Where is teaching of religious affairs heading?

I am writing this after seeing two tweets referring to two parents’ reactions to homework on Islam. Both parents reacted strongly. The one tweet originated in the USA and attracted global attention. The second that I will focus on was from Britain.

Both tweets and the responses generated show that our community leaders, spiritual and temporal, have an uphill battle when introducing students to multi-cultural religious study. It is an issue that needs addressing and soon but I see no serious inclination. One issue is a lack of confidence among community leaders to discuss issues that they themselves have a poor understanding off. Even our spiritual leaders struggle – not least because many have themselves been brought up in an era and in environments where different religions were pigeonholed.

I fear when I see and read Christian community leaders openly sowing seeds of doubt and frankly painting negative images of Islam. It’s not helped when peers and supervisors refuse to challenge them. Our popular print media are mostly hostile. Those of us who are old enough not to have had the benefit of a genuine multi-cultural introduction to religion and who harbour negative vibes will only see those vibes reinforced.

This is encapsulated in the Twitter thread I want to highlight. Briefly a child is set homework based on Islamic study. The father seemingly exploded.

Homework brexit

The text reads:

“Muslims believe that Allah created the world and all in it. Each human is a khalifah (steward) and has a duty to look after Allah’s creation. Humans may use but they need to treat them fairly. Muslims also believe that animals are inferior to humans, and animals can be used for scientific testing as long as they are treated correctly. Farming is important however the animals must have space to move and rest. Hunting is not acceptable as it involved cruelty towards animals for example bull fighting.”

5. Give one example of a statement from the Qur’an that encourages animals to respect animals
6. Explain what is meant by khalifah and how a Muslim can ensure they look after animals.
7. Do you think that animal testing is ever acceptable and can you treat an animal correctly if you test on it?
8. “All Muslims should be vegetarians.” What do you think? Explain your opinion.”

Dad tweeted:

“My sons homework on Islam Made me rather angry, why force feed this monstrous ideology on children. #fuckthem”

I have selected tweet from the ensuing conversation.

– “It’s a legal requirement for the school to provide it. However, you can opt your child out. They don’t tell you”

  • cheers Phil, he will be opting out. Cant wait for the school to call me”

–  “teach kids the real Islam, the medieval butchery ideology that slaughters all none believers”

–  “after you tweet I had a deep talk with my son 9y and he understood. But I separated islam from muslims. Reform is possible”

  • “reform is possible in many subjects but not Islam. Would you really want a clan in your neighbourhood?”

–  “I agree schools show little respect to non Muslim views, this govt has sold us out to win Muslim votes.”

  • “it is puzzling why so much is forgotten about when it comes to this cult”

– “WTF If muslims respects animal why the hell 2.5 million animals are killed on Eid ul ajha .Bloody rascals.”

– “y r they teaching it in muslim minority country , r they mental ?”

  • “I don’t know but my son will not be doing it. He doesn’t need to know medieval barbarism”

– “@NickyMorgan01 why is your department teaching lies and evil ideology to kids?”

– “I home school mine. You don’t have to teach them the bullshit that they do!”

– “how do u ppl accept this kind of crap”

  • “I’m not accepting it nor will my son”

“we don’t want this crap for our kids our country!!”

Secularists and Humanists may not like it but this is an example of why religion and explicitly comparative religion must be taught in schools. It has to be taught in order to give children a reasonable chance of making sense of the adult world. But as we see the adult world outside school is hostile.

The origin of religion in general and individual religions in particular need to be taught at least in the historical contexts of their ancient beginnings. I have been trying to study their ancient history and am finding that so much can be connected together. I had a religious upbringing but am now in no way religious. My reading and research is helping me make sense of religion and as a result I cannot find it in me to attack and criticise the concept of religion nor its evolution into apparently distinct religions. That said religions today seem to have lost touch with their roots. That has to be a huge problem because much ritual practised by many religions no longer makes sense but connect it to its roots and a whole new light is shone on the world.

If we look at the Islamic beliefs in the Twitter picture and remove the reference to God/Allah and we are left with beliefs that even Humanists will mostly be comfortable with.

