Humphrys in Search of God

A quick heads up for a fantastic series of programmes running on Radio 4 at the moment, called Humphrys in Search of God. It’s a series of interviews with John Humphrys talking to a variety of religious leaders. The first one was with the Archbishop of Canterbury and was good, but not incredibly inspiring (probably because I’ve thought about the issues and heard the arguments before since I come from a Christian background and culture). I found the second one incredibly thought-provoking, though, with Professor Tariq Ramadan, a ‘leading Muslim academic’. It drove home to me that I know an astonishingly small amount about the Muslim faith.

The element that most appealed was when Tariq Ramadan talked about the need to act in the world. The question that Humphrys put was about how you deal with the amount of suffering there is in the world. The Archbishop of Canturbury and Tariq Ramadan both talked about having to accept that you don’t know what the greater meaning is, but the Archbishop of Canturbury put a lot of emphasis on the suffering being the downside of the free will that God grants us. Tariq Ramadan’s emphasis was, instead, on the Muslim’s requirement to act to improve the situation and do good. I found myself thinking that this approach is brilliant, but also allows an insight into suicide bombers. Bear with me here. If your faith teaches you to act, and you believe that something is right in the eyes of God, then you act. And that’s what suicide bombers believe. I don’t think that extreme is a necessary result of the basic (very positive) belief, it’s just a really unfortunate extension of it.
Just a very naive thought, perhaps (and not, I think, one that excuses their actions).

One Reply to “Humphrys in Search of God”

  1. Yep, I totally agree with you here. I suppose the nature of the religion itself is very different from the one practiced here by the majority (if practiced at all) and that is why it is widely misunderstood, despite the similarity in origin. The term ‘Islam’ is literally interpreted as ‘peace’, as I’m sure you know, but its subtitle has always been ‘the way of life’ which is sort of ironically evident when you see millions prepared to die for it.

    I was initially outraged at the fact that the July 7th bombers were home grown…like adding insult to injury. I couldn’t comprehend how people who have eaten the bread and butter of a country can then go and kill its people. Even now with the issue of suicide bombing – I can understand why a guy in Palestine, for example, who has had his wife murdered, his children tortured in front of him and his home torn to shreds would want to strap on a bomb and blow himself up in an Isreali restaurant or something. Obviously it’s abhorrent in any situation but I can understand his reasoning behind it. He has nothing left to lose. This sort of makes the ‘home grown terrorists’ and their actions even more inexcusable…they had food, families, jobs.

    I suppose it sort of emphasises the ‘way of life’ thing and what you said about acting on what you think is right. I imagine their reasoning was ‘If I believe in my religion so much and its principles and unity then surely eating the food and sitting on the sofa of a country which is killing the crap out of my ‘brothers and sisters’ makes me a hypocrite’…of course this dangerous thought resulting in the choices they made. I also think it must have been a poverty of education…I don’t mean academically but the kind that makes you think for yourself. From my own experience with the muslim communities…many of my own family members as well, I find that there is a lack of this. Everything is very cemented in tradition or culture and it’s very authoritative, especially when preached by those who don’t know what they are talking about. So a topic as contentious and emotional as foreign policy and religion must be a breeding ground for wayward clerics recruiting young impressionable men who are looking for a ‘greater purpose’. All the ingredients for brain – washing are there…alienation, foreign policy, ignorance of their own religion. It’s quite fascinating as it sort of resembles the way the Nazi Germans were recruited or the Orwellian-esque ‘mind control’ that was said to be carried out in the Korean War.

    I find extreme Islamic ideology really frightening though and I don’t see how this ‘war on terror’ (if it even is a ‘war’) can be won. It seems impossible to defeat an opponent that has little regard for his or her life because ultimately that is what we all instinctively try and protect. Still… I can’t stand the government’s propaganda on ‘terrorism’ especially when you look at how much it has to gain from instilling fear…everything from justification of their decisions to power. What further frustrates me…ignorant journalists believing Islam is imposing on ‘our liberal secular democracy’. But this can go on…
    Oh dear…I was planning on a few thoughts but I’ve ended up writing a freestyle essay….I think I’m feeling a bit school-sick. Right, I shall end my cynical disaffected ‘ramble’ on how screwed we all are, finish my hot coco and go to bed.


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