A shared misunderstanding

Freedom of speech and religious prejudice

Any blogger who reads this will know the slight twinge of anxiety felt whenever the send button is pressed.  In that split second your private thoughts journey from the containment of your mind out into a wide open space where they may be digested, absorbed, reproduced or criticised.  Rarely have I felt that anxiety so acutely as I did on October 21st  last year when I posted a response to news footage of Colonel Gaddafi’s death entitled “Victory Porn”.  Ministers of the church don’t usually use that word, least of all in an environment where a search engine can pick it up! However, it opened up all sorts of interesting conversations for me. Some were with Christians, some with news broadcasters, and some with Muslim journalist Myriam Francois-Cerrah. We have stayed in touch ever since, and so it was with particular interest that I read her Huffington Post article today on Islamophobia.

I won’t attempt to summarise it here, as you can just as easily read it for yourself by clicking.  However, I would ask my Christian readers to reflect on how many of the selected points below seem to apply to the treatment of Christian faith in public discourse as well. In many of them you could substitute the word “Christian” or “evangelical” for Islam.

A personal bugbear is the suggestion that Islam or the Quran ‘says’ – Islam ‎doesn’t speak – people speak in the name of Islam, filtering the texts ‎through their experiences and drawing on interpretive traditions. Couldn’t the same be said of the church?

This ‎reification of faith assumes that, unlike other religious traditions, Islam is ‎monolithic and can be gleaned from a brief perusal of sacred texts. It can’t. ‎To do so is to misrepresent Islam, the faith of over 1.3 billion people in the ‎world. Christianity, in the end, is defined by its interpretation in the lives of its followers – for good or ill.

Islamophobia is only unclear to those who seek to obfuscate its meaning. It ‎is the tendency to reify Islam – that is to assume the behaviour of given ‎individuals (typically extremists) reflects an accurate concretisation of the ‎principles of the faith itself.  Finding your faith defined in the public arena by the behaviour of its most extreme proponents is both insulting and dangerous. (Remember Harold Camping?)

The struggle against islamophobia is the struggle for a nuanced and ‎contextualised appraisal of events involving Muslims, a refusal to accept ‎that everything can be explained away through a facile reference to ‘Islam’. A nuanced and contextualised approach to interpreting any faith serves us well as human beings, I think.

Myriam goes on to make many other points about ignorant portrayals of Islam which bear a fuller reading.

I have never been involved in inter-faith dialogue, and I am not at all sure that I will be. However, this Muslim journalist has given me cause to reflect on how any faith – whether hers or mine, may be caricatured in the pursuit of a quick headline or a sound bite.





One thought on “A shared misunderstanding

  1. Pingback: The Preachers' Blog · Change the record!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Optionally add an image (JPEG only)