The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Thank God for secularism

Monday, 14 May 2012

 

Posted by our religious correspondent, Richard Rawlinson

 

RR writes: I had planned to discuss funerals in Islamic cultures, but concluded anyone interested could find such information elsewhere. See link to 10 Muslim Funeral Traditions here:

Instead, I want to address concerns about Islam’s conflict with faith-tolerating, secular society. This is not about funerals per se, but it’s waving the flag for freedom in a forum that celebrates choice in the field of secular and religious funerals.

A few years ago, I worked for a time as an expat in the Middle East, where I interviewed for the Catholic Herald the Bishop of Arabia about the struggle to attain the same religious freedoms for Christians in Arab nations that Muslims enjoy elsewhere in the world. A few weeks ago, an Arab friend I met in the region visited me in London, and conversation turned to grief between Islam and the West.

As he drank my wine, he described himself as a moderate-but-observant Muslim who admittedly lapsed on some observances. He said he was offended by the way, since 9/11/01, Islam has been defined by despotism, claiming the West is demonising his faith as purely radical, and thus impeding progress in battling terrorism – effectively consigning us to a state of permanent war with the world’s billion-plus Muslims.

I replied by asking him if he would support the battle against terrorism by speaking out against the uses of the Quran for radical purposes. After all, he perceived himself to be a Muslim who embraced our freedom culture, for whom sharia is a matter of private belief, not public mission. Yet he stuck to the line that the West was inflaming the ‘Arab Street’, and seemed reluctant to link ‘real’ Islam with regarding women as chattel; killing those who apostasise from Islam; institutionalising religious intolerance in society, or regarding Jews as subhuman.

The problem is that while moderate Muslims are a reality, they are often in denial that Islam itself is in conflict with secular society, because it’s not merely a religious doctrine, but is a comprehensive socio-economic and political system whose tenets are fundamentally at odds with democracy.

Almost from the beginning, the West has tempered religion by acknowledging the legitimacy of secular institutions, thus making space for individual freedom.

Like Communism, Islam doesn’t ‘render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s’ but rather aims to control the state without being subject to it. By insisting on the submission of everything to the will of Allah, they end up with the Taliban, Iranian Mullahs and al Qaeda.

All religions are exclusive, but Islam almost immediately developed into a state which seemed to be all of a piece with the religion. The Koran is its spiritual and secular book of law – Allah’s personal word, with orders that need to be fulfilled regardless of place or time. Then there’s Muhammad, a warlord who is nevertheless deemed the perfect human role model.

In his book America Alone, Mark Steyn says we have three options: 1) capitulate to Islam, 2) wage all-out war against it, 3) it undergoes a reformation and enlightenment, retaining its name but eschewing its political substance. With 1) and 2) being unacceptable and horrific, is the best way to achieve 3) accommodation or resistance?

I believe resistance is the best course of action. A concrete theology of moderate Islam does not exist and will have to be created. It will have to be non-literal and reformist, and will have a tough time competing with Islamist ideology, which is anti-constitutional and anti-freedom in many of its core particulars. Instead of letting my friend pretend to be moderate, I’d rather empower him with a clear choice: defend Islamic despotism or man up as a reformer by promoting a coherent, moderate Islam that embraces the West, and in particular the separation of secular public life from privately held religious beliefs.

28 comments on “Thank God for secularism

  1. Saturday 2nd June 2012 at 12:10 pm

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  2. Friday 25th May 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Dashed picky of you, Richard.

  3. Richard Rawlinson

    Friday 25th May 2012 at 1:56 pm

    Much appreciated James.

