Karen Armstrong on free speech and contraditions in western values | Europe's anxieties about Islam

In Guardian, prominent author and religious scholar Karen Armstrong wrote on the issue free speech in the context of Danish Cartoon back in July 2007. She is also the author of two biographies of the Prophet, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet and Muhammad: A Prophet of Our Time.

Quoted below is from her article: An inability to tolerate Islam contradicts western values:

"In the 17th century, when some Iranian mullahs were trying to limit freedom of expression, Mulla Sadra, the great mystical philosopher of Isfahan, insisted that all Muslims were perfectly capable of thinking for themselves and that any religiosity based on intellectual repression and inquisitorial coercion was "polluted". Mulla Sadra exerted a profound influence on generations of Iranians, but it is ironic that his most famous disciple was probably Ayatollah Khomeini, author of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie.

This type of contradiction is becoming increasingly frequent in our polarised world (...)

(...) the cartoonists and their publishers, who seemed impervious to Muslim sensibilities, failed to live up to their own liberal values, since the principle of free speech implies respect for the opinions of others. Islamophobia should be as unacceptable as any other form of prejudice.

When 255,000 members of the so-called "Christian community" signed a petition to prevent the building of a large mosque in Abbey Mills, east London, they sent a grim message to the Muslim world: western freedom of worship did not, apparently, apply to Islam."

[>] read the full article here.

. Europe's buried anxieties about Islam from History

Also noteworthy to mention part from the Introduction of Karen Armstrong's book Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet which sheds light on some interesting historical context.

"When the Muslim empire was established in the 7th century CE, Europe was backward region. Islam had quickly overrun much of the Christian world of the Middle East as well as the great Church of North Africa, which had been of crucial importance to the Church of Rome. This brilliant success was threatening: had God deserted the Christians and bestowed his favour on the infidels?

Even when Europe was recovering from the Dark Ages and established its own great civilization, the old fear of the ever-expanding Muslim empire remained. Europe could make no impression on this powerful and dynamic culture: the Crusading project of the 12th and 13th century eventually failed and, later, the Ottoman Turks brought Islam to the very doorstep of Europe. This fear made it impossible Western Christians to be rational or objective about Muslim faith. At the same time as they were weaving fearful fantasies about Jews, they were also evolving a distorted image of Islam, which reflected their own buried anxieties. Western scholars denounced Islam as a blasphemous faith and its Prophet Muhammad as the Great Pretender, who had founded a violent religion of the sword in order to conquer the world. 'Mahomet' became a bogy to the people of Europe, used by mothers to frighten disobedient children.

This inaccurate image of Islam became one of the received ideas of Europe and it continued to affect our perceptions of the Muslim world.

... We should also remember that 'fundamentalism' has surfaced in most religions and seems to be a world-wide response of late-twentieth-century life. Radical Hindus have taken to the streets to defend the caste system and to oppose the Muslims of India; Jewish fundamentalists have made illegal settlements on the West Bank and Gaza Strip and have vowed to drive all Arabs from their Holy Land, Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority and new Christian Right, which saw Soviet Union as the evil empire, achieved astonishing power in United States during the 1980s.

(...) It is wrong, therefore, to assume that Muslim extremists are typical of their faith."

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Technology of the Heart: Karen Armstrong on free speech and contraditions in western values | Europe's anxieties about Islam
Karen Armstrong on free speech and contraditions in western values | Europe's anxieties about Islam
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