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Intolerance Blocks Islam Renaissance

September 02, 2003

Re "Stage Is Set for Islamic World Renaissance," Commentary, Aug. 28: One of the reasons that Islam began to decline in influence was the emergence of fundamentalism. Prior to the appearance of these fundamentalist factions, Islam was renowned for its tolerance, intellectualism, creativity and scientific inquiry. The list of Arab and Persian scientists, poets, philosophers, historians and explorers from the 10th century to the 13th century is incredibly impressive and seemingly endless. The Italian Renaissance can point to a handful of intellectual giants who have influenced our present day. The Muslims have scores.

Just as Islamic fundamentalism sounded the death knell for scientific and cultural advancement for the Muslims, Christian fundamentalism in the U.S. is doing the same for us. Fundamentalism of any shade is intolerant, dogmatic, smug and judgmental. The fear is that with the rapidity of communications and Christian political influence, the decline of our country may occur in decades, not centuries. It is in the interests of both the Islamic world and the U.S. for people of reason, science and scholarship to staunchly resist the tide of mindless religious intolerance that has stained the Earth with blood for hundreds of years.

Richard C. Mallyon

Lancaster

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Democracy will not unlock the Islamic world's renaissance to its past glory. The cause of its downfall is nested in inequality, discrimination, rigidity and lack of mystical intuition -- spirituality, in the Islamic ideology. Democracy cannot come to a society if minorities or nonbelievers are treated with disdain and injustice. People are not prepared to change an attitude that is governed by a book or set of principles of the 7th century, even though they want to enjoy the gifts of the 21st century. This is the fabric of the clash of civilizations. The present turmoil is started with the huge oil wealth and the desire to spread an extreme view of Islam throughout the world, taking advantage of the poverty or the Cold War rivalry.

As is known from history, nothing can be conquered by sword or military might, which are ephemeral in time and space, but only by intellectualism coupled with spiritualism, universal love and fairness, combining all religions for the common goal of a human renaissance.

Nirode Mohanty

Huntington Beach

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I appreciated Jonathan Power's historical perspective of Islam's past puissance but would argue that any Islamic renaissance in the Middle East will not occur because of the largest determining factor -- overpopulation.

Too many mouths to feed and educate, too many idle males, too many females bearing the brunt of a frustrated, male-dominated society. Not a combination ensuring Islam's resurgence as "a mighty intellectual, scientific and military force."

Mary MacGregor

La Quinta

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