Simo Says

By Sarah Braasch

In loving memory of my baby brother, Jacob Michael Braasch (01/28/86 – 02/02/10)

The other night I fled for my life. I fled a brawl in Paris. No, I didn’t get entangled in a drunken bar fight. Again. Actually, I was in an elementary school.

Ni Putes Ni Soumises (NPNS – Neither Whores Nor Submissives), the women’s rights organization in Paris where I have been working as a human rights fellow, organized a public debate on the issue of the anticipated public burqa ban in France. The French Parliament is in the process of enacting a public ban on identity obscuring face coverings in France, which would include both the burqa (the all encompassing body covering) and the niqab (the face covering that leaves a slit for the eyes). The debate over the ban has embroiled all of France, and all of Europe, for that matter, in a battle over the role of religion in both government and public life in a democratic republic that espouses a strict secularism as the only foundation for equality amongst its citizens, including gender equality.

We chose a location, Montreuil, which is an inner ring suburb of Paris with a diverse population. We showered the local community with flyers and volunteers, engaging the inhabitants and inviting them to participate in the debate, both those in favor and those opposed to the ban. The goal was to have a real and meaningful exchange of ideas and opinions. Local community leaders and politicians were on the docket, as well as women’s rights activists, such as Lubna Al Hussein, the Sudanese journalist who faced 40 lashings of the whip for wearing pants in Khartoum, and Sihem Habchi, the current President of Ni Putes Ni Soumises. Ni Putes Ni Soumises has, since its inception, made a point of holding open, public debates and panel discussions in the heart of the cités and quartiers of France (the ghettoized suburban housing projects surrounding France’s major cities, which are primarily composed of marginalized Muslim immigrant communities).

I was absolutely heartbroken by the way in which the evening unfolded. It confirmed many of my worst fears about the fate of humanity and the utter incompatibility of religion and the survival of our species.

One of the women’s rights activists would get up to speak. He or she would speak about secularism and gender equality and gender desegregation as the foundational pillars of a safe and egalitarian public space in which all citizens enjoy equal rights and equal protection under the law in a democratic republic.

Then, one of the Islamists would respond by telling us what Mohammed said or did as was recorded in the Quran or the Hadith and how wonderful Islam is for women, because it gives them rights according to their differentness. And, sum up with a lovely comment about how Jews are pigs or something or other and the speaker is an anti-immigrant racist who hates Muslims and is in league with the Zionists.

Then, a veiled woman would tell us that she is afraid of being attacked by Christian and Atheist Frenchmen, and that she thinks French society is disgusting because women wear thongs and Christie’s auctioned off a portrait of Carla Bruni.

Then one of the secularists would state that any discussion of Islam is completely irrelevant and that anti-Semitic slurs will not be tolerated.

And, then someone would lunge at someone else.

One of the elected officials would get up to speak. He or she would speak about secularism and gender equality and gender desegregation as the foundational pillars of a safe and egalitarian public space in which all citizens enjoy equal rights and equal protection under the law in a democratic republic.

Then, one of the Islamists would respond by telling us what Mohammed said or did as was recorded in the Quran or the Hadith and how wonderful Islam is for women, because it gives them rights according to their differentness. And, sum up with a lovely comment about how Jews are pigs or something or other and the speaker is an anti-immigrant racist who hates Muslims and is in league with the Zionists.

Then, a veiled woman would tell us that she really likes being the property of her husband, because that’s what Allah commands, and no one can tell her that she shouldn’t be a slave.

Then one of the secularists would state that any discussion of Islam is completely irrelevant and that anti-Semitic slurs will not be tolerated.

And, then someone would lunge at someone else.

And, so on and so forth.

Eventually the situation became scary enough that the police were called and the debate halted. At one point, my mammalian survival instinct usurped control of my bodily functions, and without a second thought, I fled the premises. I made a beeline for the nearest exit, and I wasn’t the only one. Once outside, I turned back to peer in through a window to see what was transpiring. I was standing alongside a woman in hijab, and we both turned to look at each other. Without speaking a word, our faces communicated what we both were thinking, “These mofos are crazy.”

