Sunday 25 October 2009

The lightness of peace - a heretic's take

CBC's The Sunday Edition is hosted by Michael Enright. I very much enjoy his 'rants'! I first came across his work when looking for something about boats polluting our precious lakes: "Selling Muskoka By The Gallon". At the time, we visited one of the bigger lakes, with a fairly expensive leisure lifestyle, and watched a man top up his boat's gas tank to the tune of $450!

The Peace Tower (left), symbolize Canadian law and values for me. I believe in Canada, and our values. I believe in thinking about what it means to be Canadian, in our multicultural society.

This morning, Mr. Enright introduced a piece on Islam by saying "Most of us used to give little thought to Islam before 9/11".

I disagree. I taught in an Ottawa school, in 1998 - 2000, with a 70% Muslim  population. We talked about their religion almost every day. Many of my students took classes on Saturday at the Muslim school. They spoke of the information conveyed by their 'teachers'. In my mind it was inculcating them in extremist fundamentalism. These schools are unregulated, as they are private, religious schools. It frightened me.

One year, one of our students friend's had a sibling who passed away. A very ill young person with a debilitating, chronic disease. We had a class discussion about death and grief. One of my students piped up with the comment that it was not as if the student committed suicide, but it may be a relief to the burdened family whose lives were severely limited by the child's illness. Another student said that suicide was alright if you were doing for a cause. He explained that his uncle was a suicide bomber and he committed suicide to 'protect his people'. We were shocked and I quickly explained that we do not have those values in Canada. I was determined to learn more about Islam.

In order to understand my students, I took the opportunity to attend workshops on various religions, led by local leaders of all the popular faiths. I did some reading in order to understand, for example, our school librarian who was a practicing Muslim. My best friend and teaching colleague took some Arabic classes in order to understand her class of gr. 6 students better. Her class was 90% male, and with gender issues embedded in some religious fundamentalist groups, it helped her to have a handle on what they were doing and saying.

It is important to understand who we are as Canadians, but important, also, to keep that separation of church and state. Canadian values, Canadian laws must be upheld and maintained in Canada. While we must understand our neighbours, we must stand firm in upholding Canadian laws and principles. Canada is greatly misunderstood. Our values, such as Freedom of Speech, differ from American notions of this issue. We do not have the American value:  'the right to bear arms'.

The Sunday Edition's guest was introduced this way: "Graham Greene once said that heresy is another word for freedom of thought. And by that definition, Abdullah A Naim is a true heretic...In our first hour a moderate takes on militant Islam."

Mr. Enright's guest, went on to explain that Islamic religion is subject to interpretation by local leaders. It is not like, for example, Catholicism - in which the Pope produces pronouncements, and all must follow. In fact, while Martin Luther changed forever the notion of Christianity, he helped ensure that Protestants created their own religious values. Perhaps this is what Islam needs. Someone to move them from the dark ages to this age, and a revision of what it means to be Muslim. Perhaps, somebody, like Abdullah A. Naim, needs to take stronger leadership. I disagree, too, that Islam cannot have a Martin Luther. It is the perfect parallel and an analogy that makes sense.

 In the dark ages, few could read The Bible. It was the priest and their hierarchical, patriarchal society that shaped religious thought. Until the Bible was printed in German, thanks to Martin Luther, few understood what the Bible said. Surely, this is the same problem in places of unrest, where poor, unemployed, uneducated Muslims are choosing violence over education and change, but this is an oft-repeated pattern.  Bassam Darwich, in Islam and Peace says, "The Qur'an and other Islamic books like Al-Hadith and Al-Sira, i.e. the life of Muhammad, are full of evidence which proves that had it not been for violence, Islam wouldn't have existed or wouldn't have survived until today. "

The Qur'an needs to be interpreted for modern day. Where violence is chosen over that which religious texts proclaim and a text written when violence was the only answer, we need to rethink how much weight such a text should bear in modern day.

Sharia Law, for example, is subject to interpretation by local religious leaders. But in our society, in which the state is secular, and fair for all, not subject to religious precepts, we must stick to this value. Some do 'cherry pick' their religion's values -some Catholics do practice birth control and use condoms, but this cannot happen in secular law. Better educated Muslims agree that "Islam" does not mean "peace" but "submission". It is time that Muslims stood up for Islam, and helped create the kind of world Allah/God/The Creator would want us to live in: peace, harmony, respect for one another. "Do unto others...", or the Ethic of Reciprocity, is one which is the foundation for many religious precepts, and one which we must adhere to in secular society.


The Country Connection Magazine Story: Selling Muskoka by the Gallon

by Michael Enright. "You call someplace Paradise, kiss it good-bye. ... commonly known as pollution) as a 1998 passenger car driven 160000 kilometers. ... notice that he has about 15 two-litre jugs lined up in the bottom of his boat"

Martin Luther and the Reformation: The Protestant Reformation ...

The Protestant Reformation began in Germany, when Martin Luther posted ... During his time at Wartburg, Luther translated the bible into German. ... Instead pushing for reforms, the protesting Christians had begun their own religion

Islam & Peace

Many Muslim missionaries claim that Islam means 'peace'. But this is not so. Here an Arab explains the word 'islam' and 'salam'.

ISLAM for peace

Our goal is to revive Islam, save it from anachronistic interpretations, and make it a true power to support the values of liberty and humanity

Versions of the Golden Rule in 21 world religions

23 Aug 2008 ... Almost all of these groups have passages in their holy texts, or writings of their leaders, which promote this Ethic of Reciprocity.


zenandtheartoftightropewalking said...

As a probable heretic I often think the real danger to us in nearer to home in the kind of unthinking blind faith as evinced by many fundamentalist Christians and their attitudes to a vairty of things.
They might not get as far as blowing us all up but the effects might be as far reaching when it comes to the general growing up of society.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Very thoughtful post as usual Jenn. If only we could all live together in peace and harmony.
What is the river in your header - it is so beautiful.

Jenn Jilks said...

It is a lagoon in a lake, Weaver! On the left is the mainland, the right the peninsula.