This week’s Panorama on the use of Anti-Semitic and homophobic text books by a small number of Muslim pupils brings to the forefront a number of issues. Firstly, any text book that justifies Anti-Semitism with a cultural slant on it is not acceptable. Conversely any material that attempts to justify such hate through religious texts or through Islam is doing injustice to a faith that is based four square on social justice and on compassion.
The misuse of Islam frankly sickens me when some so called holy person attempts to promote hate as though it has a role to play within religion. It does not and all three Abrahamic faiths have some very difficult texts in relation to the world we live in. It does not mean that in today’s world, these texts over-ride the basic common sense and strength of compassion and social justice that we have to our neighbours, friends and to the communities in which we live. The difficult religious texts also make us think and in many ways, it is this internal personal struggle that they generate that usually leads someone to question, reframe and reconsider these texts in the modern human rights based social setting in which we live in.
Panorama exposed text books that have no part to play in our society. Written by people who would have been insulated from the super-diversity that we see around us and by individuals who would see internal religious dilemmas as weaknesses and not strengths, they have left a legacy that is completely out of tune with where Islam and Muslims are. Yet, I am sure that because these people were regarded as ultra religious and orthodox in many senses, they were elevated and their prejudices placed within books, usually funded and resourced by publishing firms that did not want to rock the status quo or who simply were paid to generate texts considered ‘religiously or socially legitimate.’ In this way, insular views against gays and lesbian became the norm, when in fact Islam teaches one basic tenet and that is of compassion and in asking God’s mercy for our own deeds rather than worrying about others.
The last few years have seen some significant changes in the text books that are being circulated and used within British Muslim communities. Books funded and written by individuals within the Middle East are not taken up in the large numbers that they previously were since they were distributed for free at a time when there were no British based Muslim press houses. However, today, publishers like Amal Press have made it a point to get books out into Muslim communities that show Islam within a modern British setting, yet with a deep insight and inquiry into the huge narratives that make up Islamic jurisprudence and narratives around spirituality. They are an asset to the development of Muslim communities and a counter to those insular individuals based overseas and who have no idea of a modern super diverse set of communities that we have in our country. I say enough of the Anti-Semitism and homophobia and such books have no part in our society. Whilst we can never eradicate prejudices and hate internally within faith and non-faith communities, we certainly do not want to see divisive and derogatory statements in print and in front of young minds. That is unIslamic and plain wrong!