Thursday, December 18, 2003

When In Rome.....

Religious intollerance in Saudi Arabia and Iran has been attacked by the US in a report recently published. This is one issue which doesn't sit comfortably with my instinctive views, since 99% of the time I'll fight for equality and human rights. But in reality, my attitude towards this subject really isn't any different.

Muslims demand that their rights are upheld and respect is given to their religious beliefs while residing in Western democracies, and yet the keystone of the Islamic world (Saudi Arabia, Iran and formerly Afghanistan) exhibit NO religious tolerance or cultural freedom whatsoever. No doubt we'll soon witness mass demonstrations by Muslims against the recent French decision to ban Muslim headscarves (along with symbols of other religious affiliations) from their state schools. What about the sacrifices non-Muslims have to make when they visit Saudi or Iran?

I am a big supporter of religious tolerance, indeed tolerance of most aspects of life, but its a two-way thing. Hearing Muslims in the UK campaigning for the introduction of an Islamic, non-democratic state is totally ridiculous. What the French are doing is attempting to preserve their traditional culture, in what I believe is a non-racially motivated way and thats what we should do in the UK, sensitively. This is why the more fundamentalist Muslims really need to learn to interpret the Koran in a far more contextual way, as they may find that there is more than enough scope within it to allow for the sacrifices required for successful integration into Western culture. This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

Anyone reading this probably thinks I'm just another racially-motivated BMP supporter, but nothing could be further from the truth. Its just that for practical reasons self-denial of some rights is necessary if we are to respect each other and not impose our beliefs on each other. The banning of headscarves may sound like a complete contradiction of that, but it isn't at all. It is a tempering and watering down of inflexible beliefs for the common good. Until somebody finds a better system than the present 'majority rule', we should all just get used to it.

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