Tinkering With Religion In The Garage
Channel: Zaid Shakir
File Size: 18.50MB
Modern societies have become fundamentalist in their secularism and have effectively banned religion from the public square. Religion has been relegated to the status of a personal hobby, to be practised behind closed doors. Does public morality suffer as a result? Is religious morality inherently divisive and disruptive as many believe?
Episode Transcript ©
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hamdu Lillahi Rabbil alameen
wa Salatu was Salam ala seed University Sayidina Muhammad
Ali he was sadly he was said in his name and Catherine Robin Allah callaham Camilla Jambo Elysia lady which we have the MS photonic Savannah Carolyn Seaton and Alicante. QMF Nate Allen f6 Allahumma salli wa sallim wa barik ala Sayidina Muhammad
Ali, he was so busy he was Selim tasneem and kathira as salaam aleikum wa rahmatullah warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.
Alhamdulillah Allah the head and the head, Mama con, una tarea, Lola and Hayden Allah Alhamdulillah Allah De Anza Allah Allah Abdi Hill keytab, over lamea Allahu Elijah, Al hamdu, lillahi Rabbil aalameen. All praise is due to a law,
who has blessed us with this wonderful gathering has blessed us with safety and security to have the great great blessings that we can enjoy.
He's blessed us with food, he's blessed us with shelter. He's blessed us with clean water. Brothers and sisters, how could we not be thankful to Allah subhanho wa Taala.
To start, I just like to read the write up for the talk I'm supposed to give, to remind yourselves and to write and remind myself of what I'm supposed to talk about.
Also to be able to make an excuse for not talking about all of it. Because as you see, it's very wide and very deep
and would take a very, very long period of time to cover.
So it's called tinkering with religion in the garage.
modern societies have become fundamentalist in their secularism and have effectively banned religion from the public square. Religion has been relegated to the status of a personal hobby to be practiced behind closed, closed doors. Does public morality suffer as a result is religious morality inherently divisive? Or divisive? And disruptive, as many believe? Originally, secularism. And countries like the United States, England and Canada was not antagonistic to religion, but simply deemed that there would be no coercive state religion, or religious tests for politicians, is the current draw to judicial antagonism towards religion? In general in congruence with the idea of
majority rule and democracy, given the majorities in the US and Canada are still ill informed by religion. In America, some argue that the 10 commandments are congruent with the values upheld by the founding fathers, but the Supreme Court has prohibited any public displays of religion and government buildings. Have we adopted the French model of lyricism? And if so, is any room left at all for religion in the public square. So that's very deep on the one hand, but it's somewhat superficial on the other, and that it states a case for a certain type of relationship between religion and politics, government and the people. But it also mistakes the case to a large extent.
So the first question definitely, at least I can speak for America and I believe, for Canada, maybe Quebec is a little more nuanced in this regard. that America is not a leftist society
and any effort to make or transform America into less
assist society will be unconstitutional, because the very first amendment of the American Constitution
contains What are referred to as the religious clauses, namely, that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. So two principles are established in the very first amendment to the United States Constitution, one that Congress cannot create a national religion. And some people argue this was in response to the relationship between the British government and the Anglican Church and there are other arguments. The second is that government shall not give preference or privilege to any religion over the other and everyone is free to practice the religion of their choosing. So if I choose to be Muslim, I have just as much
right to be a Muslim, as the person who chooses to be a Jew or Christian or Zoroastrian as to build on Dr. Jackson's example, I have just as much right as they have. And the government cannot give any privilege to any religion over the other.
And there should be an arrangement that Muslims find extremely acceptable, and especially so those in this audience who just heard Dr. Jackson's exposition on the passage from them, though I am Josias
treaties, dealing with the rights of religious minorities.
Our rights, though, are not conferred by confession.
They are conferred by citizenship, they are conferred by belonging to the political community of the nation. And by accepting the rights and the responsibilities of that membership, and understanding even as a minority, there are no religious majorities that have any rights, more than the rights that I possess.
Now, from here, these brief introductory remarks, want to move on to another issue raised in the introduction that we read, and that is the role of religion in the public square. Now, when the framers of that introduction mentioned that there is no role for religion in the public square, they're extremely mistaken.
