- Trying to square the circle
The opening days of the Synod on the Family have revealed distinct differences of opinion between the participants. How can their commitment to church teaching be matched with compassion for those who struggle with it?
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Can one speak frankly on the topic of Islam in Britain raised first by Clifford Longley, replied to by Stephen Coles who in turn was replied to by Bede Gerrard (The Tablet, 28 June)?
My opinion based on long-term observation of events and on a careful study of the Qu'ran is that Coles is telling it as it is, whereas Longley and Gerrard, with the very best of intentions, are shying away from the reality of the matter. That reality is that there are the most fundamental differences between Christianity and Qu'ran teaching on women, on attitudes towards other religions, on freedom within religion, on democratic government, on the use of violence, even killing, on religion and indeed God, on the nature of revelation, what God is, what his relationship with humanity is and what it means to be in a relationship with him.
For far too long the approach to these differences has been - I will not recoil from saying this - mealy mouthed and disingenuous. It does not help relationships if one side is not frank and forthright, something that cannot be said of Islam either here in the West or universally in its heartland in how it speaks of Christianity and how it deals with Christians, indeed with other non-Muslims too.
Straight-talking is now required. Relationships between religions should be as adult and forthright as relationships between political parties in democracies. We should speak to each other as bluntly as Jesus spoke of and spoke to the Pharisees. It's about time, for example, we said to Muslims that the Christian God is not the same as their God, which he emphatically isn't, and why, about time about to their treatment of British Muslim women, and the rest. They'd have more regard for us if we did. They aren't children.
Just look at another example. Some 500 young British Muslim men, maybe many more for all we know, have gone to the Middle East to kill on behalf of Islam. Do the do-gooders ever think what it takes to achieve that outcome? It takes widespread preaching, from extremist preachers, many directly from abroad, of the most vicious sort, in mosques and madrassahs across Britain. But that usual get-out statement - that most Muslims are peace-loving - just will not wash any longer. 500-plus young men from Muslim families going abroad to kill both non-Muslims and even other Muslims is a massive achievement and it is being achieved by vile preaching from extremist preachers in the very mosques and madrassahs used by their fellow Muslims day in day out.
Unless we tackle the reality of Islam in Britain today and speak our minds on all these things, we are sowing the seeds of immense communal disunity and hostilities for the years to come.
Michael Knowles, Cheshire
I am sorry Bede Gerrard finds my thought processes confusing. In thanking him for bringing to my attention the similarities of Sharia with other religious courts, and for pointing out the differences between Sharia law and cultural practices within the Muslim community, I am nevertheless left with the impression that he has experienced nothing of the real plight of women who have had their genitals mutilated, or have been, whilst still in their childhood, sent to Pakistan and married to older men, or have sought justice via Sharia Courts, only to be told that the domestic violence they suffer is entirely their own fault.
Forgive me, Mr Gerrard, but perhaps you could tell me where I would find these cultural practices "common in England less than a century ago"? Should we, in any case, accept practices which are now outdated and outlawed to be permitted either "culturally" or in Sharia Courts today? Baroness Cox certainly thinks not. Mr Gerrard can perhaps afford to survey the situation with a dispassionate historian’s eye; some of us have increasingly had to listen, both within the media and our own clinical practice, to story after story of women clearly without a voice within their own community. They haven’t the luxury of contemplating whether they are subject to Islamic law or culture when they live in fear of their safety or their lives. Mr Gerrard’s response is an example of why so many women here, and our Christian brothers and sisters abroad, have been ignored and left to suffer and, in too many cases now, to die.
Stephen Cole, Oxford