ICYMI: ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance’ and ‘Not in God’s Name’ – The New York Times

Irshad Manji on the need for respectful discourse:

Enter Jonathan Sacks, a former chief rabbi of the British Commonwealth. In his sobering yet soul-stirring new book, “Not in God’s Name,” Sacks confronts “politicized religious extremism” and diagnoses that cancer crisply: “The 21st ­century has left us with a maximum of choice and a minimum of meaning. Religion has returned because it is hard to live without meaning.” Given that “no society has survived for long without either a religion or a substitute for religion,” and given that believers are proliferating, Sacks predicts that the next 100 years will be more religious than the last. Bottom line: Any cure for violence in God’s name will have to work with religion as a fact of life.

That is where Sacks’s brilliance as a theologian radiates. He thinks two matters need tackling. There is “identity without universality,” or solidarity only with one’s group. Then there is “universality without identity,” the unbearable lightness of humans in a transactional but not transcendent world. Sacks wants to preserve the joy of participating in something bigger than the self while averting the hostility to strangers that goes with tribal ­membership.

He attempts this balance through an ingenious rereading of Genesis. Sacks’ proposition: Genesis contains two covenants rather than one. The first focuses on justice, which is impartial and thus universal in application. The second covenant emphasizes love, which is exquisitely particular and personal. In a ­showdown, justice overrides love. Analyzing parables and sibling rivalries in the Bible, Sacks concludes that decency toward the misfit, even to the infidel, takes precedence over loyalty to your own.

This should hearten Sam Harris, who despises the tendency of Muslims (and others) to stick up for fellow believers, especially when they act like “psychopaths.” Still, I have to wonder if Harris and his disciples will put stock in any reinterpretation, no matter how learned. After all, Harris opines that to reform religion is to read scripture in “the most acrobatic” terms. Sacks turns the tables on such skepticism, observing that “fundamentalists and today’s atheists” both ignore “the single most important fact about a sacred text, namely that its meaning is not self-evident.”

My own skepticism is about whether reformist interpretations can outpace regressive readings that tap into primal fears and gain traction quickly. Sacks argues, “We must put the same long-term planning into strengthening religious freedom as was put into the spread of religious extremism.” That implies creating a matrix of schools, policies and campaigns to teach reformist perspectives. But as he admits early on, “decades of anti-racist legislation, interfaith dialogue and Holocaust education” have not prevented the mess we are in. Why would it be different now?

Here is why. The Islamic State’s savagery against Muslims offers hope for taking power politics out of Islam, eventually achieving the mosque-state separation that Nawaz views as central to reform. Sacks gives historical comparisons to justify his hope. Europe’s bloody Reformation wars showed that big religion could not be relied on to protect the religious: “Western Christianity had to learn what Jews had been forced to discover in antiquity: how to survive without power. . . . You do not learn to disbelieve in power when you are fighting an enemy, even when you lose. You do when, with a shock of recognition, you find yourself using it against the members of your own people.”

Meanwhile, back at liberal democracy’s ranch, we must “insist on the simplest moral principle of all. . . . If you seek respect, you must give respect.” This does not mean always having to agree, but it does mean viewing one another as worthy of candid, constructive engagement. On that front, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz are role models. The Lord works in mysterious, perhaps acrobatic, ways.

Source: ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance’ and ‘Not in God’s Name’ – The New York Times

Q&A: Irshad Manji on Multiculturalism

Good short interview with Irshad Manji on Islam and multiculturalism. Continues to surprise me that so many forget that multiculturalism was about integration from both the diversity and equity aspects, and never was about an “anything goes” or extreme relativism. Always in the context of the Canadian Constitution, including the Charter, and overall Canadian laws and regulations.



Irshad Manji And Tarek Fatah: Muslims And Multiculturalism (VIDEO)

Always interesting to listen too, although sometimes a bit too categorical.

Irshad Manji And Tarek Fatah: Muslims And Multiculturalism (VIDEO).