Some people think (their) religion is scientific. That’s faith. Some scientists act as though science is a religion. There’s faith there too. Such things are framed by bias and chauvinism: ‘our religion is the best,’ and ‘other scientific paradigms are inferior’ they relevant advocates claim.
These things come with frames. Power frames. They are attended by braggadocio, condescension and even outright contempt.
What’s amusing is when the staunchly religious lean on science.
The controversy over the disposal of the remains of Muslims who succumb to Covid-19 is a case in point.
At first the cry was about religious rights: ‘our faith decrees that the dead should be buried; respect our religious rights.’ Islam, apparently, tells them that the gates of heaven will only be opened to ‘intacts.’ Cremation, therefore, disqualifies. The resultant anxieties are understandable.
The argument for burial is ‘buttressed’ by referring to ‘science’: ‘The WHO (no less!) has determined that there’s no danger of contamination/infection following burial,’ we are told.
The tellers won’t say that the WHO got a lot of things wrong about Covid-19, that the ‘science’ on the virus is still a work in progress, that it is safer to err on the side of caution. They won’t talk about the raging controversy in Denmark over the mass culling and subsequent burial of Covid-infected minks. They won’t talk about the scientific fact that disintegration of the corpse begins immediately after death and therefore the entire ‘intact’ argument scrambles.
Interestingly, those who bring the ‘science’ argument for burial would never ever take the gauntlet of providing scientific proof pertaining to faith-claims.
That’s only one side of the politics of selectivity. The other is the slick shifts between ‘The Kingdom of God’ and ‘The Nation.’
‘Islam demands that the dead be buried, respect that!’ That’s the ecclesiastical part of the relevant politics. Ok, so the Sri Lankan government decides, by way of being sensitive to the religiously zealous, to ask the Maldivian government whether it is alright to bury such people in that country.
‘No way! I want to be buried in my motherland, the land of my birth!’ That’s the latest cry.
So it’s religion when it suits them, science when it suits them; it’s now the Kingdom of God now the Nation State!
Let’s insert a bit of religion here:
Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, leader of the worldwide Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, once said: ‘A true Muslim can never raise his voice in hatred against his fellow citizens, nor for that matter against the ruling authority or government of the time. It is the responsibility of a true Muslim that he should remain loyal and fully abide by the laws of the land of which he is a subject.’ (Baitul Futuh Inauguration Reception, 11 Oct 2003).
Did a ‘believer’ just say, ‘that’s his opinion and anyway I am not a follower of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community?’
Alright. First, just who has the ‘final authority’ regarding the interpretation of ‘The Word of Allah’? Human claimants to such authority are a dime a dozen and anyway, being human (and not divine) they are by definition flawed. Their word is opinion, nothing more.
Secondly, what does the Quran say? ‘O ye who believe! obey Allah, and obey His Messenger and those who are in authority over you.’
Can the ‘devout’ Muslims who appear to be absolutely confused about burials, the state and god’s kingdom, please take a break? If you don’t want solutions and keep changing goalposts, don’t blame anyone who loses patience.
And this also goes out to the ladies and gentlemen who tied white ribbons at the Borella Cemetery in solidarity with Muslims distraught over the burial issue.
The Pepper Spray Club