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Friday, 20 November 2015

Thought for the Day

Credit: South Wales Argus

"A young man who recently converted to Islam told me that while he loved his new found faith, the worship the prayers and the discipline, one of the worst things about his new life was listening to the Friday sermon. He had yet to hear a sermon which actually engaged with the very real ethical issues which plague many Muslim communities, integration, identity, radicalisation as well as the more complex discussions around loyalty and belonging. Rather than address those very real problems, many imams were more obsessed with the length of beards, how much water you needed for ablutions or the dangers of men and women mixing. And it’s true, so many of these sermons are absurdly divorced from the painful realities of what’s happening around us. Many preachers refuse to acknowledge that even if militant Islamism lies at the margins of society, it has a cancerous effect on the whole of Islam and affects us all.

In all these sermons, there are copious references to the Prophet’s daily life. But if the prophet is to be a reference point, why not raise those other matters he is also reputed to have said, that a time would come when nothing would remain of Islam but its name, nothing of the Quran but its word, and that many mosques would be beautifully furnished but destitute of any guidance. Our witness to the faith today is preachers who use their sermons to encourage hate while calling Islam peaceful. We have young men who talk of the brotherhood of Muslims but kill innocents randomly simply because they can, conflicted Muslim states too busy both blaming the west and indulging the west. If this continues what will remain of Islam, a religion seemingly reduced to compulsory ritual without spiritual essence.

The Islamic world has become far less sophisticated in how it reads its own scripture and sources. In this lies one of the roots of religious fundamentalism and over the years, it has morphed into a harsh and cruel Islamism. The two are inexorably linked both deluding themselves that Islam will one day be dominant. There is no victory here only nihilism. Geopolitics may drive the violence, extremist militancy may be small in numbers, but innocents being slaughtered in the Arab world and in Europe has at its core an ideology where dying is more important than living. God is the greatest is a call to prayer, but it has also become a prelude to a death cult. Many ordinary Muslims remain baffled by global events, for them their faith remains a source of moral and spiritual growth, of giving and generosity. But last week’s tragic attacks in Paris, yesterday’s shootings, show that unless we are active in defending all that is good in our faith, there will be no faith to defend. With each attack Islamism won’t weaken the west, but it will hollow out the Muslim faith just that little bit more."

 - BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day 19 November 2015.
   Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations,
   University of Edinburgh School of Divinity.

As Sadiq Khan the MP for Tooting said,  "Extremism isn't a theoretical risk. Most British Muslims have come across someone with extremist views at some point – and so have I. It's affected my personal life, my friendships and my career. People I knew as a boy have gone on to hold extremist views, and even to act on them in terrible ways."

The message attached to the rose in the illustration is a powerful one. The quotation has been used countless times as an Islamic condemnation of the Paris bombings. But it is only part of a longer verse in the Quran which is contradicted by the next verse 5:33 as explained here in response to a comment made on the Answering Muslims blog:

Verse 5:32 - On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person - unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land - it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

Verse 5:33 - The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.

Greater honesty as expressed by Professor Mona Siddiqui in 'Thought for the Day' would bring more credit to Muslims who protest that Islam is a Religion of Peace.

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