Religion has, does and will play a very important role in the public square. But we need to differentiate between different types of roles, to use the categorization by a scholar that I respect, tremendously one of America's leading public intellectuals, Dr. Cornel West, in the context of Christianity, he says that there is constant tinian Christianity, the Christianity that justifies and in fact, is wedded to the imperialist project of the Roman states, and states, that would be wrong. And then there's prophetic Christianity, the Christianity that raises his voice for truth and justice, for fairness, the Christianity that raises the kind of voices that the kind of voice
whether that those prophets who are mentioned in Scripture raised against the oppressive and tyrannical political, social and economic powers of their day. So there are two different types of roles in the United States. The former,
what Dr. West identifies as constant tinian. Christianity
has always had a very prominent public role, and a very prominent public voice, that sort of, of religion, to leave Christianity out of that sort of religion.
against the enrich original
No inhabitants of what is now America
and the usurpation of their name of their land rather, in the name of a doctrine called Manifest Destiny, part of which included
the idea that God has destined the American people, who are the European settlers of what became America to establish their rule, as the song puts it from sea to shining sea.
That was religion.
In the public square.
The institutions of slavery of racism, of white supremacy, were defended by some on religious grounds were justified by others, on religious grounds.
The wars the many wars that America has engaged in, including the Civil War, for some were justified were rationalized, were defended on religious grounds with scriptural arguments. That's a very prominent public roll. Today in the United States, there are those who are arguing against environmental protection in the name of religion. They condemn the movie Avatar that it encourages the deification of the natural world. This is a religion, a religious argument that environmental protection
is, is encouraging the worship of the creation and minimalizing and marginalizing the worship of the Creator. I don't endorse that argument. My point is, this is an influential religious argument that has weight in the public square amongst many politicians. Similarly, a religious argument calling people to environmental consciousness is to call is to fail to call them to religious consciousness. And the role of religion is to encourage religious consciousness, not environmental consciousness. These are arguments made in the context of religion against environmental protection. So these are ways that religion has, has influenced or had influence and has influence in the public square.
There are those churches and religious establishments are 100%, behind the wars in Iraq, and in fact, in Afghanistan, you cannot find an ecclesiastical are very few ecclesiastical councils in the United States who condemned those wars at the outset, including the Catholic Church. Despite their strong history
of arguing, sound and moral, we look for religious causes. Now there's another type of religion what Dr. West refers to as prophetic religion.
And prophetic religion also has a long history. In the United States. prophetic religion has been described by the term moral activism.
It was religion and religious figures who are at the forefront of the struggle to liberate America's slave. Probably no institution played a stronger and more prominent role than the Quaker church. That's religion in the public square.
Religious individuals motivated by a strong religious consciousness, articulating a message that was steeped in religious symbolism and religious meanings were influential throughout American history, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and we're all familiar with
as a Christian minister, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was at the forefront of the civil rights and the anti segregation struggle primarily in the American South, but throughout the Americas, the Berrigan brothers Daniel and Philip Berrigan, both of whom were ordained Catholic priests were at the forefront of the struggle against the injustices of the Vietnam War. And they were instrumental in starting the Catholic resistance movement, and some of the most well publicized and galvanizing acts of resistance against that war. What
undertaken by the American brothers and other people who are motivated by religion. That's religion in the public square.
Now we can look at the issue of recent judicial activism and argue that after Vietnam and after the Civil Rights Movement, and after that early history of moral activism, you see a backlash where the court is engaging in anti religious rulings, where a culture that was described by our professor Steven L. Carter, as a coach of disbelief was being consciously cultivated. But I would argue that culture has always existed in the aftermath of the Civil War, in which both sides were arguing that God was on their side, there was a period of tremendous religious skepticism. After the bloody outrages of that war, the bloodiest war this country or the United States rather, has yet to fight.
