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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Currently reading: Shari'a in the West, ed. Rex Ahdar and Nicholas Aroney

This collection is a "must read" if you're interested in issues to do with the apparent clash between Western secularism and the demands of Islam. I use the word "apparent" deliberately - this "clash" may prove to be an illusion. "Apparent" does not, however, entail "illusory". Perhaps, in the end, the clash will turn out to be a real one: it may yet be a case of "Seems, madam? Nay, it is."

I'm very open to the idea that secular societies can accommodate Islam just as they accommodate many other religions. I hope that's how things turn out. It's going to come down to whether Muslim leaders and organisations are content to live in societies in which Islam is not persecuted, as opposed to societies in which Islamic law and morality are given some kind of legal status that can be enforced against others - whether against the populace as a whole or "merely" against those who have the good or not-so-good fortune to be born into predominately Muslim communities.

We need to talk about the issues very seriously, and to do so without the fear of being accused of "Islamophobia". The fact is that there are elements of Islamic doctrine, history, and practice that are in tension with secularism and liberalism. That tension needs to be understood and examined. I'm not calling for incivility towards Muslims - much less anything worse - but a degree of courage and intellectual honesty is needed as we move into this territory.

I'm only one third of my way through Shari'a in the West. It's a solid collection of essays, and I can already report that the standard is high and that I enjoy the diversity of viewpoints. There are some that I disagree with strongly, but that's okay: I'm happy to read the views of my intellectual opponents. (Hey, from time to time I actually change my mind on something if the case against me is strong enough; so, I suggest, should we all.) At this rate, I expect my understanding of the specific issues surrounding Islam to have deepened considerably by the time I'm finished.

My forthcoming book on religious freedom will deal with the role of Islam in modern secular states, but only as one issue among many (ranging from religious sexual morality to freedom of speech to the teaching of evolutionary theory ... but certainly including how we should respond to the burka). There's an important issue here, what with the aspirations of some Islamists and other Muslims to incorporate Sharia law into Western legal practice. We need to do a lot of more to come to grips with the implications.

1 comment:

Brian said...

"We need to talk about the issues very seriously, and to do so without the fear of being accused of "Islamophobia"."

So in other words, you're a Muslim-hating racist fascist Nazi Hitler Bush lover? Or are you merely raising issues while determined to reach politically correct, culturally sensitive conclusions, regardless of evidence? That would be acceptable. These are the only two possibilities...do you still beat your wife? The world isn't black-and-white you know...it's one shade of gray, and you are thrice the WRONG and EVIL shade of gray. First, your inexcusable world outlook. Second, your colonialist skin color. Third, the way you mangle the word "gray" when you spell it. It's as if everything is upside-down over there!