...A quixotic endeavour?
Topics discussed include:~
- The problems Imam Tawhidi sees with Justin Trudeau – and the emblematic nature of those problems for many Western leaders. He says “I have lost all hope in him”.
- The Imam claims that Canada, and again much of the West, has turned its back on women in the name of contemporary feminism. He discusses a very notable woman who is an exception to this trend.
- He goes through his concerns with his personal safety & Twitter & Facebook “disappearing” his posts. He believes he is being censored.
- A little humorously he views Britain & France now as “Middle Eastern” countries.
- He discusses his religious trajectory from orthodox to a more liberal understanding of Islam. In 2009 he would have obeyed when top leaders called for murder & would not even talk with a Muslim who didn’t completely agree with him as he would have thought them worthy of death.
- He arrogates to himself, I think, the authority to decide that the texts referring to the disbelievers (Kafirs) apply only to the Meccans of Muhammad’s time, not to subsequent non-Muslims. Dr Saad challenges him on this point – that Islam itself is the real problem as it contains supremacist texts. The Imam prefers the more peaceful Meccan texts yet seems not to quite engage with the authority of the later violent, abrogating & supremacist, Medinan texts (but see Raymond Ibrahim's scholarly explanation of the doctrine of Abrogation here). Imam Tawhidi sees jihadi groups as deliberately misinterpreting violent texts in order to attain political ends – truth is subordinated to the will to power as is typical of all human societies and nothing more.
- But Dr Saad then asks whether the Imam’s peaceful and thoroughly Western friendly view of Islam could actually be attained as it is such a minority understanding. The Imam responds by saying that he does believe there will be a reformation, but not in his lifetime. He names a few Muslim reformers whom we should acknowledge & support. He also discusses the lamentable Linda Sarsour, who he sees as a “very dangerous woman”.
- Dr Saad also asks why any religious belief is required simply to act in what people from almost all worldviews agree are good ways. The Imam, of course, says no, one needn’t be religious to be moral. "Then what need or benefit is there in religion?" The Imam says that because religious belief has been misapplied its distinguishing feature today is the concept of total obedience – only religion discourages a person from researching and questioning. This is a problem that he believes must be rectified. In this though he seems to be projecting his own Islamic background onto other religions. This response is welcomed by Dr Saad. It does seem to me that atheists often have this view that Christianity (along with all other religions) discourages enquiry and independent thought. The Imam goes on to state that Islam, properly understood involves questioning even God.
- By way of contrast such earnest interrogation of God is a strong feature of the Bible - see the book of Job & many of the Psalms for instance. Bear in mind that many of our great scientists were Christians (here's a reasonable list of some). Western history is also littered with Christian thinkers & activists who applied the principles of the Faith to abolishing slavery (e.g. Wm. Willbeforce, Lord Shaftesbury - who was also an early voice for a Jewish return to Israel, the Clapham Sect); Illiteracy among the poor (going back to the "Ragged Schools" designed to teach literacy & the Bible to inner city children); Animal rights (the RSPCA was founded by Willberforce); the Drug Trade; Prison reform (right up to our time through figures such as Chuck Colson); the Sex Trade, Pro-Life movements (all genuine Christian initiatives are pro-life in some sense) and child labour laws. None of these reform movements had wide cultural support but were taken on often in the teeth of fierce opposition. I also must say that, in my own experience, I have not found Christianity to be at all dismissive of enquiry. When I began my degree work I studied as a Pentecostal with Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists, Open Brethren, Baptists and people from Salvation Army & Reformed backgrounds. In turn we had lecturers from all those denominations. We also learned much from Catholic & Orthodox thinkers. After several years of cross-pollination we all found we'd changed our views on many subjects. This happened because we took education seriously and kept re-examining our beliefs - to suggest this is somehow alone the province of the modernist scientific mind is unfortunate but does highlight how widespread the misconception is even among wonderful people like Dr Saad.
- They discuss whether a person can be a Jew or a Muslim and yet not place any weight in their religion at all.
- They agree that “religion exists to serve humans, humans don’t serve the religion” and “humanity comes before religion”. However the key thing missing in the perspectives they outline is the restoration of relationship between a person and God. This is quite a separate matter from moral living & especially from blind obedience. The Christian understanding revolves around the person of Christ re-establishing the broken relationship we as people lost with the person of God the Father. Morality is a subsidiary consideration to this restored relationship which, once experienced and not merely considered at arm’s length as an abstract idea, answers all the questions and regenerates the human person to live a life in the image of God with all that idea contains. The emphasis of Christianity (& Judaism viewed through the Christian lens) is that people should know God. Not merely be moral, nice people. I certainly won't blame either of these lovely people for not understanding Christianity as neither are Christians, but the term “religion” itself is a misnomer here – it refers to a system. Christianity – despite the naturally human way it has often devolved into a system & thence required reforming - has always been about restoring relationships between persons – God & us, then between people. The mutual concern for one another that comes from a shared humanity is accentuated when our relationship with God is restored as He was so concerned for the worst of us that he died to bring us back to himself. That is real sacrificial love.
- The Imam discusses how there are many powerful people seeking to neutralise him. He is aware that he is in a very difficult position. He displays his bravery in this and is an example for all of us.
It's a very interesting interview and I do commend it to you.
Imam Tawhidi Returns! (THE SAAD TRUTH_585)
Far-reaching and powerful conversation.
Imam Tawhidi's website: https://imamtawhidi.com
His Twitter account: @Imamofpeace
Note: Many thanks to my wife for having booked the location for our chat and for having helped in setting up the recording equipment.