It was truly an exasperating, disheartening experience. I literally walked out of that truncated debate thinking, “We’re doomed. It’s all over. Don’t bother. Instead of just metaphorically drinking the Koolaid, we should all just go ahead and literally drink the Koolaid.”

Did the Islamists really expect the secularists to acquiesce after a little Quranic exegesis? Oh, ok, well if Mohammed said it or did it, I guess that settles that.

Refusal to consider the religious viewpoint in the context of secular, democratic governance is not bigotry; it is not racism; it is not intolerance. It is common sense. This is why freedom from religion IS freedom of religion. How would you even begin to prioritize the litany of religious opinions on even a single subject? The only results would be either tyranny or anarchy. Do you think the participants in that room would tolerate being lectured on the tenets of Judaism? Of Christianity? Do you think they would say, “Oh, ok, well if Moses or Jesus said it or did it, then I guess that’s the way it has to be”?

Islamists are called Islamists for a reason. They really do want to impose Sharia upon the societies in which they reside, and not only upon the Muslim populations within those societies. For them, there is no compromise. There is no other viewpoint worth considering, other than the Islamic viewpoint.

This is the result of brainwashing and indoctrinating and inculcating in religious cults. These people were incapable, quite literally incapable of allowing for a society structured on any other principles than those enumerated in the Quran and the Hadith. It was simply inconceivable to them that someone would not accept and conform to the example of the Prophet. Their brains were hardwired for Islam. All neural networks were devoted to Islam. All synapses were firing for Islam. The notion of the irrelevancy of Islam to the conversation about good democratic governance left them without an argument. They didn’t know how to respond. In their desperation to respond to such a blasphemous suggestion, they short-circuited and the unspent energy exerted itself in eruptions of violence. It was scary. Quite simply – it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Not because of the violence, but, because of the futility of the exercise. For that debate to have actually taken place, in any sort of realistic, credible, viable manner, years of religious deprogramming of all participants would have had to occur first.

I know some, even many, will say that religion is not the problem; fundamentalism is the problem, or fanaticism is the problem. I think this argument is asinine.

Imagine a society in which we brainwash all children to believe that they can fly. From the moment they are born, all children are taught that, if they jump off any sufficiently high precipice, and they are worthy and morally sound, they will be able to flap their arms and take flight, saving themselves from a deathly plunge. With the modernization of society, many parents have ceased to inculcate their children in this belief, having realized its fallacy. And, of those who persist in perpetuating the custom, most reveal the hoax to their children before they are old enough to test its claims. Others have reformed the tradition, advising their children that they best not attempt to test the belief, given that few are so worthy. But, regardless of the claims of modernity, the custom persists, and, as young adults, a certain percentage of our youth attempt just such an act, resulting in many needless deaths.

Now, imagine that the purveyors of this custom defend the practice by claiming that the problem is not that they brainwash their children into believing that they can fly; the problem is that a certain percentage of these children believe it. The problem is that a certain percentage of these children grow into adults who persist on believing it. The problem is the fundamentalists and the fanatics who refuse to reveal the hoax or admonish their children against attempting flight. The belief simply needs to undergo a reformation, an enlightenment, if you will. A moderate version of the belief is acceptable in a modern society, and even compatible with science.

I acknowledge that I work with many wonderful Muslim women who claim their religion and the right to interpret their religion for themselves, who strive on behalf of secularism and gender equality and gender desegregation. We are able to work together in harmony, regardless of our disparate views on religion, because we are both striving for the same goals: secularism, gender equality and gender desegregation.

Obviously, I think it is a waste of time to try to reform Islam into a gender-friendly, or, even, a gender-neutral doctrine. I think women would be better off rejecting religion all together. Trying to find a place for gender equality in the context of religion is like trying to find a place for racial equality in the context of Nazism. But, despite my abhorrence for religion, in a legal context, this is not my fight.

