A not so unfamiliar, though still rare and sad tale these days: A young Muslim boy grows-up to become an Islamic terrorist. At some point before he became a terrorist he was a mere Muslim. During the phase of being a Muslim, or before it- if that is relevant, he had occasion to question his faith. Or, if he did not have occasion, he had not been given the fundamental faculties of reason, nor had he knowledge of the benefits of applying to reason to self-assessment. Like so many people of faith, irrespective of type, he failed to realise the fundamentals of human autonomy that renders faith a matter of choice, not absolute decree.
This example may be possible in an orthodox Islamic state, but it is by no means likely. But what if this was done in a modern Western democratic state? What if it was done in say the state that fathered the Enlightenment and fostered democracy around the world? Would at some point there not be a detailed, carefully questioning, inquiry into cause? Would not the rational question of intervention come into play? Further, though not vindicating his actions, could assigning fault of this to the state prevent such similar action in the future? Let us go further into detail of this particular Western democratic state. Let us say, for the sake of argument, that it had a national religion that is Christianity. And let’s say for further argument, that it had a Head of state whom was also the Head of this religion. Let’s also say that in the entire stretch of the 20th Century there was no incident of mass religious violence or terrorism between Christian groups in this hypothetical state. Induction would lead us to say that Christianity does not cause violence in this state, in recent times, against other Christians (irrespective of denomination) on the basis of religion. Either it does not permit it and this is sanctionable, or people who perpetrate violence who are Christians against other Christians are not motivated by religion. It would be wise for anyone seeking a correlation between religion and violence to have a look at this case as an example of some accord in this context.
Let us take our inquiry further in our hypothetical state. Let it also be taken as fact that in this place there is no violence between non-religious persons in recent times on the basis of established religion. These three configurations would lead to, perhaps, an unpalatable conclusion: (i) people who are not religious are not generally interested in the propagation of religious violence; (ii) Christians are not generally interested in religious violence against one another on the basis of Christianity; (iii) for some reason people who commit terrorism are latching on to Islam- BUT it is by no means clear whether Islam is causing terrorism.
A detailed analysis of the third would very likely corroborate it. As not all muslims are terrorists, it is not Islam but the supposed believer of it that is likely to be responsible for religious violence. But why would he or she do this? The root answer to this is not in Islam, but rather in something else: ‘Group theory’. The muslim terrorist does not have access to something that other members of society who do not propagate religious violence do. Perhaps, Christians and atheists have access to a context for religion within which Islamic terrorists do not. This context must render religious violence otiose. What could it be? And what should the state do, if anything, to provide it?
To cut an elongating analysis short the context is ‘Not Multiculturalism’. The state must stop encouraging multiculturalism and re-enforcing it. What I am saying in blunt terms is that: Islam is not responsible for Islamic terrorism in Britain BUT multiculturalism is. For the radical Islamist (whose motivations for violence are conviction driven above and beyond the common criminal), the boundaries of the role of religion in the modern world are simply unknown and irrelevant. To the fundamentalist religion is everything. But the last three hundred years of British history have been in exactly the opposite direction: telling us that religion isn’t everything. History tells us that when coupled with reason, religion can reduce its inherent propensities to harm when it is in the hand of a zealous human-being.
‘Multi-culturalism’ in a state with many religions and different cultures will inevitably lead to segregation due to the very nature of religion to denounce, on a non-empirical basis, all others. It also isolates old world theology, from modern world philosophy. Without removing multi-culturalism, which prevents assimilation from orthodox theology to secular pluralism, the main-bulk of us in society who understand that religion is a belief and nothing more (and that this is not related to its validity) will be at risk from the odd zealot. Further, where there are plural religions in play it encourages identity with belief rather than nation state or our common humanity. This enervates the idea that a man can be judged for his actions rather than beliefs (and works to engender the opposite). The former is at the heart of a state that believes in rationalism and modernity.
Copyright Abhijit P.G. Pandya 2010
Copyright Birkenhead Society 2010