    Charles, may I belatedly say how shocked I am that a fine wordsmith like you uses the abbreviation ‘Xtian’! It sounds like an alien tribe in a sci-fi movie, and somehow far worse even than the shortening of Christmas to Xmas. 😀

  4. james showers

    Wednesday 23rd May 2012 at 10:42 pm

    Thank you Richard, for taking such a very clear and bold stand on the issue of the radicalisation of the Muslim faith. I have come late to the discussion, but I agree with you that it is time to stand firm, to challenge the liberal idea that dialogue will resolve this threat, and reject the racist label for so doing.
    Dear, but very silly old Rowan Williams’ recent own goal that we should prepare to accept some degree of Sharia law was a shocking example of this pacifying approach; how naive, given Sharia law’s gynephobic, punitive, and barbaric content, as interpreted by many devout immams in this country as well as throughout those that they rule.

    Like you, I reject the relativist and ‘mea culpa’ justifications for radical Islam’s appalling behaviour: the top ten refugee-producing countries are all fundamentalist Muslim states. Enough already!
    The hard lines are there in the Quoran – either to ignore or to follow without question; I understand that it is Saudi money that supports teaching of the latter path throughout all Western countries: so, without integrating Muslims into the broader society, by leaving them to their culture and religion without challenging the content or the resulting cultural separation, by not demanding immediate criminalisation of female mutilations, by not naming and enumerating the murders of women by members of their families as ‘honour killings’, we are piling up troubles and losing our self respect into the bargain.

    Moderate Muslims need support in order to speak out, and they will not get much of that from their own mosques.

    Ayaan Ali Hirsi’s ‘Nomad’, Kristoff and Wudunn’s ‘Half the World’, and Christopher Hitchens’ are all quite clear on this.

    But what a timely topic. Thank you again.
    James

  5. Richard Rawlinson

    Saturday 19th May 2012 at 9:48 am

    Jenny, I look forward to your reply. Perhaps you could also explain why The Catholic Church’s interfaith document, Meeting God in Friend and Stranger, ‘fills you with forboding’.
    http://bradforddistrictfaithsforum.org.uk/sites/bradforddistrictfaithsforum.org.uk/files/Meeting%20God%20in%20Friend%20and%20Stranger.pdf

  6. Friday 18th May 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Hi, Richard
    Not avoiding your questions, but ridiculously busy for the next few days (only just got back INTO the office at %pm). Do you mind hanging on a few days and I’ll answer your questions.
    btw, if Interfaith dialogie is ‘cosy’ it is probably also useless.

  7. Richard Rawlinson

    Friday 18th May 2012 at 1:34 pm

    PS Vale, re your Maugham quote, I also like Dudley Moore’s: ‘The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it’.

  8. Richard Rawlinson

    Friday 18th May 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Hi Vale

    “Is our only difference my reluctance to apply this just to Islam?”

    I think our difference is that I prefer the secular state to have a lighter touch but one governed by common sense. Of course, it should prevent human rights abuses by any religion, but I’d prefer it if it didn’t interfere when the faithful are just quietly going about their business. That can seem too aggressive and loaded with agenda.

    However, I do appreciate there’s a fine line between what’s harmless and what’s harmful. Aspects of Islamist behaviour are clearly contrary to our democracy and should be resisted. However, I see no harm in allowing parents to choose faith schools if they so wish. I also don’t see why a Catholic adoption clinic that only gives children to married couples should be forced to close down. After all, a gay couple or single person can always go to a non-Catholic adoption clinic and get what they want without forcing the Catholic one to go against its faith.

    Common sense, not one rule fits all. Choice, but choice within reason.

    Richard 🙂

  9. Vale

    Friday 18th May 2012 at 11:32 am

    And there’s the rub, isn’t it? At the start of this post you said that the response to militant Islam that you would choose would be resistance. How do you resist without cramping, limiting, denying someone else’s freedoms?

    I don’t like, anymore than you do, the appetite governments of all stamps have for micro managing my life but I do expect them to create a space that allows me to live my life as I choose as safely and securely as possible.

    It is a way of resisting, of setting boundaries, of marking out the lines that must not be crossed.

    Is our only difference my reluctance to apply this just to Islam?

