Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Summer obsessions: Labour's atheism, Conservative Christianity, and LibDem fantasy

The summer months are known in politico circles as ‘the silly season’, this being the time when the House is in recess, MPs are away on holiday, and journalists flap around for a story of political substance, only to find there is none. There is, of course, the re-emergence of foot & mouth disease, and the ongoing issue of the EU ‘Reform Treaty’, to which Cranmer will return, but the latter at least is just not considered to be very entertaining.

To fill the void, the silly season concerns itself with such stories as this by the BBC. Today they list MPs’ choice of books for the summer, which they judge to be one of the top political stories of the day (they have no mention of the ‘Reform Treaty’ anywhere on their news website). While the list is apparently trivial, it does reveal which book choice comes top for each party, and, like all ex libris tomes, this offers insight not only into individual priorities of choice but also the parties’ collective obsessions.

Top of the list for Labour MPs is The God Delusion, by the atheist fundamentalist Richard Dawkins. Not content with dismantling the Judeo-Christian foundations of the United Kingdom, and, indeed, dismantling the United Kingdom itself, they are now seeking ways of dismantling God. They have brought the nation back to an anti-Christian era, passing laws that are not only antithetical to the free expression of the faith (and of concern to all faiths), but offensive in particular to the Christian conscience. Dawkins will simply placate the powerful delusion that is their consciences, as he persuades them of the infallibility of their myopic quest and the self-righteousness of their mistaken cause.

Top of the list for Conservative MPs is William Hague's biography of anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce. While the Labour Party is obsessed by the thorns of the God delusion, the Conservative Party is concerned with the fruits of his manifest existence. It is encouraging indeed that the party of Wilberforce continues to be interested in and inspired by one man’s struggle against Mammon, against the ruling powers, and against the received wisdom of his day. Contending for the faith is a scriptural injunction, and this book cannot but have a profoundly positive effect on those who read it.

The second most popular choice for Conservatives is Tom Bower's biography of Prime Minister Gordon Brown. This is a manifestly intelligent choice: they are clearly getting to know their enemy; understanding the man behind mask, the person behind the policies. This is eminently sensible, for the more the Conservatives understand Mr Brown’s Scottish Presbyterian roots, the more they will understand that he is Socialist to the core. In contrast to the theatricality of Mr Blair’s Roman Catholic leanings, Mr Brown is serious, dogmatic, assertive, and he works a lot. Understanding his theology is the key to understanding his worldview. He must be the only person in history to have presented the Pope with a book of his father’s sermons: the father’s sermons find expression in the son’s politics.

And as for the Liberal Democrats, they are, as ever, all over the place. There is no coherence, no sense of reality, and absolutely no strategy. Some have chosen to empathise with Labour and waste their summer obsessing with The God Delusion; others lean more towards the Conservative Party and are seeking inspiration in the Wilberforce biography. But the Liberal Democrats uniquely will also be picking up JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Here we have a party that is not only schizophrenic, but also fascinated by fantasy, deluded by dreams, trapped in an apocalyptic story of lies and deception, in which good may eventually triumph over evil, but only after those who are closest to you have suffered or died as a result of your misplaced childhood.

While Cranmer finds encouragement with the Conservative choice, concern with Labour’s, and despair with the Liberal Democrats’, he notes that very few of any party have chosen to spend their summer reading the most important books of the season - The War of Ideas: Jihadism Against Democracy by Walid Phares, or The Islamist by Ed Husain. These are Cranmer’s recommendations: they have spiritual encouragement, sociological concern and political despair all rolled into one. ‘Enjoy’.


Blogger liddon said...

The Labour Party has traditionally been the Christian party, having its roots on non-conformity and reform. The Christian Socialist movement is enjoying a period of new and increasing support, not least from the leadership of the party. So it is more reasonable to conclude that Labour MPs are getting to know more about their enemy by reading Dawkins (as you suggest about the Brown biog). Conservative MPs could do well to read, alongside the Wilberforce book, something about the slave revolts in the West Indies, which did more to bring about the end of slavery than Wilberforce and his friends did.

7 August 2007 at 09:57  
Blogger Surreptitious Evil said...

May I also recommend to the Members of both Houses, and to his Grace, if he has not yet read it, "What the Koran Really Says", by Ibn Warraq.

7 August 2007 at 10:27  
Blogger Jim said...

Your grace does well to recommend The Islamist by Ed Husain. Despite reservations about his arbritray use of Islamic texts to continue the deceit that Islam is not violent, it is well worth a read for its insight into the mind of a British Jihadi. I have reviewed it in full at http://diacrino.blogspot.com/2007/08/review-of-islamist-ed-husain-2007.html

BTW - The Ibn Warraq is well worth reading too by all politicians. Having watched C4's Britain Under Attack last night I was reminded of the fact that people believe what is comfortable to believe (i.e. that Islam is basically peaceful if properly understood) rather than what is true.

