(At a meeting in London organised by the 'Defend Taslima Nasreen Campaign' on 16 January 1994, the following statement was made by Bill Bland of the Communist League)
Most religions have their sacred books, which their adherents believe to be divinely inspired.
But these books were written long ago and, although they may have embodied the highest wisdom available at that time, since then science has made great advances in our understanding of the universe.
Adherents of religions may respond in different ways to these advances in our understanding.
Some may become atheists, reaching the conclusion that all religion is mere unfounded superstition which serves rulers as an opiate to bribe the masses of the people to accept intolerable conditions in this life on the promise of amelioration in some hypothetical future life.
Others may become 'modernists', clinging to the basis of their old beliefs but claiming that the sacred books on which they are based must be read not literally, but allegorically, in a way which accommodates them to the incontrovertible findings of modern science.
Still others may become 'fundamentalists', rejecting the findings of modern science - as false - maintaining that the sacred books are literally true and that those who say otherwise are 'agents of the devil'.
Fundamentalism rejects science and rationality in favour of obscurantism and irrationality. But it is precisely these qualities -- obscurantism and irrationality -- which are required to secure acceptance of reactionary social policies which are objectively against the interests of the mass of the people. It is therefore natural that reactionary politicians should strive to make use of fundamentalism to gain support for their aims.
At the present time, thinking people throughout the world have been appalled by the excesses of Islamic fundamentalism which, it appears, is aware that it is so bankrupt of convincing ideas that it has to try to maintain itself by individual terrorism, or the threat of such terrorism, against any independent thinkers.
This does not mean that Islam itself is more reactionary than other religions. The People's Mujaheddin of Iran -- which played a leading role in the Iranian democratic revolution of 1979 which overthrew the Shah's corrupt dictatorship -- was composed predominantly of Muslims. But the leadership of the revolution was usurped by reactionary fundamentalist mullahs who successfully diverted the movement along the reactionary, anti-democratic lines of building an autocratic 'Muslim state' with aggressive designs on neighbouring states, and of violently repressing the Mojaheddin.
It must be remembered, too, that fundamentalism is not confined to Islam. It plays a similar reactionary role in other religions, such as Christianity.
It was 'Opus Dei', the most fundamentalist organ of the Catholic Church which provided important support for the fascism of Mussolini and Franco. In contrast, modernist Catholics, particularly in Latin America, have developed a 'liberation theology' which has led them to join forces with the poor against their oppressors.
Again, it was the fundamentalist 'Unification Church' -- the 'Moonies, - which campaigned for Richard Nixon -- as 'God's appointed President'-- throughout the period of his growing exposure as a crook. Also in America, the Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, run by the fundamentalist Mormon Church, has long been the favourite recruiting ground for both the CIA and the FBI.
Similarly, when in South Africa in 1986 -- under the pressure of public opinion at home and abroad -- the Dutch Reformed Church at last repudiated apartheid, it was the fundamentalist wing which broke away to form the Afrikaans Reformed Church, which continued to support apartheid on the basis of 'God's word'.
The defence of such great artists as, Taslima Nasreen
and Salman Rushdie against fundamentalist persecution is
not something which concerns only Muslims or people of Asian descent. It
concerns us all. Their defence against the persecution and terrorism of
fundamentalist forces is a part of humanity's struggle to emerge from darkness
into enlightenment and social justice.
The Communist League.
The aim of the Communist League is to establish in Britain a Marxist-Leninist
Party of the working class free of all revisionist trends.