The out the the excesses were so severe, the burning of the South, the bombing of Charleston, South Carolina, the brutality of the war, that people said of Gods on both sides, I don't want anything to do with God. And that skepticism built is built momentum in the early part of the 20th century. And you see the beginnings of anti religious, judicious judicial activism, culminating in the Scopes Monkey Trial, in which those arguing against
scriptural based explanations of creation, arguing for evolution eventually
run the day. And there was no
for many, many years long decades, there was no
from the religious forces. So judicial activism, arguing against religion is nothing new in the United States, I would argue that that climate of anti religious sentiment,
that climate of judicial activism that appeared to prejudice, religious institutions and organizations and sensibilities, that it's, it's a result of something deeper than religion itself, something deeper than anti religious sentiments, I would argue that it's rooted in the incredibly pervasive transformation of American particularly but Western societies in general, since 1990, that transformation has been ushered in, by the concentration, unprecedented concentrations of corporate power in three areas, in the area of information technology in the area of finance, and the area of media. And then that corporate consolidation wedded with state power, and state control culminating
in the situation that we see today, that these forces have conspired to rob people, the individual have real meaning in his or her life, in the sense that the forces arrayed against the individual are so great that the forces that have been unleashed by that combination of powers that we just delineated, create a universe where an individual isolated an atomized has a very, very difficult time finding meaning in his or her life. And as a result of that lack of meaning, becoming very vulnerable to the forces unleashed by that, that collectivity of influences in ways that are perceived to be anti religion, when in a sense, they're just playing anti human. And of course,
religion has always been an integral part of the human experience. Now,
I would argue that for religion,
to be taken serious, it has to be relevant. Increasingly since 1990. Religion has not been relevant for the overwhelming majority of people in deep serious ways because religion has failed to provide real meaning to people religion has failed to provide
Understanding of those forces that are shaping people's lives in ways that are unprecedented in human history. And as a result, people tend to give up on religion, brothers and sisters, as we move towards the conclusion, I would like to stay.
Therefore, religion to be serious, taken seriously. Religion has to be relevant. And for religion to be relevant. It has to do two things in this situation that we find ourselves in. Number one, it has to reclaim its role
of moral activism. Religion has to once again become the conscience of politics, because if religion does not become the conscious of politics, what do we see increasingly?
Do you know what I'm looking for?
It could be anything.
for religion, to take on that role again.
It has to once again become the conscious of politics or politics will have no conscience, politics will become a game of our sell to the highest bidder. If att can bid more than IBM, then AV att gets their name on the bag that's being given out at the DNC convention in Denver, and att gets exempted from any prosecutions. For me, major telecom companies being involved in domestic spying.
att gets exempted from any prosecution associated with the abuses it might have been involved in
with various political characters and actors, because att is the highest bidder. If Comcast is the highest bidder, then Comcast gets to be the force that is net neutrality, because Comcast can pay the most money to the most lobbyists to influence the most politicians. So the FCC says, Well, we need new rules to govern the internet, even though it was developed by public money. It's now facilitated by private corporations. So they should have consideration
and privileging flows of money towards them, so that they can give you if you can afford to pay, instant internet connectivity, clear pictures, television, like clarity, or they can limit you and you get fuzzy scrambled pictures, you get dial up speed, connectivity, that's what's happening in our society, the best money the best government, money can buy. Unless the people stand up, motivated by their religious consciousness, and insist that the values of religion have an impact in politics. That's our responsibility. And if we don't do it, it won't get done. It's that simple. Brothers and sisters, if we don't do it, it won't get done. And we meaning religious people, Jews,
Christians, or people of religion, not just Muslims, and there are people of other faiths who are already attempting to do it. We have to add our voice to theirs. We have to add our votes to theirs. We have to add our numbers to theirs. And if we are really a community of prophetic religion, then each and every one of us will be willing to add his or her voice because each and every one of us understands that for us. It is not a religious choice. It is a religious duty. Because a lot Tyler and Kurt not encourages, orders us who knew poet Nina
Shu had that and the last being you upright for justice witnesses for a law? That's correct. That's not scholarly opinion. That's correct.
