scandal of faith

An interesting article in the Socialist Review on Muslims and Islam – a couple of points:

There is, however, a more subtle reason for Islamophobia. Think of the sheer strangeness, in the eyes of sceptical modern Europe, of the presence of countless millions of ordinary men and women whose everyday lives are shaped and guided by belief. What sense can an agnostic, pragmatic society make of that? How can faith possibly fit into its materialistic priorities?

In the European world bus drivers, florists and dental assistants are not usually expected to hold complex ideas about the origins of the world, the purpose of life, or what it means to live a rich, fulfilled, fully human existence. They are simply expected to get on with their everyday lives and leave these more fundamental questions to scholars and clerics. This is not so in the case of Islam. A Muslim bank clerk or taxi driver is expected to be as concerned about these questions as an imam.


Religious faith has social, moral and political implications as well as personal ones. There are, for example, Islamic theologians for whom Islam and socialism are perfectly compatible. Islam began as a religion of the poor, and retains that legacy today. The very word Qur’an, meaning “recital”, reminds us that the early disciples of this faith needed its sacred text read out to them, as they were illiterate.

My comments: The problem with socialism, and other materialist ideologies, is not with their claim to be on the side of the poor and oppressed peoples. It is that they are materialist, and in being so – classical socialism (not liberation theology oriented ones, nor indigenous based ones such as the concept of sumak kawsay of the Andean region of South America) they end up not being able to see beyond the material world, and economics. The author is correct in pointing out the comprehensive nature of Islam, but this is not just true of Islam as an interpreted contemporary “religion” (the word more appropriate is deen – or way – as used in the Qur’an) – but is a fact of human nature – we are all created to strive towards becoming complete beings… a materialist socialism and capitalism ends up stunting that growth, by relegating the “spiritual” to a private domain.