Monday, 9 June 2014

Things that aren't extremism


Today is clearly a day to talk about  extremism. But to do this we need first to know what people mean by 'extremism'. Here are some things that are not extremism:

1. Living your life according to the tenets, strictures and requirements of a religious faith

2. Asking that the institutions of society recognise your right to live according to your religious faith

3. Promoting your religious faith to others as a good way of living

4. Asking that a school respects your faith in its education of your children

5. Criticising the action of government where those actions attack the practice of your religious faith

The problem is that we appear - regularly for Islam and increasingly for Christianity - to confuse religious orthodoxy with extremism and seek to marginalise religious belief where is doesn't accord with the assumed mores of the secular majority. We also have a new intolerance of ideas - we may believe otherwise but for many Christians, Muslims and Jews homosexuality remains a sin (just as sex outside marriage remains a sin). To seek to close down this belief - to demand that people believe otherwise - is to reject a central premise of our society: the idea of free speech. And this, for me, is a far worse extremism than being a devout Muslim, Jew or Christian.



Anonymous said...

But if those 'tenets, requirements and strictures', as carefully explained to you by the authorised 'interpreter' of your religion, include carrying out extreme acts against members of other faiths or against any other people thought to view your faith in a negative light, is that OK ? Because that's what happens in real life.
The problem is usually not the religion per se, but rather those who act as its appointed interpreters to those of more malleable minds.

Alec said...

If people want to - say - subscribe to a religion that expects them to renounce alcohol, well, that's fine. If they try to close my pub down, well, that isn't fine.

If people want to - say - subscribe to a religion that expects them to renounce sex with someone of the same sex, well, that's fine. If they try to make me do the same, well, that isn't fine.

Religion is where I choose not to eat pork. Intolerance is where I condemn you for eating pork. Extremism is where I try to stop everyone eating pork.