Dr. Amanullah De Sondy
Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam
University College Cork, Ireland
Monday 30th October 2017
The first minister is to apologise on behalf of the Scottish government to gay men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences. Nicola Sturgeon will make the apology at the Scottish Parliament to coincide with new legislation giving an automatic pardon to those affected.
Minorities who were often silenced in the past now push us to consider the society we all want to live in. Yet I find that offences against minorities, in this case gay men, are often weaved together in complicated patterns with religious, historical and cultural traditions. And these patterns were set in place in a time where things were very different. How do we respectfully bring together the past with the present as we look to the future? This is no easy task and often religious communities will speak in clear terms on traditions but the lived realities are very different. This is where it becomes important for governments to act in fairness and equality. Yet I’m finding the term ‘evolve’ being frequently used by religious leaders too. Our thoughts have evolved on issues of slavery, race and women’s rights.
I’m faithfully assured that within my own Islamic communities, much is being said and done on these issues too. There is clearly more to do and for many it can be difficult and challenging placing our current sentiments to history.
In society and also in our own lives, apologies are important but only when we build upon them. No apology can undo the harm or even the death caused by actions or words. But they can help strengthen our future by making sure that we build understanding leading to respectful relationships and a society which values differences, equally. I’m heartened by the students I teach every day who seem to understand and live out differences in ways my generation didn’t. It is through the humility of accepting a wrong and meeting others who have different lives and beliefs with generosity and compassion that we can build a fairer and brighter society.