In a legal context, my fight is secularism. My fight is women’s rights. The fight for secularism is NOT an act of aggression against religion. The fight for women’s rights is NOT an act of aggression against religion. It might appear this way to religionists, because religion is the institutionalization of misogyny. But, the way in which secular, democratic governance appears to religionists could not be more beside the point. I hate religion. I fight against religion, but NOT in a legal context. But, in the open, public marketplace of ideas, as it should be. I would never support the criminalization of religion. Never. I just wish religionists would extend me the same favor.

After the debate, I found myself standing on the street guarding Lubna Al Hussein’s luggage and the amp and chatting with Sihem Habchi. Someone who was obviously having trouble cooling off took a last lunge at Sihem. I was impressed by how quickly the police and security guards acted. They swooped in, scooping up Sihem and whisking her away behind a line of stern-faced police officers. Then I realized that no one had swooped in and scooped me up and whisked me away behind a line of stern-faced police officers. And, I was on the wrong side of that line of stern-faced police officers. I was on the side with all of the bearded and veiled Islamists who were having trouble cooling off. “What should I do?” I wondered. I tried to get rid of my scared face and affect an angry face instead.

It was an impossible situation, and a perfect metaphor – law and order standing between the secularists and the violent Islamists.

And, while I hate to be fatalistic, more and more I fear that, eventually, reason will lose out to faith to the downfall of humanity.

But, I’m not going down without a fight.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Kevin Morgan

    I admire your courage and the strength of your convictions. Your fears on the fate of humanity are well grounded. The rise of extreme religion is not going to fade away by confronting it with reasoned arguments. Believers KNOW they are right. They know THEY are right, the emphasis being on the individuals in many cases because if you talk to the supposed non-extremists of a religion, whether it be Islam, Christianity, Judaism or whatever, in most cases they hold beliefs that conform to match up with how they act.

    E.g. if a Christian only goes to church on the special days (Xmas, Easter, etc.) they rationalize it that “God understands and just wants us to be good and believe” and blah blah blah. If they are gay, they believe that God made everyone and so therefor accepts gays and blah blah blah. It’s the belief in the supernatural that’s the problem. Unfortunately for many people that belief is necessary to keep them from killing themselves out of despair when faced with the realities of life in a universe of randomness and natural selection. The idea that they are going to die and there’s going to be nothing, zilch, Nada, scares the shit out of most people. The thought that they will never again see their deceased loved ones is terrifying. “You mean this is it? There’s only one go around?”

    It takes acceptance of the realities of existence to give one’s life meaning. You have to appreciate every day, every relationship, every opportunity presented to you.

    People are scared, greedy, petty, jealous and hateful. They are also caring, loving, generous and giving. There are those who take advantage of both tendencies. Whether it be for personal gain or just plain mean spirited power and control.

    We have to push for reason in our lives and governments. I believe (nice choice of word, I know) that we are in for a new dark age, complete with banning of science and works of art and literature that go against the winning side’s religious beliefs. New holy wars, pogroms, book (and infidel?) burnings: a descent into the dark part of our natures.

    It’s very sad and discouraging, but I tend to pessimism in my personal views of life. My reasoning being that I won’t be disappointed by bad results since that’s my default expectation, and if things go right then I’m happily surprised.

    Good luck to you.

  • Brad

    Dont give up on us, your an inspiration. Stand up to those bullies!
    Be strong.

  • http://www.noforbiddenquestions.com NFQ

    It’s stunning to me how unfamiliar people outside the US seem to be with what we see as typical arguments for free speech and freedom of religion. Part of how I think about feminism includes women’s ability to choose how they want to dress and how they want to present their identity to society — even though sometimes they might choose to wear something I wouldn’t have thought was “empowering.” To me, a secular society doesn’t mean state-enforced lack of religious observance, but state deference to individual interpretation of what religion means (so long as it doesn’t step on the rights of others to do the same). Nobody seems to have been making those kinds of arguments at this debate.

  • Nathaniel

    Damn. That’s depressing. Its a good thing that we have people like you. The world needs a few more human rights activists.

    The thing that got me the most were the testimonies of the women that could be summed up as: “Freedom is Slavery.” Orwell would have a field day.

