Saturday, January 17, 2015
A Common Enemy
I agree with Giles Fraser, at least in this little piece where he writes about the French idea of laïcité.
Linked arm politicians marking through Paris streets in solidarity with..., with what? worries me. Yes, I can understand solidarity with the victims of terrorism, with those killed but is this really what David Cameron et al were expressing? Probably, they were thinking more of media reaction to their absence, and solidarity with public outrage, or perhaps the wound was too raw to think too clearly.
I am sure that Muslims who like the Pope might think that gratuitous insults provoke some reaction, certainly not killing or violence, but some reaction, but then what reaction can there be from those who are marginalised and on the peripheries? They are after all powerless, whilst the state and even cartoonists in comparison are all-powerful. It might be easy for a French Muslim to conflate the state's policy of laïcité and Charlie Hebdo's cartoons into one.
What I like about Fraser's article is his understanding that the French revolutionary ideas, and the Enlightenment are actually at war with religion. The new exodus of Jews from France is caused in part by Muslim attacks on Jews, in part by a growing intolerance of religion within French society but also as a direct result of laws that are restrictive or intolerant towards religious expression. Fraser gives examples of 'pork or nothing' school lunches, of restrictions on religious dress but in France as in other parts of Europe there are also moves to ban halal and kosher slaughter of animals and to prohibit infant circumcision, if one adds to that an active hostility in education to any sense of religion, and active promotion of values which contradict essential religious values, the promotion of a gay agenda, attacks on the family, a reinvention of morality, one can understand not just Islamic and Jewish dis-ease with an increasingly secular world, and a world that is evangelically antagonistic to religion.
Benedict XVI's Regensburg address, where he speaks of religion without reason has been justly cited by many Catholics commenting on the Paris killings but this forms a diptych with his address to the Bundestag, which is perhaps of even more importance, here he addresses what happens when the state becomes the sole arbiter of right and wrong.
Pope Francis said, "In many quarters we encounter a general impression of weariness and aging, of a Europe which is now a “grandmother”, no longer fertile and vibrant. As a result, the great ideas which once inspired Europe seem to have lost their attraction, only to be replaced by the bureaucratic technicalities of its institutions".
Most Muslims, most religious people, would agree with him. Europe is sick but not just Europe, the same accusations can be made against Western society in general. The great ideas of liberty, equality and fraternity, so attractive in their infancy have in their old age been transformed into the early sexualisation of children, the commercialisation of sexuality, the destruction of the family, pornography, drug and alcohol addiction, the estrangement of the elderly, of the young, youth unemployment, benefit dependancy, in fact a whole host of sicknesses and a a spiral of hopelessness.
Catholics can understand something of Islamic alienation from a society that has declared war on its fundamental values. I was waiting for a bus recently at the bus stop a few yards down the street a couple of women were kissing, a Muslim mother with two small children saw what was happening and covered her children's faces with her coat, a few seconds later o0ne of my parishioners and her child walked past, they still at, she saw them and saw me and stood with her back to them holding her child's head so he couldn't see. Though there are serious difficulties (see the video at he end) Catholics and Muslims share a common enemy: secularism.
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