Without secular government, there is no religious freedom

To end the old year and begin the new, there is more entirely predictable bad news from the world of … Continued

To end the old year and begin the new, there is more entirely predictable bad news from the world of radical Islam. On New Year’s Eve in Pakistan, Islamist political parties brought business and government to a standstill with massive protests against any potential changes in a blasphemy law that carries a mandatory death sentence for anyone convicted of “insulting Islam.” On New Year’s Day in Alexandria, Egypt, a suicide bomb attack in a Coptic Christian church wounded at least 96 and killed 21 people. In Iraq, attacks on Christians that began in October continued, causing the flight of additional refugees toward the more tolerant Kurdish territory to the north.

The governments–our putative allies in the Muslim world (and in Iraq, a government that would never have come into being without American military force)–seemed unable or unwilling to display any backbone on behalf of secular principles of governance. The target was a Christian minority but the truth is that without secular government, freedom of religion can never flourish. To look at the violence as an issue of “interfaith relations,” as this week’s On Faith question does, is to ignore the obvious: Equality among either believers of different faiths, or between believers and nonbelievers, can never exist when one religion occupies a privileged legal position.

Of course, all of this casts even more doubt on post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy, based under both the Bush and Obama administrations on the notion, unsupported thus far by evidence, that a combination of war and diplomacy can hobble radical Islam as a threat to the democracy and security of the world.

What interfaith relations? In Islamic theocracies, of course, there are no such relations by definition–except when theocratic rulers smash dissent. In fragile nation-states like Pakistan and Iraq, Islam has pride of place but there is supposed to be some toleration of minorities. These governments have little will or ability to protect the rights of non-Muslims (or even of Muslims who disagree with their more radical co-religionists).

The question for the United States is not what religious and political leaders should say about “challenges” to “interfaith relations.” It is whether America should continue spending its blood and treasure on wars based on the wishful notion that an American military presence, for whatever length of time, will somehow make majority Islamic nations more amenable to a democracy that accomodates many forms of religious belief and nonbelief and is therefore less of a threat to the West.

My guess is that nothing anyone has to say about these events from the West will have any effect at all. There are courageous citizens of these countries, though, who put mealymouthed western multiculturalists to shame. I strongly recommend the New Year’s Day editorial by Hani Shukrallah, editor of Ahram Online, titled, “J’accuse,” in which he says, “I am no Zola, but I too can accuse. And it’s not the blood thirsty criminals of al-Qaeda or whatever other gang of hoodlums involved in the horror of Alexandria that I am concerned with. I accuse a government that seems to think that by outbidding the Islamists it will also outflank them. I accuse the host of MPs and government officials who cannot help but take their own personal bigotries along to the parliament, or to the multitude of government bodies, national and local, from which they exercise unchecked, brutal, yet at the same time hopelessly inept authority…But most of all, I accuse the millions of supposedly moderate Muslims among us…I’ve been around, and I have heard you speak, in your offices, in your clubs, at your dinner parties: `The Copts must be taught a lesson,’ ‘the Copts are growing more arrogant,’ ‘the Copts are holding secret conversions of Muslims’….” Coptic Christians now make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s population.

Shukrallah concludes, in language worthy of Zola, “Our options…are not so impoverished and lacking in imaginination and resolve that we are obliged to choose between having Egyptian Copts killed, individually or en masse, or run to Uncle Sam. Is it really so difficult to conceive of ourselves as rational human beings with a minimum of backbone so as to act to determine our fate, the fate of our nation?”

I’m wondering just how long Shukrallah is going to be walking around, free to raise his voice. I’m wondering what will happen to Mehdi Hasan, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who said of the strike, “The liberal and democratic forces in this country have retreated so much that it has created an ideological vacuum that is now being filled by religious extremists.” This independent human rights commission has documented persecution of Christians and of members of the Ahmadi sect, a minority within Islam, who have been accused of blasphemy.

The U.S. media has paid insufficient attention to attacks on Christians that have been escalating for years and do not happen to have occurred on a major Christian holiday. President Obama denounced the most recent attacks, but such denunciations have a way of making violence against Christians and Muslim minorities appear to be an exceptional event rather than an ongoing reality.