    Also, given my Jewish heritage and the situation you described, if I were to ever visit France, could I be in physical danger if I stepped into the wrong part of town so to speak?

  • DSimon

    Thanks very much for posting this, and I sympathize with what you experienced.

    I like what you say about being able to work with religious moderates on political issues even though you disagree strongly on the usefulness of religion itself. That’s a point that I think accommodationists are missing; it’s entirely possible to disagree with someone on one thing but work together with them on another thing.

    However, I disagree with you here:

    Trying to find a place for gender equality in the context of religion is like trying to find a place for racial equality in the context of Nazism.

    As you point out in your flying example, religion can and often does bend itself into torturous logical knots trying to reconcile its own memes with new scientific knowledge and cultural changes. This tactic is, from the perspective of finding out what’s actually true and behaving rationally, totally counter-productive and silly.

    That’s why, as atheist activists, we should argue against even moderate religion. However, that doesn’t mean that we, as activists in other areas of politics and culture, can’t also take advantage of this cognitive dissonance effect.

    Many subsets of religions have embraced gender equality, racial equality, and so on. I know several very religious (or “spiritual”, as they would say) feminists, who either ignore the cognitive dissonance involved in those two positions, or redefine away the parts of the former that contradict the latter.

    We can, and should, work to reduce this cognitive dissonance. But, we can work to introduce gender equality to those who hold religious beliefs and will not discuss them. In this case, the cognitive dissonance situation is actually a significant improvement with tangible benefits, and it’s one well worth fighting for. As another possible benefit, introducing people to gender equality may even provide a hook that can later be used to more effectively argue against religion!

    It’s like fixing a broken appliance with duct tape; temporary, but much better than leaving it broken, and useful for holding it in place while you look for something sturdier to repair it with.

  • L.Long

    When you consider the comments made and the ban on the tent. You realize the islamics are arse-holes out for domination.
    Consider…The tent is BANNED!!!
    So what?!? the religidiot woman can still be a happy slave to her schity husband, and wear her tent in and around the home. No one is objecting.
    But if she wants to go into public areas she can’t. too plucking bad!! She’s a slave anyway–stay home!!!
    If I saw her out and about the 1st thing I’d do is yell—suicide bomber!!!
    Then when the police look at the fat islamic I would just shrug and say
    ‘I saw a suspicious bulging under the tent, how was I to know????’
    Besides we all know the tent is not islamic but part of their schity sandbox culture.
    They are not in their plucking sandbox anymore so give it up!!!

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    Refusal to consider the religious viewpoint in the context of secular, democratic governance is not bigotry; it is not racism; it is not intolerance. It is common sense. This is why freedom from religion IS freedom of religion. How would you even begin to prioritize the litany of religious opinions on even a single subject? The only results would be either tyranny or anarchy. Do you think the participants in that room would tolerate being lectured on the tenets of Judaism? Of Christianity? Do you think they would say, “Oh, ok, well if Moses or Jesus said it or did it, then I guess that’s the way it has to be”?

    I agree wholeheartedly with this. Religious people seem to have gotten the idea that their ideas deserve special treatment. When secular people and society don’t give them that special treatment, they claim that it’s discrimination, even when it’s not. As you pointed out, people of each religion would never accept an argument based entirely upon the ideas of another religion, so they should not expect that we’ll accept an argument based entirely on theirs.

    Like you, I obviously disagree with Islam, but I am glad that there are Muslim women involved, so that Muslims can’t claim that everyone else singling them out. It helps to make the point that there are Muslims themselves who are being hurt by this.

    I hope that everyone’s okay and that no one got hurt.

  • Monty

    @L.Long:

    While I agree with your point in general, the way you put it is unlikely to gain our side much support. Racial stereotyping runs pretty counter to the cause of equality.

  • http://www.WorldOfPrime.com Yahzi

    There is good news. That crowd of Islamists you were talking to was a crowd of Catholics just a few hundred years ago. And yet, they got better.

