This is the first piece in the Interfaith Ramadan 2015 series. There will be articles posted every day throughout the month of Ramadan written by contributors from diverse faiths and none.
If only Mohammed would fly down from heaven on a winged horse, to try and end the bloodshed, the horror and sectarianism that is being done in Allah's name. To set a modern example of mercy and compassion that would end the image of a warrior prophet the likes of which ISIS venerate. Most of us would agree this is a flight of fancy. We need to find the answer, rather than rely on saviours.
We have to interpret the texts to make the world a better place to the best of our reasoning, reclaiming a distant past from those with political aspirations to impose their theocratic will by the sword or dictate. A Mohammed of peace that Tom Holland hopes will appeal to all. Maybe Rabbi Sacks is right that other competing faiths have to look at the stories of sibling rivalry (Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael) afresh to see them as warnings not to cause suffering. As Tariq Ramadan mentioned in a debate with Christopher Hitchens, "The problem is not the text, the problem is the reader."
Do you want to read them as no compulsion in religion, or that apostates should be killed in an ideal Islamic country? At the moment an ex Muslim blogger, who wrote a children's book about a gay uncle, is having to explain to Facebook she cannot use her real name because of threats to her life.
I have had an atheist acquaintance shot at by Muslim extremists, and fellow secular bloggers in Bangladesh hacked to death. Twitter has brought us together with so many people from different backgrounds. It has made the world that much smaller, but at the price of bringing the darker corners of the earth that much closer. There is no block button for a bullet, no mute button for the news of daily atrocities.
Both Holland and Sacks suggested while at the recent Hay Festival that the bloodshed of ISIS will continue. The blood will flow till there comes a point it sickens them. While the bloodlust lingers, the call to insurgency challenging the world order, offering religious redemption with the chic of a zealot with guaranteed booty and sex, will attract some. Look at human history. It always has whether Sulla to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
If we really mean we want peace and tolerance, we have to be that example now. As citizens we can shape the society we live in, which we do best when we act in the interests of everyone and against sectarianism that tries to entrench "us versus them." It means challenging extremism and preventing legislation that marks Muslims as "the other."
We are all human beings with needs and wants, equal citizens with rights and freedoms. Social injustice and a security state should concern us all. Racism and bigotry cannot be passed off as just opinion on religion. Censorship cannot be justified by offence given. It should be published and be damned, not publish and be butchered. No one should ever impose on another what their religion should be. We need to be free, to work these things out for ourselves.
There are rogues, charlatans and bullies in the discourse of how we meet these challenges. Where the gravy train matters more than reaching the promised land. I have seen Muslim women targeted deliberately on social media in an attempt to silence their activism. I trust us all to work out for ourselves who is self serving, pushing a narrative to create them v us. Using identity politics to make Muslims the other so as to dehumanise or to speak for them as one bloc. We need to be critical about how government and organisations are trying to represent us.
Community has to be about coming together, whatever our faith or views, to make how we live better. Showing that engagement makes a difference. We need to experience something other than the daily news of people tearing each other apart, by building a stronger social body politic together.
It might not be newsworthy, but compassion and mercy are worth doing for their own sake. Whether the narrative of religion or civic virtue helps us, it is time to show our passion for life and living with each other. In all our differences.
It is why we need to move beyond inter-faith, to inter-being.
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