Friday, 23 January 2009

Iran in pictures - looking for the positive

In recent years there have been several photography books published about Iran. All seem to walk the line between pictures of women in chadors, propaganda murals on walls and then trying to move away from those. I'd rather just see some pictures that somehow break out of that paradigm.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

No god but God and the fight for Islam's heart

It will take many more [years of violence] to cleanse Islam of its new false idols—bigotry and fanaticism—worshipped by those who have replaced Muhammad's original vision of tolerance and unity with their own ideals of hatred and discord. But the cleansing is inevitable, and the tide of reform cannot be stopped. The Islamic Reformation is already here. We are all living in it.

Thus ends Reza Aslan's No god but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam, an apologia for and defence of Islam.

Early in the book Aslan states that there is no "clash of fundamentalisms" nor "clash of civilisations", but rather a civil war within Islam for the heart and soul of the faith. His emphasis is on the faith, not the religion. The religion is the schism, the splits, the murderous rampages, the desecration of rival sects' mosques and the power struggles. The faith is that there is no god by God, that all men are equal before God, etc.

YouTube is awash with videos from keyboard jihadists fighting against their co-religionists by making slideshows denouncing shirk, Shi'ite and Sufi kufar. The influence of Deobandi, Salafist, Wahhabi theology and frequency with which other Muslims are denounced as apostates is not something new in the years since the terrorist attacks on New York. And neither is the progressive, inclusive response in Islam.

Whenever people talk about Christianity, the West, Islam, the Middle East, Iran, Israel, Gaza, etc. they find it so easy to gloss over the very real diversity and division of opinion, faith and belief, seeing everything and everyone as monolithic, homogenous blocks. Islam has a long history of internal conflict and bloodshed, but also a long history of a struggle to include not only all Muslims, but other monotheists within its greater Ummah.

The problem for people like Reza Aslan is not that they are fewer in number, but they lack the example of a government that respects freedom and human rights, the backing of a state with natural resources and the support of a media hell-bent on showing all Muslims as an unfathomable enemy.

There is no god but God