Spritzophrenia

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Posts Tagged ‘religious freedom’

Should We Tolerate the Intolerant?

Posted by spritzophrenia on February 17, 2011

Thankyou all for your comments yesterday, I found them really helpful.

In American Fascists Chris Hedges quite seriously analyses the US Christian Right as a fascist movement. One thesis of the book disturbed me. He quotes Karl Popper:

Unlimited Tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.

In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be most unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols.

We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.

~ The Open Society and Its Enemies 1:263

Christian Fascism

Hedges himself writes:

Debate with the radical Christian Right is useless. We cannot reach this movement. It does not want a dialogue. It is a movement based on emotion and cares nothing for rational thought and discussion. It is not mollified because John Kerry prays or Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school. Naive attempts to reach out to the movement, to assure them that we too, are Christian or we, too, care about moral values, are doomed. This movement is bent on our destruction. The attempts by many liberals to make peace would be humorous if the stakes were not so deadly. These dominionists hate the liberal, enlightened world formed by the Constitution, a world they blame for the debacle of their lives. They have one goal– its destruction.

~ page 202

These quotes make me uncomfortable. What would we think if it was the Christian Right saying this about us? Is it true that the only exception to tolerating all, is not to tolerate the intolerant?

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Slayer | Cult
“Religion is hate, religion is fear, religion is war”

Posted in agnostic, Christianity, ethics | Tagged: , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Should Society Tell Women What To Wear?

Posted by spritzophrenia on May 17, 2010

In the news recently some European countries seek to ban the full face veil worn by some Muslim women – two variations known as the burkha and the niqab. Religious freedom and the veil has become a sticky issue.

This BBC article contains a useful guide to the most common styles of veil Muslim women wear – there’s more than two! Full face veils are a minority custom and a national Italian Islamic council is among many who point out that it’s not a core requirement of the religion. The Dean of Al Azhar University calls full face veiling “a custom that has nothing to do with the Islamic faith“.

Cultural differences can be both enlightening and amusing. It’s possible that veiling women only sexualises them more. I know of two women who lived in a country (Malaysia?) where women generally cover most of their body. They used to joke about local men lusting after body parts that nobody cared about in New Zealand. Then one day they both wore sleeveless blouses on a bus, and the driver almost drove off the road staring at their arms. After that they were more careful about what they wore.

In discussing the European situation with a friend we both agreed the only reason to ban full veils would be for security reasons. We don’t allow motorcycle helmets or balaclavas to be worn in banks and it’s probably reasonable to ban full face veils for the same reason. An alternative would be to require the veil to be dropped in certain situations, for example when stopped by the police.

esoteric
A woman wearing the Niqab protests in Tours, France, February 2010

However, some polititians have suggested that such veiling denigrates women and they propose a ban for feminist reasons. French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the full veils “threaten the dignity of women”. Regardless of whether this is the case, that’s no reason to try and suppress someone’s culture. Let me say at this point I believe that, like conservative Christianity, conservative Islam represses woman and I’m not a fan of full face veils. Regardless, we may not like it but we must allow these women the freedom to choose such dress.

Ironically, I wonder whether the desire to “free” these women would have exactly the opposite effect, forcing them to stay at home because they won’t be able to go out in public. (On further reading I see the Muslim Executive of Belgium has argued the same thing, warning it would lead to women who do wear the veil being trapped in their homes.)

There is also some talk along the lines of “these people have come to our country and they should integrate with us”. Stefaan van Heck, an MP with the Belgian Green Party, is one who argues that unveiling women is better for social integration. However, integration should not mean assimilation. Diversity of cultures enriches our countries, and minority groups should be encouraged to retain their languages and customs provided we don’t end up with ghettos. I think if you are in a foreign country it’s respectful and wise to learn the language and follow local customs. However, this does not mean one has to completely lose one’s own culture.

Ban the burkha for security reasons if that’s the best solution, but don’t try to justify it by appealing to women’s rights or the need for cultural assimilation.

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What do you think?

Posted in Islam, Sociology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »