Posts Tagged ‘Religious Freedom’

Why so few terrorist attacks on the USA?

December 11, 2015

A blogger named Fred Reed, pointing out how potentially vulnerable the United States is, wonders why there have been so few successful terrorist attacks on the United States.

IRAQI-AMERICAN MUSLIMS CELEBRATE IN DEARBORN OUSTER OF HUSSEINMy guess is that the reason is that Muslim citizens and residents appreciate the religious freedom and acceptance they enjoy in the United States.

There is ignorant prejudice against Muslims in the United States, which I have criticized, but I believe that overall Muslims in the United States enjoy greater freedom than they do in Russia, China, India or even many majority-Muslim countries.

I am proud of the American heritage of religious freedom, and I would hate to see anything diminish it.

Two Founders on religious freedom

July 4, 2014

George Washington to the Newport, R.I., Hebrew congregation on August 18, 1790

1presIt is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

via Teaching American History.

Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury, Conn., Baptist association on Jan. 1, 1802

jeffersonthomasbigBelieving with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

via Teaching American History.

Something I cannot understand

June 26, 2014

I’m not well-traveled, and I speak no language other than English.   The way I try to understand why people in foreign cultures do what they do is to imagine myself in their place.  Usually I conclude that if I were in their situation, and had had their life experiences, I probably would do as they did.

But recently I read news stories about people who wanted to kill close relatives because they were of a different religion.  I cannot understand this.

One report was about “Josef,” a Pakistani man who is in hiding in Afghanistan from his Muslim family who want to kill him because he has converted to Christianity.   The other was about Meriam Ibrahim, a woman who was raised a Christian in Sudan after being deserted by her Muslim father.  She narrowly escaped being sentenced to death after her father’s family accused her of “renouncing” Islam—a religion in which she had never believed.

I believe that people have a right to believe in whatever religion they choose, or, to put it more precisely, I believe that people have a right to state openly that they believe whatever they inwardly feel compelled to believe.   I cannot imagine wanting to kill a relative or loved one because they reject my beliefs and values.

Naziism is the most abhorrent belief that I can think of.  But if a relative become a Nazi, my response would be to make him see the error of his ways, as long as I thought this were possible.   I might give up meeting him on a regular basis if all he did was harangue me.  In an extreme case, if he planned a murder or a dangerous act of violence, I would threaten to report him to the police.  But I can’t imagine killing a loved one or relative just because of what they think, however barbarous.

I don’t think these two news articles justify a general condemnation of all the world’s one billion Muslims, who certainly are not all alike.  But they do justify a feeling of pride and gratitude for the religious freedom of the USA.  I can’t imagine the most intolerant American Christian attempting to kill someone for renouncing Christianity and, if such a person existed, they would be put in trial for their crime.

Despite the harassment and prejudice that Muslims sometimes endure in the United States, I think that they not only enjoy more freedom than do Christians in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Sudan, I think they enjoy more freedom here than do Muslims in Pakistan, Afghanistan or Sudan.

LINKS

A Christian Convert, on the Run in Afghanistan, by Azam Ahmed for the New York Times. Hat tip to Rod Dreher.

Meriam Ibrahim freed again after rearrest at Sudan airport by the Associated Press.

Sudan death penalty case reignites Islam apostasy debate by BBC News.

Kurdistan, haven of religious freedom

June 24, 2014

kurdistan_people__2007_12_20_h0m58s56Not everybody in Iraq is a Sunni Arab or a Shiite Arab.  The country is full of other religious and ethnic groups, including Assyrian Christians who’ve been in Mesopotamia longer than the Arabs, and their hope of survival is the continued semi-independence of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Overall, I think the invasion of Iraq was a disaster, but one good thing to come out of it was freedom for the Kurds, a valiant people who’d been fighting for independence for generations, and without terrorism against civilians.

The Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslims, the same religion as the murderous I.S.I.S. militia, but their attitude toward freedom and tolerance is exactly the opposite.  And the Kurds are willing, able and armed to fight.

