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Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Level playing field?


                        Church of the Virgin Mary in Tal Nasri, Syria and a Mosque in Peterborough


Two reports have caught my attention today, from the BBC's Newsbeat, What you can be flogged for in Saudi Arabia, and from ITV News, 'Anti-Muslim hate is normal': research reveals impact of Islamophobic attacks.

According to the BBC report, British pensioner Karl Andree, 74, has spent more than a year in prison since being arrested by Saudi religious police. His family say they were led to believe he would avoid his punishment of 360 lashes because of his age but that is now in doubt. They believe the punishment would kill him. Mr Andree is asthmatic, has gout (a type of arthritis causing joint pain) and has survived cancer three times. His crime? He  was caught with homemade wine in Saudi Arabia. Alcohol is illegal in Saudi Arabia.  Mr Andree's daughter said her father was transporting homemade wine in his car in August 2014 when he was pulled over and arrested (here).

Some would argue that people residing in Saudi Arabia should abide by Saudi law, a strict interpretation of Sharia, where "It is illegal to evangelise Muslims; conversion to another religion is punishable by death. There are no church buildings and house churches are raided; Christians risk arrest, imprisonment, lashing, deportation and sometimes torture" (here).

It is different for Muslims in the United Kingdom. They enjoy freedom of worship along with special privileges, examples here and here. Polygamous marriages with multiple wives are allowed for benefit purposes even though bigamy is a criminal offence in the UK.

The ITV report alleges that "Anti-Muslim hate is normal" while associating hate with "Islamophobic attacks". This is an erroneous and dangerous association designed to portray Muslims as victims and put Islamic excesses beyond criticism. There is nothing irrational about a distaste for Islamic notions of justice or of fearing Islamic attacks on innocent victims.

From the Telegraph's report Three 'Isil-inspired jihadists planned Remembrance Day beheading in Britain': ...the men had been inspired by the “truly chilling” fatwa issued by Al Adnani, a spokesman for Isil (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) - also known as Islamic State and Isis.
It called for the beheadings of the “crusaders” and to “strike their police, security and intelligence members” and to “slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him from a high place, or choke him or poison him”.

Such actions should be regarded as abominable by any rational human being of whatever religion or none. This is what motivates the rejection of Islam but it does not follow that all Muslims are rejected.

There is a world of difference between 'Anti-Muslim hate' and what is deemed to be Islamophobia, a construct to deflect any questioning of Islam while other religions are persecuted by Muslims. According to a Guardian report here the British Prime Minister is in danger of confusing Anti-Islam with Anti-Muslim. While reassuring Muslims that they are safe in Britian he would do well to reflect on the safety of Christians and their churches in Muslim countries.

David Cameron talking to young Muslim women at Jamia Masjid mosque in Manchester in 2013. Cameron has invited key Muslim figures
 to join a new community engagement forum. Photograph: Andrew Parsons/REX Shutterstock/Andrew Parsons/REX_Shutterstock. Credit: Guardian

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