Allan Takes Aim Blog

Law with religion causes conflict

Posted on: 20 October 2009

An edited version of this column appeared in The Chronicle, Canberra, Tuesday October 13 

Reports that senior Muslims in Australia are calling for Muslims to be judged by Sharia Law can be relied on to raise a storm of protest.

 An agnostic, I won’t take sides, but reports also suggest that though many Muslims don’t want Sharia Law they prefer some form of Islamic Law to Christian based secular law.

At the same time many Christians don’t like all Christian based secular law but prefer it to Islamic Law because its main base is reason rather than religion. Though many people might think otherwise, Sharia and Christian Law have much in common. Both have a base in Jewish Halakhah law and Zoroastrian Law.

Unfortunately with the study of history in decline, many Christians know little of times pre the birth 2000 years ago of Jesus Christ, a Jew, allegedly the Son of God, while many Muslims know little of times pre 610, when the Prophet Muhammad said he had a vision in which God (Allah) allegedly spoke to him.

Both Christianity and Islam are monotheistic religions with Jesus revered by Muslims as a great prophet. Christians, Muslims and Jews each assert their beliefs and legal systems are the best conveniently forgetting the contribution made by the still extant Zoroastrianism founded by the Prophet Zoroaster, circa 450BC.

Indeed, Mary Boyce, Professor of Iranian Studies at the University of London has written, with little disagreement from other academics, that “Zoroastrianism” probably had more influence on mankind directly or indirectly than any other religious faith.” Like Christianity, Islam and Judaism, Zoroastrianism is also a monotheistic religion.

It is worth noting also that over the centuries, religion has often been the cause of conflict. Though an optimist, I confess I see little hope of any change in that situation at any time in the near future. Indeed it is one of life’s great paradoxes that people of the same faith entreat their one God to help them slay each other in battle, but also indulge in the same entreaties when fighting people of different faiths who also believe in the same one God. However, It has to be said also that as civilisation has progressed, the wars between different Christian countries were fought more on economic than religious grounds.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the wars between Islamic/Christian, Islamic/Jewish sects.

That said, it seems beyond belief that today, leaders of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, each of whom says peace is their objective and, despite believing in the same God and sharing a heritage, are unwilling to accept that violence and intimidation do not produce peace.

This is due to the fact that in Christian countries, secular law is laid down by parliaments of the people. Religious leaders play a part but only in an indirect sense.

Unfortunately, in Islamic countries where the law is laid down by religious leaders, practices and penalties continue that have long been discontinued in countries where people, regardless of religious belief – Islam included – or no religious belief at all, are afforded the protection of Christian based secular law.

Even more unfortunately problems still occur, particularly in countries which promote themselves as model democracies and guardians of human rights particularly with regard to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, education, equality for all, and other rights too numerous to mention.

The problems occur when people from cultures created over centuries, move to settle in countries in the belief they would be able to continue practicing the culture they brought with them.

Would that were the case. Sadly it is not. Instead they find that despite the promises of politicians, many of the residents in their new country do not find their culture acceptable.

Worse still, continuing to try and practice their culture often has the unintended consequence of exacerbating the original problem so that, in turn, they find themselves even more sadly in violent conflict with the law and fellow citizens.

I could but wish that I had a solution to what seems an intractable problem? Unfortunately I haven’t. The best I can do is suggest that a good start would be for all of us to start treating Australia’s new citizens as we, ourselves, would like to be treated.

The Chronicle, best for Canberra community news


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