But Psalm 119:160

7 August 2007 at 11:13  
Blogger Nadim said...

Excellent analysis Cranmer! I would also recommend the Phares book. It is important to understand the mind of the terrorist, and the best way is from with. In fact, it's the only way. Muslims will rarely listen to non-Muslims on theological issues of interpretation, so the effective voices will be those who understand where they're coming from (or profess to comne from, since not all Muslims subscribe to their beliefs).

7 August 2007 at 11:26  
Anonymous Observer said...

We can take it for granted that the BBC pundits are reading up on video-editing techniques and the diaries of Dr Josef Goebbels

7 August 2007 at 12:02  
Anonymous Miss jelly bean said...

"Husain went on a long journey in search of moderate, spiritual Sufi Islam and rejected his extremist past."

Wise man.

7 August 2007 at 12:58  
Blogger Nadim said...

Are you Sufi, Miss Jelly Bean?

7 August 2007 at 15:57  
Anonymous nedsherry said...

Not content with dismantling the Judeo-Christian foundations of the United Kingdom...

Who laid those "Judeo-Christian foundations"? Judeo-Christ? The natural British spelling would be "Judaeo-Christian", but seeing as it's a smarmily tendentious American term, you're wise to keep that spelling.

7 August 2007 at 17:27  
Blogger Sam Tarran said...

I think the Liberal Democrats need to escape into some kind of fantasy world because only there do they have a hope of getting into office.

7 August 2007 at 21:01  
Anonymous Miss jelly bean said...

well Nadim, I follow the Ahl as-Sunnah wa’l-Jamā‘h, from which I belong to the hannafi school of thought/fiqh.

I am a strong believer and supporter of tasawwuf (sufism).

8 August 2007 at 11:34  
Blogger Nadim said...

Have you read Abdur Rashid Siddiqui's "Key to al-Fatihah"? It is excellent, and has made me understand the depths of Islam moreso. I will look at Sufism more. Can you recommend any books?

8 August 2007 at 15:25  
Anonymous Miss jelly bean said...

recommend books ha...I could give you a list of a million. You need to look at the works of the early sufi scholars such as:

1)Abdul Qadir Jilani (1166 -1078).

Read his Al-Ghunya li-talibi tariq al-haqq wa al-din (Sufficient Provision for Seekers of the Path of Truth and Religion)
Al-Fath ar-Rabbani (The Sublime Revelation)
Futuh al-Ghaib (Revelations of the Unseen)
Jala' al-Khatir (The Removal of Care)
Malfuzat (Utterances)

I've read most of these, there's some more on my shelf (the collection's getting bigger). I can't remeber their names right now.

2)Imaam Ghazaali(1058-1111)

Ihya'ul ulum al-din, (Revival of Religious Sciences) must read.
Bidayat al-hidayah (Beginning of Guidance)

Here are the names of some of his books on philosophy

Maqasid al falasifa (Aims of Philosophers)
Tahafut al-Falasifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers)
(Ibn Rushd wrote Tahafut al-tahafut (The Incoherence of the Incoherence) as a retaliation to ghazaali's book. both scholars are worth studying though).
Miyar al-Ilm fi fan al-Mantiq (Criterion of Knowledge in the Art of Logic)
Mihak al-Nazar fi al-mantiq (Touchstone of Reasoning in Logic)
al-Qistas al-mustaqim (The Correct Balance)

There are many other sufi scholars whose books you could read such as:
Ali Hujwiri
Farid al-Din Attar
Ibn Arabi
Junayd Baghdadi
Khwaja Abdullah Ansari
Moinuddin Chishti
Jalal al-Din Rumi

For the works of contemporary sufis, I suggest you take a look at sheikh ul Islam, Tahir ul Qadri. You'd be amazed at the amount of knowledge this man possesses on fiqh, ijtehaad, taqleed, islamic jurisprudence, the islamic penal system, sufism, intermediation in islam, islamic philosophy of human life etc.

P.S. I would view the authentic islamic sources before turning to the opinions of the orientalists. If you want to know what the orientalists think of Islam and sufism for the sake of comparative studies then by all means read and study their books. However, some orienalists such as Josef Schacht, Arthur John Arberry, Reynold Nicholson etc have misinterpreted and misrepresented islam and sufism. They have made some positive remarks about islam and sufism, but their overall opinion and understanding is flawed, as they view Islam from a restricted more narrow point of view. (Of course, others may disagree).

8 August 2007 at 17:54  
Anonymous Miss jelly bean said...

Sorry for going off topic cranmer.

8 August 2007 at 17:55  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Maybe Labour MPs are reading Dwakins to understand how they fell for Blair.....

8 August 2007 at 20:24  

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