Unless we believe is parallel universes existing in the same time and space there was one Creation, the Big Bang. Man has a superior intellect and even Greens and Humanists believe that do not argue against our having duties of stewardship of the earth and its resources. Most humans eat meat and most thinking humans want to respect the animals that we eat. We want high welfare rearing and a kind end. These attributes underpin Jewish and Islamic slaughter – which is not to say that all Jewish/Islamic slaughter is of a high standard but then neither can that be said of secular slaughter practice, which is highly secretive. Muslims do not have sole ownership of the morality of animal testing or hunting.

Which father can object to these moral statements?

What, therefore, lie underneath his outrage?

Why did so many others rush to support his outrage?

A similar discussion ensued the American tweet. That discussion went viral and even got a mention in the UK news media – at least in their online content.

As I see it society may be reaping the harvest from the seeds that it has sown.

I was only ever taught Christianity at school fifty years ago. Any contact with Islam came under the auspices of history. It was a long time ago but I remember the Moors spreading across Africa and “invading” the southern half of Spain. What I learned of the Crusades painted a picture of Muslims being enemies and Islam being an alien culture. I have since discovered that Muslims “do” the “Madonna and Child” (their account of Mary’s unusual conception could have been taken from the Christian Bible).

Unpick other Christian rituals and you find direct connections to other religions through variants of the same rituals.

Returning to the tweet, the issue that has to be addressed is not just how religion is taught in schools but how children’s role models – namely parents and the grown up institutions they mingle with outside school – are themselves supported.

What needs to happen in the grown up world to help the dad who is struggling with the idea that Islam, the religion, is not evil. (Yes, there are bad Muslims but there are many Christians and secularists who are also not good role models .)

As I see it the most senior Christian community leaders in our country have to engage fully with their counterparts in other religions and accept that no one religion is superior to another and indeed may not even be superior to no religion at all. In their discussions they need develop a better understanding of the features they share and Christians my need to park the concept of the Holy Trinity.

We have to teach what religion is and how it came to be and the nature of the conflicts that now exist. We cannot not teach religion in schools but how it is taught needs a radical root and branch rethink. It must be truly multifaith and multicultural.

I will close with this thought. The seeds of anti-Semitism may or may not have been sown in Christ’s time but they festered for a long time millennia and culminated in the Holocaust. And arguably that’s what it took for Judaism and Christianity to reconcile themselves. I look around me and see a world in which, if faiths do not genuinely come together, a similar conflagration between Christianity and Islam could erupt on a very different scale.


**** I would like to express my acknowledgements to Claire Cavendish based in Exeter, Devon, for the Understanding Faith sessions she ran from The White Hart. I am not sure what I took away from her sessions is what she expected but I have a belief that when you study religion from an academic or detached perspective you will find common threads running through them. Thanks to Claire’s extensive reading and summarising I found confirmation of my thinking. This hardly surprising. The first humans from which are acknowledged to have ascended came from Africa. Modern civilisation as we know it seemingly originated in the Fertile Crescent (modern day Iraq) and spread west, north and east (after a graphic seen in the British Museum). Arguably most religions have developed from spiritual concepts originating there. At their centre presumably lay the concepts of humanity and sanctity of life. But when and where did it all gone wrong? Thank you, Claire.

Secularists need to join up their thinking on meat consumption

I have just engaged is a longish Twitter chat with someone very opposed to non-stun slaughter. I know, it’s a pointless exercise as Secularists have made up their minds and follow Secular scientists with a religious zeal that matches any Muslim. Below I show a section of the thread but first, let me state my position.

Our demand for large quantities of cheap meat requires industrial scale slaughter and not to stun is unconscionable. I have recently read that in Israel one, if not two kosher, slaughterhouses have been shut down on welfare grounds. Issues have also been identified in the USA. I am in no doubt that except in well-designed facilities non-stun slaughter does not scale up easily. In addition there are issues relating to training.

Fully trained Jewish shochet train over seven years or so. It’s a long period. One hundred years ago when farmers prepared their own meat for market many would also have undergone extensive training. My father was so trained and I gather that he did not stun sheep or pigs. Large beef steers were another matter. Eye witnesses say that sheep and pigs merely slipped away.

Dr Temple Grandin has written a great deal on slaughter welfare and advocates stunning but she has studied non-stun practice and attests that when done correctly it does not appear to cause pain. Here website is extensive. Here is a link to one of her papers.

Religious slaughter and animal welfare: a discussion for meat scientists.