Men like Shukrallah in Egypt and Hasan in Pakistan have every right to say “J’accuse” not only to “moderate” western Muslims but to non-Muslim multicuturalist liberals who have been silent about the behavior of radical Islamists. They also have a right to say “J’accuse” to supporters, inside and outside the U.S. government, of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. These war apologists won’t admit how bad things are because it would call the whole military effort question. What are we fighting for in Afghanistan? Surely we can’t be sending our soldiers to die for the right of Afghanistan’s neighbor, Pakistan, to be free to execute people for blasphemy.

Only in a secular world, informed by the best Enlightenment values upholding all freedom of thought (which includes but goes far beyond freedom of religion), has blasphemy been relegated to the ludicrous medieval status it deserves.

Note: Due to the impending publication of my new book, I will be posting only one Spirited Atheist column a week for some time.

About

  • WmarkW

    The headline of this essay is “Without secular government, there is no religious freedom.”Obviously, that’s a long way from non-secular Pakistan, to say nothing of Saudi Arabia.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    The British monarch is the head of the Church of England, and therefore, must implicitly be, Anglican. Though I may be wrong, I do not believe that there is any such requirement for the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister had his whole life to convert to Catholicism before becoming Prime Minister. I believe the timing of the conversion had to do with his developing life experiences and thoughts about religion. When he did convert, I do not believe that there was any fuss or bother over it.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    I think that it goes without saying that that the United Kingdom is a liberal, secular parlimentary democracy, which maintains some feudal customs in its government, for cermonial purposes, and because no one has ever gotten around to revoking them, and which are now seen as quaint, and valuable for purposes of historical antiquity.

  • Secular

    Excellent article Ms. Jacoby. This has made my whole body tingle reading about the Egyptian Mr. Hani Shukrallah and also about that noble French man Zola. I also wonder how long Mr. Shukrallah will be free to go about his business, before Mubrak’s thugs can get to him or if not the bigots among the Egyptians will get to him. As Dawkins, Harris, & Hitchens rightly accuse the moderates as the enablers, I share theirs & yours, opinions about about the so called moderates – who are only practicing Taqiyah. The western multi-culturalists are just the useful toads and fools in the global Taqiyah.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    I have blogged so many times about the imperiled Christians, imperiled in fifty countries that I am exhausted. There is nothing new here except, perhaps, that more died than usual. Christians have been pleading for help in FIFTY COUNTRIES. They cannot hold office n Egypt, are subject to periodic pogroms, etc. have always feared that these Christians will go the way of the ME and African Jews. Ignored, on their own. About twelve years ago in the midst of attacks against the few Jews in Iran, the interfaith organization I work with asked me what I expected when my pleas on behalf of Christians fell on deaf ears in the US, a Christian nation.What will it take for us to demand that the oil and geopolitical interests of a few take a backseat to human rights?And keep this in mind: the issue is not Christians. It is minorities. I know. Indeed, I do.

  • WmarkW

    “What will it take for us to demand that the oil and geopolitical interests of a few take a backseat to human rights?”To Americans, the (economically viable) availability of petroleum IS a human rights issue. It’s what allows my family to live in a pleasant, safe neighborhood 25 miles from my employment, instead of the semi-slums surrounding it.

  • FarnazMansouri2

    America’s need for petroleum is a direct result of our multi-cultural society and the fact that we don’t recognize any way around it except spatial-economic stratification.Posted by: WmarkW

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    WmarkWThe point that you repeatedly hint at is that white people are Americans, and non-white people don’t count, or shouldn’t count.But how do you arrive at that? I count them.

  • WmarkW

    The point that you repeatedly hint at is that white people are Americans, and non-white people don’t count, or shouldn’t count.To the extent there’s sufficient population to support it, everyone should live in a community that reflects their own culture and values. Should families with small kids live in apartment buildings where young singles stay up partying at night? Should seniors live where kids ride skateboards on the same sidewalks? Of course not.Is there a reason my white-Asian family should live where people say “mofo” every other sentence, blast rap music from rolled-down car windows or hold dope-smoking parties in their apartments? That’s what my old neighborhood was like.But in America, the only way to stratify a neighborhood is economically. So we pay much more than we should, to live around people who act like us, since the idiotic doctrine of multiculturalism says we should feel enriched by the diversity of the above.