    Islam needs a Reformation. We got ours when Europe grew so weary of war that they signed the treaty of Utrecht. Now all we need to do is let the Muslims grow equally weary of war.

    So one solution is to drop a few thousand metric tons of weapons in the region and let them fight until they’re tired of it. Oh wait… we already tried that.

    OK, nm. No good news here. :(

  • Thumpalumpacus

    I personally thought that the quote DSimon singled out is a very efficient objection to most — admittedly not all — sects. The point is not the attitude of the women inside the church, it is the attitude of the hierarchy in question. Why else have the so-called “liberal” Protestants fought such a desperate rearguard action against equality in the pulpit?

    Yahzi: I’ve long thought that one reason why Islam embraces jihad so readily is that they’ve never had a Thirty Years’ War teaching them a hard lesson about theological rigidity.

  • Kennypo65

    The poison that is religion will eventually kill us all. It’s unfortunate, we had such potential as a species. Religious belief is the greatest threat to human existence that there is; greater than corporate greed or global warming or even disease, religion WILL render us extinct. Maybe the cockroaches will do a better job.

  • Kennypo65

    Oh, I almost forgot, Sarah, I think that what you are doing is wonderful, inspiring even, and I wish you the best of luck, because, unfortunately, you’re going to need it. Don’t give up. Humanity is counting on you.

  • L.Long

    Sorry Monty but how am I stereotyping??
    where are all the ‘good’ islamics stating that we are no longer in the sandbox and trying to integrate so give up the forced wearing of the tent.
    Do you see any?? I don’t. But I have seen many of their women walking around all tented up. Now I admit that many 1st generation types will be unable to give up what they are use to…OK…but their kid girls are also trussed up when they are older.
    Some integration – some acceptance – I do enjoy watching people in their ethnic clothes – I even wear a dress on occasion, but I don’t stone my son cuz he doesn’t.
    Guess which european group (men) wears dress??? They all did at one time they just used different names for them cuz men are generally whooossssess. i.e toga, burnoose, quilt, tunic, etc.

  • TommyP

    Religious people creep me out like little else. You have ovaries of steel, Sarah. I thank you for your bravery and the drive you feel to actually do something of merit in the world. I truly wish I was out there in France right now to help out with things like this. You are certainly inspiring me towards greater feats of intestinal fortitude in my own atheism and my desire to help people. I doubt I’m alone in such sentiments. you are making a real difference, even if it’s just me, one little gaytheist in California. Heck, my mom is Christian, and even she wishes you the very best.

  • Demonhype

    Sarah, you are amazing. Reading your article here has made me even more stir crazy than usual–I wish I could be out there with you, doing important and even daring/dangerous things in the fight for what’s right (instead of being trapped in the middle of nowhere with milquetoast parents who will stand up for what’s right only when it doesn’t hurt them in any significant way, and otherwise fold like a house of cards–I love ‘em, but it’s frustrating company to keep). I realize how scary that sort of thing can be, but it must be wonderful at the same time, to know you’re doing something worthwhile to make a change for good. Keep up the excellent work! We’re all thinking of you, cheering for you, and maybe someday more of us can even join you in this!

    I think one of the reasons I like Fred Clark so much is because he doesn’t resort to the typical religious angle of “well, it’s true ’cause my holy book said so”, at least not to unbelievers, and he openly admits the futility and absurdity of quoting from a holy book against someone who affords your holy book no respect whatsoever. You might as well be quoting Huck Finn or Shakespeare or the Odyssey or Harry Potter to me and it would have about the same amount of authority as your favorite holy book. It would save a lot of hassle if more religious people could understand that not everyone sees their holy book as the final word on anything and everything, and that quoting from it is not an end to the argument or debate.

    Well, perhaps it’s strange for me to go on about that, but I do feel that it is an unfortunately rare yet wonderful characteristic in a religious person that enhances the ability for a decent discussion or debate.

    @Thumpalumpacus:

    “I’ve long thought that one reason why Islam embraces jihad so readily is that they’ve never had a Thirty Years’ War teaching them a hard lesson about theological rigidity.”

