Sunday, August 15, 2010

Can We Learn from This?

US President Barack Obama has staunchly defended controversial plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero in New York.

Opponents have protested against the construction of an Islamic cultural centre and mosque several hundred feet away from the site of the Twin Towers.

Mr Obama acknowledged "sensitivities" surround the 9/11 site, but said Muslims have the same right to practise their religion "as anyone else".

"Our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable," Mr Obama said.

BBC News - Obama defends right to build mosque near 9/11 site

Can our Members of Parliament learn from this?! I remember a while ago when certain MPs raised hell on non Muslims celebrating their religious occasions in Kuwait. Let's not take as example countries that infringe on Muslims' freedom (France with banning the headscarves and Switzerland banning minarets for example). Let's look at the bright examples of religious freedom and welcome people to practice their religion here, the same way Muslims (citizens or not) are welcomed to practice their religion abroad.

3 comments: said...

No such thing as religious freedom in Islam. MoKP are only following Islamic law

Jacques said...

I hesitated a lot before reacting to your comment here. For I am not sure I can follow you here.
Since your mention France for its many and contradicting rulings on all sorts of veils, I will take this as an exemple. Our daughter was still at school when the issue was first raised in France and I was member of the Board of Directors of the Lycée Lavoisier were she was finishing her secondary education. I found it paradoxical that the headscarves was then seen as a symbol of backwardation while 25 years earlier I remembered the propaganda served by the then glorious soviet film industry was offering to our admiration models of soviet women, examples of progressist female workers from factories or farms, all of them wearing headscarves. So, I voted against all these succesive useless rules. But I supported the tougher enforcement of earlier laws ans regulations by which all school classes are to be attended by every child/student, not accepting parents to cherry pick those teachings that fit their faith. We had to deal with all sorts of cases: integrist christians and integrist jews who take it for litteral truth the saying of the bible about the number of years since the creation of the world and thus would ask their children not to attend classes of geology/paleontology, claiming that the world is only a few thousand years old (7000 I believe; it would mean that the Egyptian Pharaons were hunting dinosaures!), but most of our problems were with strict moslems who produced medical certificates established by acommodating doctors to get their daughters out of the sport classes, specially swiming pool, and refused their chidren to attend classes of biology because it deals with sex. French society was split on the issue: some schools sent back the kids to their home and I was mad at such decisions. My preference was to keep them at school in the hope to "enlight" them. Many people blamed me for this "vain" hope. But in doing so, I am afraid I was expecting school would conduct them, over time, to change the way they practice their religion.This is not what you are advocating for.
This experience led me to think that as long as religion (any religion) is an intimate inner matter, it can and probably should be respected (it takes me an effort to write that since I believe the world would be a better place without any) But as soon as it expand into social life, it often conflicts with the need for any human society to share some common values. The status of women is a dividing topic between moslem and western societies. Not the headscarves, (when my grand-mother used to say of a woman "she goes out in hairs" -meaning without covering her hair- it was really next to call her a whore) but her place in society. And France has no reason to be proud: french women vote since 1946, way after turkish women who vote since the 1920's. We still have a lot to do to bring women to the same professional positions, same pay, etc... and I would like to believe this is a value that can be shared worlwide, whatever the religion. But I have to admit that this is not easy, notably because of conflicts with religions that claim to rule also the secular life. My grand-mother and the soviet fims are enough references for me to live with headscarves without problems, but niqab is a different issue since I have no reference to make it a sign of women's progress in society. I have no final conclusion.

Bu Ziyad said...

Jacques - I meant activities that would not interfere with other peoples rights or daily lives. I don't see the harm in non Muslims celebrating their holy occasions in Kuwait.. at the same time I don't see the harm in women wearing scarves -or not wearing scarves- anywhere.. what is the difference then between Iran that imposes the scarves and France that bans it?! Don't they both restrict personal freedom one in the name of religion and the other in the name of secularism?!

By the way I went to public school here in Kuwait and we still learned about evolution in biology.