ianwestbrook : RELIGIOUS ACCOMMODATION
THURSDAY, MARCH 04, 2010
As I recall one of the four freedoms of The Atlantic Charter was that of religion and belief. Much like the Nuremberg Trials that history seems to have been sealed in storage as we faced the brave new world of terrorism, without acknowledging the use of terrorism by States is equally repugnant. Does violence, in whatever form, promote justice?
Christianity, which presumably is drawn from the reported teachings and example of Jesus of Nazareth, arose in a political sense in opposition to the Roman Empire, which makes sense of the those instructions "to turn the other check" and "walk the extra milestone". Those principles in their context were a form of subversive nonviolence to affirm the humanity of the oppressed. Because I saw the movie, I recall that Nero supposedly started the fire in Rome to burn out the Christian populations who continued to not recognize the supreme authority of the Emperor, or to join the Army. This all changed with Constantine, when Christianity became the official religion. Charlemagne, for example, had his religious advisers. Then the Curia became the model of government bureaucracy with in due course the investigating panels of the Inquisition, which especially cruel in a noble cause following the Reconquesta in Spain. By contrast the Islamic rulers of Muslim Spain held conference between Islamic, Jewish and Christian representatives, which were both intellectual pressure and stimulation for the northern barbarians. The Alhambra was not just a fluke; it was the product of a civilization.The contest of ideas and social formations are as always intermingled and polarized, at times in military conflict.
But I of course digress because history, our collective story and stories, even in its rudimentary form as here, is irrelevant. The mainstream media, through some of its channels and platforms, as the servant of democracy and social harmony, has successfully created a vicious stereotype and conditioned response to Islam among an understanding mostly ignorant and perhaps fearful population.
I know nothing much about Islam works and its landscape of belief, including the various local pre-existing foundations to which dominant religions accommodate as in the Easter tradition. The perpetuation of criminal violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, whether intended or not, may have the effect of destroying the shrines and presence of the Sufi tradition. The Sufis are no friends of the Taliban, and given the craven and discourteous performance of President Obama in Oslo not friends of the imperialists either.
Commentary and reporting is of its nature a framing of events within the consensus view of reality, in other words the dominant story. Fatwas are part of the intellectual tradition of Islam. They need not be issued, it seems, as statements of a central authority, effectively with the imprimatur of the State. They can be authoritative in there own terms, a testament to the dialectical and rational tradition of Islam. I suspect the Greek influence flowed into the cup of Islam as it did into Christian thought.
Different scholars seem to come to different conclusions. Al Jazeera reported Muhammad Tahir ul-Qadri, head of the Minhaj ul-Quran religious and educational organisation, as saying categorically: At a news conference, ul-Qadri said Islam was a religion of peace that promotes beauty, "betterment", goodness and "negates all form of mischief and strife".
"Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it, or any kind of excuses or ifs or buts," he said.
A number of edicts condemning extremism have been made by Islamic groups since the September 11 attacks on the United States, but ul-Qadri insists his is the most wide-reaching.
"This is the first, most comprehensive fatwa on the subject of terrorism ever written," he told the Reuters news agency.
"I have tried to leave not a single stone unturned on this particular subject and I have tried to address every single question relevant to this subject."
Pakistan-born ul-Qadri, 59, has written about 350 books on Islam, and is a scholar of Sufism, a Muslim branch that focuses on peace, tolerance, and moderation.
The Quilliam Foundation, a UK counter-extremism think-tank, said the fatwa was "arguably the most comprehensive" theological refutation of Islamic extremism.
Tim Winter, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Cambridge University, said while ul-Qadri's step of declaring "miscreants as unbelievers" was unusual, it was unlikely extremists would take notice of his edict.
That judgement can be contrasted with another opinion reported by Al Jazeera: Sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki , a Yemeni religious scholar, has told Al Jazeera that the suspect accused of attempting to blow up a US passenger jet on Christmas Day, was one of his students.
Al-Awlaki said that he did not order the attempted suicide attack on the airliner, but that US civilians were legitimate targets since they bore responsibility for their "government's crimes".
"Omar Farouq, may Allah free him, is one of my students ... But I did not issue a fatwa [religious edict] allowing him to carry out this operation," the US-born al-Awlaki said in an exclusive interview.
The notion that governments should be accountable to their citizens is a very democratic view, but can those who oppose public policy be held to accountable for its consequences. Such is the nature of democracies, in the age of 'the manufacture of consent" that opposition even by the majority of public opinion is not necessarily the condition for their execution, and general elections, increasing brought and paid for by market forces, are determined by self interest or fear.
The challenge of multiculturalism is worth working out, but it is compounded by the fact that different strains of Islam, as with Christianity are coming from different places in time and place with differing stories. The purpose ought to be to establish common ground, and the method of violence and domination is unlikely to be effective in either the short term or long term.