    ^That right there. That is an excellent consideration, and one that I hadn’t thought of before but will think about considerably in the future. Thanks for bringing it to the table! :)

  • DSimon

    L. Long, for the love of a non-existent God, please stop making the rest of us look obnoxious and ignorant.

    where are all the ‘good’ islamics stating that we are no longer in the sandbox and trying to integrate so give up the forced wearing of the tent. Do you see any?? I don’t.

    I can only assume that this is because you haven’t looked at all. Here’s the very first thing I found on a google search:

    http://www.danielpipes.org/1255/moderate-voices-of-islam

    It’s a good link, too, because it points out something else that’s important: being a moderate muslim is dangerous. We need to be doing our best to damn well make it less dangerous, by noticing and being friendly towards moderate Islam at the same time as we oppose barbarities perpetrated in the name of fundamentalist Islam. Your antagonistic rhetoric accomplishes the exact opposite; instead of providing a safe landing zone for 2nd or 3rd generation Muslims in a secular country, you’re expressing that anything short of absolute integration will be met with ridicule and bigotry.

    Sheesh, seriously, “their women walking around all tented up”? Really? “Tented up”? “Their women”? Really?

  • Korou

    “Sarah, I think that what you are doing is wonderful, inspiring even, and I wish you the best of luck, because, unfortunately, you’re going to need it. Don’t give up. Humanity is counting on you.”

    - Seconded!

  • Eurekus

    I’m devastated by this post. I have so many friends whom are either brainwashed fundamentalist Muslims or brainwashed fundamentalist born agains. There’s no other way to say it, pardon the French and the pun but they’re just plain fucked. I swear this, I’ll never cease trying to get through to them. Fuck their religions.

    I was thinking about writing on my experiences in a form of Fundie Xianity being Seventh Day Adventism, but I was hesitant because I was thinking we atheists may be wrong. After reading this story I’m much closer to writing one hell of a critical story on these bastards.

  • Zietlos

    Whilst maintaining my prior position on concealment of identity as a societal necessity (but not going to open that 250 reply can of worms again), Sarah, I can appreciate your efforts, your conflicts, and your goal. I would go so far as to say I respect them, and even moreso I respect the effort put forth to create open and frank discussions about the matter in France, despite what was likely high misgivings about it in the first place (don’t tell me you didn’t predict that ending as a very real possibility before you began, political correctness be damned). That takes real courage, to fight not (only) for what you think is right, but to fight to understand why other people think they are right as well, and talk about why. That is something, in the argument of religion, that the religious side seems never able to do. For that, I applaud you and your group. *clapcalpclap this-site-needs-emoticons clapclapclap*.

    Never fight for what you just believe in, but never stop fighting for what you deduce is just and true. If you have weighed the consequences and benefits, and found the latter more plentiful, then go full steam ahead. I can respect that. Of course, if I ever go to France, I’ll still be wearing an animegao with all the forms signed for proper protest, but I can respect it. Good onto you.

  • Archimedez

    Sarah,

    I would have more to say but I’m strapped for time. I support you 100%. Stay safe.

  • L.Long

    OK DSimon I will grant you a valid point but yes I have seen a few comments on like that are similar to the one you pointed out. I was primarily judging by my -admitted limited- observations of the islamics around here. So I will hold back slightly.
    But I’m reminded of the many loving-nice-friendly xtians who turned out in droves to push their BS onto the rest of us in Prop 8 and its many variations.
    I still don’t trust any religious people until they prove themselves to be as tolerant of others and then only as individuals not as any group.

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    I especially like the analogy to teaching children that they can fly if they’re worthy. That really sums up some key aspects of the falseness, the danger, and the bizarreness of religion in a context that won’t appear familiar enough to garner knee-jerk rationalizations.

  • Saj

    “I would never support the criminalization of religion. Never. I just wish religionists would extend me the same favor.”

    Having said that, do you support the ban on Hijab?

    Coming back to the topic, a debate seldom proves anything except that two people have differing opinions. From what I read the secularists you speak of are not very different from the Islamists. The only difference being that secularists ‘believe’ that secularism is the only way to a successful society and try to impose it on the people around them, while the Islamists feel the same way about Islam.

