Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist
poliphilo

The Fault Line

Theo Van Gogh, a Dutch film maker (yup, he was the great-grandson of Vincent's brother) was murdered last Tuesday. His killer shot him several times before cutting his throat and stabbing him in the chest.

The man they've arrested is an Islamic fundamentalist. Van Gogh had a history of saying intemperate things about Islam- like it was a "backward religion", like it was "misogynistic", like the prophet Mohammed was a "lecherous tyrant".

He had been offered police protection and refused it. "Who shoots the village idiot?" he asked.

I have Muslim friends and neighbours. I like them. I like them partly because they're old-fashioned and their kids are well behaved. It's like living in a little 1950s enclave, where the manners are better, where respect is shown....

But I'm not happy with the way women and girls are treated. And I'm not keen on all that religion. I see the kids trooping off to the madrassah in their robes and head-scarves and I know they're going to have this seventh century text drilled into their delicate skulls. I asked an educated Muslim whether there were Islamic scholars who subjected the Koran to critical examination (in the manner of 20th century Biblical scholars) and he got all flustered and said, oh no, that was never going to happen.

Of course, this whole issue is clouded and confounded by race. My position here is entirely straightforward. I love multi-culturalism. I want immigration restrictions eased. I believe in the brotherhood and sisterhood of Man.

But fundamentalist religion- now that's something else. And I'd feel the same qualms if all the neighbourhood children were being marched off to Baptist Sunday School.

Fundamentalist religion closes down enquiry. It is against science, against the liberty of the individual. It encourages subservience and stupidity.

Theo Van Gogh was unwisely impolite but he wasn't saying anything that wasn't true.

Here's the fault line that runs through the modern world. The US election showed it up clearly. Closed minds on one side, open minds on the other. Tolerance on one side, intolerance on the other.

And the tolerant have this big existential question to answer. How can you tolerate intolerance?

Do I simplify? Of course.

And do I have any helpful suggestions for easing the situation? Of course not.

I find it heartbreaking.

How many hundreds of years is it going to take us to sort this thing out?
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