Perspective: Why Islam Is Not to Blame; Now That America Has Declared War against Terrorism, There Is a Danger That Some People Will Be Tempted to Blame Religion for Last Week's Horrific Attack, Warns Arun Arora

The Birmingham Post (England), September 18, 2001 | Go to article overview

Perspective: Why Islam Is Not to Blame; Now That America Has Declared War against Terrorism, There Is a Danger That Some People Will Be Tempted to Blame Religion for Last Week's Horrific Attack, Warns Arun Arora


Byline: Arun Arora

In the cycle of mourning - shock, denial, grief and anger - there is a temptation to give into rage at the first opportunity that suitably presents itself.

After the events in America last week, British Muslims in Bradford, Birmingham and London have already been the subject of violence and threats, turning the mourning cycle on its head, with the expression of anger preceding grief or denial.

Writing in The Guardian on Saturday, Richard Dawkins gave voice to his own anger in his analysis of the tragedy. According to Dawkins religion and the 'dangerous nonsense' of the afterlife are squarely to blame: 'Tell them [the terrorists] there's a special martyr's reward of 72 virgin brides, guaranteed eager and exclusive'.

Dawkins, a professor of the Public Understanding of Science at the Univesity of Oxford, is increasingly becoming the Ian Paisley of humanism, finding fault with religion in any given scenario and raging at the acts misappropriated in its name. Never mind the countless Muslims who have so unequivocally condemned the acts of the terrorists, 'it is religion which is to blame' says Dawkins. 'Religion' in this case means Islam.

Blaming Islam for the attacks on America is akin to blaming the Pope for the acts of the Real IRA. Take religion out of the Irish troubles and you will still have adherents screaming abuse at one another in the causes of republicanism and unionism. Find a political solution and you are left with peace.

To put it another way, in Dawkins' analysis allowing Northern Ireland to become part of the Republic would still result in Catholics going to the North of the country to blow up Protestants. Forget the politics, it's the religion that's to blame.

In fact, if you subtract religion from the equation you're still left with the groups and individuals who will commit acts of terror for the causes of nationalism, republicanism or whatever other political, economic or sociological belief for which a terrorist may have sold their soul.

Dawkins' theory that the 19 terrorists who hijacked the three planes on Tuesday all gave their lives in the hope of martyrdom and heavenly reward, rings hollow in its over-simplicity. The assumption ignores the motivating hatred of America which was reflected in the sickening sight of Palestinian individuals dancing with joy in response to news of the attacks. This reaction was not based on the death of so many Christians but rather on the attack of a nation state seen as being complicit in their daily oppression.

There are many complex reasons for the undeniable hatred of America expressed by people in the Middle East. None of these justify the rejoicing that greeted the news of a new slaughter of innocents. But the presence of these factors cannot be conveniently ignored or wished away by those who would reduce this simply to a matter of religion.

In his rush to judgment on 'religions of the Abrahamic kind' Dawkins must have missed the statement issued by representatives of those religions - Judaism, Islam and Christianity - after a meeting in Birmingham last week. The summit was convened at a mosque by a local rabbi, appalled at news of attacks on local Muslims following Tuesday's events. …

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