Thursday, September 11, 2008

Film: Can We Talk About God? Devotion and Extremism in the Modern Age

This DVD, entitled "Can We Talk About God?: Devotion & Extremism in the Modern Age," consists of two talks by Zaid Shakir and Roger Scruton and their participation in a Q&A with the moderator and some audience questions.

I was disappointed in this DVD because the participants did not really address each other's concerns adequately due to the differences between the United Kingdom's experience with religion and that of the United States. When Scruton described the orthodoxy of agnosticism and atheism among U.K intellectuals, the experience of Zaid Shakir taught him that religious people, acting out of conviction that God forbade injustice, improved the United States by lifting government support of racial and other forms of discrimination. Many of the Muslim dysfunctions of Europe are not widespread here, and hence we U.S. Muslims can't understand European intellectuals' anti-religious impulses.

Moreover, Zaid Shakir did not address Roger Scruton's concerns that committed Muslims could accept legal and social structures in conflict with Islam except by saying that these Muslims always had the option of leaving and that most Muslims in the U.S. did not care about these things anyways. So Imam Zaid did not address why a devoted Muslim would continue to participate in a society which forbids polygyny, allows same-sex marriage, handles divorce in a different way than Muslim jurists recommend, etc. At the same time, I don't think Professor Scruton had enough background in Islamic sciences to be able to understand an Ash`ari theological defense or a juristic defense of Muslim accommodation to liberalism.

Imam Zaid did make an excellent point that the bigger problem is society's prejudice against religous behavior even when it does not conflict with civil law. If the anti-religious claim that they are fighting religion to preserve human rights and scientific progress, then why are they also against manifestations of religion that have nothing to do with either?

Both speakers maintained a high and civil level of discourse.

I'd recommend that people read The True, the Good and the Reasonable: The Theological and Ethical Roots of Public Reason in Islamic Law by Mohammad Fadel. It is a much better treatment of how a devoted Muslim could live in a liberal society.

I purchased the DVD from the link at the beginning of the blog entry. I had no problems with the transaction or delivery.

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