This is a summary of our discussion on September 4th
Recent events in the news could reinforce a negative stereotyped image of Islam and Muslims: developments in Eastern Syria and Northern Iraq (it’s perhaps significant that the Muslim Council of GB has argued that we should stop calling them the “Islamic State” because they are neither Islamic nor a state), and the Rotherham sex abuse scandal, where the media have made it appear that Muslim men are “targeting” white girls.
It is clear that the sexual abuse of Asian women and girls within the community has been seriously under-reported, that some community leaders have taken a “this is our problem, we can deal with it” (don’t wash your dirty linen in public) approach, and that for a variety of reasons others have hesitated to challenge what is happening (the “risk” of being accused of racism perhaps an excuse?). The attitudes of many males to vulnerable women is a far wider problem in society than some ethnic communities, though there may be reasons why it has become very evident there.
What should be done about ISIS (to continue to use the shorthand title)? Some would argue that they are simply thugs and that quick military action would solve the problem (so leaders are accused of “twiddling their thumbs”), but a more measured and cautious reaction is perhaps what is needed- supporting Kurdish forces, working for a far more “inclusive” government in Iraq, and what about the vacuum that has been created in Syria??? Also significant in the region is the “rivalry” between Saudi Arabia and Iran (a Shia/Sunni tension, unless that is yet another false stereotype??). And has “Western” involvement in the region over the last 100 or more years (mainly because of thirst for oil) led to disastrous destabilisation of the region? In which case illusions that the “West” can solve the problems are only likely to make matters worse.
The religious wars in Europe (between Catholics and Protestants in the 17th century) helped produce the “Enlightenment”, with its view that politics should be decided on the basis of reason, and religious dogma should be kept out of government. (But is that what Jesus meant by “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s”??). In Jewish theology there is also a strong tradition that the laws and constitution of the “host” nation should be respected. In Islam also there is a similar tradition, within a distinction between “Islamic” countries (Dar-al-Islam: including the Middle East and Palestine, which became Muslim in the earliest centuries); countries where Muslims are allowed to practise their faith without interference (Dar-al-Sulh); and countries where Islam is persecuted and “in conflict” (Dar-al-Harb). In recent years many Muslims have become more strongly convinced that they must struggle to convert countries to accept Islam as the only basis for a good, just and stable society (Salafism). Many young people see the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate as the hope for the world (in much the same way that many Western young people hoped Christianity would “change the world”, or that in the 1930s others went to fight against Fascism in the Spanish Civil War)- many of those young people are likely to return disillusioned.
We can either give way to a sense that there is a permanent and irrevocable antagonism between Islam and “the (Christian?) West” (like the image of the “Turks at the gates of Vienna” of past centuries) or work to establish a better understanding of what is happening in the world of today.