Mona Siddiqui, professor of Islamic studies, New College, University of Edinburgh

The US is leaving Afghanistan. But the country still needs help. Two rival interpretations of Islam battle for supremacy.

Aren’t they lucky? Some poor countries don’t have any versions of Islam vying for control.

4 thoughts on “Mona Siddiqui, professor of Islamic studies, New College, University of Edinburgh

  1. Ever since it landed, I’ve eagerly watched for news of the latest Mars rover. This morning I was gripped by anticipation of the test flight due to take place today of a miniature helicopter – the first ever human attempt at flight on another planet. The computer graphics were exciting, and the real results – if the experiment comes off – will be stunning.

    Then I tuned into TFtD, and ‘came down to earth with a bump.’ Mona gave a summary of the not-too-hopeful future for Afghanistan in her usual humane style; but it’s just another religious war zone, like countless other religious war zones over the centuries. There are plenty of other causes of conflict apart from religion, and it’s unlikely that wars will cease in the world any time soon. But amongst struggles for human freedom or justice, or other causa belli, religious war is just about the ugliest, most persistent, most horrific, disgusting and damaging, and at the same time futile and utterly unnecessary. I often wish religion would just go away. Human endeavour in science, and particularly space exploration, would, you might think, focus the nations’ minds and inspire interest in something truly beyond our own world. But no; it seems it’s still more important to huge numbers of people to argue whose IMF is the true one, and whose version of all the nonsense is the ‘right’ one. Depressing.


  2. A typically fair and candid take on the situation.

    There was a curious reductio ad absurdum at play here though: the likes of the Taliban, ISIS, Al-Quaeda, Al-Shabaab etc etc notoriously take their core reference texts absolutely literally; and this seems inversely proportional to a humanistic outlook. The more the texts are “interpreted” – as they have to be by benevolent moderates – the less they must be regarded as literal; so at what point do Mona and her ilk realise that this will tend them inexorably toward regarding the texts as not at all literal and effectively superfluous at best? Where do they draw the line?

    Maybe it has to be just before the point where an apostasy would attract the wrong kind of attention.


  3. Mona seems to think that if only the ‘right’ Muslims were in charge, the ones committed to plurality and women’s rights and all that, then Afghanistan would be a haven of peacefulness and prosperity.

    Quite apart from the fact that that’s never going to happen, Mona should try making a list of governments that have been based on religious dogmas and doctrines while at the same time making universal human rights a priority. She won’t need a very large piece of paper. The problem isn’t that bad religion makes for bad governance: it’s that basing government policies on religion of any sort is likely to turn out badly for most of those being governed. Just look at, say, Poland, India and Pakistan.

    Religion should be an activity for consenting adults in private.


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