The Importance of Being Grateful

WordsworthThe onslaught of technology has left us with little energy or mental space to ponder over creation. In times gone by, nature spoke the language of God; it still does but we fail to comprehend it. William Wordsworth, the celebrated English poet, repeatedly lamented the loss of the connection with the divine. His ode, ‘Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood’ begins with these words:

‘There was a time when meadow, grove and stream,

The earth, and every common sight,

To me did seem

Apparelled in celestial light

The glory and freshness of a dream.’  Continue reading →

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A Tale of Two Birmingham Schools

John Holmwood states that “Fundamental ‘British’ values are understood to involve a commitment to democracy, the rule of law and religious tolerance. A strong implication is that some ethnic minorities lack a commitment to such values where conservative orientations to gender roles and sexual orientation have come to indicate this weak commitment. The failure to embrace British values on the part of some minorities is also put forward as an explanation of poor pupil achievement, which, in turn puts integration at risk. Yet British values tolerate the exercise of conservative orientations on the part of the wealthy, who are also allowed to purchase educational advantage for their children. While all schools are expected to have a religious ethos – expressed in the legal requirement for religious education and daily acts of collective worship – when that ethos is Islamic it is subject to profound suspicion, such that the authorities are willing to castigate educationally successful and unsuccessful schools alike.

Sir Michael Wilshaw was asked by the House of Commons Select Committee on Education in 2015 if he thought that children, communities and schools in Birmingham had benefited from Ofsted’s intervention over the Trojan Horse affair. He replied, “they have benefited in some sense, because they are not the subject of the sort of policies that would be pursued by these governors with a very particular view of how schools should be run. They are free of that. But those schools have been through an enormous amount of turmoil” (paragraph 76). Four years after the Trojan Horse affair, the successor school to Park View has yet to reach the educational success it achieved for its pupils. In other words, its pupils have been ‘freed’ from the supposed constraints of their own cultural expression, while not being provided with the academic achievements that would ensure social mobility. In the meantime, Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon launched the first of his new army cadet corps at the school, offering them access to the British Army as an alternative route.”

Shah Rafi Uddin’s Metaphysics

blind men

John Godfrey Saxe’s (1816-1887) version of Blind Men and the Elephant:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

Continue reading →

Tradition & Change: To Reform or not to Reform?

Blue-Mosque-19

Tradition is here defined as an intellectual tendency or social perspective of continuing the preservation of values, statements, norms and the like from one generation to the next. In contrast, modernity is the social outlook on life which is inclined to break with tradition. It is driven by the force to repudiate traditional values, customs and beliefs in favour of more radical ideas. A delineating feature of modernity is constant change whilst tradition is identified by continuation. Where do we stand regarding these two polarities as religious people?

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Religion vs Secularism

0bf85ece-2299-4e49-89d1-a97dcc5473d8-2060x1236What conventional wisdom promotes and dictates is the assumption that religion is an outdated weltanschuuang. It presupposes the reality of secular ideals vs. the myth of religion. It assumes the necessity of secularism versus the threat of religion. Much of the foreign policy of the last decade or so, and now with Theresa May and David Cameron’s new terrorism Bill, is underpinned by an assumption that somehow secularism is a saviour of religion. It sees religion as a dangerous phenomena and therefore it is in need, or more correctly, there is a necessity for it to be tamed. Continue reading →

Do Muslims Belong in the West?

In this discussion, Talal Asad identifies the problematic ways in which the presence of Muslim communities in Western contexts has been characterized in response to outbreaks of violence such as the recent events in Paris. Asad argues that many of the critiques to which Muslims are subjected, namely their dependence on transcendent forces, also inhabit the intellectual assumptions of secular and atheist commentators.  He further expresses the need to examine Islam as a “tradition” in order to avoid precisely the types of sweeping generalizations and focus instead on the complexities and particularities of the various ways in which Islam is lived. The inability to historicize Islam as a tradition has played into the calls for a “reform” of the religion and resulted in the inability to confront the underlying causes of the recent eruptions of violence. This interview was conducted in New York on 17 January 2015. It was later transcribed for publication. Click here