Hard hitting friday sermon given in Glasgow immediately after the murder in Woolwich touching on the incident itself and its wider context of the state of religious learning and leadership in the Muslim community.
Social commentators have, over the past year or so, been engaged in a protracted furore over
the merits of the ‘Broken Britain’ debate. Statistics come thick and fast, painting a picture of a
society that has atrophied and failed. Social, crime or health indicators vie to paint an increasingly
bleak canvas of societal discord.
That society has at its core broken individuals is a more telling indicator of our predicament.
Wantonness and the lack of a collective moral compass, when coupled with social and economic
inequity, are bound to take their toll on any society.
Though few can now argue that theism is a condition for the leading of a moral life at an individual
level, it is equally apparent from the annals of twentieth century history that a purely secular
approach to morality has failed in providing standards that are collectively passed from generation
to generation in a shared societal narrative. This is the prima-facie charge facing post-modern
Britain today. The enduring legacy of Faiths has always been the ability to pass on, through shared
traditions, collective social mores effectively to both the thinker and the layman alike.
Alas the luxury of choosing between a secular or a faith-based solution to our contemporary
moral ills is one afforded to us by neither fate nor circumstance. What is required is a more
resilient concerted solution from the whole of Civil Society.
The 12th century Muslim philosopher Averroes ventured to summarize moral ethics as being
enshrined in the preservation five main values; those of life, wealth, freedom of faith, intellect and
progeny. What is interesting is that he proposed this in Spain at a time of competing faiths and
denominations all scrambling for a shared vantage point from which to deal with the moral and
social issues of the day.
It would be true to say that a similar venture is required today. It is a task that is as daunting as it
is pressing, but as Goethe said ’ mountains cannot be surmounted except by winding paths.