Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Shared humanity?

David Thompson is an articulate and well-read writer on who is very worried about Islamic fundamentalists. Here's my current offering to the debate:

David, as I understand it, you hold that Islamists like O.B.Laden are expressing not an aberration, but the core message of Islam. I read you as saying that Muslim theology and culture are systemically, radically and totally in error. I hope I have not mis-read you.

Let me detail the bits that I like about Muslim culture, off the top of my head.

The bit of the Quran that I like is way each chapter begins with the phrase "In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful".
I like their duty of giving to charity. (thought - how much did the Saudis give to Pakistan?)
I share their suspicion of the moneylender system.
I like their architecture and am grateful the knowlege they passed on to us.
I cherish the story of Saladin's mercy to the inhabitants of a conquered town.
I also cherish memories of Muslims who gave me hospitality as I travelled through their lands.

At the same time, I also feel that Islam comes across as a pretty uptight religion, on a par with Ian Paisley and Pat Robertson's religion. It is patriarchal, but so is Christianity (although the Anglicans are painfully trying to emerge from that particular chrysalis), and even Bhuddism denies the possibility that women can reach enlightenment.
It can be homophobic, but so are many Christians.
I do not know whether the Islamic mullahood has as many paedophiles as the Catholic priesthood, but I doubt it, because at least Islam does not make the cardinal (sic) error of imposing celibacy on its priests.

In short, I think that Muslims are people just like us (although different, of course, just to save you the trouble of pointing this out) - a mixed bag of good and bad, holding some true thoughts and some erroneous ones, and like us, perfectly capable of entertaining mutually exclusive ideas at any one time. They are capable of being misled by their political leaders, just like us. It they are tortured, they scream, just like us. If they are cut, they bleed, just like us. If they lose a lot of blood, they die, just like us.

Most important of all, their lives and ours both depend on the same biosphere.

What I want is to co-operate with my Muslim friends in bringing about a world of social justice and ecological sustainability.

David, what do you want?

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