She is clear non-stun slaughter performed to good standards is not unacceptable. When performed with unsuitable kit non-stun slaughter is not good. My support for non-stun practice is heavily qualified, as is Dr Grandin’s.

The Tweet that caught my eye:

MJ: … Even Tariq Ramadan has condemned the cruelty and waste.(See Tariq Ramadan Twitter).

BB(me): There plenty of good reasons to question our love affair with meat. Waste is surely a bigger issue with secular practice. Waste is an animal dying in vain

MJ: The animal wouldn’t care about whether it was wasted. Just pain and fear. Put yourself in its position


The name Tariq Ramadan is indicative of his being Muslim. Clearly his comments must allude to more than the issue of stunning. The Muslim position condemns cruelty. An animal that has suffered (at the hand of man) both in life and death cannot be considered halal.

The word “waste” caught my eye. In Biblical times the peoples who ate meat for sure understood the “sanctity of life”. Sacrificial rituals in part reflected their guilt for taking a sacred life. They worked out a right and wrong way of doing it humanely and hygienically.

Apart from birds most animals that they deemed suitable to eat were too big for the nuclear family to eat so they were shared around in the context of festivals, community gatherings at which the proverbial fatted calf was eaten. These festivals are one origin of charity or poor relief that is a strong feature in Isalm. Quite probably nothing that could be eaten or used, for example fleeces and hides, was wasted. To simply waste edible meat would have reinforced their guilt. What was inedible or used was offered to the Gods. It was burnt, in effect sterilised, so that the skeleton could be thrown away safely and not attract vermin. Nothing that could be utilised was wasted.

Tariq Ramadan must surely have been alluding to this thinking and practice.

That said, the word “waste” caught my eye for another reason. How much meat slaughtered to satisfy secular meat eaters is thrown away? How many unsold meat filled sandwiches do food retailers throw away? How many cook chill prepared meals are simply wasted because they have not been sold before a reasonable best before date?

How many of us think about where our meat came from when we consume it and how well it was actually treated – especially at death? How many of us offer a wee prayer to “Our Maker” thanking him for His bounty and by way of seeking forgiveness for taking a life to satisfy our needs. If we do not believe is a God or a Creator there is no one to thank and we can therefore only see animals and meat as a commodity. Therein lies a paradox. We do have feelings of guilt and we do have a concept of the sanctity of life requires us to give an account of our actions to ??? Would that ??? be God, or a god, or some other spiritual Supreme Being? That’s a discussion for another day.

MJ’s “The animal wouldn’t care about whether it was wasted. Just pain and fear. Put yourself in its position” suggests to me someone who needs to join up his/her thinking

Of course animals won’t know if they are about to be killed merely to be thrown into landfill or composted or burnt for energy. If they are killed on their own and in the absence of cues that suggest death they will have nothing to fear. However, pack them into a big lorry, however, drive them to the other end of the country, unload them straight into the slaughterhouse without any time in lairage in order to relax and chill out and they could well be stressed. If they are stressed they may not stun easily and their trauma will be compounded.

Now, to be frank this applies equally whether stunning is deployed or not. Animals that are agitated and tense when they cut will not cut easily. If the knife is not well sharpened and nick free it will lacerate or tear surrounding tissue and there may be bruising – both causing pain. Despite the blood a razor-sharp knife actually damages very little and presumably cuts through many nerves in its pathway. I do not doubt that nerves are stimulated but what sensations will the animal feel, when and for how long? Obviously we cannot be sure but most men will have experienced shaving nicks. Most of us have experienced the lightheadedness that precedes a faint. Neither can match a severe headache that must surely follow a mis-stun. How painful will an electric shock be if it is not effective first time?


The welfare of animals at slaughter is a big issue but let’s not kid ourselves that secular slaughter with stunning ritual and the religious fervour generated in defending it is fully informed. Very few people see what happens between the farm gate and the supermarket shelves. If we did care we would ask many more questions than we do. The people who slaughter on our behalves often detach themselves from the process. Slaughter is not a pretty site. It’s made slightly more tolerable because machines do the final deed. Even if operated my man there is a barrier between the man and the beast. That’s critical to our thinking.

