Sunday, September 17, 2006

Whose backyard is is anyway?

Recently, I've been hearing an absolute plethora of sweeping statements about Muslims - mostly from middle of the road moderate Christians. I'm as cynical as they come these days, but even I've been surprised by the level of ignorance and hatred that's coming out of the mouths of normally gentle and calm people.

My favourites include, "Our religion is one of love, their's is one of hate." "Our God is forgiving, their God is full of vengeance." Hello - have you read the Old Testament? Why exactly did God need innocent blood to placate his wrath? What was that I heard about unbelievers burning in hell for all eternity, that's ok is it?

People keep saying the Muslim community should do more to prevent terrorism in their communities. Well - why is that? Is it Muslims' fault that young Muslims are becoming increasingly frustrated? And whose backyard is terrorism springing up in anyway? Do terrorists belong to the Muslim community? Or do they belong to our communities?

There's barely a person around High Wycombe (where I've been living and working for 8 months) that doesn't have some personal contact with the people who were recently arrested on suspicion of terrorism. I have met their neighbours, their friends and their former school teachers. One of the London bombers came from just up the road in Aylesbury. Terrorists come from our communities and its all of our responsibilities to work towards preventing terrorism.

The Muslim community here has taken action, but they cannot control loose canons. Leafleting is banned around mosques as people were handing out highly charged leaflets outside one of the mosques. The imams around here preach peace and tolerance. In fact, my experience of the Muslim community here (we live right in the middle of a predominantly Muslim area, and many of my clients at work were from the Muslim community) has been very positive - they are peaceful, welcoming and hospitable people. But, just like we can control loose canons in the Christian community, the Muslim community cannot prevent all extremism. I grew up in Belfast - there were certainly dodgy people in my church and a friend of mine from church wound up in prison for attempted murder which had something to do with paramilitary involvement - no-one ever preached a message of hatred or violence in the church I went to - yet, people still got involved with the paramilitaries and said they did it "for God and Ulster." (Interesting, that in the past when people talked about religion and violence, Christians in Northern Ireland were the top example, now its the Muslims.)

Its not enough to point our fingers at the Muslim community, and thereby increase the sense of suspicion and distrust they are very likely to experience in the current climate. Frankly, it does not help to make sweeping statements about Muslims. Perhaps we ought to ask ourselves whether we are doing all we can to work for justice for the Islamic people - what are we doing for the Palestinians or regarding the Kashmir conflict? What are we doing while our government liberally blows Islamic nations to shreds in Afghanistan and Iraq? What are we doing to support isolated and frustrated young Muslims, who care deeply about the situations their brothers & sisters find themselves in across the world, to get involved in the political process and ensure that out government takes positive action?


MadPriest said...

I'm sorry C.A. but I think what you say and the way that you say it proves the opposite of the point you are trying to make.

You see, you are a real Christian. In fact, Quakers are the most fundamentalist of Christians because they try to live out the words of Christ without changing them to suit situations they find themselves in. This makes you the equivalent, not to the Sufis, peace-loving but despised by many Muslims for their syncretic beliefs, but to the parts of Islam now calling for the death of the Pope because that's what the Koran demands - and it does - without qualification (I know - I've read it).

We are Christians, not Jews. The teaching of Christ frees us from the mistaken understandings of God in the O.T. But even such understandings of God are partial. There is stream of theology that runs throughout the O.T. that constantly contradicts the vengeful God paradigm. Also, the O.T. overwhelming calls for the respectful treatment of aliens and it does not call for them to be killed for religious reasons. Even the book of Joshua, with all its nastiness, is about political conquest, not religious conquest.

However, my point is not "we are better than them." My point as a "middle of the road moderate Christian" is that, just as we have had to face up to the truth of Christian history (The Crusades, slavery etc.); just as we have had to, like you have done, face up to the evil in our own scriptures; so too must Islam face up to the fact that some of the writings of their prophet and many of his actions later in his life, are contradictory to the peacefulness that they keep saying is the true nature of Islamic people. How they do this in a religion that believes every word of its scripture to be inerrant, I don't know.

The substantive difference between Irish terrorism and Islamic terrorism is that nothing in the teaching of Christ gives permission for the Irish terrorists to do what they did, whilst the Koran does give permission for acts of violence in certain circumstances. Irish terrorists were not true Christians. Islamic terrorists are true Muslims.

Liberal and radical Christians are not going to help the situation if they continue to avoid speaking about things that are non-PC. As we are used to calling for complete honesty in our own religion, perhaps we are the only ones with the sense of detachment and realism to persuade Islam to be honest about their own religion and history.

Like you, I believe what western governments are doing in the Islamic world is very, very wrong, but as a quaker, you know that is not an excuse for killing innocent people.

Peterson Toscano said...

Good thoughts CA. And essential queries.

Rich in Brooklyn said...

I agree much more with CA here than with madpriest.

There is a range of opinion about violence and its justification or lack thereof in all three major monotheist religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Within each tradition it may make sense for adherents to quote passages of their respective scriptures to justify or critique specific positions. I have known Christians and Jews to justify defensive war - and even offensive war against "evil" - using passages from the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. Other Christians and Jews have other points of view and can also point to scriptural justifications, but extremely few outside of the Quakers and other such splinter groups (I'm a Quaker, by the way) are committed to actual pacifism.

In talking about the traditions of people other than ourselves we're treading on pretty shaky ground if we start quoting their scriptures at them and telling them they are wrong when they claim their religion is peaceful. Celebrate those who find justification for peacefulness in any scripture whatever.

Terrorism is not a recent phenomenon and it has not been particularly associated with Islam in most of history. It was prominent in the very secular French Revolution, and it seemed to be pretty big among some 20th century Marxists a few decades ago, although I think Marx himself would have denounced it as adventurism.

I think that the best long-run approach to discouraging violence between differing groups is to encourage face-to-face knowledge and interaction of one another. Specific individual acquaintance is far more valuable than abstract knowledge based on a-priori assumptions or readings of each other's scriptures outside their lived context.
- - Rich Accetta-Evans

Contemplative Activist said...

Thank you Rich - I really appreciated your thoughts.

(And your's too madpriest - even if I don't agree.)


Manfarang said...

Mad priest
Murder is haram (forbidden) in Islam.You clearly have never lived in a Muslim country or have a proper understanding of that religion.