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Roger Scruton: Religious fundamentalists need to drink wine again

Muslim fundamentalists should learn tolerance through wine, leading philosopher Roger Scruton argues this month in Decanter.

Scruton, research professor for the Institute for the Psychological Sciences in both Washington and Oxford, suggests the most important thing about wine is the truth that is contained within it, rather than ‘what you blurt out under its influence.’

The writer and thinker – and wine critic for news weekly the New Statesman – considers himself one of the first to ‘extract the philosophical truth in wine’.

In his latest book I Drink Therefore I Am he describes how he ‘could look back along the line of empties, stretching now for half a century, and still see rising from the neck of each of them some ghostly memory of a day truly lived, or if not lived, at least finished off in style.’

The philosopher, who prides himself on his right-wing credentials, reckons the ancients understood how ‘the truth of our being has found its way into ancient bottles… hence the legend of Dionysus, the abundant invocations of wine in the Hebrew Bible and the age-old rituals that are ancestors of the Christian Eucharist.’

Most controversially, Scruton says ‘lunatic’ fundamentalists ‘who have set their heart on giving Islam a bad name’ should learn again how to drink wine.

He laments the passing of the ‘laughing, tolerant’ phase of Islam exemplified in The Thousand and One Nights, and cites wine-loving Muslim philosophers like the 11th century Ibn Sina, known as Avicenna.

To find that tolerance again – and he suggests the Turks are on the way to that rediscovery – ‘Muslims must learn again to drink, and should be piously applying themselves to the task,’ he writes.

Until that happens, Scruton contends, the Koran will continue to be misinterpreted, and the truth that life ‘is not a fact but a gift’ will never be recognised.

‘Without the benefit of wine it is hard to seize this truth; harder still to recognise the obligation that it imposes, to be gentle with others, and to allow them their own space.’

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Written by Adam Lechmere

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