Sunday, August 24, 2008

Dialogue with Brad - Part I

Recently I started a discussion with a Kiwi reader named Brad (I've changed his name to protect his anonymity). With his permission, I want to share that dialogue with readers uncensored. I'll be doing this in a number of instalments. I'll start with his initial inquiry to and my response.



I have read articles by Irfan Yusaf in the NZ Herald and I wonder if he would be able to answer the 10 questions about Islam (or perhaps just the first 9)
posed by the writer here.

Our extended family has assisted with the resettlement of Muslim (and other) refugees in New Zealand, we have eaten together and prayed together, however I\'m aware that inter-marriage and at times developing friendships outside of the Islamic community is actively discouraged. I sense this will lead to a ghetto type isolation for Muslims in our communities which will lead to the possibility of fear and resentment from both \'sides\'. How do you think both the Islamic community and host communities can resolve this?


Dear Brad,

Thank you for your e-mail.

Let me start by saying that all of us have multiple layers of identity. Religious affiliation is just one layer.

If you were to ask different Muslims why they regarded themselves as Muslim, you would receive many different answers. Some would say it was because they have Muslim parents. Others would say it was because they believed in Islam. Yet many of them would probably believe in different things, and their beliefs may even conflict.

We all need to stop pretending Muslims are some kind of uniform monolith. We also need to stop pretending that Muslims are a recent addition to Europe and the West.

I know of Muslim families who have lived in New Zealand since the 1920's. I know of Australian Muslims whose families have lived in Australia since the 1850's. Muslims have lived in Bosnia since the 12th century, in Europe's heartland. Yet in many parts of Indonesia, Islam only became the dominant faith 2 or 3 centuries ago.

If you took an Indonesian Muslim to Turkey, he probably wouldn't recognise Turkish Islam as Islam.

If I were to say that Catholics all nail themselves to crosses at Easter time, you would probably think I was nuts. Yet this is what many Catholics do in the Philippines. Does this mean all Catholics do this?

If we studied each other's faiths seriously, we would realise we have more in common than we think. Although I believe Judaism and Islam have more in common that Islam and Christianity. That might explain why the reasons cited by many allegedly conservative Christians to object to a Muslim presence in the West are almost identical to the objections their ancestors had to a Jewish presence.

I'll have to read the questions you have linked to carefully and then respond. However, you might some answers to your questions here and here.


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