Newham Big Debate: Is religion to blame for the current ‘war’?

PUBLISHED: 15:03 04 August 2016 | UPDATED: 15:09 04 August 2016

Pope Francis said the world is at war, but religion is not to blame  	  Picture: PA Images/Niall Carson

Pope Francis said the world is at war, but religion is not to blame Picture: PA Images/Niall Carson

PA/Press Association Images

Late last month a Catholic priest was murdered in his Normandy church by men pledging allegiance to ISIS.

Fr James Mackay, left, and Alan CraigFr James Mackay, left, and Alan Craig

Pope Francis afterwards said recent jihadist violence in Europe meant the “world is at war”, but that the war had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with resources and money.

So we asked: Is religion to blame for the current war?

Alan Craig – Ukip 2016 London Assembly candidate and Newham resident

There have been many Western explanations for the rise of militant Islam, some of which have been based on post-colonial guilt over Europe’s exploitation of its former Muslim colonies.

The resulting resentment, we are told, has created fertile soil for the growth of Islamic terrorism.

Therefore, it is claimed, it’s the West’s fault – a fallacy promoted by Muslim radicals too, in Forest Gate as much as in Faisalabad.

But this theory is refuted by the life of Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 suicide bombers. Khan lacked nothing and had everything to live for – a good family, a pregnant wife about to give birth, a worthwhile job in a primary school and a deep involvement in his local community.

What got into him? He got religion. A specific religion, and a specific jihadi interpretation of that religion. But it was religion.

Khan was influenced by former Newham-based hate preacher Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal, an associate of Abu “Hook” Hamza.

All radicals like Khan have this in common: they believe in Allah; they pray at mosques; they tell us they are motivated by their religion; they expect to be martyrs; and most cry “Alluhu akbar” as they commit their atrocities.

It’s not money or resources they aim to kill for. It’s their religion.

Fr James Mackay – Parish priest at Our Lady of Walsingham, Royal Docks

I’m going to take issue with the question.

We seem to take comfort in thinking that there are binary “Yes/No” answers to every issue, ironically the accusation levelled against many adherents to the three great Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. However, for any reasonable person, both religious and non, the picture is not so black and white. So why do we look for black and white answers?

Is religious motivation behind much of the violence we see reported in our various news outlets? Yes, it is very evident. Is religiously motivated violence the only form of war being waged on humanity today? No. When over 1.2 billion are still living in extreme poverty in a world of plenty, often kept that way by wars maintained by corrupt political regimes whose interests are nearly always economic and very rarely faith based, how can we say war is only a faith issue?

The best response to the slaughter of Fr Jacques Hamel last week was Fr Jacques himself. He was killed while celebrating the gift of an all-loving, compassionate God. His killers will be forgotten, lost in the homogenous crowd of misguided souls. Fr Jacques life will continue to inspire, and show that the cure to bad religion – practised by the few – is not no religion, but good religion.

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