I describe myself as Islamophobic because there are many aspects of Islam that I am not comfortable with. A phobia is an irrational fear. It does not have to mean hate and I know from my multi-religious workplace Sikhs, Christians and Muslims work professionally together with no issues. Scratch the surface, however, and you discover ignorance – but not hate.
I am of a certain age – not old enough to be in my twilight years but of pensionable age. That’s significant.
As it happens I went to a grammar school. Religious education was called ‘divinity’ and was 100% focused on Christianity.
I was introduced to Islam but through history teaching. I do not recall it ever being taught in any way that developed my understanding that Islam and Christianity were at least co-religions – if not strands of a single religion, which arguably it is, or they are, since they share their God.
Whether by design or, more probably, by accident Islam came across as an alien culture. I had no idea then that Islam shares so much with Christianity. I know now that the two religions have practices and customs, rituals if you prefer, that have common roots. Many of those practices have evolved from cultural needs, the origins of which may pre-date recorded history.
Therein in part may lie the problem. We have lost contact with our ancient roots. There is much about our religion(s) that we don’t understand.
For me the light began to shine when I looked up kosher rules on the Internet. I saw modern food hygiene standards. Looking further into this I quickly saw that Jewish kosher rules and halal rules were essentially the same – and a colleague then informed me that in the ancestral homelands of the Abrahamic religions Christians still follow halal practices.
The very mention of the word ‘halal’ conjures up images of a barbaric method of slaughter but the word covers animal welfare from “farm to fork”. Why, I have to ask, would slaughterers go to extreme lengths to ensure that a knife is sharp, to prevent pain, only then to torture an animal? Those of us who are not Muslims or Jews are taught a myth.
I may develop this subject on another day because there may be a need for a reappraisal of halal slaughter in an industrial age. For now I merely want to get across the idea that many of us may have learnt unnecessarily negative stereotyping of Islam.
That’s the problem. We learn negatives. Negativity is hard wired at an early age. I am not sure that modern religious education curricula help. I need more information but believe that because the three strands of a common Abrahamic religion are taught as separate religions people are not equipped to develop an understanding of the common themes of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
It’s all down to ignorance.