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Audio: Holy lands, unholy wars

TLS panel discussion at the British Library, 30 July 2007


Jerusalem (15c German text; British Library shelfmark C.14.c.13A panel of Times Literary Supplement editors and contributors produced a lively and opinionated debate about the shared history of the three faiths through harmony and conflict at the British Library on Monday 30 July.

They also discussed the Sacred exhibition itself.
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The panel consisted of Simon Goldhill, Professor of Greek Literature and Culture at Cambridge; Lucy Becket, novelist and Wagner expert; Rupert Shortt, TLS religion editor; Francis Robinson, Professor of History of South Asia Royal Holloway University of London; Robert Irwin, TLS Middle Eastern editor and novelist; and Ali Ansari, Professor of Iranian history at University of St Andrews. In the chair was Mary Beard, TLS classics editor.

All stressed that they had enjoyed the Sacred exhibition enormously and thought it "great". However, in this session they had a brief to cover the historical inter-relationships, and sometimes tensions, between the faiths from their own perspectives. Most felt the history of conflict between the faiths had been played down too much.

Any statement or position was liable to be challenged in this spirit of academic cut-and-thrust. At one point, Beard even suggested that tolerance was overrated as a virtue. It brought the obvious rejoinder – that it was at least more of a virtue than intolerance – to laughter from the audience. (The incident is discussed further in Beard's Times Online blog.)

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