Amsterdam – If private citizens were to say what the Koran says, they would be punishable under Dutch law, according to Hans Jansen. However, the Koran should not be prohibited, the Arabist tells Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in an interview on Friday.
Jansen is a scholar of modern Islam affiliated with the Royal University of Utrecht. He has written several books about Islam and co-authored a Dutch translation of the Koran.
The interview with Jansen followed recent incidents in the Netherlands related to radical Islam.
On Saturday three Muslim youths beat up Islam critic Ehsan Jami.
On Wednesday Dutch legislator Geert Wilders, the party leader of the liberal-rightist Freedom Party PVV proposed a ban on the Koran, calling the Muslim holy scripture a ‘fascist’ book which incited people to violence.
Two lawyers subsequently filed a complaint against Wilders, arguing he was inciting people to violence.
However, Jansen thinks, ‘Wilders did not incite to violence. He was right when he said the Koran contained dangerous phrases. But I do not agree with him that the Koran should be prohibited. Although it is important to note that in Saudi Arabia the Bible is prohibited.’
According to Jansen, several sections in the Koran could be used as a ‘a license to kill. Whether or not that actually happens depends on peoples’ choices.’
‘The key question is whether these controversial issues are considered relevant today,’ he adds.
‘Everyone agrees that slavery, discussed in both Koran and Bible, has become irrelevant. This is not so with the Koran’s command to fight the unfaithful by force,’ Jansen explains.
Actually, slavery still exists in several Muslim countries in North Africa.
Jansen refers to Egyptian author and Islamist Sayyid Qutb (1906- 1966), whom he calls the ‘father of modern Muslim radicalism.’
‘Qutb said the 20th century marked the beginning of the third Muslim attempt to conquer the West. We should be aware that this mode of thought exists throughout Muslim society,’ Jansen says.
‘We cannot predict the future, but there are only two options. Either Islam will conquer the West, or the more moderate Islamic forces will find their way into Western society and subdue radical Muslim undercurrents,’ he adds.
Jansen thinks that Muslim radicalism essentially exposes a crisis of authority in Islam.
‘In the past, imams were subservient to the Muslim state, which determined if, when [and] against whom a jihad or holy war would be fought. State interests played an important role.
‘When today’s imams call upon their followers to ‘do good’ and wage a ‘jihad,’ it is up to the individual to interpret the meaning of ‘good’ and ‘jihad’,’ Jansen says.
‘The individual determines himself whether it’s a spiritual or a real struggle, and what kind,’ he adds.
Ironically, the shift of power and autonomy from the state to the individual, is exactly what characterizes modernity – the very thing that radical Islam so much appears to reject.
‘That is why today we have individuals who refer to the jihad to assassinate former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat or Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh,’ Jansen explains.
‘By taking the law into their own hands,’ he continues, ‘they are first and foremost criticizing the Muslim authorities for not waging a jihad. The letter van Gogh’s assassin Mohammed Bouyeri left on the filmmaker’s dead body, is a good example.’
‘Radical Islam is irreconcilable with democracy. I think Geert Wilders wanted to provoke a debate about this issue in the Netherlands,’ Jansen says.
In most religions, Jansen estimates, 20 per cent of the people are knowledgeable about their own heritage, 60 per cent know something, while another 20 per cent know absolutely nothing.
Lack of knowledge about their heritage is a prevalent problem among young Muslims in the West, says Jansen.
‘It makes them extra vulnerable to extremism. They are an easy prey to radical Salafist recruitors.’
Salafism is a fundamentalist Islamic school of thought which seeks to revive a practice more closely resembling the religion during the time of the prophet Mohammed.
Muslim schools or colleges providing an education differing from the Salafist tradition might be a solution, Jansen thinks, but, ‘the Salafist movement also dominates Muslim education.’
He adds that Muslim education at a general university, such as the Christian Free University in Amsterdam, is probably counterproductive.
‘Reformist developments should never be imposed, but also come from within,’ he argues….
‘I do not have a solution for the existing problems,’ Jansen admits. ‘I do think it is important that Muslim critics and ex- Muslims feel protected if they ‘come out of the closet.’
At present they are afraid to come out. The repeated attacks on Ehsan Jami, who openly renounced Islam, demonstrates their fear is legitimate.’
‘It would be a good start to arrest those who incite people to violence. Perhaps we should expel them from the country. Imprisoning them definitely does not solve anything.’