Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Panorama: conflating issues again?

John Ware's documentary that is. Much of the criticism of the programme I don't really agree with - such as the pro-Israeli bias. I think Ware was quite right, for example, to challenge this rather grisly notion that the concept of an innocent civilian doesn't apply to Jews. I don't often agree with Madeline Bunting and with this piece, she predictably provided some examples of wishful thinking, such as the idea that anti-Semitism amongst some Muslims can be reduced soley to the influence of "Saudi-influenced" strands of Islam (Saudi-financed, dear).

She does have something resembling a point when she says, "I've yet to meet a member of any faith who doesn't believe in the superiority of their beliefs, while fear of being undermined is similarly common. Since when has "distaste" become a cause for suspicion?" It reminded me of something I was trying to say earlier: I personally am sick to the back teeth with people pussy-footing around the subject of religion and when the religious espouse racist, sexist and homophobic views, they should be challenged. But it does not follow that because someone has antiquated beliefs about the role of women or whatever that they are therefore a potential terrorist and it's here lies the conflation. While "mainstreaming" Islam may be desirable from the point of social cohesion, I doubt whether it would have much impact on potential recruits to Al-Qaeda. People use the term "cult", which is accurate in my view, but I'm not sure people have grasped the implications of this: how is it that the friends and family of some of these bombers had no inkling of what they were capable of? Because in many cases, they knew them before they converted. And they've converted, not to mainstream Islam, but to a heterodox cult. (I do intend to explain what I mean by this, but I'm too knackered at the moment.)

Anyway, back to ol' Maddy: by no means the most relativising piece she's ever written but she clearly felt she was being too even-handed, so she comes out with this line: "They are expected to keep their faith entirely out of politics (yet faith plays a crucial role in US politics)." Leaving aside her incomprehension at the distinction between a religious politician that functions within a secular state and a theocracy, we can agree: faith does play a big role in US politics.

And whenever an American politician invokes their faith, don't all those lovely liberal and tolerant journalists at the Guardian just ooze contempt?

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