Marginalising religious minorities harms society

Marginalising religious minorities harms society March 12, 2017

Between a rock and a jihad place

If a secular and pluralistic society wishes to function well, it must not disadvantage religious minorities. Indeed, it is critical – whether you are a doctor, a school teacher or the head of the BBC’s religious programming – that your cultural and religious background does not handicap you.
However, it is a distinction not always appreciated that acceptance of an individual and their right to affiliate is not equal to an unconditional acceptance of their ideas.
In a recent televised row Muslim engineer Yassmin Abdel-Magied, above, left, and Tasmanian Senator Jaqui Lambie disagreed on the relationship between Australia’s non-Muslim majority and its Muslims. Lambie seemed to be calling for anyone who supports Sharia, to any degree, to be deported – both Australians and Non-Australians alike. This is a shocking sentiment and Abdel-Magied articulated that it was distressing to hear someone:

Negate my human rights as a human being […] as a person with agency simply because they have an idea about my faith.

As an Australian, Abdel-Magied has a right to feel safe and represented in her country. Jacqui Lambie – who once said that her “sacred religious traditions” mean she does not support gay marriage – does not seem totally convinced by this, but to an attentive observer of their discussion it seems an obvious and irrelevant nugget of wisdom. It is unfortunate that she went on to say something that most of us would find very hard to believe – and for good reason – that :

Islam is the most feminist religion.

Lambie’s remarks were both xenophobic and racist, and one is almost inevitably drawn to the other side of the discussion. However, the issue of “Sharia” and the beliefs that Australian Muslims have about their religious obligations, about which Lambie seems to be riled, is an issue that should still be taken seriously. We must appreciate the critical difference between an acceptance of Muslim people because they are people and a rejection of a theology that poses a real threat to civil liberties.

The fundamental truth that would allow these two some common ground is one that they both missed. Yes, Abdel-Magied is an Australian Muslim and a feminist, who values democracy and the rule of secular Australian law. It is also true that there are many like her.
Additionally, it is imperative that those being herded towards the nationalist right, who promise to protect “Western” identity against the “tyranny” of Islam, understand this. It is also imperative for those of us who wish to steer people away from the nationalist right that we honestly talk about the fact that there are also many Muslims who do not agree with her, who see her as “secularised” and an inauthentic Muslim.
Few listeners would disagree with Abdel-Magied’s assertions that she doesn’t wish to impose Sharia and that Lambie is misrepresenting both her and the views of her immediate community. Nonetheless, this does not require an acceptance of the truth or value that Abdel-Magied places on her own religion.
The idea of “Sharia” being implemented in Australia should be daunting for most Australians, as it would be here in Britain. Every country in the world that privileges Islam has a terrible record for upholding civil liberties, with human rights abuse and blasphemy laws rampant.
Western politics is weakened by political representation where one must is forced to stomach white nationalism, spurious connections, and a sympathy for Russia to vote for a candidate who will admit these problems do tie to religion.
Globally, there appears to be a dearth of liberal progressive candidates who are willing to openly admit that within the Muslim world, there is a lack of freedom, equality, and a deluge of anti-Western conspiracy thinking – one doesn’t need to despise minority communities to realise that our way of life must be protected against ideological threats.
In reality, it is the case that these beliefs are prevalent within even Western Muslim communities, as well as Muslim majority countries. We absolutely have an ethical obligation to the huge numbers of asylum seekers arriving from these countries, but it would be foolish to ignore the fact that this has the potential to bring problems.
It is necessary for our government to acknowledge this without desiring to preserve our “Christian heritage” or ban burqas or burkinis – in a way that protects and preserves human rights and freedoms, in balance with security.
There must be dialogue about religiously inspired extremists eagerly anticipating the fall of Western democracy, and those plotting to use violence to expiate this as part of a transnational ideological problem; but this must be understood with the caveat that these things are not synonymous with “Muslim”.
The lives of apostates and atypical, LBGT Muslims, are damaged by giving the Muslim community a free pass under the misappropriated label of “egalitarian” in spite of evidence to the contrary. All Muslim people are treated unfairly if we regard them as a monolith of Sharia-crazed pseudo-foreigners.
The Western world would be a worse place without successful and secular Muslims. The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan does his job uninfluenced by his private religious beliefs. But we must also acknowledge that this is not the norm within heavily Islamic communities and that their suitability for their role, comes from a rejection of the fundaments of their religion.
Mistrust simply because of someone’s demographic is bigotry. However, the strength with which someone holds to their religion tells you a lot about what they believe and it may tell you something very negative very quickly.
If someone is clearly homophobic, or wishes to remove the civil liberties of their population in deference to a god, then we should discriminate against these people. However, if liberal politicians could acknowledge this alongside the fact merely calling oneself a Muslim does not mean that they want to do this, then perhaps there would be no room for dogmatists like Lambie.
• Dale Claridge is a student at the University of Nottingham. As well as being an editor for the student paper Impact he is also President of the University of Nottingham Agnostic, Humanist and Secularist Society. He is also an avid supporter of the British Humanist Association.