    By the way, rather than Orwell, I have always preferred (in a limited kind of way you understand) Somerset Maugham. This from Of Human Bondage:

    ‘Follow your inclinations with due regard to the policeman round the corner.’ Seems like reasonable freedom and reasonable control to me.

  10. Richard Rawlinson

    Friday 18th May 2012 at 9:44 am

    GM, yes, research yourself and share it with us! I don’t want to be the only one considered ‘unhelpful’ for not spouting sweet nothings about cosy inter-faith dialogue.

    Vale

    Belated reply to one of your comments!

    “Let’s stop all this divisive nonsense of state funded religious schools… Let’s have a bill of rights that asserts a common law and common standards of justice…Or am I being too aggressively secular?”

    A wee bit! As a libertarian, I find this proposal too Big State, bossy, interfering and legislative. Did you know the last Labour government introduced some 300 new laws.

    In Orwell’s 1984, the state corrupted the word ‘free’. It was used in sentences such as ‘the streets are free of vermin’ but not in a sentence such as ‘a man is free to choose’.

  11. Thursday 17th May 2012 at 11:02 pm

    Maybe the Emirates are more plutocratic than theocratic – so it’s OK to build one for the expats. How about the more secularised Muslim states (Turkey, Syria)- would they allow one for their own Muslim or ex-Muslim citizens, I wonder? well, not asking you to do my research for me Richard but I’ll have a look to see what I can find.

  12. Richard Rawlinson

    Thursday 17th May 2012 at 7:44 pm

    GM

    In answer to your comment: “It is, I understand, considered sacrilege under Islam to cremate a human corpse. So presumably, in a theocratic Muslim state, it would be illegal to do so?”

    Abu Dhabi in the United Emirates has recently opened a crematorium, even though cremation is prohibited in Islam. ‘We didn’t have cremation before; only burying bodies,’ says Mohammed al Ketbi, who is in charge of cemetery services for Abu Dhabi. ‘As our traditions and customs, it’s something strange for us, but we’re opening this facility for the expats.’

    For more information see http://www.arabianbusiness.com/first-uae-crematorium-expects-strong-trade-455309.html

    It’s worth pointing out that in the supermarkets of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, there are pork counters with a sign above them reading: Non-Muslims only. It would be comparable to a condom shelf in a Rome pharmacy stating: Non-Catholics only.

    But in the secular West, we’re allowed to obey or ignore religious doctrines, and free will is also integral to Christianity. The UAE has far higher ratios of expats to local Emiratis, and are, therefore, ‘liberal’ compared to many Muslims states. Their five-star hotels have alcohol licenses. They allow a few non-Muslim places of worship. However, I think it’s fair to say they tolerate expat and tourist lifestyles more through commercial pragmatism than genuine approval. They’ve relied on Western know-how and Asian labour to go from being desert villages to urban business centres within a few decades of becoming wealthy through the discovery of oil.

  13. Richard Rawlinson

    Wednesday 16th May 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Jenny

    I’d be interested to hear how would you describe this country’s religious heritage and its present state regarding secularism and faiths?

    I’d also appreciate any specifics about the places my words are ill-informed and not particularly helpful.

    I won’t be offended and respect the fact you seem very knowledgable on a range of religious matters.

  14. Wednesday 16th May 2012 at 4:48 pm

    GM, no argument about the need to oppose extremism and fundamentalism and certainly terrorism wherever it comes from. Pretending that all faiths are perfect and that there are no issues that need to be addressed is not only foolish but actively counter-productive. With my RS hat on I have actually participated in a national initiative aimed at tackling such matters.

    I do admit though that I find the ‘our heritage is more Christian than anything else’ argument a little tired.

  15. Richard Rawlinson

    Wednesday 16th May 2012 at 3:50 pm

    GM, glad we more or less agree on this matter.

