The Proud Duck
Friday, July 22, 2005
From an interview of a British sociologist and theologian in The Spectator, some similar thoughts to those I expressed in my last two posts:
"Forget your mental image of a sociology professor. David Martin, Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the LSE, is a softly spoken conservative Anglican. His critique of the concept of secularisation, begun in the 1960s, brought a new rigour to the study of religion in Britain, and established a flourishing conversation between sociology and theology.
Inevitably, we begin with the issue of the hour: Islam and violence. Professor Martin does not settle for the easy mantra that all religions are naturally peaceful. Instead, choosing his words very carefully, and pausing to ask whether his comments are printable, he tells me what he thinks.
‘I wish that I could sound more positive, but the bombings don’t come as any surprise to me. There is a deeply rooted ideology of violence in Islam — a military psychology. Of course most Muslims don’t want to go around bombing people, but those few who do turn to violence are able to find a certain amount of justification in the Koran. I suppose that might not be the most helpful thing to say, but it seems undeniable.’
Is it not a religion of peace? ‘Well, it seeks peace, but on its own terms. As Rowan Williams has said, it’s a fine religion, but it places a high premium on victory. And I think that’s right, and I fear that many young men will see violence as the means to that victory. There’s a large enough mood of militancy in Islam for it to be a real problem. And that’s not just a recent thing caused by resentment over Iraq and Afghanistan: it’s been emerging over several decades throughout the Middle East and Pakistan.’
Does Islam find it harder than other religions to reform, to incorporate secular liberal values? ‘The problem is that it came into contact with the modern world very fast, so it reacts with horror at the sheer range of options in secularism. That seems like confusion and chaos when your tradition is based on a single right way of behaving and strong warnings against the infidel. The Koran is a very “us and them” book. It’s hard to see how a Muslim school dominated by the Koran can encourage assimilation, and can promote the idea of equality between the sexes, for example."