News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Islam Torn by Religion/Civil Responsibilities

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Islam Torn by Religion/Civil Responsibilities

A recent article reports themes I addressed in a former posting. European Muslims are shown facing a dilemma over caricatures of the prophet Mohammed: how to reconcile religious conviction and civic duties in a secular society.

How Moslems respond to this situation will perhaps define how they see themselves and their communities for centuries to come. As European Moslems chisel out an identity distinct from their co-religionists in other parts of the world, they will face increasing crises to conform, react violently, or despair. Given the nature of the spread of secularist consumer culture and the American colonization of other peoples, how they form themselves individually can indeed be an example for their brothers and sisters from other parts of the globe.

How they weather this dilemma and how they respond to the feelings of alienation and spiritual despair caused by coming to terms with secularism may indeed provoke the kinds of violence that we've seen in the past decades. But it does not need to be this way. A non-violent, loving and responsible response can lead to true self-hood that rises like a new beacon from the decline that is the wreck of a nihilistic Europe and the fanaticism of religious extremists.

The Mercury News reports:

In France, where rioting broke out last year among its sizable Muslim population, President Jacques Chirac released a statement Friday defending free speech but also appealing ``to all to show the greatest spirit of responsibility, of respect and of good measure to avoid anything that could hurt other people's beliefs.''

Summing up the cultural rift between Islam and the West, imam Ahmed Abu Laban told worshipers at Friday prayers in a Copenhagen mosque: ``In the West, freedom of speech is sacred; to us, the prophet is sacred.''

The Islamic reaction in Europe has been relatively muted compared to scenes of rage among Palestinians and in countries such as Pakistan, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia.

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