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Monday, 13 April 2015

What we are getting wrong about Islam?

Which of these is a religion?

Buddhism? It seems that Buddhism is not theistic. Buddhists do not believe in a personal God. They have much to say about ethics. Compassion is important to Buddhists. So, although Christianity has some important things in common with Buddhism, they are very different world views. My answer would have to be: Not really.

Taoism? Similarly.

Judaism? A resounding, ‘Yes’. We Christians regard the Jews as our elder brothers in faith. We reject nothing of Judaism. Some writers (and I agree) hold that Christianity is the fulfilment of Judaism. For this reason (if for no other), Christian anti-Semitism is, and always has been, a scandal and a disgrace.

Shintoism? Are there any devout Shintoists? Is it possible to distinguish it from Japanese militarism? The Emperor is a ‘god’. I don’t think that Shinto/Christian ‘inter-faith dialogue’ is going to be a long conversation.

I don’t want to list all the possible candidates for religion status – but one is very vocal: Islam. It demands to be heard. It forces itself upon our attention. Every day, almost every hour, we get news of people whose adherence to Islam is very clear doing things which compel our attention. The list is long of Islamic (some would say Islamicist) groups grabbing the headlines. Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Al Shabat, Anjem Choudray, the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, the Islamic Republic of Iran…

It is simultaneously true that ‘Muslim Girl Qualifies as Pharmacist’ does not make the six o’clock news – nor does ‘Abdul and Aisha Celebrate Fifty Years of Marriage’.

Is it their piety or their compassion which makes us pay attention? It is not. Day by day, hour by hour, they dominate the airwaves with political/military initiatives: kidnapping Nigerian schoolgirls, beheading Coptic Christians, demanding anti-blasphemy laws in all countries, murdering Muslims of a different stripe and so on and on. Is it a good strategy for encouraging inter-faith dialogue? I don’t think so. Really and truly, I don’t think they are interested in putting themselves forward as a competing religion. Islam, in their view (and mine) is a political/social system with an admixture of theism. They are utopians. Islam (in the form of Shari’ah) is a perfect plan for human wellbeing – and God approves of it.

This being so, they are less like Taoists and Mormons and much more like Communists and Nazis. I am not here using the terms ‘Communist’ and ‘Nazi’ as shorthand for evil ideologies – though we can discuss these ideologies from a moral perspective. Communists believe that the perfect society can only exist when their ideology prevails. Muslims believe this too.

Islam does not have a well-developed doctrine of Original Sin. Interestingly, neither do Communism or Nazism. Without it, you are stuffed. Your political philosophy is going to lead you to commit endless atrocities with a view to bringing about ‘heaven on earth’. Some Christians (with deficient theology) have been guilty of the same.

Hitler’s vision of society, Marxism/Leninism and Islam have occasioned the slaughter of millions over the centuries.

We fought Hitler and resisted Marxism/Leninism until it collapsed. Did we have the wit to perceive that it was their utopianism which led to the atrocities? Probably not, which is why we do not perceive the self-same danger from an ideology which we fail to categorise properly.

Buddhists, God bless them, may not qualify (by my rigorous standards) to have a ‘religion’. They do not, however, preach a political blueprint for heaven on earth. Salvation, in the Buddhist view (Nirvana), is attained by personal development. We have little to fear from them. There is everything to fear from political blueprints in The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf or in the Koran.

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