afraid. Whether the change happened after September 11, 2001 or because of a growing minority population in Europe is debatable. But when terrorists justify their attacks on Islam and the debate is fueled by claims that Muslims will soon be the majority in Europe, it is no wonder that people fear changes in their own society. Lack of knowledge of what Islam and Islamism are is the basis for simple explanatory models and gross sources of error. Constant references to Samuel Huntington's thesis on war between civilizations provide associations to the demise of our own civilization. But doomsday is not near.

The Islamic critical books that characterize the bookstores' list peaks in a tradition that began just after the Crusades. The books portray Islam and Muslims in a negative light, and the authors describe themselves as intellectuals. There is reason to be critical of Islamism, just as there is reason to be critical of any politics grounded in religion. The blur Roald wore for 22 years is an actual practice of a woman suppressing principle, in which women must adhere to avoid tempting the man. But as Roald himself points out: The veil means different things in different parts of the world. In the Norwegian public, Roald is one of those who talks balanced about reinterpretation and trends. Roald analyzes the trends as a researcher and sees that democracy is a word of honor in Arab countries today, in a completely different way than when she completed her doctorate in 1994.

That does not mean that we do not welcome the other books. Although the explanatory models are simple and often damning, it is good for the critical public to put them in print. Only in this way can we refute what is there, only in this way can we be wiser. In this way, the thesis of civil war can be put to shame. In a civilized way.

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