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Sunday, 18 January 2015

The question of who defines Islam

Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff makes some perceptive points in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo killings in his comment piece for the Church Times:

'The real conflict is not between Islam and the West, but between Muslims themselves: it is an intra-Muslim fight for domination of the Islamic world, and for who defines Islam. The West is being sucked into this as a means of changing the balance. If Western nations can be provoked into more interventions in the Middle East, this can be used to urge all Muslims to make common cause with extremists against the infidel invaders.

If, on the other hand, the West holds aloof, it appears to be compromised morally by permitting humanitarian catastrophes; and new Islamist powerbases can arise in the vacuum of failed states, such as Libya and Syria. Either way, the Islamist's can play the West's role to their advantage.'

He continues that, 'Only Muslims themselves can resolve the question who defines Islam, and what being an authentic Muslim entails.' Therefore, 'those with religious authority in mainstream Islam must be enabled' to 'unite to invalidate the extremist interpretation' and 'be seen to do it definitively, for the wider good of all.'

Giles Fraser makes a similar point in his latest Comment is free piece for The Guardian. There he critiques the fateful decisions in France, based on their recent heritage of secularism, to pick 'a fight with Islam by banning the headscarf from schools in 2004 and the niqab from all public life back in 2010 – bans which closely echo the hostility of earlier generations to the veiling of nuns':

'But there is a huge difference between targeting grand bishops in Rome and a beleaguered, economically fragile Muslim community that has received a great many knocks at the hands of the French state and its colonial past. Rabelaisian derision aimed at the House of Saud or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is one thing. But aimed at the disaffected banlieues it is bullying and goading. You have to be suspicious that French secularism is not the neutral thing it purports to be when racists such as Le Pen start defending it so enthusiastically. And yet there is nothing the leaders of al-Qaida want more than the French state to be seen to declare war on its religious citizens once again. They know that many young, disaffected Arab immigrants on the sink estates outside Paris are itching for a fight. The French government must not give it to them. And that means re-thinking their precious laïcité.'


The Neville Brothers - With God On Our Side.

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