True halal and kosher practice and custom creates a personal connection between man and beast. It’s close and personal. Now, that may well be the real issue in this debate. Secular practice is impersonal and we simply do not think or even care about it (until prompted) but so-called “religious” or “ritual” slaughter requires the consumer to reflect on the situation. Do Jews and Muslims reflect enough? Probably not but that’s a discussion for another day – except to say that bad practice can be found in both kosher and halal slaughter facilities trying to produce cheap meat in quantity while we rarely see what occurs in our secular slaughter temples.

The Danish Kosher-Halal slaughter ban

Twitter grab non-stun

I came across this Tweet after I started this post but it confirms my belief. This Tweet is clear there are people who would ban Jews and Muslims from observing good meat production practice. My post was going top start here.

Please be in no doubt the Danish ban on non-stun slaughter has nothing to do with humane slaughter.

A central and core element of good kosher/halal practice that may not be obvious is transparency of the supply chain. I came across this when reading around the horse meat scandal that broke in 2014. Long opaque international supply chains for processed meat products allowed horse meat to be mixed with beef and to be sold as beef.

Kosher/halal codes start high welfare animal husbandry. In the UK there is a growing Secular demand for locally produced high welfare meat. We are seeing a demand for farmers’ markets. In theory it ought to be possible for consumers to see and observe any stage in the supply chain. In practice an element of trust occurs – that’s trust in the people you know. It is the same with halal meat.

Although I did  not save the reference, at the time of the horse meat scandal I read about halal meat not leaving the sight of a Muslim. The the idea immediately made sense. In brief you should not eat meat whose provenance you did not know and supplied by people you do not know or should not trust.

In Secular Britain we have a range of quality marks that are supposed to assure that products are made to agreed standards.

The RSCPA has recently renamed its “Freedom Foods” mark as “RSPCA Assured“. Then there is the “Red Tractor” quality mark.

What do these quality marks tell us? The Soil Association’s website includes this statement:

While every effort is made to ensure that the information listed is accurate and up to date, it is the sole responsibility of the individual producer to check the organic status of the abattoir and associated services at time of slaughter.

It seems we have to trust what people say. The longer the supply chain the more opaque it must be and the more trust we have to place in more and more people that we can never know.

In February 2015 Animal Aid released covert filming from a non-stun abattoir in the North of England. The images placed in the public domain are distressing to say the least. In a statement that was released with the images was this:

… Yorkshire Lamb is the tenth slaughterhouse in which we have filmed undercover since January 2009. As with the others, we didn’t know what we would find when our cameras were planted, including that it was a halal establishment – the first we have investigated. All the other nine were practising so-called ‘humane slaughter’. Two were Soil Association-approved, and another was accredited by the RSPCA’s Freedom Foods scheme. In eight out of the nine, we found serious welfare breaches, including animals being kicked, punched in the face, given electric shocks, burnt with cigarettes and thrown about prior to having their throats cut …

Animal Aid cameras are in place for very short periods (a matter of a few days) so if the distressing incidents that have been captured are rare then Animal Aid would have had to be very lucky to have been around when they occur.

The Animal Aid images from the non-stun slaughter facility show that even “halal” certified meat may not be produced to a guaranteed standard implied by the label.

Go onto the Internet and you will find reports of breaches of welfare standards even from facilities selling into the Jewish Kosher market – even in Israel itself.

Countries that are banning non-stun are not doing so for humane reasons. Animal Aid filmed mostly in “humane” slaughterhouses. The truth is that even here in the UK we cannot be assured that the meat we consume has come from animals that did not suffer in the last moments of their lives in Secular slaughterhouses. Here in the UK with its high standards we do not know if meat has been humanely processed – that’s within country.

The Danish government will have been aware of these issues when it banned non-stun practice within Denmark. It will have known that it is forcing Jews and Muslims, who very reasonably believe that meat should be locally produced and distributed through short transparent supply chains, to eat from meat from unknown sources. Denmark has in effect knowingly introduced discriminatory legislation.

Why would it do so? To protect its Secular meat trade from criticism?

Have you noticed that when Secularists want to show that their rituals are “humane” they never show you the graphic bleeding out? There is an assumption that stunning is a foolproof procedure – when little is known about the rate of mis-stunning which may be more that 1 in 20 animals. Insiders tell me that production lines slow down when Defra’s official inspectors are snooping around the slaughter halls. Others tell me that increasingly veterinary surgeons are avoiding eating meat – now that would make for an interesting study and would be very informative.

