Sunday, February 12, 2006

‘We don’t do God, we do Palestine and Iraq’

Amir Tahiri feels that the root cause of the cartoon problem is that the fundamentalists agitating over the issue are political activists who still feel they should receive the protection they claim for religious beliefs:

Isn’t Islam supposed to be a religion? Shouldn’t it be concerned with the broader issues of human existence rather than with a set of cartoons, a Dutch television documentary, the head-covers of French schoolgirls or a novel by a British-Indian author? Today the visible Islam, the loudest Islam, is a political movement masquerading as a religion. Many mosques in this country have been transformed into political clubs where Kashmir, Iraq and Palestine and “the misdeeds of Anglo-Saxon imperialism” have replaced issues of religious faith as the principal theme.

This is having appalling repercussions for community relations in the UK:

Until earlier this month most of us had never heard of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Most were blissfully unaware, too, that the 12 cartoons published in that newspaper on September 30 last year would eventually result in a wave of Muslim protest that would lead to embassies being set on fire, posters being paraded around London with messages inciting terror and several deaths across the Middle East and south Asia. However, this vile and disproportionate reaction could change profoundly the way that British people coexist with the 1.6m Muslim minority in their midst.

These issues cannot be dealt with by attempts to stifle debate through "religious hatred" thought-crimes. They need to be discussed openly by moderates from all faiths and none if Britain is to have any hope of keeping repellent groups such as the British National Party out of power.

1 comment:

Word Mincer said...

I think the idea of initiating discussion between faiths is heading along the right lines, but I also think a lot more is needed - i.e. for want of a better way of putting it, a methodological framework in which those dicussions can be facilitated towards a beneficial outcome, and a context in which those discussions can be held.
Of note, the blurred edges between the two domains of 'religion' and 'politics' have been brought to the fore here.
In my view, this distinction has never been a clear one and in many societies throughout time religion and politics have been inextricably linked in the power stakes, with one often feeding off the other. Islam is not the only religion 'guilty' of this, if indeed it is a crime.
Taking this into account, it seems obvious that the set of issues creating conflict in our present time is neither purely religious or political, but rather a dynamic hybrid of the two. Therefore any 'solution' should seek to address not either religious or political factors at play, but rather, a systemic, holistic and dynamically evolving synthesis of the two.
By this, I mean to say that in treating the 'problem' as an either/or will not lead to any meaningful understanding of it, nor generate any significantly useful means by which to see us through it and come out the other side any better off.
Referring back to an earlier comment I made on this blog, we need to create a table around which to have the right kind of discussions that may help us get to the bottom of all this with all of those involved, because at the moment even that table doesn't exist, never mind the discussions.
And before we set the table, we should probably send out the invites, and I don't think this is just to religious leaders/moderates. I think we need to collectively start talking with those who potentially feel disaffected and marginalised in this world too.