A common theme in the discussion of last month’s deadly violence in Libya, Egypt and other countries has been “Muslim rage” – the notion of mass anger at perceived slights to Muslims’ faith. Whatever degree to which this condition exists, Islam isn’t unique – every religion has the power to cause such harm, and almost certainly has experience in exercising it. Faith Exchange panelists have gathered to discuss the issue.
- Lorna Dueck has been reporting on Christian practice in Canadian life for the past 20 years. She is an evangelical Christian and host of the TV program Context with Lorna Dueck, seen Sundays on Global TV at 9:30 a.m. ET and Vision TV at 12:30 p.m. ET.
- Sheema Khan writes a monthly column for The Globe and Mail. She has a master’s degree in physics and a PhD in chemical physics from Harvard. She is the author of Of Hockey and Hijab: Reflections of a Canadian Muslim Woman.
- Richard Landau is an award-winning television host and Executive Producer of interfaith and public affairs programming and a range of documentary productions. He is author of the e-book What the World Needs to Know About Interfaith Dialogue – the definitive study of how interfaith dialogue works.
- Peter Stockland is director of the Cardus Centre for Cultural Renewal, a Canadian think tank that explains culture to religion and religion to culture. He is publisher of Convivium magazine and has just launched a collection of short stories called If Only.
- Moderator Guy Nicholson edits The Globe’s online Comment page. He professes no religious beliefs.
Guy Nicholson: Thanks for joining us today, panelists – particularly Richard Landau, who’s with us for the first time. Would anyone like to take issue with the premise that every faith is capable of causing this kind of harm, and experience in doing so?
Peter Stockland: Guy, I would maybe put a stick in the spokes of your premise by suggesting every human being has the potential to be manipulated into joining a mob that on some pretext, faith or otherwise, has the power to cause harm. Placing the onus on faith seems to me like suggesting that every cooked carrot has the power to make children dislike it.
Richard Landau: Yes, I would take exception as well. Followers can do that type of harm. Faiths? No.
Guy Nicholson: But what are they following, Richard? Book clubs don’t break into embassies or embark on crusades. Is there something unique about religion that compells followers to extreme measures (not all of them bad, granted)?
Richard Landau: A poor interpretation of religion may encourage the masses to righteous indignation – “Anything I do in the name of protecting or advancing my faith is sanctified.” I think you could find similar thinking in some political circles, too.
Peter Stockland: The streets of Montreal were filled last spring with tens of thousands of students who downed books to engage in often violent demonstrations against a cup-of-coffee-a-day tuition increase, Guy. They weren’t saying the rosary beforehand.
Richard Landau: Ditto Vancouver Canucks fans. No religion there.
Guy Nicholson: We’re not talking about the Canadiens, after all …
Peter Stockland: Notre Dame du Centre Bell can get awfully raucous and irreligious – especially when the Leafs or Bruins are in town.
Guy Nicholson: To your point, though, Peter, there were many critical things written about Quebec’s political culture and student culture as a result. Was that justified, or should we have distinguished between faith and fallen?
I do take your point about fundamentalism as false religion, though. My next question might be, how much of what was characterized as “Muslim rage” can we characterize as truly Islamic in nature, and how much has been driven by political nuance, non-religious culture and history?
Richard Landau: You can separate the “rage in the name of a given faith” from the faith itself when the leaders of thought in each respective faith community begin to draw that line very clearly and say: That violent behaviour has no justification in our faith.
Lorna Dueck: No argument from me on Guy’s original premise. Yes, Christianity has also caused harm and has examples millennium old, or something, somewhere in the name of Christianity that just happened a minute ago. Faith does contain power, and people can use it to harm.
Richard Landau: That’s why it is so critically important for the sane voices in each faith community to denounce the “crazies” who would purloin the reputation of their respective faiths.
Peter Stockland: Lorna, don’t you agree that we have to distinguish between the faith and the fallen (human, all too human) nature of the followers? Pope Benedict XVI said in Lebanon last month that “all fundamentalism is false religion” because it denies the bond between faith and reason.