    Charles, I have no doubt that a minority of Christian clergy show disrespect to civil funeral celebrants on occasion. I also have no doubt that the odd BHA celebrant is disrespectful to clergy. Such disrespect is, of course, unnecessary. Religious and secular celebrants should respect each other as they both play important roles.

    However, persecution of secularists by Christians or of Christians by secularists is nothing compared to the hate crimes of fundamentalists.

    Once this Muslim debate has moved on, there’s plenty of scope for gentler discussion about the desirability of a secular blank canvas at crematoria, so people can project onto them what suits their belief mode.

    There’s also much to be said about how far secularisation should go in society; I think we all agree in freedom of worship in a state separated from Church. As outlined above, I also have a few concerns about a secular state getting too aggressive towards certain aspects of religion, and also lumping all religions into one. Our heritage is more Christian than it is other faiths.

    As for King Henry II and St Thomas Becket, a study of 12th century history perhaps shows fault on the side of both monarch and Archbishop of Canterbury.

    Even today’s Catholics have loyalties to both monarch and God, Church and Pope. Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s….

  16. Wednesday 16th May 2012 at 3:04 pm

    This poem is reasonably well-known. Brecht did a version of it; it comes originally, I’m told, from Pastor Niemoller.

    “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a socialist.
    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

    Then they came for me, and there was no-one left to speak for me.”

    I’m afraid I disagree with you Jenny about what’s been written above being unhelpful. One can be as sensitive to the rights of Muslims, and as well-informed about that faith, as it’s possible to be, and still miss the point: fanaticism and oppression need to be opposed, from whatever corner they spring. We need to fend them off the body politic and the social commonwealth, before those already quaint phrases lose all meaning.

    The fact that we are all ploughing on with this thread shows that we do feel deeply about these issues – good, even if we do lose the lighthearted touch, and stray from the subject of funerals.

    On which topic- yes, Charles, I’ve been patronised and disapproved of by ministers of religion, and also befriended and chatted to in a most jolly fashion. The only totally unacceptable intervention came at the end of the burial of a firmly ex-Muslim. (Distant) family were over from the Indian subcontinent. They read some Urdu poetry – fine. But despite the widow’s requests and instructions, when I’d finished my bit, and the coffin was lowered, these distant family members stepped forward and read out (in)appropriate suras from the Qu’ran. I didn’t know that’s what they were, my Arabic being a bit lacking – I wish I’d intervened but somehow (foolishly) I felt it was not my business. The widow was distraught and furious. I apologised, but she said there was no need to. It was typical of the reasons why her husband had left the faith.

    I should have told them to go forth and multiply.

  17. Richard Rawlinson

    Wednesday 16th May 2012 at 2:14 pm

    This is an abridged version of an explanation of terrorism by psychiatrist Dr Emanuel Tanya:

    A man, whose family was German aristocracy prior to World War II, owned a number of industries and estates. When asked how many German people were Nazis, the answer he gave can guide our attitude toward fanaticism.

    ‘Very few people were true Nazis,’ he said, ‘but many enjoyed the return of German pride, and many more were too busy to care. I was one of those who just thought the Nazis were a bunch of fools. So, the majority just sat back and let it all happen. Then, before we knew it, they owned us, and we had lost control. My family lost everything. I ended up in a concentration camp and the Allies destroyed my factories.’

    We are told by ‘experts’ that Islam is the religion of peace, and the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace. Although this may be true, it does not diminish the spectre of fanatics rampaging across the globe in the name of Islam.

    The fact is that the fanatics rule Islam at this moment in history. It is the fanatics who march, and who wage any one of 50 shooting wars worldwide. It is the fanatics who systematically slaughter Christian or tribal groups throughout Africa and are gradually taking over the entire continent. It is the fanatics who bomb, behead, murder, or honour-kill. It is the fanatics who take over mosque after mosque. It is the fanatics who zealously spread the stoning and hanging of rape victims and homosexuals. It is the fanatics who teach their young to kill and to become suicide bombers.

