From Paris with love

Not a war of civilisations

French flag‘It’s a war. Not a war of civilisations but a war for civilisation,’ declared the French ambassador to Australia, Christophe Lecourtier.

I couldn’t agree more.

The so-called Islamic State is neither Islamic, nor a State.

What ISIS has done is as Islamic as The Inquisition was Christian. It is as Islamic as the anti-gay hate by many Christian groups today in Australia, and around the world, is Christian.

This is not a war of civilisations, but a schism between an increasingly enlightened, liberal, modern, and progressive section of humanity, and those who choose to read various holy texts literally and selectively, or deliberately misinterpret them. The selective, literal reading, or the misinterpretation, of such texts can’t offer an acceptable foundation for organising our societies in the 21st century.

Massacring people in Paris is not ‘civilised.’

Mass murder is not ‘civilised.’

Enslaving and sexually assaulting women is not ‘civilised.’

Throwing gay men off roofs and stoning them to death is not ‘civilised.’

Nothing about ISIS is ‘civilised’ – but there is nothing civilised about religious extremism of any kind, or the selective and literal, or malicious, interpretation of religious texts that tend to reflect the ‘morals’ and ‘values’ of a culturally and socially un-evolved and un-enlightened, and a largely uneducated and scientifically primitive, humanity.

Those of us who live in Western democracies, are lucky to enjoy the benefits of centuries of cultural, political and social evolution that overlaid secularism, democracy and the rule of law on our political and social structures.

The Islamic world didn’t experience such an evolution, and its people are largely captive to hereditary rulers, and morals and values derived from ancient religious texts. Despite that culturally and socially stifling combination, there are many enlightened and modern Muslims, although they are in just as much danger from ‘Islamism’ as the people of the West, if not more so.

In our Western democracies we can’t deny the existence of  shades of Christian extremism either, with questionable cultural and social values drawn from a selective, literal reading, or the misinterpretation, of the bible. Fortunately, our liberal, secular and democratic system ‘contains’ those elements of our society.

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Liberté, égalité, fraternité
A new Middle East?

But frankly, we do have a fair few ‘Christians’ who would be rounding up gays, perhaps even burning witches at the stake, if they were given the opportunity. We don’t like to admit it is so, but that doesn’t make it any less true. In Christian societies where secular education and government is less developed, that’s exactly what’s happening today, in places such a Kenya and Uganda, where gay people are hunted like animals.

Yes, those ‘Christians,’ are a minority, but they do exist and still often have a disproportionately and inexplicably strong influence on culture, politics and society, even in Western democracies.

Thus, the enemy is not any particular religion, but the extremist elements in any, and all, religions. As a society, it is our collective role to address extremism in all its forms, including in religion, which is a particularly fertile ground for ideologues, but the adherents of particular religions have an undeniable responsibility to respond to extremism and fundamentalism within their respective faiths.

Consequently, personally I am not ‘praying’ for Paris, because in my view religion has caused enough damage, pain and suffering already. Instead, I am sending my love, sympathies and hope for the future of Paris, France, humanity, and our collective civilisation.

There have been some interesting media responses to the Paris tragedy. John Oliver’s brief, profanity-laden, definitely ‘not safe for work’ take on the events is a cathartic experience:

On the other hand, Waleed Aly’s heartfelt and reasoned appeal for unity, standing strong, and standing together, resonates deeply:

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