Society Must Listen to Religious Fundamentalists, Says Expert

LONDON – A leading expert on monotheism told attendants of last month’s Greenbelt Festival in the U.K. that society must listen to the religious fundamentalists for it to step back from the abyss that it now finds itself in.

Karen Armstrong, a former nun and considered to be a world authority on Christianity and Islam, was part of the diverse range of speakers at the Greenbelt Festival at Cheltenham racecourse that were gathered over the course the four-day event that ran from Aug. 26 to Aug. 29.

During the gathering of over 20,000 people, Armstrong told how violence and terrorism was driven by fear, and that society has to now listen to those who were susceptible to such feelings.

“We must decode what fundamentalists are trying to say to us because they are expressing fears and anxieties that no society can safely ignore,” she said n the third day of the Greenbelt Festival.

“It’s not just that people are stubbornly digging their heels in. People are fighting for survival, and in some areas it’s hardening into righteous rage.

“Only a tiny proportion of fundamentalists take part in terror,” Armstrong continued. “The trick is to stop the mainstream going to the tiny fringe.

“When these movements are attacked they become more extreme. The Iraq war upped the membership of Al Qaeda – if you are convinced you are going to be wiped out and then they come and fight you, that confirms your fears and makes you want to go for it.”

Armstrong continued by telling those gathered that suicide bombings were not purely a religious response, but instead was something almost entirely politically motivated.

“People don’t read a verse from the Koran and then decide to go and bomb a London bus. People decide to do that and then usually find a verse to back it up,” she said.

“They are not simply compelled by the dynamic of the Koran – if they were, they would have been doing this for centuries and they haven’t.”

Armstrong also emphasized that fundamentalism was not a return to orthodox, traditional beliefs, but was in fact a spreading rebellion against secular modernity that has led to various new and often shocking doctrines.

“People sincerely believe modern secular society wants to wipe them out,” she said in conclusion. “You can see why in some countries – because it’s been introduced at such a pace that it’s felt like a real assault.

“We are gazing at each other over an abyss. The world is divided between those who have had a good experience of modernity and those who have been assaulted by it.”