    The fact is that the peaceful ‘silent majority’ is cowed and extraneous.

    Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China ‘s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill 70 million people.

    The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not warmongering. Yet Japan slaughtered 12 million Chinese civilians; most killed by sword, shovel, and bayonet.

    And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery. Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were ‘peace loving’?

    History lessons are often blunt, yet for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic of points: peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. They will awaken one day and find that fanatics own them. Peace-loving Germans, Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Rwandans, Serbs, Afghans, Iraqis, Palestinians, Somalis, Nigerians, Algerians, and many others have died because the peaceful majority did not speak up until it was too late. As for us who watch it all unfold, we must pay attention to the only group that counts–the fanatics who threaten our way of life.

  18. Wednesday 16th May 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Hmmm…not sure I know where to start with this one! Charles, thank you for bringing us back onto death and funerals.

    I agree with Vale, I think that genuine secularisation is a ‘good thing’ not least because it opens the way to genuine religious freedom. A good secular state allows the same religious freedoms to followers of all religions and none. That includes (from our perspective) the right to a fully religious/liturgical funeral for those to whom that is meaningful.

    Religious involvement in politics? Yes, absolutely! Religion is a deeply political thing and most people have religious views of some kind (even if they are atheists. It is not possible to separate religion and politics. Nor is it desirable since both are a fundamental part of what it means to be a human being…along with the knowledge of our own mortality which gives both of those things much of their power and meaning. However, all religions, and none, much have equal standing and status before the law and in the political arena…which is the problem with the established Church. I am, for example, deeply uncomfortable with the fact that civil marriage ceremonies exclude any possibility of religious or spiritual content.
    This equality would of course, in a good secular state, be subject to conformity with certain ‘core values’.
    As to the image of Islam presented here, it is, in places, ill informed and not, I think, particularly helpful. Another argument for the importance of good quality religious education and effective inter-faith dialogue both of which are topics on which you probably don’t want to get me started. I have read the Catholic Churches document on inter-faith dialogue (‘Meeting God in Friend and Stranger’) It fills me with….forboding.

  19. Wednesday 16th May 2012 at 11:32 am

    You’re right, Vale, I’d make a complete hash of it.

    Seriously, in the light of all this talk these days about Britain being a Christian country (or three Xtian countries), there are other encroachments to be considered and remedial action taken. With ref to death, the hoo-ha at Heyford crematorium in Bath, which has just lost its etched glass crucifix window, is still running despite the authorities doing their best to render the campaign void by reminding the campaigners that the crem is a secular space, eff off.

    The church can still take a pretty proprietorial view of funerals, as any celebrant who has been witheringly disparaged by a minister of religion can testify.

    Surveying our own proud island story (thanks, Mr Gove), we recall that Beckett had to be taken out for reasons of simple power politics. Religions have always tried to muscle/worm their way into the body politic. They need to be dealt with firmly and compelled to ‘their own appointed limits keep’.

    On that split infinitive I shall now cycle off to evensong.

  20. Vale

    Wednesday 16th May 2012 at 11:16 am

    Well I think I agree with all that, Richard.

    Let’s have a stronger statement of the secular common or core values. Let’s stop all this divisive nonsense of state funded religious schools. Lets disestablish the CofE (the prospect of Charles as Defender of the Faith is, frankly, risible). Let’s have a bill of rights that asserts a common law and common standards of justice.

    We are, as you say, already plural – let’s for goodness sake stop pussyfooting around

    Or am I being too aggressively secular?

  21. Richard Rawlinson

    Tuesday 15th May 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Jon

    On the contrary, far from demonising Islam, liberals are too soft. It’s the leftist phobia of being perceived as racists for criticising despotism by non-whites. The same people would be happy to attack Westerners who behaved in such violent , sexist and anti-democratic ways.

    You say Muslims face inequalities around the world. Nowhere near as much as a non-Muslim faces in an Islamic state. Saudi Arabia still bans non-Muslim worship.

