When I read conservative Christian blogs I note that there is much vitriol directed towards Islam.
I do not question that bad things have happened in the world wide Islamic community. Of course there have been suicide bombers. The Saudi terrorist attack on the Twin Towers was real. There have been honour killings and acid has been thrown in the face of women deemed to have brought dishonour to their families. Although it is mercifully rare these days, there have been executions by stoning, and beatings justified by a narrow reading of the Koran. Women are clearly disadvantaged in term of access to education in some Islamic communities and what the West interprets as basic human rights are threatened in areas where Sharia law has been imposed. So yes, I agree there is clear evidence for a moat in the Islamic eye.
Yet the beam in the Christian eye is also significant. I suspect there are three impediments to Christian vision.
The first is that if a minority of Muslim extremists are seen to represent Islam, whether they be suicide bombers, Taleban fighters or those using Sharia law to justify abuses of human rights, then by the same token, Christian extremists who insist that enemies must be punished eg those who insisted that Iraq and Afghanistan be sorted, those Christians who insist that those of the wrong faith must be wiped out e.g. the Tutsi versus Hutu in Rwanda or Catholics attempting genocide of the Muslims in Srebrinica, must be allowed to be representing Christianity. Robert Fisk for example has noted the irony that Muslim girl students who visited Srebrinica prior to 1995 were the same ones who strapped grenades to their bodies and became suicide bombers. If anti social behaviour like honour killings in a Muslim community must represent Islam, then surely by the same token anti-social behaviour in a Christian community must represent Christianity. As Qasim Rashid observed in the Huffington Post of March 5:
Every nine seconds — nearly 10,000 victims daily — a woman in the United States is abused. In America, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women, more than car accidents, muggings and rape — combined. Would those who blame Islam for domestic violence also blame Christianity every nine seconds?…
If Christian influence is supposed to lift the standard of behaviour then why does that not show more clearly in the US? Although many of the social indicators e.g. divorce statistics, crime statistics etc are better in the Mormon State of Utah we are left with the puzzle of the particularly high crime rates in the Bible belt states.
Although I am appalled by the punishments meted out in Saudi Arabia, through the wonders of the Internet I can access the reported crime rates in Saudi Arabia and compare them with the reported crime rates in this country and in the US. It is a fact that there are more incidents per head of population involving gun crime in the US than there are in Saudi Arabia. There are more US executions per head of population than those in a typical Islamic nation like Saudi Arabia, particularly in the religious conservative states of the US. When it comes to sanction life taking by the respective governments – far more civilian casualties have been inflicted by US troops in trouble spots like Iraq and Afghanistan than are inflicted by the terrorists with or without the suicide bombers.
Certainly it is true that in the worst places like Syria, government inflicted deaths and injuries amongst the civilian population run into the thousands. They are still far from the totals racked up in Iraq as part of policies set in place by those determined to impose a Western solution to a Middle Eastern set of problems.
There is certainly fear in places like France and the US that the growing Muslim population, with their desire to retain Sharia law for their community, represents a potential threat to their adopted communities. There is however the counter observation that maybe we are blind to similar moves from within the accepted Christian community.
Sharia law is welcomed in places like Saudi Arabia and this can indeed worry those who champion human rights. Therefore it may come as something of a shock to realise outside commentators on Christianity can find similarities between Sharia law and the edicts of the Catholic Church.
The founder and director of the Shalom Centre in New York, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, recently condemned what he sees as the Catholic Church’s ‘outrageous attempt to impose Sharia law on the US government and the American public.’
Writing in the Huffington Post, Waskow explained that he is not speaking of Muslim Sharia, but believed that the recent move by Catholic bishops was in effect imposing a Roman Catholic equivalent ‘Sharia’ with regard to contraception.
To Waskow the evidence was that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is trying to impose their views on contraception on Americans of all faiths and beliefs who happen to work in Catholic-sponsored hospitals or university throughout the nation.
He saw the irony that Muslims were not in fact campaigning to impose Sharia law on US courts , yet they have had to listen to various Republican candidates for President condemn non-existent attempts to impose Sharia on the US public, meanwhile, actual attempts at doing the equivalent are ongoing by the Catholic bishops.
We might note in passing, the irony that for members of any Church where women are excluded from leadership, or where there is discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, to be fulminating over what members of another religious faith might choose as a focus for their discrimination is hardly being consistent.
The third area of blurred vision comes in not fully understanding that Christianity teaches that we must be more attentive to our own faults before we should turn our attention to the faults in those who follow other religions. The principles like forgiveness of enemies, like the concern for neighbours (including those of different faiths), and those like wanting justice for the down-trodden, don’t actually quite match the attempts to dominate enemies, the power struggles, the exploitation of the third world, the arms race, and the obsession with the trappings of faith to the exclusion of an active interest in Christian principles.
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