Tuesday, February 15, 2011

RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM

"Our ethos is for students to be full and active participants of British society."

There's a story from England going around the internet right now, out of the Daily Mail. Now, I like some of the Daily Mail's reporting, but at the same time its basically a celebrity gossip rag with some reporting in it, and they have in the past been accused of just inventing news - kind of like the New York Times.

The story is written by Tazeen Ahmad, and it focuses on a high school in England. The school in question is Darul Uloom Islamic High School in Birmingham, and it is essentially a Muslim indoctrination center which also teaches some other things. Darul Uloom schools are supposed to be the top end Muslim schools, described as the "Eton" of their kind. Here are a few pertinent quotes:
‘You’re not like the non-Muslims out there,’ the teacher says, gesturing towards the window. ‘All that evil you see in the streets, people not wearing the hijab properly, people smoking . . . you should hate it, you should hate walking down that street.’

He refers to the ‘non-Muslims’ as the ‘Kuffar’, an often derogatory term that means disbeliever or infidel.
...
We recorded a number of speakers giving deeply disturbing talks about Jews, Christians and atheists.

We found children as young as 11 learning that Hindus have ‘no intellect’ and that they ‘drink cow p***’.
...
And we came across pupils being told that the ‘disbelievers’ are ‘the worst creatures’ and that Muslims who adopt supposedly non-Muslim ways, such as shaving, dancing, listening to music and – in the case of women – removing their headscarves, would be tortured with a forked iron rod in the afterlife.
The teachers are described as whacking kids in the hand with rulers and distributing apparently random beatings. Now there are a lot of people acting all shocked and outraged when they read this, declaring this to be an example of religious extremists and so on. This look into a Muslim school undercover doesn't particularly concern me that much.

First off, if you went back 50 years in English schools you'd find much of the same treatment of kids then. They'd be whacked in the hand and spanked pretty much at will. A hundred years ago or so, it was considered not just standard but good for kids to get whaled on regularly just to teach them respect. Going back a few decades in British schools and you'd have kids being told that being white and especially British made them superior to the rest of the world. They had good reason for saying so; England owned a third of the world's surface and controlled all of its oceans for over a century.

Second, if you went to any religious academy, chances are you'd find other religions being misrepresented and people of other faiths being called "unbelievers" or "non-Christians" and kids being told that these other folks are destined for hell. Religion is by its very nature absolutist. Atheists will be described in negative terms, since they reject the basic and most precious tenets of a given faith. Only some schools would avoid all that and their religious connections would be pretty tenuous, at best.

This is why when I read that 80% of Muslims think that their nation would be better off under Muslim rule, I don't get too concerned. If you polled Christians, they'd probably say the same thing. Why wouldn't they? A religion is about a total life worldview, it is about how you do and understand everything. You are going to want someone who shares that worldview to be in charge of things, ideally. How they get to that point is what's critical, not that the desire to have it happen.

If 80% of Buddhists polled said they believed that violent bloodshed was the best way to achieve the goal of Budddhist government, that would be cause for alarm (and confusion, since violence and bloodshed violates Buddha's teaching). If 80% of Hindus polled said that free elections and hard work by qualified people within the law to achieve Hindu government was the best way, well more power to them.

There is real cause for concern with Islamic teaching, I understand that and have written about it before. Islam, as properly taught by the Koran and the Hadith, and interpreted by Sharia courts, is 100% totally incompatible with democracy and liberty as we understand it in the west. It is a totalitarian, restrictive, and extremely intolerant religion which would crush freedom of speech, assembly, religion, press and most other liberties by its very nature. Yet not every single instance of Muslims being Muslims is cause for alarm. A very moderate, pacifist Muslim might teach his child mistaken things about other faiths and declare he'd rather have a Muslim government in charge. Its hardly unique to religious people to teach kids lies and distortions about things they disagree with - Christians face this regularly with atheist teachers, for example.

The real problem here for most people reading is that what they see here violates their de facto religion of tolerance, multiculturalism, and perhaps atheism. What they find so horrible is the idea of kids being taught to dislike and shun others, but at schools across the west we find kids sometimes being told to dislike and shun conservatives, Christians, and people who aren't sufficiently "green." They're told lies about these groups, they're even encouraged to hate these groups for their failure to be tolerant and all their hatred.

The difference here is that one is openly done in the name of religion and the other is often unaware that they are following an effective faith of their own. I'd rather kids weren't taught to hate others, as a Christian I'm taught by my Lord to forgive and never hate. I'd rather they weren't taught lies and nonsense about others, as a Christian I'm taught to honor and love truth. And I'd rather they were not beat on randomly and capriciously so that they cringe and cower before their teachers; I'm glad that schools stopped doing that. I don't buy that this teaches kids to be violent or that its ok for the strong to hurt the weak, society has gotten more, not less violent since we stopped hitting kids. But its best to not hurt people for no reason whatsoever except a flawed understanding of power and respect.

I do believe the goal of this school is not to create well educated, intelligent, and curious students but to mold obedient, servile puppets of Islamic masters, and when the school claims it wants the kids to fit into British society, they mean "a future society when our radical version of Islam dominates it." So I have problems with what the school is trying to do and likely how poorly its educating the children beyond memorizing the Koran and learning to obey.

I just think that when we read this kind of thing we're better off thinking about it objectively and historically rather than screaming and throwing shoes or we're no better than the people we're screaming at.

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