Military analyst Gary Brecher, who’s lived in Kurdistan, wrote:

The men and women of the [Kurdish] Pesh Merga—the Middle East’s only truly gender-neutral fighting force—are the only thing saving all the terrified, dwindling minority communities of Northern Iraq from the savagery—yeah, savagery; why lie?—of a new zombie generation of Wahhabized Arab/Sunni jihadis.  [snip]

Let me tell you, for a Sunni Kurd to say, “I have Shia friends, I have Christian friends” is about as brave and radical as it gets, short of suicide, in the Middle East. I never heard any of my Saudi students say anything remotely like it. Well, how could they?  By law, Shi’ism and Christianity are banned in the Kingdom.  So they didn’t have the opportunity, even if they’d had the mindset which they didn’t.

Something wonderful came out of the horrors of 20th century Iraq, among the Kurds of the Northern hills.  They became the only non-sectarian population in Iraq, and perhaps the only such group between Lebanon and India.

All the hill peoples, the few who’d survived Sunni pogroms, were kind to each other. When violence came into the hills, it came from the plains to the South.

All the vulnerable minorities in the Northern hills had been hit by waves of violence from the Sunni majority to the south: the few remaining Assyrian Christians who held out in little mountain towns like Zakho, a pitiful remnant of the genocides perpetrated against them by the Ottomans, and then by Sunni militias in the 1930s; the Turcoman, who are Sunni but Turkish-speaking—in other words, not Arab—and don’t you ever doubt that Arab chauvinism has a HUGE part in what passes for Sunni jihadism.

via The War Nerd:  PandoDaily.

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American exceptionalism: Church and state

January 15, 2014

One of the ways in which we Americans are exceptional in a good way is our separation of church and state.  The United States is a country that is friendly toward religion, yet the government neither subsidizes religion nor takes orders from a religious authority.

In virtually every other country of which I know, the government either taxes the public for the support of religion, or is actively hostile toward religion.  The U.S. government is neither.  Perhaps for this reason, church attendance and religious belief are stronger in the USA than in the countries of western Europe.

We have storefront churches in poor neighborhoods here in Rochester, NY, with more worshipers on a Sunday than some of the empty cathedrals of Europe, or so I am told by friends who have toured Europe.

I think the reason for this is in our history.  In the 17th and 18th centuries, Britain’s North American colonies provided refuge to religious dissenters not only from Britain itself, but from all over Europe.  Being persecuted doesn’t necessarily make people tolerant, but the colonies became home to so many different kinds of dissenting religious groups that tolerance become a necessity.

Voltaire is supposed to have said that the best thing for a country is to have many religious sects, and the worst thing is to have just two.  The religious diversity of the United States is a safeguard of religious freedom, because no one denomination is in a position to take over..

I admit the United States has not been free of religious hatred.  The worst was the anti-Catholic riots and persecutions in the 1830s and 1840s.  As late as 1960, there were still Protestants who questioned whether a Catholic could be trusted to occupy the White House.  I do not think these attitudes were justified, but there is an explanation for them.

The Papacy in the 19th century aligned itself with European monarchs and was hostile to democratic movements and to religious tolerance.  It was mistaken, but not crazy, to think of Roman Catholicism as incompatible with American freedom and democracy.  Indeed, I might well have thought that way myself, if I had not had Catholic friends and realized that all these 19th century encyclicals were irrelevant to the way my Catholic friends and neighbors actually thought.

The same is true today of Islam.  The fear of Islam is not so much intolerance of difference as the fear of being subject to the religious law of someone else’s religion.  I think this fear is far-fetched, but if I had never met any American Muslims and nor had any Muslim friends, I would feel the same way about them as my 19th century forebears thought about Catholics.

We have a lot of controversies in the United States about separation of church and state.  Most are about trivialities—whether a local government meeting can begin with a prayer, and, if so, what kind of prayer.   I don’t care either way.  Whatever is decided, nobody is denied the right to practice their religion nor compelled to practice someone else’s religion.  This is as it should be.  Religion that is practiced out of compulsion is meaningless.

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Wise words from President Grant

April 10, 2013

state anc church

Hat tip to jobsanger.