I introduced this post under the guise of the recent Danish ban on non-stun slaughter. The ban requires Jews and Muslims to buy meat from ever increasingly opaque supply chains. I have shown evidence that Secular slaughterhouses have issues and that Secular supply chains are not transparent.

Halal and Kosher dietary laws are derived from knowing where the meat one eats has come from and how it died. Good Secular practices promote the same principles and there may be growing interest in supporting local meat producers and distributors – by using family butchers, farmers’ markets and farm shops. Good Secular practice seems to be in harmony with good halal and kosher practice. This leads to one conclusion – banning non-stun slaughter must be rooted in anti-Semitism.

I have been provocative but as we know proper halal/kosher slaughter practice, applied by people with proper training and in the proper places is a non-inferior practice. In America and here in the UK non-stun facilities catering for the halal or the kosher markets have been found wanting – and so have Secular facilities operating under quality marks that are meant to assure humane stun slaughter.

I guess the bottom line is that if we want cheap meat in quantity we have to reduce our welfare expectations – or give increasing consideration to reducing our meat consumption.

Why do humanists shun the humane principles underpinning Islam?

A few years ago I picked up a pamphlet introducing Islam from a street stall. After reading the first few pages I thought that if you replace the word “God” (or “Allah”) with the word “nature” you could be introducing Humanism.

This week I had a twitter conversation with a Humanist who clearly rejected any notion that religions and their practices were rooted in the same humanitarian principles as his (dare I say, “religion?”).  I tested him. The very concept of God, Our Creator, Our Provider was enough for him or her to erect a very high and impenetrable barrier.

I strongly believe that Humanists should do not this. Towards the end of this post I develop this. With or without a belief in God there is common ground at a spiritual level.

The religious tract was describing how Islam should relate to the natural world and care for it. All religions have at their heart a similar foundation. Some, Jainism, take the respect for life very seriously indeed. Why, I wonder, do Humanists assume that belief in God or a god is incompatible with Humanism?

Many humans kill animals to eat and have done for many a century or indeed millennium. It is clear from what we know of Bible times that the peoples of the Middle East and probably Europe generally must have had a concept of the sanctity of life. The pyramids, the Coliseum in Rome, Greek architecture and other evidence testify to the prophets, the seers, priests and the like were not stupid. We cannot but assume that they also worked out what was a good way and what was a bad way to prepare food and especially the meat they chose to eat.

I think that we can assume that they had no idea of bacteria but for sure they would have worked out when bad practice created public health hazards. Casually discard the inedible remains of a carcass and you invited rat infestations and a whole host of infections – dysentery and so on. They would almost certainly have worked out what was not good meat to eat – that is meat from diseased animals and those whose death they did not understand. A good test of a healthy animal was its being conscious, alive and kicking as it were.

Martin Henig, in his “Religion in Roman Britain” (Routledge; New Ed edition (5 July 1995)), describes how the people of Britain would have had feelings of guilt when killing. At least those associated with cults. Cults, sects and religions would have been led by priests who passed their knowledge on by word of mouth through initiation ceremonies – rote teaching with incomplete understanding. From that we get rituals.

If we look at this from a Muslim perspective and their belief in a Creator God, The Provider of Life, a Supreme Being (a philosophical construct indicating that there is something much bigger than me or oneself and people generally that inspires us to develop a sense of community and common good) these feelings of guilt are manifest in a prayer at the time of killing for meat. The prayer, the Bismillah, is intended to thank Our Maker for His bounty and more importantly perhaps seek forgiveness. The slaughter process briefly connects man, a beast and God in the correct environment.

Of the kill itself the correct procedure will inflict minimal if any pain. This is achieved by using a carefully sharpened knife and a single swift cut that creates a catastrophic drop in blood pressure leading to rapid unconsciousness, which may be preceded by a brief period of wooziness. Everything that can be done to eliminate discomfort is done. No doubt poleaxing was deemed to be a rather hit and miss procedure (and its modern forms may well still be so).

Jews have really mastered the skills to sharpen the knife without nicks and blemishes to avoid tearing tissues and cause pain. One the most acclaimed experts is Dr Temple Grandin, who was interviewed here:

Munchies interview with Dr Grandin

There is a proper way and a proper place for so-called religious slaughter. My own research suggests that it does not scale up well. It’s doable but needs careful design of facilities and properly trained personnel. But let’s not kid ourselves into religiously believing that so-called “humane” slaughter in perfect. It’s a very secretive world. Operators are often desensitised. It’s a grim task. Many may well resort to fun and jollity as a coping mechanism.

