Close the door to discussing religious differences, and risk radicalisation

Glossing over the differences ­between Islam and Christianity in a misguided effort to find an ­all-inclusive religion is counter­productive and risks further radicalisation.

The now former leader of the British Labour Party, Ed Miliband, made a dangerous commitment leading up to the recent elections in the UK, one that should be a warning of things to come in ­Australia. Islamophobia, he promised, would become an aggravated crime.

“We are going to make sure it is marked on people’s records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime,” he said.

As a scholar involved in the study of religion I am increasingly forced to tread carefully when expressing views that differentiate one faith or culture from another. Yet it is only by openly discussing these differences that we gain a better understanding of our own beliefs and those of others and, importantly, how they impact on other people’s lives.

This is why the all too quick accusation of Islamophobia and the shutting down of debate risks stif­ling inter-religious understanding and the internal evolution of all ­religions.