If you read Imprint, you may be aware of the article published in last Friday's issue entitled Is Religion Relevant?.1 Now, there is a good chance that campus will be subjected to a letter to the editor or two about it, but in the interest of highlighting the poverty of Imprint's content,
The title, like any good one, was an effective hook: it appealed to both sides of the frustrating and uninteresting religion vs. secularism debate. One might have initially assumed, thinking that Imprint would at least try to contribute something to said debate, that the article would be worth at least a passing glace. It wasn't, and the article's title was a trick. We should have known: the title of the column is "Exploring Islam".
At this point we could go into a detailed analysis of the flawed argument presented in the column, identifying fallacies and describing how the author's biases show through in the article in a manner that would earn a high mark in Tim Kenyon's critical thinking class. This would be rather dry, and we trust that every reader recognizes the ridiculous contradiction in the phrase "pinnacle of evolution". There is a larger issue: why a newspaper that claims to represent all students feels the need to regularly explore Islam in particular, ignoring and discounting the vast diversity of religious viewpoints on campus.
The first reason that comes to mind is that those who wish to explore Islam are the only people to show up and contribute, in the same way that the socialists were the only people who really cared about The Chevron when it collapsed the first time. This is fair, one part of Imprint's mission statement reads: "To provide University of Waterloo students with the opportunity to learn and gain practical experience in an open and rewarding journalistic environment." An excellent goal, and allowing someone to air their arguments in the court of public opinion and be subject to the scrutiny of the university community is a very practical experience. Sadly, Imprint seems to have forgotten the lesson of our predecessor: writing for a niche group will alienate the community at large. This is a minor first step, and we hope that Imprint will work to correct their mistake.
Let us also be clear that this rebuttal is not meant to be anti-Islam. Were the title of the column "Exploring Christianity" or "Exploring Trade Unionism" and full of an equally uninformative, fallacious, and biased commentary this article would have looked very much the same. Moreover, if Imprint would like to continue exploring Islam in a manner that is not thinly-veiled proselytizing, we have some suggestions for actual issues to discuss: the battle between academic freedom and the desire to not have the Prophet Muhammad depicted; a comparative survey of the different Islamic traditions and how they relate (or fail to relate) with the West; or a history of Islamic contributions to mathematics, art, and philosophy. Barring that, we would at least hope that in the future arguments presented will be valid and include reasonable evidence for their premises.
by Charlie Chaplain and Pete Seeger
1 The original Imprint article can be found online here.