  • WmarkW

    Latest from Pakistan (via the Main Page):Official: Pakistani suspect earlier labeled ‘risk’Meanwhile, many Pakistanis apparently don’t see what the big deal is:————————————–You know, Ronald Reagan was extremely unpopular among a large swath of America, but I don’t remember a John Hinckley Fan Club ever getting off the ground.

  • Secular

    Where are the great islamist bloggers, Yasser, Jihadist, asizk, bloggerville, kok1, on the assassination of the governor of seceded punjab?

  • WmarkW

    Where are the great islamist bloggers, Yasser, Jihadist, asizk, bloggerville, kok1, on the assassination of the governor of seceded punjab?Of course, most Southern Whites of 50-100 years ago, never lynched an African-American either.

  • Secular

    They’re rehearsing some drivel about how one man’s actions shouldn’t reflect on 1.5 billion’s. WMWIntrospection is not their forte in islamic world. They come up with unimaginable excuses and they have made a science of dodging any and all specific questions. Not only that they demand respect for their vile, grotesque, superstition.

  • eezmamata

    Blasphemy is a term having meaning only in the world of the religiously insane.If we hadn’t freed ourselves FROM religion as much as we have in the west, in Europe, in America, we would still be burning witches and hanging apostates, just like they are in Islam today.One particularly disgusting theme present in the western christians of today is the idea they seem to have that they aren’t as evil as the muslims. Hey, you morons. you’re just as evil as they are, the only difference is you don’t have the absolute power the absolute truths you claim to have give you.Freedom From Religion, we’re going to disappear like neanderthal, only it won’t be the climate that kills us off.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    RCofieldYes, immigation to New England in the early seventeenth century was partly due to the building pressures in Germany that ultimately erupted into the bloodbath known as the Thirty Years War, one of the bloodiest wars in world history, waged between the Catholics and the Protestants.So, we do have religion to thank for emergence of America, don’t we?

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    The American Constitution was written about 150 years after the Peace of Westphalia, concluded the Thirty Years War. That is about as far distant in the Founding Fathers’ minds as the Civil was is to our minds. The traumatic experience of the BLOODY religous wars, which we have long forgotten, were fresh in historical memory. The Founding Fathers were well aware of what religiuos warfare had done to Europe and sought to pre-empt it in America. Of all their goals and aims, that was preobably Number One.

  • ITs-TIME

    .

  • ITs-TIME

    Part 1 of 2:There is a time via HOLYi-TiME to tell the Story of an American [HIDDEN] PROPHET.” So, by Harry Theriault, Ph.D., …

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    WmarkWYou made the following strange comment:”Should families with small kids live in apartment buildings where young singles stay up partying at night? Should seniors live where kids ride skateboards on the same sidewalks? Of course not.”Did you really mean that?As long as they can afford the rent or mortgage, shouldn’t people live anywhere they want? Are there really places where only young singles can live, or where only young families can live? or where only old people can live?You are overthinking things. Perhaps you are a little misanthropic.It would never occur to me in a million years to think the way you do.I grew up in a small town, where all the spectrum of humanity and all classes of people lived within a few blocks of each other. (That is why we called it a small town). And at the edge of the town, the sidewalks and stores abruptly came to an end, and then you were among the country folk, who lived on farms. I lived in the inner city of a large Southern city for about 3 years; it all seemed ok to me. In fact, I liked it, because it was not a small town. Desite the sterotypes, no one was killed or robbed in my neighgorhood when I lived there. And now I live in the suburb of a large city. On the street where I live, there is a family from Israel, a family from Morocco, a couple of black families, a little old lady widow, a single black Mom, a single guy from Germany, several young WASP families with little kids, and ME. I have no complaints; they are all good neighbors. Of all the “types” that live in my neighborhood, my least favorite are the WASP mothers of small children; (they can be a little bossy). But I can live with it.

