Monday, October 09, 2006

Another post about R4's Today

Just about every Thought for the Day I happen to hear these days seems to be done by a Christian using his or her 3 minutes to put the case for Islam. This morning’s effort from Rev Dr Colin Morris was typical. Morris doesn’t like Muslims being called extremists, and in a disingenuous and simplistic discourse on semantics he tried to reclaim the words 'extreme' and 'radical' from those who use them to criticise Islam. For him, monks, nuns and Christian pacifists are also extremists, ergo religious extremism is not a bad thing. Likewise 'radical', which apparently has only one true dictionary definition (and it's not negative). His line of logic leads him, inevitably, to absolve Islam of any blame for the horrors done in its name. Indeed, the last sentence indicates where he feels real blame lies. I’ve done a quick transcript, or listen here (streaming ram):
Whenever stories about our Muslim citizens hit the news, the complex world of Islam tends to be reduced to two simple categories - moderate Muslims good, extreme Muslims bad. But that’s a political judgement made from the outside often based on some notion of security risk. Religiously it is a loose use of language. Put the boot on the other foot. Talk instead about moderate and extreme Christians. What does it mean to be moderately Christian? When you’re a follower of one who said you must lose your life in order to save it. That the social order will be turned upside down. That those who will do you harm must be loved and cherished. If that is moderation, what is extremism? Indeed, if you’re looking for Christian extremists go no further than the nearest Society of Friends. A more respectable group of people you couldn’t hope to meet, but on one issue they must be judged extreme. However patriotic they are, they won’t take up arms to fight for their country. They’ll die for it but they won’t kill for it, and in times of war Quakers and other pacifists have gone to jail for their convictions. Or take monks and nuns. For the sake of their faith they have turned their backs on normal life - sex and the family, economic and political power, social ambition. If to be extreme means to go to the limit you can’t go much further than they do out of obedience to God. An MP recently expressed anxiety about what he called the ‘radicalisation of Muslims’ in some mosques, but every religious movement is in the business of radicalising its followers. Unless words have lost any meaning, to be radical is to go below the surface, to get right down to the root of an issue; in the case of religion, to do and believe the things that will bring you ever closer to God. And it’s the strength of a free society that it concedes the right of believers to have this higher loyalty without treating them as subversive. Of course there are the deluded who make religious noises and they are capable of anything. But it’s not genuine faith, however fervent, that drives them. The explanation of their behaviour belongs in the realms of psychopathology rather than religion. With the wisdom of hindsight perhaps if after 9/11 there had been less religious rhetoric talked about a worldwide crusade against evil there might have been less danger of our demonising a great faith.
I wasn’t surprised to discover that Rev Morris is a former BBC Head of Religious Broadcasting and Controller of BBC Northern Ireland.

To hear more crap like this, tune in to Radio 4, 7.45am, on almost any day of the week.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I set off 15 mins later each morning for the sole purpose of missing "thought" for the day.

5:00 pm  
Anonymous JuliaM said...

For him, monks...are also extremists..

Well, at least the monks protesting at the Vietnam War only chose to set themselves on fire, not random onlookers.....

Give me those types of 'extremists' any day!

5:43 pm  
Anonymous Clematis Fraudster said...

It is difficult to know where to start with this. I am not into Fisking but three excerpts stand out for me.

"Of course there are the deluded who make religious noises and they are capable of anything. But it’s not genuine faith, however fervent, that drives them."

I cannot really believe that, five years after 911, this gentleman believes this. Of course it is a genuine faith that spurs many violent jihadists - it is a genuine, literalist interpretation of the Koran and the Hadith that drives them.

And who is he to claim that jihadists' faith is not 'genuine' anyway?

"The explanation of their behaviour belongs in the realms of psychopathology rather than religion."

In other words, they are psychopaths. Great. That is really helpful. The 911 posse, the 7/7, Mumbai, Bali and Madrid bombers, the Beslan hostage-takers, Palestinian suicide-bombers...all psychopaths.

Even Jenny Jihad would take issue with him on this issue. Religion and politics have nothing to do with this - they're just 'ill'.

"And it’s the strength of a free society that it concedes the right of believers to have this higher loyalty without treating them as subversive."

You mean that we should not treat as 'subversive' those who hold banners that scream 'Behead those who insult Islam'? We should blithely look away when cartoonists, academic and novelists are threatened with death for having the cheek to express a less-than-reverential view of Islam?

Oh, okay. That's cool.

5:44 pm  
Blogger rexie said...

I suppose we are inclined to talk of "extremist" and "radicalised" muslims because we're trying to give islam the benefit of the doubt in maintaining that our difference of opinion is not with islam itself. In truth we never get much help from "moderate" muslims when we do this, but there are always useful idiots like Colin Morris to speak up for the "great" religion whose teaching is fundamentally at odds both with Christianity and with liberal secular values.

5:52 pm  
Anonymous verity said...

clematis fraudster - Excellent post.

rexie - I for one am not trying to give islamists the benefit of the doubt because I am not stupid. I watch the world and see what is happening and what is happening militates against the cozy belief that islam is not a violent religion. It is only a religion of peace if you go along with the programme. It does mean "submission", after all. Truth in advertising.

It's a primitive religion that was designed by whoever designed it - it's a cult - to employ the aggression of violent young men for geographical conquest. That's why they are allowed four wives - a nasty, dehumanising practice - which is to breed warriors. With four brood mares, one man can do a lot of damage.

Mohammad, this so-called prophet, married a little girl of six. He had her pulled away from her dolls by her mother and brought to him in a big hurry. She was out of breath from running alongside her mother by the time she got there. He really wanted that little girl. He held off raping her until she was nine "because she was so small". What a gent, eh? They don't make 'em like that any more. (He was 53 when he first "married" her.)

I read somewhere that mohammad was illiterate, so he was a bit of an odd choice to take dictation from god, but there you go.

The people who write in to blogs - no one here, thank heavens! - saying they hate all kinds of fundamentalism, including Christian fundamentalism are like fingernails down a blackboard. Standing outside an abortion clinic holding signs asking to save the lives of fetuses is the moral equivalent of blowing up 3,000 office workers in NYC, hundreds of revellers in Bali, dozens of Londoners going to work, hundreds of commuters on trains in Mumbai, hundreds of commuter in Madrid's railway station. Right. And what is never mentioned is the number of people in all these terrorist attacks who were maimed. Blinded. Had arms or legs torn off. Who will never get their lives back. And the grief of all those families.

These terrorists act with the tacit blessings of their communities.

7:29 pm  
Anonymous archduke said...

when are we going to have a right-wing evangelical Christian on thought for the day?

just for a friggin' change.

disclamier - i'm an atheist, but i am sick to death of this wishy washy claptrap.

how about getting Ian Paisley on? Or how about an Opus Dei member? i totally disagree with both, but at least it would make for very interesting listening.

11:04 pm  
Anonymous archduke said...

i heard the "thought of the day" piece this morning, and i was staggered beyond belief when the "quaker = christian extremist" argument was rolled out.

what never occured to the (very thick) Rev Morris, is that it is self evident that the more "extreme" you get in Christianity, the more Amish you become.

with Islam, its the complete opposite - you get more violent, not less - and you end up joining Al Qaeda.

i mean , if this self evident fact has not registered with the likes of the BBC chatterati , then god help us all.

11:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To be fair there are Christian extremists such as the abortion clinic bombers. However, these are mercifully rare and unequivacably rejected by mainstream Christian leaders. There's no "but".

7:56 am  

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