    I’m afraid I don’t acknowledge ‘our’ role in the problem, caused by Islamists – caused by atrocities such as 9/11, not by ‘our’ retaliatory invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq. I’m in a minority who believes our success in crushing al Qaeda and other terrorist-supporting dictators will make the world a better place. The Pope opposed the war but even as a Catholic I can’t help having some sympathy with Bush and Blair.

    I stand by my main point that ‘moderate’ Muslims need to speak out against the abusers of Islam so those with different faiths and none can live together in faith-toelrating, secular societies.

    Vale

    You say religious belief of all flavours is by its nature inclined to assert its primacy within a state and, if we currently enjoy the benefits of secularism they are hard won and continually challenged’.

    I agree secularists had to fight for their rights in the days when the Church had more power over the state. However, as I say in the blog, compared to an Islamic theocracy, the West has, almost from the beginning, tempered religion by acknowledging the legitimacy of secular institutions, thus making space for individual freedom. Atheist Communism is more comparable with Islamofascism as it persecutes those who go their independent way.

    I’ve said this in previous threads that I’m glad we live in a secular society that allows freedom of religion, and glad our secular democracy is defined by our nation’s Christian heritage, a legacy of decency and compassion that lives on. Arguably, secularism is getting too aggressive against the tolerant faithful who are not preaching hatred.

    The complex challenge of Government legislation is knowing what religious freedom to allow and what to restrict. Cameron, far from setting his face against the secularisation of society recently triggered the same-sex marriage debate, seemingly without any significant public demand other than to placate a few Lib Dems in the Coalition. While many of us welcome the justice of same-sex civil partnerships, the latest initiative could herald the start of forcing all houses of God to marry same-sex couples. If they refuse on religious grounds, will they have to close down? Resistance from Christian churches would be nothing compared to refusal from those running our nation’s mosques. So much for secularism not alienating multi-cultural Britain.

    Then we have the dilemma of faith schools. Many Christian schools have high academic standards due to a degree of selection. But with the level playing fields of secular even-handedness, anyone who supports a Christian faith school must also support Muslim schools, some of which have been known to teach hatred of infidels and have therefore done few favours to any promotion of harmonious national community. Is the answer that all faiths schools have to be taken over by homogenised secular schools?

    A secular state is, of course, right to act firmly and swiftly against the hate crimes of any fundamentalist preachers who incite verbal or physical violence against others. A secular state and legal system that has stemmed from a Christian heritage is also right to defend our culture in other ways. We are not a multi-cultural society in the sense that all cultures are equal. We are a pluralist society that tries to respect diversity but the historic national identity is pre-eminent, first among equals.

    This might mean we oppose allowing certain communities from being governed by sharia laws, which go against our own constitution’s laws regarding equal opportunities for men and women.

  22. Richard Rawlinson

    Tuesday 15th May 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Charles, if I gave my Muslim friend a hard time about Islamofascism, shall I bring up gun-weilding Buddhist monks over dinner with my Bangkok friend? Her response might be illuminating but I suspect she’s more interested in being in London for the shoes shopping.

    http://www.goodfuneralguide.co.uk/2012/04/funerals-from-around-the-world-buddhism/

  23. Tuesday 15th May 2012 at 3:58 pm

    You sound like you need a Thai Buddhist, Richard.

  24. Richard Rawlinson

    Tuesday 15th May 2012 at 3:57 pm

    Chomping at the bit to join in on this one but I scarcely have time to moonlight this brief comment, and am dining (with a visiting Thai Buddhist from Bangkok) tonight so my additional thoughts will have to wait…Suffice to say I think I was too kind in the blog! I even selected an image of extremist cleric Abu Qatada looking like a friendly Fr Christmas instead of choosing one in which he looks like the villain he is.

