Friday, April 25, 2008

Griffith University's misplaced tolerance

From The Australian, by Rachael Kohn, John Cleary and Stephen Crittenden of ABC radio:

IN response to (Griffith University vice-chancellor) Ian O'Connor: (He) seems to be falling into the trap that is sometimes evident among those who wish to advance the cause of tolerance and understanding between religious communities.

In seeking to construct a dialogue, they are blind to profound differences, and in doing so they trivialise them and render the discussion meaningless. For example, O'Connor's equation of Wahhabism and Salafism with Unitarianism is utter nonsense.

Unitarianism emerged as a liberal Christian movement and gained ground in the early years of American democracy. Its foundational beliefs include that man has the ability to exercise free will in a responsible and ethical manner, that human nature in its present conditions is neither inherently corrupt nor depraved, and that no religion can claim a monopoly on the Holy Spirit of theological truth.

These humanist and inclusive beliefs are in no way expressed by the Wahhabist and Salafist versions of Islam. Indeed, the home of Wahhabism and Salafism, Saudi Arabia, not only continues to outlaw conversion to religions other than Islam, it does not even permit public worship of other faiths.

As for its humanist content, Saudi Arabia continues to trample the human rights of women, who are banned from libraries and unable to access work, travel, study and marriage without the approval of their fathers, brothers and sons.

O'Connor's acceptance of Saudi Arabian government funding is premised on an argument that serves the interests of Saudi Arabia, in providing a "legitimate alternative to their country's more conservative policies". One would have to wonder whether O'Connor has unwittingly become a conduit for Saudi Arabian propaganda, and then ask why the Saudi Government does not choose to establish such research institutes in its own country, where they are needed.
It isn't difficult to find the answer, which is that the authoritarian, theocratic state of Saudi Arabia really has no interest in becoming a liberal democracy.

The result of such sloppy thinking is that what is now happening in the West is that the institutions of liberal democracies, such as Griffith University, risk becoming havens for highly conservative imported versions of Islam that really have no place in a country with a religious culture and society shaped by humanist values and the rules of democracy.

I hope that the authors will also critique their own colleagues in the ABC with such clarity!

...also see previous postings on this issue: Griffith University "Foolish -- at best" and Australian University promotes Islamofascism

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