  • WmarkW

    The point about different household types living in apartments is this:If you have two apartment buildings and half the prospective tennants are families with kids and half are young singles, would everyone be happier mixing each building 50/50 or putting each type in its own building. I suspect the singles and families would each prefer a building of their own type, since the others in their building will share common expectations of community behavior, such as what bedtime on a Friday night ought to be.If you want to blast music from rolled-down car windows, should this be done in a community where such behavior is normative; or would a quiet neighborhood be enriched by the diversity it brings?

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Abou Ben AdhemAbou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,”And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next nightLeigh Hunt (1784-1859)

  • FarnazMansouri2

    Abou Ben AdhemAbou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,”And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”The Angel wrote, and vanished. The next nightLeigh Hunt (1784-1859)

  • usapdx

    No religion what so ever belongs in the U.S.A. government period. We are a government of the people,by the people, and for the people ONLY. The groups that speak on political matters should file their income and pay their taxes.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Wmarkw”If you want to blast music from rolled-down car windows, should this be done in a community where such behavior is normative; or would a quiet neighborhood be enriched by the diversity it brings?”This is a very weird question. I have never thought about this before. How are you going to reassign pepple’s aparmtments according to the “normative” decibel levels of their car-radio listening?I think this is simply nonsense. If this is the true intent of your worries, then you must have a very good life.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    … typos … typos … typos … I know … I know …

  • WmarkW

    SJ:”The governments–our putative allies in the Muslim world (and in Iraq, a government that would never have come into being without American military force)–seemed unable or unwilling to display any backbone on behalf of secular principles of governance.”I admit, I was wrong in my expectations for Iraq. I thought their reasonably-educated population (literacy is about the same as India and Indonesia) would be so happy not to live under tyranny and torture that they’d jump at the chance to practice democracy. Some peoples’ appear to simply not be up to having democracy. If you’d rather execute blasphemers and kill the politicians who disagree, then you might as well go back to your middle ages system.But I don’t think the issue is primarily “secular government” as the title of the article implies. There are state churches in the UK, Norway, Iceland, Greece and Argentina, but they do little to restrict anyone’s freedom at the practical level (beyond paying clergymen with taxes).The more important issue is the extent to which the population is willing to tolerate freedom for others as part of the price of their own.

  • itsthedax

    And the Georgia colony was established as a penal colony for people in debtors’ prisons. Does this mean that we have a tradition of being deadbeat jailbirds? Danielinthelionsden wrote:Yes, immigation to New England in the early seventeenth century was partly due to the building pressures in Germany that ultimately erupted into the bloodbath known as the Thirty Years War, one of the bloodiest wars in world history, waged between the Catholics and the Protestants.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    ItsthedaxIn replying to the others who think that America was founded as a Christian nation, I was seeking to point out the irony of their misguided thinking.

  • 5amefa91

    “The Founding Fathers were well aware of what religiuos warfare had done to Europe and sought to pre-empt it in America. Of all their goals and aims, that was preobably Number One.”Actually, their number one goal was to found a durable republic government accountable to a democratic election process. Remember the Roman Civil Wars of Octavian, Anthony, and Lepidus, and how poorly the Second Triumvirate turned out for the Empire? They wanted to avoid the overreactions of the direct democracy. Remember Nicias of Athens and his ill starred Sicilian Expedition that was the ruin of Athens in the Peloponnesian War? So the Founding Fathers were concerned with the disastrous performances of the first democracy and the the greatest republic in the Ancient World. Their concerns for your pet issues, while real, were tertiary. The Founding Fathers attempted to design a system that would resist the patterns of failure they saw in governance in the Hellenic and Roman Ancient World. “Separation of Church and State” was somewhere well down list from those goals.

  • itsthedax

    Oh, OK. Thanks for clarifying. DANIELINTHELIONSDEN WROTE:In replying to the others who think that America was founded as a Christian nation, I was seeking to point out the irony of their misguided thinking.

