Sunday, January 18, 2015

Political Islam; Political Christianity

Christ died on the Cross: a scandalous end denied by Muslims.
One of the things which make secularists a bit green about the gills about Islam is the political implications of their faith endorsed by some of its adherants. I've even heard 'Islamism' defined as 'political Islam', and therefore as something bad. Most Muslims, we are then told, draw no political conclusions from their religion, they aren't Islamists.

I'm old enough to remember those innocent days of the 1980s and 1990s when Christianity without political implications was lambasted by the secular left as boring and irrelevant. What they wanted, of course, was an ally, perhaps in the form of Liberation Theology. The purely tactical (as usual) nature of the secularists' critique on boring old Catholic teaching about the need for individual repentance and metaphysical doctrines is revealed by their reaction when a religion appears to have political implications which they don't like. However, the cat's out of the bag. Religions without political implications would indeed be boring and (to that extent) irrelevant; all we need to add is that it is almost inconceivable that a minimally coherent and/ or longstanding religion should fail to have political implications.

Do some Muslims in the West want to remake the society in which they live, so its laws and institutions conform to God's will, as they understand it? It would be deeply strange if none of them did. There are Catholics who don't want society to be reformed in accordance with God's will, but the teaching of the Church is clear. Christ must be the king of society, His reign must be over states as well as individuals. If there are laws which don't accord with God's will, they are unjust and Catholics must struggle to change them. It is an obligation particularly laid upon the laity - or so says Vatican II.

The point I want to make here is that it is a mistake to condemn the aspiration to reform society on the basis of religious faith. All religions worth talking about want to do that. It is unfair on Muslims to say that they aren't allowed a say in a democratic society because their views are shaped by a purported divine revelation. A democracy is a political system where people have a say regardless of where they get their ideas from. Nor is it reasonable to say that anyone loses the right to participate if they dispute the justice of the 'ground rules', whatever exactly that means. Of course we are allowed to dispute the ground rules. That's what the Lib Dems do when they propose electoral reform, the Scots Nats when they propose an independent Scotland, the Labour Party when they attempted to abolish the House of Lords, and the Conservatives when they propose leaving the International Court of Human Rights. Is it just Muslims who aren't allowed to talk about constitutional reform?

What I want to say again and again is that the demands of Islam must be considered and rejected - if we are going to reject them - on their merits as substantive demands. Since in many cases they are based on theological claims, that means assessing the validity of those claims. The secularists are desperate not to cede the validity of theological arguments, but their position is incoherent. If theological arguments are sound, they should be listened to. If they are unsound, we need to hear why.

There is a good reason not to impose Sharia Law on England. It is not because it is 'religious', nor because it is 'against human rights'. If it really came from God these arguments would have zero weight. The argument against Sharia Law is that it is not from God: that it is a false revelation. This can be shown by arguments based on Natural Law as well as by arguments for the truth of the Christian revelation. These are arguments we need to make, and to hear.

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  1. I think jurisprudence would differentiate between "ground rules" (grundnorms) and the current constitutional framework, with the ground rules underlying the constitutional principles.

    It is therefore possible to change the constitution in the ways you mention the various political parties seek, without changing the ground rules.

    For example all parties agreed that the ground rules allowed Scottish independence, but that it should be decided by referendum - so the ground norm is self-determination for the Scots. There can be disagreements about the House of Lords and proportional representation for the House of Commons, but the underlying ground rule is a limited form of representative democracy. The Conservatives' proposal to abolish the Human Rights Act would still replace it with a "Bill of Rights" - they still accept the ground rule that there are underlying rights, they mostly disagree with the mechanism for applying them.

    So it is still possible that there are ground rules - it is just a bit more difficult to work out what they are.

  2. Islamism is orthodox Islam and has a very specific political agenda, as indeed has Catholicism.

    The difference lies in the methods allowed.

  3. Excellent article