But particularly surprising to see it in the Sydney Morning Herald, where Paul Sheehan writes today about a request from a graduate student 'trying to prove whether Islamophobia is based on religion fear or cultural fear of Islam'. He suggests a better starting point might be whether Islamophobia exists at all - or is simply a reasoned response to events.
Islam and the power of reason
It is worth first taking a look at what the Pope had to say on the role of reason. At a meeting with Islamic representatives in Cameroon he said:
"My friends, I believe a particularly urgent task of religion today is to unveil the vast potential of human reason, which is itself God’s gift and which is elevated by revelation and faith.
Belief in the one God, far from stunting our capacity to understand ourselves and the world, broadens it. Far from setting us against the world, it commits us to it....
When men and women allow the magnificent order of the world and the splendour of human dignity to illumine their minds, they discover that what is “reasonable” extends far beyond what mathematics can calculate, logic can deduce and scientific experimentation can demonstrate; it includes the goodness and innate attractiveness of upright and ethical living made known to us in the very language of creation.
This insight prompts us to seek all that is right and just, to step outside the restricted sphere of our own self-interest and act for the good of others.
Genuine religion thus widens the horizon of human understanding and stands at the base of any authentically human culture. It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith, but also of right reason. Indeed, religion and reason mutually reinforce one another since religion is purified and structured by reason, and reason’s full potential is unleashed by revelation and faith. "
Meanwhile back in Australia...
Contrast this call to build a 'civilization of love' then, with the actual events of the last few weeks that Paul Sheehan points to:
- A gang of about 100 young Muslim men moving through the centre of the Sydney intimidating, harassing and beating bystanders at the Mardi Gras on March 6;
- Murder of Abdul Darwiche on March 15, shot to death in a shopping centre in the latest hyper-violence involving two warring Lebanese Muslim clans. Hundreds of mourners attended his funeral at Lakemba mosque, despite a torrid family history of violence and murder (one brothr was later arrested for driving around with a loaded pistol. A third brother is serving a life sentence for a double murder, and also stole rocket launchers from the army..).
- The ever controversial Sheik Taj el-Din al Hilaly apparently called police about vandalism to the mosque which he had in fact committed....
- Another rape sentence was handed down, bringing the total to more than 30 young Muslim men involved in serious proven sexual assaults of non-Muslim girls in Sydney;
- And in the midst of bikie wars, news that there has been an infusion of young Muslim men into the bikie culture.
It is time we got serious about tackling the issue, and that means not just tackling gangs, as Sheehan suggests (though that would be a good start), but looking at our immigration mix, considering how we can protect our cultural heritage, and launching a serious attempt to convert Muslims in Australia to Christianity. Of course, on that last point, we probably need to start by getting a bit more serious about our faith ourselves.