Monday, August 14, 2006


Let's All Have A Heated Debate

It's always good to start the weekend with a heated debate, and on Friday night I came home from work to find that husband and mother (my parents, having kindly taken daughter off our hands for a week, were in London to deliver her back to us) had got stuck right into one, about the ongoing brouhaha about terrorism.

Mum, fervent anti-religionist that she is, argues that religion is at the heart of the problems we are currently experiencing, whereas husband maintains that it has more to do with Bush/Blair foreign policy — exactly the same debate that is being played out across the media, nationally and internationally.

Of course, having been brought up by one of them, and having lived with the other one for roughly the same number of years as I spent with my parents, I can see where both are coming from, which made my position an interesting one.

For what it’s worth, I'm inclined to think — especially having recently read Sam Harris‘s thoughts on the subject — that there has to be some pretty fervent dogma at work in the mind of a young British-born muslim to prompt him to strap explosives around his middle and head for the tube.

On the other hand, and in spite of Sam Harris’s rather forgiving stance on Western foreign policy, I can see how it has utterly failed the poor people of Palestine and Lebanon, and how it has left them feeling as if they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by taking up arms. In those circumstances, religion would indeed seem to be almost irrelevant.

It seemed to me that the only sensible thing to do was read everything on the subject that I could get my hands on and, the children having been whisked off to their other grandparents for the week, I had the opportunity to do just that.

So did I come to any earth-shattering conclusions that plonked me down on mother or husband's side of the fence? Well, no. But with the help of Nick Cohen, Andrew Anthony, Geraldine Bedell, Max Hastings and Muriel Gray, (okay, so mostly the usual suspects, and mostly writing in the Guardian and the Observer, but jeez, there's only so much a girl can take in over one weekend), I've come to the conclusion, unsurprisingly, that they're both right.

It is possible to believe that neither religion nor Western foreign policy is totally responsible for the mess we find ourselves in. While some terrorists will be motivated more by Bush and Blair's woeful double act than by what it says in the Koran about killing the infidel, others will be motivated more by the teachings of radical imams. Given the wide range of backgrounds that the bombers are drawn from, this can only be the case, and I suspect that there are few who aren't motivated by a bit of both.

In the same way, it is possible to feel violently opposed to Israel's policy in Lebanon while despising Hizbollah's methods and while feeling very afraid on behalf of the people in Lebanon if Hizbollah, Hamas or any other radical islamic administration ever takes over the running of the country. We know from reports coming out of countries such as Afghanistan and Iran that the plight of women, girls and apostates grows grimmer by the day.

One of the most interesting aspects of the current debate is there is no one ideology or political stance that any of us can turn to for an accurate reflection of our own views. Time was when you felt a certain way about a subject, did a bit of research on what the major political parties had to say about it, then voted and debated accordingly. That's all up in the air now — as New Statesman political editor Martin Bright's pamphlet for the centre-right Policy Exchange think tank, When Progressives Treat With Reactionaries: The British State's Flirtation with radical Islam illustrates.

In the circumstances, we have little choice but to arm ourselves with as much information as possible, and make up our own minds. Which is, of course, no bad thing.

I don't hold out much hope for it, but wouldn't it be good to think that the world events that are responsible for the current shake-up of ideas in the West might also encourage a shake-up of ideology within Islam and religion in general? Let's face it, it would be long overdue.

Dear Atheist Mum,
Problems are great in number like 11 year old girl and step father, Forein policy of world leaders, religions all in together, terrorism and so on.
Solution, the world, every one in it, is suffering from BELIEF, RELIEF from BELIEF is REALITY. Every one on earth is a devotee, under some belief or the other. Under REALITY one will not horm the other. There is a process to come under REALITY like from father through mother to the earth. Let people give place for this process to fulfill the meaning of life to eliminate problems. Thank you.
Dayakar Rao.
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