August 10, 2014
Atrocities carried out by fanatics such as Nigeria’s Boko Haram show the dangers of religious belief with the “scroll of faith … indistinguishable from the roll call of death”, according to the Nobel prize-winning author Wole Soyinka. In a video address to the World Humanist Congress, at which he will be presented with its main award, Soyinka will argue that even moderate religious leaders may be “vicariously liable” for sectarian hatred if they have failed to argue against it.
He added that Boko Haram’s members considered abducting 200 girls to be “virtuous” and moderate Muslims could not simply disavow their actions with “pious incantations” that “these are not the true followers of the faith”. “We have to ask such leadership penitents: ‘Were there times when you kept silent while such states of mind, overt or disguised, were seeding fanaticism around you? Are you vicariously liable?'” said Soyinka. “The lesson of Boko Haram is not for any one nation. It is not for the African continent alone. The whole world should wake up to the fact that the menace is borderless, aggressive and unconscionable.”
In this article, political scientist Stephan Grigat of the University of Vienna calls for a revisited and intellectual critique of religion. He claims it essential to look at the differences of religions and their respective function in society, and also to criticize them wherever a practice counters rational and free thought.
Grigat regrets that the established left leaves the criticism of Islam to racists of the right instead of phrasing a critique in line with emancipation, enlightenment and humanism.
During a three-day conference sponsored by the United Nations, Islamic humanism as been one of the most popular topics at a World Philosophy Day event. “The West asks if in the future, Islam will be able to put man at the centre of the world. Therefore, is Islam capable of going from a theocentric humanism to an anthropocentric one? In the Koran there is a track that can be explored,” said Abdenour Bidar, a popular Muslim thinker today. Philosophy students, academics, journalists, diplomats, and others gathered for the conference, whose theme was “Power and Rights.”
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