Blair’s Faith Academy
Some news stories just make you blink and stare, and the news that Tony Blair has established an educational foundation for inter-religious dialogue would count in that list. What precisely is motivating him, we’ll never quite know, but its possible it has something to do with his intense interest in the middle East conflict. Or maybe he’s just after fame and some kind of redemption in the eyes of history…
I just wonder what this academy will be teaching. After all, under Blair the current predecessor to “Challenge 2” ran. Under the new project, some estimated 2500 British Muslims would be designated as extremists, legitimising greater scrutiny of their actions, and sending the message that the British government, and not Allah, is now the arbiter of acceptable Muslim teachings. If the British government interfered that much with Christianity, surely there’d be an outcry? Erm, second thoughts, unless there’s a sudden move in the direction of post-Constantinian Christianity, its rather unlikely.
I feel almost embarrassed to point out that no Christians yet face this kind of government persecution for their beliefs in the UK, but many of the Muslims likely to be targeted hold views little different in their political ramifications than the “Christian People’s Party” in some respects, and others’ views differ little in Earthly substance from a more Internationalist perspective within Radical Evangelicalism.
But I digress. My curiosity stems mostly from the fact that this is a man who united vast swathes of religious opinion against himself. Muslims rightfully saw their Brothers and Sisters in distress, Christians either saw likewise (and heck, we lost a far greater percentage of our faith-base in Iraq) or just felt the whole thing went against their faith too much and some Jews even saw the extent to which this would further inflame other sensitive situations I hardly need bother naming. Buddhists are very often pacifist, and with Sikhs and Hindus, joined the cacophony of groups saying No to the Iraq war. So what, then, is Blair’s aim?
Is it some kind of coexistence of religions? Is it an attempt to help shape the religions themselves, stressing the need for faiths that tolerate Capitalist so-called Democracies in the face of great social hardship amongst their members and those they seek to serve. I should far rather unite with the peaceable elements of Islam away from the infrastructure and confines of “Empire”, and reject those who trade in both the violence of the 9/11 and 7/7 bombers and the violence of state-imposed religious views.
If I believe there is a need for a separation of Church and State, then it is for this very reason: that I detest the imposition of human values on faith, and that the state uses religion to communicate its own values. In the absence of some great apology for consorting with power, I shall have to assume Mr Blair’s intentions remain much the same in this area, and shall remain wary of any role he has chosen to ordain for himself between religions.