  25. Tuesday 15th May 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Jon, there is demonising on both “sides,” for sure. But in fairness to RR, although it may be important to help moderate Muslims if more of us more of the time worked to stop the demonisation of Islam as purely radical, the major work must surely be done by Muslims themselves?

    How many Muslims would listen to me arguing that they need to tone down their views, and dilute what some of their religious leaders seem to be taking from the Qu’ran?

    I’m with Vale, that the benefits of secularism – within which one can be a Muslim, an atheist or believe that the world is born on the back of four huge turtles – are indeed hard won and continually challenged, by any and all religions – and in liberal Britain, by our own lethargy and sentimentalism.

    It seems to be very difficult for humans not to define people as “them,” the other, less than “us.” Yet my wish not to do so conflicts with certain facts which, however liberal I may be, I really can’t accept, here or anywhere. I’m not arguing that the West is “benignly secular,” as Vale puts it. But my two Iranian friends (“moderate Muslims”) are very clear that we continually take for granted and underestimate the freedoms we enjoy in this country. The sort of freedoms which, if they assumed their right to them back in Iran, would swiftly result in a very nasty time for them.

    To raise a point that might relate to the GFG – it is, I understand, considered sacrilege under Islam to cremate a human corpse. So presumably, in a theocratic Muslim state, it would be illegal to do so?

    Well, there’s one freedom we have in the in-some-aspects-sometimes-at-least-benignly secular West. Just as well or I’d be in trouble!

  26. Vale

    Tuesday 15th May 2012 at 11:12 am

    I agree with the headline for this piece, but find myself becoming quickly uneasy thereafter.

    I can’t make the same distinction between the religious states that Islam has produced and the benignly secular west, for example. Religious belief of all flavours is by it’s nature inclined to assert it’s primacy within a state and, if we currently enjoy the benefits of secularism they are hard won and continually challenged.

    I don’t accept Mark Steyn’s three responses at all – if only because isolating Islam as the issue within the swirling mess of regional politics, strategic, historic, colonial and resource based concerns seems fearfully simplistic. Religion (and the distracting passions and prejudices it rouses) is all too often the cover for baser motives.

    I think Gloria’s point about ‘womaning up’ well made.

  27. Tuesday 15th May 2012 at 10:16 am

    Blog writers like a comment or two, it keeps the thing alive – I’m puzzled as to why this thought-provoking and forthright post hasn’t attracted any comment? (Until Gloria blunders in as usual, they all groaned…) Perhaps because it’s not directly about funerals.

    But RR is trying to cast light on important issues. Of course, only Muslims can “promote a coherent, moderate Islam” etc but it might help them do so if some Western liberals stopped sentimentalising Islamic societies and national positions. It can’t, comrades, be entirely the fault of the USA and the UK, despite appalling errors of leadership and strategy in those countries.

    RR wants his friend to “man up;” maybe he should “woman up.” Maybe part of the problem is the exclusion of characteristically female modes of thought and social interaction from Islamic power bases, religious and secular.

    Given the size of Muslim minority communities in this country, we might all usefully give a bit of thought and comment to such matters. It’s not just a matter of international relations.

    It’d be interesting to hear of interfaces between the usual procedures of The Dismal Trade in this country, and Muslim communities and their beliefs. I’ve got one story only, which if you comment on all GFG posts like good Thanatologists, I may grace you with.

  28. Tuesday 15th May 2012 at 10:15 am

    Hi Richard,

    The issue I have with your piece is that it feels very finger-pointing. You seem content to require Muslims to do all the work while you simply assess if they’re met your standards.

    What about your friends point that the West is simply demonising Islam as purely radical? Rather than try and change this pernicious dynamic your article seemed to compound it. Also what about the very real inequalities that Muslims face both in the UK and globally? I would suggest that trying to address these is a more effective way to undermine extremism

    In summary, in order to positively change I think it is important for us to acknowledge our role in creating these problems and show an example by doing something about them.

    Jon

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