So we have to bring that social consciousness to the political arena, for the sake of both our communities and communities of goodwill throughout these lands and for the sake of doing
Generations yet unborn. Because what we do today, or what we allow to be done today will shape the future of generations unborn just as we are living realities that were put into motions by generations born long before we ever saw the light of day in this world. Secondly,
at an individual level,
we have to boldly assert that religion,
specifically, because we're Muslims, Islam has something to say about the conditions, the postmodern, and so now say the post postmodern condition is creating the conditions of alienation, the conditions of Adam and atomization, where our lives are being abstract and and we're existing in our little virtual worlds, disconnected sometimes from the person sitting next to us on the plane, or next to us in the classroom, as we talk to someone 10,000 miles away via these various instruments and tools that have been given to us. But we can communicate with our neighbor. We can establish community in our neighborhoods, so we search search for virtual communities, but a virtual
community, by its very name will never be a real community. And it is real communities and only real communities that give meaning to individual lives. But those real communities have to be created by real individuals and not virtual individuals, by individuals whose whose lives whose consciousness whose hearts and sensibilities sensitivities are shaped by higher principles, and who are moved by higher principles. And we have to let people know that Islam is relevant in that regard, because Islam can give humanity back to those people who have been destroyed. And we've seen it with our own eyes. The people, Dr. Jackson was talking about those 70% children born out of wedlock, who don't
know their fathers, in many instances, whose social mores and values were shaped by the street and not by the nurturing environment of the home. We've seen how these individuals who reduced to cold blooded killers who had no compassion whatsoever no consideration for the life, the right the property of others, have been reshaped by Islam, have been turned by the hundreds of 1000s and the dungeons of America's prison system, and to meaningful human beings, living meaningful lives into compassionate, caring human beings who wouldn't hurt anyone who didn't transgress against them. We've seen that with our eyes. And that is a miracle. That is a social miracle that's happening
before our very eyes. And that is the power of Islam. And that power, we have to, we have to embrace it. As individuals, and when we embrace it as individuals, when we believe in its transformative power, when we believe that it can transform the year of 21st century Western societies, just as it transformed the joy of Southern century Arabian society, and create a society of meaning, create a community of consciousness. If we believe that brothers and sisters there's hope for us, and there's hope for our lens. And there's hope for this world. And we have to join with others who are making similar appeals who are advancing similar arguments from within the context of their faith
tradition, and give people a viable alternative in terms of reminding myself and yourself of how relevant that message is at the individual level.
I want to summarize the last part of what I just said, and two catchy phrases. One is as a community,
we have to give priority to the politics of cooperation over the politics of conflict. There are those in our societies who want to elevate conflict, to the norm in human societies as it was in the pre modern period. People were fighting all the time. You read pre modern history is the history of unending wars, but something happened
In the last 150 years or so, collectively as a human family,
we carved out a reality where a war that was once the norm in human relations and Dr. Jackson has written about this in a very powerful article in the context of Islam into a situation where war has become the anomaly. Yes, the anomaly in relations between states, there are 200 countries in the world, namely one interstate war, where two states are fighting each other
200 countries, namely one interstate war, were two states are actively fighting each other. you'd be hard pressed to do it. Some of you study political science, you'd be hard pressed international relations, you can name a few civil wars, you can name a few invasions and occupations. If one country stopped invading and occupied, you wouldn't be able to name any, we want to say that country's name.
But these are anomalous situations, these are no longer the norm. But there are people
who may who using flawed arguments about human nature
that we're inherently conflict for.
We have how many seven 8000 people in this room no fights. Now, if we were inherently conflict, that's just our human nature.
I'll tell you story about nature because I have five minutes and only have one minute to go. So I can go off on a tangent,
the scorpion and the frog, one the riverbank and the water started to rise.
And the scorpion you know, scorpions and water don't mix. So the scorpion said to the frog, he said Mr. Frog, if you give me a ride to the other side of the river, so I can be saved from this flood. I'll be grateful to you forever. And the frog looked at him and he said,
Man, you trippin Mr. scorpion.
You're a scorpion, you're gonna sting me.
