Dumbing down religion

05 Aug

One thing Vladimir said last Sunday struck me as very true: the conservative religious person tends to dumb down religion. The bracing effects of postmodernism appal all those who yearn for simplistic answers to complex questions, and this is true whether the simplistic answers are Southern Baptist, Marxist, Catholic, right-wing reactionary or Muslim, or whatever else. So Drew Fraser. So George Bush far too often for a man of such power in the world. And so this most recent deluded sod, “Abdul Nacer Ben Brika (phonetic), also known as Abu Bakr.”

ABU BAKR: I am not only against the Jew. I am against anyone who try to harm my religion.

NICK MCKENZIE: But isn’t it important in Australia, where we have freedom of expression, freedom of religion – the freedom that allows you to speak freely – that we accept other religions?

ABU BAKR: According to my religion, here, I don’t accept all other religions except the religion of Islam.

NICK MCKENZIE: Isn’t there a danger in you pushing that view, you will encourage people to attack Jews, to attack Christians here in Australia?

ABU BAKR: No. This is your understanding. This is your understanding.

NICK MCKENZIE: What is your understanding?

ABU BAKR: I am telling you that my religion doesn’t tolerate other religion. It doesn’t tolerate. The only one law which needs to spread, it can be here or anywhere else, has to be Islam.

John Howard is correct to say that the majority of Australian Muslims do not support such views, just as I from an Anglo/Christian perspective do not support the views of Drew Fraser, or of many another crackpot, religious or otherwise, from my own background and tradition. It is hard though to see this perspective when it involves “the other” rather than “us.” It is too easy for outsiders to attribute the most extreme versions of a world-view or religion we are not so familiar with to all who practise, however devoutly or however loosely, that world-view or religion.

It can’t be doubted though that Abu Bakr suffers from “deadly identity”, to use Aamin Maalouf’s seminal phrase. But we are not immune either, a point Maalouf also makes.

See also “The Islamic Sickness of Fundamentalism: On Abdelwahab Meddeb: The Malady of Islam by Nausikaa Schirilla, Polylog 5 2004. The 21st century needs such voices for complexity, people too such as Karen Armstrong and almost anyone you would like to name on Radical Faith.

God save us from the simplifiers, the bigots, the paranoid, the xenophobic, and the snake-oil merchants of every stamp!

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Posted by on August 5, 2005 in Australia and Australian, fundamentalism and extremism, Islam, Multicultural, radio, South Sydney Uniting Church, terrorism


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