Archbishop of York condemns religious brainwashing

The Archbishop of York doesn’t like the word ‘radicalised’, so he has called on all religious leaders to ensure that young Britons are not “brainwashed” into fighting and killing in the name of their faith.

Dr Sentamu told Sky News: “I don’t want to use the word radicalising. I think it is brainwashing. We don’t want our young people to be brainwashed believing really a lie, that by fighting and killing another person your religion becomes better. All religious leaders, whatever tradition they come from, have got a duty to work together to make sure that our young people are not being brainwashed into some kind of nonsense.”

His Grace was struck by the first comment on this in the ensuing chat thread: “I went to a catholic school, ok it was some years ago, but they brainwashed all the kids, or at least they tried, we were taught some nightmarish stuff, hate protestants, too many to put on here, but one sticks in my mind, I actually felt sorry for some of my friends because they were not catholic, we believed they would never know god because they weren’t catholic, all religious schools try & brainwash the kids, we have to separate schools and religion, all it did for me was turn me against the church, it’s all about controlling people, people are far too educated these days to fall for the churches rubbish. OH’ and the begging bowl and the usher telling my dad, silver only today, I hate them. Richest business in the world, keep them all out of schools. They teach segregation.”

Extremist atheists and secularists will aver that all religious indoctrination is ‘brainwashing’ that inflicts harm on children. Professor Richard Dawkins is persuaded that sex abuse does “arguably less long-term psychological damage” than being brought up in the Roman Catholic faith. He told Mehdi Hasan on al-Jazeera:

“There are shades of being abused by a priest, and I quoted an example of a woman in America who wrote to me saying that when she was seven years old she was sexually abused by a priest in his car. At the same time a friend of hers, also seven, who was of a Protestant family, died, and she was told that because her friend was Protestant she had gone to Hell and will be roasting in Hell forever. She told me of those two abuses, she got over the physical abuse; it was yucky but she got over it. But the mental abuse of being told about Hell, she took years to get over.”

Accepting that religious ‘radicalisation’ is concerned with returning to the fundamentals or roots of one’s faith, the Reformation was a radical pursuit. Martin Luther was a radical. His Grace is radical. Pope Benedict XVI was radical. Of course there are degrees of radicalisation, and His Grace isn’t nearly radical enough for some (neither was Luther; nor was Pope Benedict XVI). But Dr Sentamu is concerned with the radicalisation which inspires killing in the name of God. The problem is that Mohammed did precisely that.

Of course, the vast majority of British Muslims are congenial and peaceable. They would quote from the Qur’an passages like Surah 2:190: ‘Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you, but do not begin hostilities, for God does not love aggressors’. The Archbishop of York would approve of that. The problem is, there are a few other British Muslims who prefer ‘martydom’, certainly the 400 or so about to return from Iraq and Syria, where they have been contending for their faith in the name of Allah.

And they would say to those who appeal that Islam means ‘peace’ are quoting out of context. Surah 2:190 is taken from the sixth year of the Hijrah, when the Muslims of Arabia were a strong and influential community, but not supreme. Mohammed ordered them to defend themselves against Meccan attacks, but not be aggressors because they had a treaty. Many of them were exiles from Mecca, where the Pagans had established an intolerant autocracy, persecuting Muslims. When they tried to assert their rights, the result was bloodshed. This surah was therefore concerned with a specific period of self-preservation; it is not a blanket command regarding all acts of violence. Being bound by context in time and space, there are many who do not consider it to be an eternal injunction.

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