You're gonna sting me. And the frog said, the scorpions, Mr. Frog, if we're out there in the water, and I sting you, you're gonna die and I'm gonna drown. So I don't want to drown. I'm trying to get you to save me. So the frog thought about it for a minute. And he said, Okay, get on. So the scorpion jumped on his back, and the frog started swimming across and you know how wet frog looks real shiny and Scorpion started looking at that shiny back. That bag looks so inviting. And the scorpion
is like, drowned
is out of whack. whap.
And the frog said, why'd you do that now we both gonna drown in the scorpions, that is just my nature.
But brothers and sisters, conflict is not our nature. If it were, there'd be at least one fight going on in here.
If we took a poll, how many of you had a fight within the last 20 years of your life, probably no one would fill that out.
Now, these are false arguments. People don't have trouble getting along. People can be moved and manipulated by demagogues, people can be so false arguments about their nature, and then be led to conditions that are undesirable, but we because it is in our nature, have been able to make war and anomaly because it is in our nature, we've been able to come together by the 1000s we've been able to peacefully coexist in our societies. But there are people who have a vested interest in sending us back to the pre modern condition, because they profit off of conflict. The majority of people who do not buy into that argument, we will have to come together. And we will have to strive and
struggle and fight and organize, fight in peaceful ways, and organize institutionalize so that we can not only protect on these advances in human dignity, and these advances in human organization, in these advances in human institutions that are consistent with the highest principles of our religion, but then we can build on them. We can build on them so that we can leave our children something to build on so they can take this project even further. That is our
Our task, our duty, our responsibility, our calling in these Western lands, but it's not going to come without a struggle. It's not going to come without a struggle. Because as we said, there are people who profit from war. There are people who profit from conflict. There are people who profit from incarceration. There are people who profit from destroying the lives of others. And we, as a community of faithful have to speak in a prophetic voice and say, we are going to make it unprofitable to profit from the suffering, the oppression, the exploitation of other human beings.
In my final minute, I want to bring this back. It says one minute, I'm not making it up. Shay Benny, how much time I have a minute. Don't read what's on the screen. A lot of Tyler reminds us, what's your color Nina? Takara. Boom, Elon jannetty. Zuma raw, hot either.
We're 40 Hot abueva wirkkala Hosanna to hair salon when it comes to federal holiday. And those who believe will be ushered are those who reverence and respected and guarded the commandment of the Lord, they will be ushered to paradise in groups, groups based on their level of piety based on their devotion, their sincerity, until they come before it and then the gates of Paradise are flung open.
And the guardians of Paradise say to them, peace upon you. In other words, you're about to enter around where those ruined nations that you experienced in the world will no longer exists.
You've done good You've done well.
This is what it's all about brothers and sisters, it's about doing good. In this world in the law had Ebola Yakubu Allah, Allah is good impure, he only accepts that which is going to pure enter it to dwell there in forever. I say this to say individually socially.
We have to give priority to the politics of cooperation over the politics of conflict. And individually. We have to give priority to salvation, over even liberation.
Understand understanding that at the end of the day,
our living in this world is about salvation. It's about being ushered before the gates of Paradise and having the gates flung open before us. It's about looking back over a life that was filled with respect and reverence for the commandments, the prohibitions, and the the principles rooted in the Divine Law and in Revelation, and the struggle to understand that and to implement that and institutionalizing operationalize it in human society. That's what it's about.
And it's about being able to look back over life, and to see a life of goodness, a life that's
a life that has has brought about an individual that's good, a life that's been nurtured by that which is good, a life that has articulated words that are good and beautiful, and not vulgar, slang and and dehumanizing, misogynistic, and other demeaning, dehumanizing messages. a life that is as qualified by an egg, an effort to extend good to others, to those fellow human beings we share this world with to those animals, the plants, the all that we share this realm of existence with and knowing, at the end of the day, that we have tried to pass this heritage on, and both its individual and its social meaning to those coming after us so that they will have the courage, the conviction,
the motivation to speak with a prophetic voice and not afraid to bring those prophetic cries for justice, those prophetic cries for equality, those prophetic quiet cries for fairness and equity out into the public square. That is why we strengthen ourselves as individuals so that as a strong individual, we can come together with those of similar strength and work to create a strong and wholesome society Salaam Alaikum.