Somewhere between total advocacy and Islamophobia is a range of sane views about Islam, the religion and world-view of around a quarter of the world’s population who quite clearly are not all setting out to blow the rest of us to kingdom come. There have been other candidates too in that dishonourable pursuit through the past hundred years or so… Most of us, Muslim or not, just want to get on with our lives.
I’ve had many goes myself at this favourite topic for bloggers and have locked horns on it with at least one American friend whose views I find quite alarming. You can see what I have said, if you want to: Old Lines from a Floating Life, New Lines from a Floating Life and, referring to an unpleasant set of events here in Sydney, Cronulla 05.
A bottom line for me is the concept of "deadly identities" enunciated by French/Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf. See Religion: who needs it? below. We all have to concede that degree of pluralism or multiculturalism which is neither policy nor theory but the lived experience of most of us: our "identity" is not stable, not unitary, owes allegiances in more than one direction, and as soon as we deny that and subsume all of our essence under one rubric we are in danger of bigotry, fanaticism, or worse — and that applies to all of us, not to Muslims especially. All of us too need to embrace a greater inclusiveness, something beyond mere toleration, which may be patronising, but short of valuelessness. It is easier always just to bat blindly for one’s own team, but the world will not survive if that attitude continues to prevail. That applies to Muslims, as well as to Christians, Hindus, atheists, or whoever else has a team to bat for.
I am not sitting here pontificating while never having met or talked to a Muslim either. I live in a part of Surry Hills sometimes called Little Lebanon; there is a mosque just round the corner; I have had dealings with Muslim students, including some that might be regarded as fairly radical. Not to mention online conversations of one kind or another.
So here’s a wish for 2008: let’s get sane about Muslims. Let’s engage in real conversations about and with Islam. Let’s realise too that the biggest conversation of the lot is the one happening within Islam itself.
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