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Islam in the big picture

By Syd Hickman - posted Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Tony Abbott's call for a reformation within Islam demonstrates his lack of historical comprehension. And history is vital to understanding the terrorism problem.

To make sense of the current turmoil within most Muslim nations and between Islam and the west by reading the Koran makes as much sense as trying to understand Christian terrorists, from 16th century Holland to 20th century Ireland, by reading the bible. Religious difference is just one aspect of a clash within a culture.

The Christian Reformation was basically a split between those who wanted to maintain a high degree of clerical control of society, and those who wanted national governments and individuals to take some of the power and money away from the Church. The process has taken several hundred years and Australia is now a leader in the creation of secular society. All religions have lost most of their power and their money flows from old investments and government handouts, rather than from devoted followers.


The problem with Islam is that, for historical reasons, there are millions of people who still take it seriously as a religion and strongly oppose the trend towards the secularisation of Muslims who want to be part of the wider world.

The Islamic 'reformation,' or secularisation, started long ago. What we are seeing now is the counter-reformation, or brutal fight to re-establish old forms of control.

Islam was established in the 600s and rapidly became a huge empire. It also became the intellectual powerhouse of the world, saving the cultures of classical Greece and Rome for later generations, integrating Indian mathematics and conducting research in fields as diverse as medicine and astronomy. The only institutions anywhere on earth seriously dedicated to preserving and expanding knowledge were Islamic.

Books became possible when paper was introduced to Europe by Muslims who learnt how to make it from Chinese captives after a battle in what is now Kazakhstan.

Military forces of the Caliph were a match for the combined forces of Christian Europe.

Then came the European Renaissance, inspired in part by fear of Islam, and based on ancient texts that had been preserved in Islamic societies.


The critical decision that led to the disastrous state of Islam today was the banning of the printing and the importation of virtually all printed books in the mid 1500s. In Europe knowledge expanded while in the Turkish Caliphate it froze, leading eventually to economic and military failure.

In the 16th and 17th centuries massive and brutal wars were fought in Europe between Protestant and Catholic Christianity. Many people were tortured and murdered, including by burning to death and disembowelling.

The real basis for these wars was the clash between the old culture of religious obedience and the new ideas of freedom and individual endeavour. Freedom won.

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About the Author

Syd Hickman has worked as a school teacher, soldier, Commonwealth and State public servant, on the staff of a Premier, as chief of Staff to a Federal Minister and leader of the Opposition, and has survived for more than a decade in the small business world.

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