For sure the Islamic requirement for the slaughterer  in effect to confront His Maker and the animal whose life is about to be taken simply isn’t possible – certainly not for chicken, which are killed in huge numbers.

As I see it this is very much in line with Humanist principles are actually not far removed from Islamic principles. Both want to see and expect humane rearing and as humane a death as is possible. Reality may be far from expectation for both. Industrial scale halal forces stunning because not to do so would be unconscionable. Humanists assume that their rituals are foolproof when it may be an awful lots worse than the industry wants to admit to. Even RSPCA, yes RSPCA, accredited facilities have been caught out by undercover Animal Aid filming. Two Soil Association approved slaughterhouses have also been exposed. That Animal Aid captured examples bad practice is significant. They film over very short periods and would be unlikely to witness rare incidents.

Where Humanists and Muslims differ is in their belief on a God or Creator. That’s fine but if humans feel guilty for taking life – and if they have a concept of sanctity of live they will do – who or what do they confront to seek forgiveness. If it is a matter between them and the animal or bird they are about to eat they have to confront the animal when it is still alive and is conscious.

Without a process not dissimilar to the proper halal process Humanists effectively treat their meat as a commodity.

My Twitter conversation ground to a halt when I introduced this argument. The barrier was well and truly reinforced. Of course developing this argument of in chunks of 140 characters is impossible.

I post here because there is a need to have an open discussion without barriers and preconceived, fixed ideas. At this point I have to get some matters off my chest. I discovered recently, in part after gatecrashing a Liverpool students union debate on the subject via its twitter feed, that many veterinary students learn from the Daily Mail (or their Christian vicars) that Islam is evil and therefore halal slaughter is wrong. They are not taught how it works and its context. They in turn inform our political leaders. The intellectually blind and leading the intellectually blind, so to speak.

I will close with this thought. Humanists need others to have a God in order to justify their non-belief and they would invent God if there wasn’t one in order to define their spirituality.

Can England tolerate Muslims?

Originally posted on hāroonsidāt:

Can England tolerate Muslims?

Let me be clear at the outset. I am not sharing this out of spite or hatred for anyone. I have been blessed (and continue to do so) to work and socialise with folks from all sorts of weird and wonderful backgrounds. In fact, I would like to think that on my travels I have matured enough to embrace different cultures and faiths. After all, isn’t that what makes our country a great place to live in?

So, after much deliberation and reflection, I wanted to share a very personal experience I had recently. My intention here is to highlight that racism, Islamophobia, extremism, intolerance, ignorance and whatever else you want to call it has reached frightening levels. Gone are the days when people would murmur their hatred privately. In some far away place, restricted to a group of unfortunate souls who just haven’t had the…

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There’s toleration and there’s toleration

This prompted by:

https://haroonsidat.wordpress.com  –  Can England Tolerate Muslims? (Since reblogged here)

It seems to me that often “toleration” means little more than a “begrudging” acceptance rather than a “welcoming” acceptance.

An enormous issue is that the British Establishment struggles to understand Islam. You might expect our “established” Church of England to take a lead but, when a vicar in his diocese extended a hand of welcome from his church and was forced to make a public apology, you know that the established Church is at least institutionally Islamophobic.

My definition of “Islamophobia” is the literal meaning of the word “a fear of Islam”. Many if not most of us fear Islam because those responsible for our education – both temporal and spiritual – are themselves poorly informed. It doesn’t have to mean “hate” but hate can and does develop when educators and opinion formers appear mostly to denegrate the religion.

We will only cracking this when our Christian and Secular leaders genuinely extend hands of welcome and make an effort to understand others. Remember Western Secular values and customs are largely informed by the West’s Christian heritage. For its part Christianity and Islam are co-religions with common histories.

Christians say grace at meal times

Here I want to unpick the Christian practice of saying grace or praying at meals. I will explore the nature of God and the primacy of the sanctity of life. I am prompted mostly but not exclusively by my Twitter encounters.

