Islam in Europe – the fear and the irrationality
In the USA there is I think something that may unite the Religious Right and the Secularist community – a fear that Europe is being swallowed up by Islam. The Archbishop’s comments that Sharia Law should have an accommodation in UK law, and other examples do seem to add to that perception – and it is one played on in Europe by anti immigration parties.
One such Dutch politician is Wilders who has spoken about making a film that will depict him decimating the Koran. Which if he did it would be nothing new – youtube has plenty of films of people doing that. How analytical such a film about the Koran will be I am not sure, but the background of course is that four years ago the Dutch film “Submission” was shown on Dutch TV and the director of the film Theo van Gogh was stabbed to death with a letter between his dead body and blade stating that the screenplay writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali would be next.
Now I am concerned with how some people want to accommodate Islam. That women are given less human rights due to their cultural tradition (a German court ruled that a woman was correctly beaten according to cultural custom but thankfully that decision was overturned). If this is multiculturalism, then it needs to be defeated because it allows people to be treated differently, against the notion of justice as fairness, and leads to the treatment of people that would not be allowed by law on other citizens.
However there is a fight back – witness the condemnation that met the very surprised Bishop of Canterbury (as parts of the Anglican community may refer to him when the schism is complete). Then there is Ayaan herself who though her life is under threat while she lives in the USA, speaks out but with authority because she has has lived it. Sam Harris in “End of Faith” in a chapter talks about the concerns of a literalistic interpretation of Islam.
Tolerance is a wonderful thing, but it does not cover everything. Some things will be beyond a society to accept, the question is only if there is a moral basis. Ethical consideration would be to do with harm and suffering, and the welfare of people. As such, for example, decisions based on divorce and financial arrangements which did not consider genders to be equal parties would be a cause for concern.
However, the xenophobia that exists is out of proportion to the threat posed, which is more within their own community then to wider society. That of genital mutilation, less likely for women to be educated or fluent in the native tongue, and customs such as honour killings which do not deserve the adjective. 7/7 happened, but much of that is ignoring what was happening within a community until it was too late.
In a global communication network, it will be difficult to censor the message of hate that Islamic fundamentalists use. Yet we can perhaps counter their message of hate, with rational passionate discourse about the benefits of human rights and liberal democracy. Hate crimes that encourage harm and the breaking of the law require zero tolerance.
Because it seems the key opponents in politics of Islam are the xenophobic politicians. The other politicians in power seem keen to move public policy to an accommodation with “moderate” faith groups in an attempt to take the sting out of the tail of extremist belief – based on fear. Few of political standing seem able to create a vision of an open country that will stand up for liberal values with a veer and vigour. They seem prepared to sacrifice these values for a better nights sleep after an election, reducing liberties and allowing values out of step with a modern state.
If I am wrong, by all means link them here in the comments – I would like to hear such politicians who will stand up for such values. I doubt that it will be popular with the electorate though it may be correct. But the case has yet to be made in the manner like below:
We live but a brief existence on this earth. We want the best for ourselves and our children. It is part of the human identity to better ourselves. By education. By hard work. The will to sacrifice today for a better tomorrow. Much do we owe to those that came before us and may we strive that the future generation will say the same of us.
When people overcome obstacles and hardship to come here to make such a better life for themselves, to become a productive member of society that they become as one with us – this is a cause of celebration that the liberty and opportunity that we have created attracts such people that add to both commercial wealth and spirit in the land.
This does not mean that the light of liberty, freedom and opportunity that attracts so many to our shores should be dimmed on the say so of those that would replace our ancestors hard won rights with customs and beliefs that go against enlightenment values. Nor should we let mistrust and hatred allow us equally to do away those same values that allow us the freedoms to be who we are. Let us not sleep walk into thinking these rights are everlasting; may we ever be watchful of the demagogue that will promise us something with one hand while taking away the rights that gave us everything we love and appreciate. Rights that make our country great.
All equal before the law, the right to be tried by your peers, the right to a fair trial, the freedom to religious belief and none, that your private life is yours, the freedom to speak your mind and be challenged in that opinion, that all have the liberty to make their own way in this life and that by doing so shall the greater good be best served within such laws that are in accordance to the common good.