Friday, 12 December 2008

What Women Want

An article in the Guardian's G2 today about a 33-year-old woman going through what sounded like hell and high water to freeze her eggs because she hadn't met the right man yet reminded me of an article I read in The Telegraph three months ago.

The Telegraph article reported that a survey of 3,103 men and women commissioned by vitamin supplement firm, Vitabiotics, had revealed that 56 per cent of the women questioned would ask a male friend to father a baby with them if they felt they had not met the right partner.

Expectations are so high it is as if we think life is always happening somewhere else.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Islam and the Future

Since the Mumbai bombings - which the Muslim Council of Britian condemned immediately - "the problem with Islam" debate has resurfaced. Islamic extremist attacks and the growth of Islam in Britain are fears which lead some people to believe Western freedoms will be under threat in the years to come.

What I have been arguing is that we should support moderate Muslims to have a stronger voice in our society so that journalist and commentator, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown isn't the only token liberal Muslim people can point to.

This week there has been some good news. I discovered the Christian Muslim Forum on Sunday. On Thurday morning, I heard Mona Siddiqui, a British Muslim academic, on Radio Four's Thought For The Day. And today I came across Dervla Shannahan Hussain, a gay Muslim convert, on The Guardian's Comment is Free pages.

There has also been stories in the press this week about the Runnymede Trust calling for faith schools to open their admissions to all children in order to break down religious barriers and improve integration.

I hope more good news will follow!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Who Owns The Progressive Future?

Last night former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Green Party MEP Caroline Lucas, Left Wing academic Beatrix Campbell and Guardian economist Aditya Chakrabortty were at Kings Place in Kings Cross, London, debating who will own the progressive future.

In their five minute speeches, not one of them talked about what role religions would play in that progressive future so my hand shot up as soon as the chair, Guardian journalist John Harris, opened the debate to the floor.

Only Beatrix got to answer my question - and that was only because John pushed her. Sadly, her perspective was downbeat and, for the large part, dated. "Religion is about patriarchal domination," she said. "I have great unease about organised religions playing a role in the future."

How can she not know how much has changed since the 1970s? In the Methodist Church, for example, there is nothing stopping women taking the top positions. Women are involved at all levels of the institution and many men recognise women as agents of change. In the Church of England, women are fighting to become Bishops. Revolution is happening from within. Writing religion off as essentially "patriarchal" actually feels oppressive when you are aware women are making head way. How can Beatrix not know about feminist theology? Surely, supporting women of all religions to shift ground within what used to be a male-only run dominion is the way forward.

And as for her comment that "institutionalised religion" is the source of war mongering - Christianity teaches peace. Quakers preach pacifism whatever the price. Many faiths have been involved in pushing social justice to the forefront and lobbying for equality. Faith drives a number of people to fight for these causes. Why don't we acknowledge this?

A progressive future without a spiritual forum would be a bleak one. Many people will want to look for more meaning in their lives than just their mortgages. I don't think religion and spirituality should own the progressive future, but I think they should share a part.