There are times when you have seriously to question how many people using Twitter and the social media actually believe what they post or merely write to goad and infuriate others. One person I engage with from time to time on Twitter does not have a profile but claims to be Christian. Her avatar has a red poppy (twibbon covering a UKIP twibbon) and supports the Israeli national emblem.

This person’s tweets are anti-Islamic for sure but are they genuine feelings or beliefs? I have assume that they are – not least because of the UKIP twibbon and whether it wants the association or not UKIP has rallied many racists under its battle standard.

What I do know is that many Christians struggle with the concept that Muslims follow the same Creator God as Christians. One local evangelical vicar challenged my Islamic sympathies a year or so ago. I work with pentecostal Christians who believe that Muslims follow a satanic God. I have met school religious education teachers who have difficulty accepting that the One Creator God worshipped by Muslims is the same as the One Creator God of Christians and Jews.

Jews, Christians and Muslims all claim a common history down to the time of Abraham. We have to assume that Noah and his successors were monotheists and that Abraham recognised One God. To be frank and very blunt here. Even if you do not believe that the Old Testament record of history as anything other than myth it is a myth common to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

LIkewise whatever your views and beliefs of the Creation there was only One Beginning – unless you believe that we live in parallel universes defined by religious beliefs. It does not matter how we perceive the creation of the universe it only happened once. It follows that if you believe in a Creator God there can only be One. Thus the God of Christians and Muslims is the same God – One Supreme Being, One Grand Conductor in life.

That there can only be One God, if you believe in God, does not mean that we all have one image of God. If two people stand side by side in Trafalgar Square they will see one statue but their actual views will be different. Indeed one person actually sees very slightly different images on each eye but there is still only one statue. Stand on opposite side of the Square and the views will be very different – but it is still the same statue.

Now let’s look at the sanctity of life. We know that most if not all religions pay due regard to the sanctity of life. The Eastern Asia and Indian religions most certainly do. Jainism takes this very seriously indeed but so does Hinduism and the religions that evolved from it. Confirmed or orthodox Sikhs do not eat meat.

In the secular world even atheists and humanists have a regard for the sanctity of life – without a belief in a God. They all argue for humane animal welfare and slaughter that causes least pain and discomfort. There is common agreement that intensive farming may compromise welfare.

My researches have taken me to a book by historian Martin Henig in which he writes about religions or cults in Roman Britain. in just one paragraph he unpicked religious sacrifice. People would have felt guilty for taking the life of an animal to eat. He then describes how “what was sacrificed to the gods” was the inedible remains – the viscera, bones and so on. Why would they do that?

Well, why not? Quite simply the prophets or seers or priests of the day would surely have clocked that short of digging a very deep pit the rotting remains would have presented a hygiene issue and an invitation to rats or scavenging birds or whatever – a Biblical plague.

Clearly in those times they would have no way of understanding germs but they would have recognised the effects of not doing it right. Their only explanation was that their Creator and giver of life was punishing them for their taking a precious life.

Rationally, therefore, they would have prayed at slaughter that their Creator would forgive them the sin of taking life. At the same time no doubt they thanked the Creator for His bounty.

I was brought up a Christian. I was probably brought up with a tradition of saying grace at Sunday lunch in particular when we would have sat down together as a family. The typical grace is “For what we are about to receive may The Lord make us truly grateful.” We may have added “… and ever mindful of the need for others.”

We nominally eat five times during a working day. At the start of the day, at a morning coffee break, midday, afternoon tea and a meal at the end of the day. Monks pray five times a day – presumably at times associated with meals. Muslims pray five times a day. They perform ablutions before prayer indicating that the act of prayer at one time was associated with the need for hygiene when preparing meals.

If we connect praying to eating we can see that Christians and Muslims are actually following a common practice. Muslims have a separate prayer. They recite bismillah “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful“. They do so when the animal is alive – in effect also asking it for its foregiveness.

I will close with a challenge to Christians. Jesus was baptised by John. Why? In those days baptism was a “priestly” cleansing ritual. Priests worked from the Temple. Priests (Cohen) supervised sacrifice (bluntly slaughter). Was Jesus training to be a priest and if so would he not have been learning what we now know as kosher rituals?

In summary I have shown how Christians and Muslims can only have One Creator God. They would have feared their God because if they cared for, slaughtered and cooked their animals in the wrong way God would have delivered unto them a plague.


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