I wonder if we Anglo-Western-Christians have yet come to realize the presence of Islam in the world. This reflection comes from a number of personal influences. First, I caught a brief documentary by the CBC tracking the political and social response towards the rise of Islam in such countries as England and Holland. Emerging in these countries is an awareness that ‘diversity’ has limits and that tolerance only functions among those who agreed upon what should be tolerated. I don’t know enough of the details regarding these situations to elaborate further, however, an image is emerging in which a social alternative is being lived alongside a particular status quo. What strikes me is the (perhaps unfortunate) validation of such thinkers as Stanley Hauerwas who have criticized Western culture for its ‘myth of neutrality’ in which a governing body simply provides the context in which diverse individuals and groups may coexist. CBC made Holland a pointed and ironic example with its generally “loose” views on other social practices. Canada, I believe to its credit, has wrestled with possibility of multiculturalism. However, looking at the dissatisfaction of many French Canadians or Aboriginals the reality of multiculturalism may be questioned (see my Boundary and Presence). To the mix Canada will likely need to pay increasing attention to the presence of Islam within its borders. I really know very little of the social and religious expressions of Islam. This leads to my second personal influence.
I have begun reading the Koran. The genre strikes me as an interwoven mix of Law, Prophecy, and Wisdom in the way it moves from prescription to critique coupled with terse maxims. What is missing so far is any sense of narrative flow. People and history are alluded to but are not developed or integrated into a discernable whole (again I have not read very far). What surprised me most is the reasonableness of the text. So far I find the Koran much more reasonable than the Bible. There is an even-handedness to its method. Idolaters are of course far from God. However, Jews and Christians are to be engaged with discernment. Those who reflect the qualities of Abraham are to be respected. Rather than attacking Judaism and Christianity I find the Koran validating Islam as an appropriate response to the one God. In this way the Koran appears to provide space for the world religions so long as they reflect the basic truths of monotheism as revealed to Abraham. With an almost modern tone of tolerance the Koran reads (with respect to Judaism and Christianity),
We (God) have ordained a law and assigned a path for each of you (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). Had God pleased, He could have made of you one community: but it is his wish to prove you by that which He has bestowed upon you. Vie with each other good works, for God to God shall you all return and He will resolve the differences among you.
I hope to offer more reflection and comments as I continue this reading.