All faiths are not the same

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All faiths are not the same

Post by Guest on Fri Jan 28, 2011 6:05 pm

All faiths are not the same
Religious illiteracy needs tackling, but we must not be afraid of criticising what religions say about themselves

Jenny Taylor
guardian.co.uk, Friday 28 January 2011


The question: Is hatred of Islam now respectable?

Sayeeda Warsi's speech was brave, and annoying, perhaps in equal measure.

It was brave because the subject of religious illiteracy needs tackling and, such is the nature of British discourse about race or religion, it will only command a hearing when it comes from the underdog. She grasped the poisoned chalice. It was annoying, however, because if this is the best we can do, after 2,000 years of Christianity in these islands, all the religious cataclysms of recent years, and all the educational resources at our disposal, we're in a terrible mess.

It's brave because Warsi is a "feisty" – as a missionary friend of mine who works in Birmingham put it – woman who clearly feels able to tell the pope what he should be doing and doesn't fear telling us she told him.

But it's annoying because it is illogical and intellectually reckless. "Faith" is not interchangeable with "faiths". God is not one, as the Boston University theologian Stephen Prothero showed convincingly in his recent book: that particular discursive "rabbit hole" is a fantasy.

You cannot argue for all faiths an approach, or rights, that might be merited by one or other of them. Faiths are different from each other. We must never be afraid to explore, discuss and, if necessary, denounce what different religions actually say about themselves.

And this is where Warsi is at her most annoying. For we're not just talking about a few criminals when it comes to unacceptable forms of religion. There are in each religion centres of influence that exert themselves through their structures that we barely know about, and to which no media correspondent is ever assigned.

The Islamic Fiqh Academy in Saudi Arabia, for instance, is a massive unifying force in Islam, a counterweight of medieval regression pulling back against the possibilities that life in the west is affording Muslims. On family laws and apostasy, it will not bend.

And what has Warsi to say about the Tablighi Jamaat, the 80 million-strong Deobandi movement seeking to build a 12,000-capacity mosque in east London to complement its other huge establishments around the country, that insists on the "black sheet" – their translation – for women?

How does this not signal repression if, as a female journalist visiting the HQ in Delhi, you wish to interview a male authority and are permitted to do so only if you sit with your back to him? (This happened to me.)

Warsi quotes the Old Testament barbarisms of Leviticus and Deuteronomy without seeming to understand that Christians are taught in church, week by week, to judge all its sayings by the standard of the Christ of the New, who healed on the sabbath and did not resist his judge and executioners. Muslims handle scripture differently.

When Christians pray their core prayer, the Lord's Prayer or Paternoster, they ask: "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us." This is a blessing for society, albeit a counsel of perfection, repeated Sunday by Sunday.

Yet the most common Muslim prayer, the al-Fatihah, revealed to Mohammed, and recited up to 17 times a day, is subject to divisive interpretations that the faithful cannot ignore. "Guide us in the straight path, the path of those whom thou hast blessed, not of those against whom thou art wrathful, nor those who are astray."

This is the best-known chapter of the Qur'an – "the Opening". It seems incontrovertible; an exhortation to goodness. And indeed, the non-Arabic-speaking Muslim former editor of the Jakarta Post whom I met last year, believed he was invoking a blessing on all people. No doubt this is true of many Muslims especially in Britain.

Yet the 14th-century Syrian Qur'anic commentator ibn-Kathir says otherwise, and this is where the problem arises for devout Muslims seeking to grow in orthodoxy who must inevitably encounter the pull of tradition.

In Sunni Islam, the classical tradition, legitimated by the consensus of past scholarship, has been normative. While historically the sunna – the sayings, habits and tacit approvals of the prophet – has controlled the understanding of the Qur'an, the consensus of the religious scholars has over-ruled the sunna.

"For neo-traditionalists in Sunni Islam, the consensus of the past is authoritative and overrules everything," writes Professor John Esposito. And there is a saying of al-Azhar, the prestigious university in Cairo: "Consensus is the stable pillar on which the religion rests."

Those who, like the reformer An-Naim, bypass or ignore the classical tradition fail to come to grips with the reality of Islam on the ground. That means the conservative or neo-traditionalist bent of many religious scholars, madrasas and Muslim populations.

How does this affect the al-Fatihah? Ibn-Kathir is explicit about whom all Muslims everywhere should shun as misguided and objects of God's wrath. "These two paths are the paths of the Christians and Jews, a fact that the believer should beware of so that he avoids them ... "

Lady Warsi will only discourage Islamophobia by encouraging the reformers – and Britain's young Muslims who look to them – in linking new interpretations to the ancient ways of conformity.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/jan/28/faiths-religious-illiteracy?

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Re: All faiths are not the same

Post by The_Amber_Spyglass on Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:16 am

Warsi is a hypocrite.

cable2 wrote:It's brave because Warsi is a "feisty" – as a missionary friend of mine who works in Birmingham put it – woman who clearly feels able to tell the pope what he should be doing and doesn't fear telling us she told him.
Yet presumably any criticism of Islam is "Islamophobia" to her.

"schools are allowed and do promote promote homosexuality and alternative sexual lifestyles to your children."

Anti-muslim sentiment is wrong because... well, because we Muslims say so and anti-homosexual comments are okay because... well, we Muslims say so?

People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones and using your religion to hide behind your bigotry is cowardice.



So tell me, why do Muslims (or perhaps specifically Baroness Warsi) have a greater right to freedom of expression than homosexuals or the Pope?
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Re: All faiths are not the same

Post by dblboggie on Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:25 pm

The_Amber_Spyglass wrote:So tell me, why do Muslims (or perhaps specifically Baroness Warsi) have a greater right to freedom of expression than homosexuals or the Pope?

A very good question Matt. I would love for Warsi to explain that.
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Re: All faiths are not the same

Post by The_Amber_Spyglass on Tue Feb 01, 2011 3:23 pm

I'm just waiting for our "Voice of the Muslim People" to explain why Warsi's homophobia is acceptable but another member saying "Egyptian men think western women go to Egypt for sex with the locals" is anti-muslim bigotry of the highest order...?
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Re: All faiths are not the same

Post by dblboggie on Tue Feb 01, 2011 3:33 pm

The_Amber_Spyglass wrote:I'm just waiting for our "Voice of the Muslim People" to explain why Warsi's homophobia is acceptable but another member saying "Egyptian men think western women go to Egypt for sex with the locals" is anti-muslim bigotry of the highest order...?

Chin Scratch Point taken... what say you Cable?
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