Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Demonisation of Muslims hurts all sections of society

Pastor James McConnell told his congregation Islam was "heathen and satanic" and a "doctrine spawned in hell"
Pastor James McConnell told his congregation Islam was "heathen and satanic" and a "doctrine spawned in hell"

The recent blanket demonisation of all Muslims has not only caused hurt, bewilderment and anger among Irish and British Muslims, many Christians, people of other ethnicities and faith, and people of goodwill, also feel hurt and betrayed.

Our society still struggles with pervasive sectarianism, which is in large part the exclusion and demonisation of the other on religious and political grounds. Recent attacks have shown that racism is also present, and now as part of this same family, we have Islamophobia.

The destructive three arise from deep prejudice, which has its roots in ignorance, fear and insecurity. Recent comments revealed a serious ignorance of Islam and also of the history of Christianity.

When we don’t know, and more seriously, don’t know that we don’t know, we create out of fear, stereotypes and demons. We not only dehumanise the other, we dehumanise ourselves.

We now have the opportunity to reject sectarianism, racism and Islamophobia, and re-double our commitment to a truly shared future in Northern Ireland, a common good.

To this end we require political and religious leadership that will encourage us to build a democracy, which is plural, diverse, inclusive, respectful and positively tolerant.

Such a society will be truly democratic and not in any sense theocratic (human rule on behalf of God), one in which all count and the dignity of every human being is paramount. These are the ethical responsibilities of political and civil society.

We the undersigned therefore pledge ourselves to the building of a truly human, inclusive and ethical society, in which all people are cherished equally.

Maureen Hetherington, The Junction

Eamonn Deane, The Junction & Holywell Trust

Seamus Farrell, The Junction

Gerard Deane, Holywell Trust

Michael Doherty, Peace and Reconciliation Group

Eamonn Baker, Towards Understanding and Healing

Rev Dr Johnston McMaster, Ethical and Shared Remembering

Dr Cathy Higgins, Ethical and Shared Remembering

Richie Hetherington, The Junction

Roger McCallum, The Junction

Kirstein Arbuckle

Ursula Birthistle, Towards Understanding and Healing

Sr Catherine Boyle

Christine Carlin

Kate Clifford

Catherine Cooke, Foyle Women’s Information Network

Darlene Corry

Marie Coyle

Nuala Crilly

Denise Crossan

Anne Deighan

Colin Devine, North West Community Network

Community Dialogue Committee

John Donaghy

Owen Donnelly

Brian Dougherty

Maureen Fox

Nigel Gardiner

Mary Gethin, Community Outreach Group, Jethro Centre, Lurgan

James Greer, Europa Network for Peace and Europa Academe

Gemma Harkin

Mary Harkin

David Holloway, Community Dialogue

Julia Kee

Sarah Kerrigan

Amanda Koser-Gillespie, Second Line NI

Paddy Masterson

Frances McAneny, Towards Understanding and Healing

Rosie McCann

Martin McCartney

John  McCormack

Hanna Mitchell

Carolyn Moffett, Ballymoney Community Resource Centre

Richard Moore, Children in Crossfire

Paul O’Connor, Pat Finucane Centre

Roisin O’Hagan, Holywell Consultancy

Gearoid O’hEara, Culturlann

Jim O’Neill, Community Dialogue

Kieran Pradeep

Bill Shaw, 174 Trust

Hilary Sidwell

Jill Tellez, Europa Network for Peace and Europa Academe

Kirstie Wright

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