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Friday, 2 April 2010

The Media Trial of Islam?

A certain Mr Hussain once hosted a 'inter-faith' meeting, at the Sangat Centre, on terrorism in the town of Keighley, West Yorks. He talked about the ‘media trial of Islam’.
I’ve never seen this 'media trial of Islam'. Even in the tabloids there is no ‘media trial of Islam’. There is, however, a media trial of Islamic extremists and terrorists, but not of Islam itself. Even the Sun, for one, wouldn’t dare criticise Islam itself. And many writers for the Daily Mail, for example, grudgingly admire certain Islamic absolutes and particularly, in keeping with that organ, its no-tolerance policy on criminals. Of course, this is not to say that there aren’t hidden or disguised criticisms of Islam in the tabloids.

Mr Hussain also used the oft-abused term ‘Islamophobia’. What’s the point of criticising people for being fearful of Islam? Would Mr Hussain criticise people for their fear of heights? In any case, some fears are justified and necessary. Perhaps I should accuse Mr Hussain and other Muslims of ‘secularophobia’ or something similar.

Who’s to say that the fundamentalists and even the terrorists are using ‘religion wrongly’? I have read the passages from the Koran, that are frequently cited by liberal Muslims, which seem to suggest so, but when I read the Koran itself I come to very different conclusions.

Many Muslims in Britain are indeed ‘living in peace and harmony and are law-abiding citizens’, as Hussain says. However, is this the case because of the teachings of the Koran and Islam or is it because of beliefs and ideas which are not really Islamic at all or not to be found in the Koran and the Hadiths? If particular Muslims behave well, then does it follow that they do so because of their Islamic faith? Perhaps they are well-behaved people who just happen to be Muslims. There are well-behaved atheists, pagans, train-spotters and terrorists too.

On the issue of inter-faith meetings in general. Historically, faiths have often banded together to secure themselves against the ‘rising tide of secularism and godlessness’. This is, I think, what is happening on the periphery in Britain today. However, when secularism and godlessness are in abeyance (or put to sleep), then these interfaith religions promptly become less friendly and lovey-dovey towards one another. Take two profoundly religious towns – Jerusalem and Hebron. There is no ‘rising tide of secularism and godlessness’ in these places. Far from it. But Christians and Muslims and Jews generally despise and sometimes kill one another. Are these pious peoples also using ‘religions wrongly’?

Palestine, Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, the Deep South of the US, etc. show us the reality of interfaith relations when religion – or one religion – is in the ascendancy. The love-in between faiths is either a deeply cynical ploy or simply an example of naïveté. I suspect it depends on the particular participants at each meeting.

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