There are a number of posters and quote book style comments available on the net that go like this: “if you feel compelled to defend your faith it can’t really be that strong.”
At one level an apologetic in theology or philosophy is necessary in juggling between truth claims for clarity of discussion, but at another level there is a blind even fundamentalist and closed defence that negatively compares and contrasts. Eventually this ends in denying the very faith we claim.
Yesterday Ed Husic became the first Australian Commonwealth MP to be sworn in using the Qu’ran. There has been, predictably (and sadly), some negative response. Of course the mainstream media used inflammatory and sensational headlines to push interest in the story (news creating news), the most common and obvious abuse was to claim there had been a public backlash. Another and more serious failing is the media references to Husic receiving ‘racist’ comments and backlash. You simply cannot respond to a religious issue with racism. To oppose a religious stance is not to be racist. Racism, by clear definition is discrimination based on ethnic grounds, and especially where a religion is global and not located in tribe or family group, there is no grounds to connect religion as a racial issue.
Further comment came that to allow the use of the Qu’ran was un-Australian! Firstly, we were founded in a time when colonial nations still adhered strongly to a Christian ethos, but in recent decades we have not constituted being a ‘Christian nation.’ Secondly, you only have to check the ABS stats, and the U. N. data to know that we cannot define Australia as Christian. So if we aren’t a Christian nation, what are we whining about? Who is needing to defend the use of the Bible and why?
Furthermore, if Husic is Muslim wouldn’t it be far more real, far more authentic to swear (if one must do any such thing in the first place) on the Qu’ran in which he trusts and believes, rather than the Bible, which would be false and inauthentic? Or at worst, we might be tempted to turn and say, well he swore on the Bible, but he didn’t mean it because he is a Muslim!
But all this shows up something else. If we can agree to put aside every notion of religious fundamentalism (because all faiths suffer from it) and both the perceived and real threat posed to all, we can begin to see that angry and negative responses to Husic stem from a lack of understanding, a paucity of knowledge about Islam and especially the Qu’ran. And lack of knowledge can arrive at misinformation, or worse, fear.
A more mindful approach would be to dialogue, to seek understanding, to build working relationships with all peoples. It might be time to visit the possibility of strengthening the curriculum re culture and values through comparative religion so that ignorance and fear might be transformed for the positive good. We do live in a multi-cultural society (irrespective of the arguments to the contrary, which are more to do with policy debates than grass roots reality) and we must address living together as such.
St. Francis showed the way when he attempted to negotiate peace between the Crusaders and the opposing Muslim army in 1219. And this builds on what Jesus also showed in living the call to love one another. In other faith traditions there are similar calls to love, harmony, hospitality, and non-harming. Even better is the outstanding example of the Muslim rule in Iberia from 711 in the north to 1480 in Granada and the south where the three Abrahamic faiths coexisted well together (would make a great model for today). It can be done.
Is our faith (whichever faith that be) strong enough not to need negative, fearful defence (thereby constituting an ironic denial of what or who we believe)?
The question is whether to enthrone fear in our hearts or love?!