  • Sarah Braasch

    When I read something like this, this is what I see:

    You are trying to tell me that I can’t be an ass, but I want to be an ass, and God told me that I can be an ass, if I want to be an ass, so there.

    Those nasty secularists, trying to impose their nasty freedom (including religious freedom) upon everyone.

    There is no right to tyranny, sorry, even if it’s religious tyranny. This is by definition an unsuccessful society.

    It’s just so funny to me that the people who always want the “right” to live in an unfree society always want to be the dictators and always claim that everyone else in their unfree societies really, really want to be slaves. Really.

    I would just like to point out one crucial, and I would have thought obvious, difference between the secularists and the Islamists in the anecdote above: the secularists weren’t the ones throwing punches and the Islamists weren’t the ones being protected by police officers from violent attack.

    In my book: if someone is being protected from violence and it isn’t you, you just lost the debate.

  • Saj

    I repeat “Having said that, do you support the ban on Hijab?” ..

    Its funnier (in a tragic way) how some of the people who want to live in a free society fail to understand that their freedom ends where the freedom of other people begins. And what people choose to do with their freedom is nobody else’s business but theirs, so long as it concerns themselves.

    Its ironic when these self proclaimed enlightened people refer to their fellow human beings as “asses” or other derogatory terms and thn wonder why these “asses” dont like them. Stop insulting them, and you might get a decent discussion. Though if it is a discussion you want, thn it would be a good idea read things from their perspective.

    But if you still want to debate.. to argue.. if you want to stick a flag in other people asses and claim victory.. thn be prepared for knee jerk reactions.

    Me, I dont debate.. anymore. I’m sick and tired of this constant bickering. I’m out of here.

  • Sarah Braasch

    “And what people choose to do with their freedom is nobody else’s business but theirs, so long as it concerns themselves.”

    Focus on the word CHOOSE and the expression “so long as it concerns themselves”. Meditate on it. Think long and hard about it. Dream about it.

    And, it will come to you.

    The only way to ensure freedom of religion for everyone (and I mean everyone) is to ensure freedom from religion for everyone (and I mean everyone).

    The religious perspective is irrelevant to secular government. That’s the point. It has to be. Otherwise, which religious perspective? The Muslim’s? The Jew’s? The Xtian’s? The Buddhist’s? The Hindu’s? Whose? Why yours? I don’t care one iota what it says in your holy book, nor should I have to. And, this does not make me a bigot. It’s because I care about your right to believe what it says in your holy book, that I refuse to consider what it says in your holy book with respect to the government.

    No one gets to decide for the more vulnerable members of their so-called communities. Groups don’t have rights. Religions don’t have rights. People do. But, I do understand why religious groups are so frightened by the thought of real individual freedom and choice. And, the common cultural relativist retort that their “communities” don’t value individual freedom like the West does is complete BS. I’ve lived and worked all over the world, and, everywhere I’ve been, people are struggling desperately for their individual rights against totalitarian and authoritarian regimes and theocracies and societies.

    Bye bye, Saj.

    PS Since you yourself admitted that the hijab was off topic, I have chosen not to address it here.

  • Thumpalumpacus

    In my book: if someone is being protected from violence and it isn’t you, you just lost the debate.

    This bears repeating.

  • Rollingforest

    One the one hand, I feel that people have both the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion to wear what they like. We might not like the fact that the women are wearing burqas, but as long as they do it of their own free will, then they have the right to do so.

    That being said, I do worry greatly about Europe. With whites not reproducing at replacement levels and with a large percentage of Muslim immigrants supporting Shariah law, Europe could be ripped from the Enlightenment period and thrown back into the dark ages, just with a slightly different faith in charge.

    Democracies greatest strenght is also its greatest weakness. We can make our country into anything we want it to be, but that includes a Fascist Theocracy. I hope that the Muslims allow me to keep my values of freedom of speech, but in this case I might be forced to break my values in order to protect them long term.


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