  • Kingofkings1

    Susan Jacoby, welcome to the bandwagon of islamophobes. Presently, it is the quickest way to mass adulation in the west. I didn’t notice in your column about the recent conversation that God had with GW Bush and Who told W to go forth and conquer the heathens in Iraq, as a result of which we have hundreds of thousands dead and injured. Franklin Graham certainly deserved some mention in your column about the secular nature of our country and forging cooperation with others for an enlightened society.Finally, just because democracy has worked for the west based on its past history and present circumstances, does not mean it is the best form of governance for all people at all times. At least not when 51% of a group votes to kill the 49% of another group.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Kingofkings1 Susan has covered ALL the topics you mentioned in previous essays not to mention many other articles and books. It is just that EVERYTHING that she believes on EVERY subject cannot be included on any single short essay. Criticism of Islam is NOT the same as Islamaphobia any more than criticizing the Catholic Church is Catholic bashing. Such thinking as yours is passive aggressive, hostile bluster, followed by curisous disblief at having caused offense.There is a lot wrong with Islam, and it is in desperate need of its crtitics. And of course democracy is not for everyone. Dictators, Strongmen, Emperors, and Kings certainly don’t like it. Those who seek to control the inner workings of other people’s minds certainly don’t like it. Those who seek punishment for heresy, blasphemy, apostasy, wrong thinking, and free thinking certainly don’t like it. Men who insist that women cover their bodies from head to toe certainly don’t like it. People who seek to control other people’s sexual conduct and who seek the death penalty for gays certainly don’t like it.Everybody else, who seek to live, work, dress and believe as they please, according the nature of their inner will and their own true hearts, such people may prefer democracy.Of course, I am sure, that you will have some cryptic and obscure verse from the Kkoran, as your Christian brother also have from the Bible, about how my thinking makes me a Godless agent of Satan.So what?

  • Kingofkings1

    Danielinthelionsden wrote:————————————–Are you a paid spokesperson for Jacoby?Also, there is a lot that is wrong with a lot of things at present including different faith systems, state terrorism, excluvisim, and apartheid proponents, to name a few. To focus on one group exclusively as the source of the world’s woes is clearly wrong, when the source of misery in actuality is a myriad of forces

  • areyousaying

    How entertaining the same Huckabees who block alternative energy at every turn for fear of the consequences on BP’s profits demonize and make enemies of the very Muslims to whose teats they are addicted to for oil.

  • timmy2

    Kingofkings”To focus on one group exclusively as the source of the world’s woes is clearly wrong”And who did this? Can you quote someone doing this? What you have there is called a scarecrow argument.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Kingofkings1 “Are you a paid spokesperson for Jacoby?I can see by this post, and others of yours, that you lack the capcity to respond intelligently to any kind of criticism, because Islam is beyond criticism. But, it is NOT. And there is nothing that people like you can do to quash such criticism. No, I am not a paid spokesman for Jacoby. I do not need to be paid to express an opinion; I express my own true opinion. I have NEVER said that Islam is the source of all the world’s problems. That is what you have read into valid criticism, because you cannot accept criticism of any kind. And Susan has never said such a thing, either. The title of Susan’s essay was “Without Securlar Government, There Can Be No Religious Freedom.” It was written about the political struggle WITHIN the United States over the role of religion, Islam is only peripheral to her essay. If you have something relevant to say about her essay, in general, to show that you understand it, then go ahead and say it. Attacking democracy only shows your ignorance.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Kingofkings1 “Are you a paid spokesperson for Jacoby?I can see by this post, and others of yours, that you lack the capcity to respond intelligently to any kind of criticism, because Islam is beyond criticism. But, it is NOT. And there is nothing that people like you can do to quash such criticism. No, I am not a paid spokesman for Jacoby. I do not need to be paid to express an opinion; I express my own true opinion. I have NEVER said that Islam is the source of all the world’s problems. That is what you have read into valid criticism, because you cannot accept criticism of any kind. And Susan has never said such a thing, either. The title of Susan’s essay was “Without Securlar Government, There Can Be No Religious Freedom.” It was written about the political struggle WITHIN the United States over the role of religion, Islam is only peripheral to her essay. If you have something relevant to say about her essay, in general, to show that you understand it, then go ahead and say it. Attacking democracy only shows your ignorance.

