Blair’s Faith Academy

Monday, 11th May 2009 at 22:33 UTC 3 comments

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.

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Entry filed under: Education, Faith, Iraq, News, Politics, Religion, Theology, Tony Blair.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. misterbunbury  |  Tuesday, 12th May 2009 at 0:20 UTC

    Blair’s shift from “we don’t do God” to the current state of affairs has been interesting to follow. On the one hand, it follows a man rising up through his party and suppressing some of his views to gain support, then getting to the top and beyond and letting it all hang out. Then there’s the change in religious climate, from his first term of office, where everyone thought religion was dying out, to the post-9/11 world where that myth’s been shattered. Finally, I think he may genuinely want to repent of the early dismissal of faith, especially as he’s seen the futility of that dismissal in the face of 9/11 and subsequent events.

    As for your crying Iraq, just remember that neither George Bush nor coalitions of the willing are mentioned in the bible. If you don’t like our intentions going in, that’s your interpretation of your faith and not the Christian faith itself. You don’t get to dechurch people on the basis of that.

    Reply
  • 2. Alice  |  Tuesday, 12th May 2009 at 9:26 UTC

    This was one of the topics under discussion at last night’s interfaith prayers. Interfaith relations are good for international politics and peace, so of course the government want to get in on the action with an election coming up (anything to distract from second homes right?)

    That said they seem quite serious about it, with an interfaith week declared for mid-November, and a minister coming to meet with us on Wednesday to see how we are doing it. We discussed how it is important that we demonstrate interfaith relationships outside of government schemes, and that people actually want to work together not just be forced to.

    If they really are serious then perhaps they can start by better religious studies in schools, it’s shocking how ignorant of Islam the whiter people of Bradford are (including myself), and better education would help us understand each other better.

    Reply
  • 3. Phil  |  Thursday, 14th May 2009 at 21:15 UTC

    Yeah. The Faith in Leadership thing I’m involved with had some talks with the foundation, which was basically Blair’s lot saying “right, now you tell us how to persuade Muslims to join us without our having to change our policies”. Not sure I trust them as far as I can throw them

    But as Alice said — interfaith dialogue and interfaith education, so long as they’re genuinely dialogue and education not shouting and indoctrination — got to be good…?

    Reply

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