Religion in the Public Square: a Muslim Perspective
While much of the commentary preceding and subsequent to Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the UK focused on the camps Christian and ‘aggressive secularist’, Muslim reactions to the speeches delivered during his stay have been probed less closely. It’s not that Muslims and the role of Islam in Britain’s public square is of lesser concern to the Catholic community. Dr Azzam of the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts was invited by the Catholic Bishops Conference in England and Wales to follow the speech of Lord Jonathan Sacks with reflections of his own at the Pope’s meeting with faith leaders in the UK held at St Mary’s in Twickenham ahead of the Papal address in Westminster.
Interfaith dialogue and interfaith relations are often seen as little more than men in beards conversing with men in hats (and they are almost invariably men), but Pope Benedict’s ruminations on the necessary interaction and interpenetration of the ‘world of reason’ and the ‘world of faith’; on the ‘legitimate role of religion in the public square’; on the ‘ethical foundations’ that inform our political choices and our search for a moral consensus that animates our pluralist political society, and of course, of the right of the faithful to act in accordance with their conscience – in all of these the Pope will have found a willing Muslim audience lending an attentive ear.
Perhaps in no other section of society today has the Durkheimian instrumentalisation of religion in society been more pervasive than in relation to British Muslims in recent years. It often feels that Islam in Britain is treated and viewed less as a religion informing the spiritual yearnings of individuals submitting to One God and abiding by the prophetic example of Muhammad, the seal of the prophets, than as an instrument through which Governments might attain the desired level of social cohesion – whatever that may be and however it may be measured.Continue reading “Religion in the Public Square: a Muslim Perspective”