  • ThishowIseeit

    Did the Pilgrims came here to seek freedom of religions or freedom from religion, without openly saying so?

  • ITs-TIME

    …. are limited I think it is that time in the I salute Jennifer Nash for And I leave you with your imaginationsDr. Harry Theriault has a Nothing moves world more than refreshing thoughts

  • ITs-TIME

    …. Continued from page 5 duce in such a way as to be more Each votary association must Second integer of new system The Second Integer of Although votary associations Each Gridarian Synergetic will These figures reveal that there

  • ITs-TIME

    Gridarian primaries are essentially Here’s how an Aucourancy is The leaders on the Left shall Fourth integer of new system World peace I think it is that time in the I salute Jennifer Nash for And I leave you with your imaginationsDr. Harry Theriault has a Nothing moves world more than refreshing thoughts

  • ITs-TIME

    The Second Integer of Although votary associations Each Gridarian Synergetic will These figures reveal that there Instead of the unilateral and Third integer of new system

  • ITs-TIME

    Once that difference is The next thing I want to bring I know this doesn’t sound And isn’t that what the Scriptures Christians for this purpose. I have The Islamic language is Zilzal Now, as we begin to combine

  • ITs-TIME

    There are signs of history all Meanwhile, back in our hearts Almighty wonder Oh, Almighty Wonder, people People will be springing up Did you know that if you figure What does that mean? It means Gridarian democracy

  • ITs-TIME

    Dated: MARCH.3.1984America’s [HIDDEN] Prophet:”Nothing moves world more than refreshing thoughts.”by Harry Theriault PhD. He’s the editor of Viewpoint at Girls like the one who wrote the New song for new age Who has ever experienced that Changes in nations come about I think also that every person’s Khomeini was a Muhammadan, before The interval of Apathy which

  • ITs-TIME

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  • Kingofkings1

    look for the forest, not the trees. Jacoby and her yes-boys have got it wrong on this topic: by a long shot.

  • WmarkW

    look for the forest, not the trees. Jacoby and her yes-boys have got it wrong on this topic: by a long shot.In what way? The guy who killed Salman Taseer is being greeted as a public hero.The best thing anyone’s said about the guy who shot Gabrielle Giffords is that he might be too insane to understand what he did.

  • Fisheswithfeet

    Susan, I’m a huge fan, I’ve read several of your books and I’ll be following this Blog as often as your update it!As far as the topic, I couldn’t agree more. We won’t get far if we combine the blind, unreasonable tenants of religion with the objective and practical ideals of our constitution and the laws of our nation. Or any other nation for that matter. If god wants to come down from his cloud and make himself known through a means that would be undeniable, I would invite that. (Please no one say he did that with the bible, a bunch of men wrote and edited that piece of fiction) but until he does, we have to stay as FAR away from the ridiculous “morals” and “ethics” put forth by the church as they attempt to impose them on American citizens through government and the legal system. Again, Susan, thank you and keep up the good work!

  • backspace1

    I remember some years ago, after a bad op. sat at my desk and stared at the computer for about week, sank into music.it was never the same after that.In reflection through the following years.Why must those that choose a path of peace, regardless of religion!or not…be questioned or degraded about things such as personal beliefs? As the song goes, she can lead you to water, or not…and so, with that being said,I’ll close with, I don’t believe in aliens.

  • DanielintheLionsDen

    Kingofkings1″look for the forest, not the trees. Jacoby and her yes-boys have got it wrong on this topic: by a long shot.”I take it that you mean the forest is the big picture, and the trees are unimportant details. But isn’t religious freedom in a secular society the big picture? And aren’t all the many contending and conflicting claims of religious truths the umimportant details? (Of course, your religion is not an umimportant detail to you, but it is to everyone else; and let’s face it; you don’t live in a world all by yourself; you live in a world full of everybody else).You call me Susan’s yes-boy. But what is wrong to saying yes to truth, and saying no to lies?I am anxioiusly awaiting your next snarky reply.

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