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Paul Weller: Controversies as a Lens on Change

16 February 12

“Controversies as a lens on change” is the title of the opening chapter of Religion and Change in Modern Britain (published Feb 2012 by Routledge). In this podcast Norman Winter is in conversation with one of the joint authors of this chapter, Paul Weller.

Professor Weller (pictured in the centre) has worked in the field of inter-faith and multi-faith studies at the University of Derby for over 20 years. He is Principal Investigator on Religion and Society project Religion and Belief, Discrimination and Equality in England and Wales: Theory, Policy and Practice (2000-2010). The co-writer of this chapter was Malory Nye, the Principal of the Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education in Dundee.

In this chapter the authors view highly-publicised arguments and conflicts as markers of underlying trends, revealing the changing concerns about religion which have engaged the public from the Second World War to the present.

Paul Weller talks about the changing nature of the media which has also contributed to how those conflicts and concerns have been portrayed, especially with the advent of new media which have brought new immediacy and interactivity.

The chapter moves forward in time. In the early part of the period the Christian Church and its legacy were still dominant, and arguments often revolved around deviation from that tradition, for instance in the 1963 publication of “Honest to God”, or expressions of anxiety about cults and new religious movements.

Debate and dispute regarding other major world faiths gradually gained prominence. In the 1970s, local residents in Hertfordsire opposed the establishment of a Hindu place of worship at Bhaktivedanta Manor.  Then in 1989, some time after its original publication, Salman Rushdie’s novel “The Satanic Verses” sparked highly-publicised outrage among Muslims, with TV images of book-burning. This was fuelled further when the supreme leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini, pronounced Rushdie to be an apostate, and a bounty was put upon his death.

More recent controversies have revealed further conflicts between rights and freedoms, both within faiths and between religion and society as a whole. There have been public arguments about Islamic dress and Islamist teaching. The play “Behzti” (2004) and the BBC2 screening of “Jerry Springer the Opera” (2005) provoked strong movements of opposition. New legal protections and rights, for instance in services offered to gay couples, prompted conservative Christian opposition.

The chapter also describes the political and media discussion of the “failure of multiculturalism”. 

Duration: 40.51

Click here for the list of podcasts about the book.

Podcasts compiled by Norman Winter 

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