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  • Playonwords

    Interesting exercise is to ask if the haters of Shariah are also haters of Halakhic law. Both types of such are pretty indistinguishable but one seems to be accepted where the other does not

  • L.Long

    Just as in xtians or any other religion if you want to accept the bigoted BS of some form of SorryAss Law! Go for it! But just like being in any cult, in the cult you can do as you like, but when it comes to the secular gov’mint and law then be prepared to give in.

  • Michael S Organ

    The above article seems to be floundering in the same choppy waters as all liberal apologists do. Seeming on one hand to support secular ideas and on the other wishing to protect religious ones.
    The truth, as unpalatable as it may be is that Islam is endemically homophobic, misogynistic and racist. The majority of its adherents support either actively or tacitly some of the worst practices we can imagine.
    Sharia is a legal code and much of it is no different to any other legal code, the big difference is that unlike other legal codes it has fixed barbaric penalties for transgression. It advocates and encourages practices that are wholly incompatible with western secular values and even demands the end of democracy and most of the hard won rights we presently enjoy. It is so abhorrent that most Islamic countries refuse to adopt it and the ones that do heavily edit. The fundamentalists often react with indiscriminate violence supported by the same law they wish to implement. Sharia is in fact a medieval legal code that has refused to keep up to date with enlightened social norms. It a guest who has turned up at a cocktail party thinking it’s a fancy dress who refuses to go home and change into more appropriate clothing and demands the other guests go and change their clothing instead on pain of death.
    It is very nice to believe that we can live side by side with those who support and wish for the implementation of sharia law but to do so is to refuse to see that it will lead to conflict if not sooner then later and such conflict later will be far worse than sooner.
    It is naive to believe that those who advocate this medieval legal code are just wishing on a star and prepared to be disappointed if that wish remains unfulfilled. It is naive to believe that those who wish so, will eventually grow up and leave such childish wishes being. It is akin to believing that we could have accepted Nazism after the war if only we could’ve edited out the anti-Semitism.
    In short it is an apology for an ideology that is so fundamentally flawed that to reconstruct it would akin to trying to put humpty dumpty back together again and him still faintly resembling an egg.

  • sailor1031

    Perhaps those “seeking asylum” from their Islamic nations should be prepared to adopt the culture of those nations that take them in? It doesn’t make much sense to flee a country because of its religio-cultural mores and then try to make the country that gives you asylum a copy of the country you fled. Why not just stay home in that case/

  • Michael S Organ

    That is the problem. I have never seen or heard a West Indian, Indian, Chinese, European advocating that we accommodate their needs and change our legal and social norms to accommodate their sensibilities. None of those groups, most of whom outnumber Islamic immigrants have demanded any such concessions. When I interact with those other groups and I do so frequently having been married to a Russian I always find them trying their best to adapt and integrate with the local community (most especially the Polish of whom I have a lot of neighbours). But every time I have had dealings with the Islamic community of whom I also have a great deal of experience being that my first wife was Algerian I find them to be inflexible and even downright opposed to any form of integration at all.
    It is sad that they are so inclined because I do believe that if they make the effort it will not harm their culture but would enrich it and ours in the process.

  • Shameonyou

    This is by far the worst written apologist BS I have ever seen.
    Horribly unreadable. As I attempted to scroll to something I could read, I noticed it was another nauseating screed on how everyone just needs to let all the muslims do what they want and go where they want because anything else is somehow bigotry by default or something.
    I would not recommend the author under any circumstances in a literary sense. This is just horrible horrible writing, and BS at that.
    Mr. Duke has gone off the rails completely if publishing this unreadable screed was a sober choice on hs part. Shame on you both.

  • Edwin Salter

    The point is that those who are determinedly separate within a society automatically create marginalisation either of themselves (if a minority) or of others (if a majority).
    Those who will not mix (or do so only on their own terms when it is to their advantage) are simply not liked (that seems to be a fact even if it lacks a moral principle). The greater the prohibition on mixing – not intermarrying which makes it permanent, maintaining a contrasted culture (religion, laws, customs, language etc) which makes it obvious – the greater the problem. It’s made much worse if there is also a claim to superiority or action toward ultimate dominance because for others just accepting and tolerating ‘different but equal’becomes an unavailable option. The hope must be that ” merely calling oneself”(DC) a Muslim (or an anything else – royal, rich, rabbi..) comes with increasingly permeable boundaries within a secular and fair framework.

  • Michael S Organ

    I would not disagree with anything you said in your post up to the last sentence then my eyebrows raised and a bad shiver ran down my back.
    This website is dedicated to the Freethinker and by extension to freedom of speech. One cannot exist without the other so every freethinker should by their very nature value free speech. To even intonate the principle should be reduced or throttled is to abandon the principle completely. Just as you cannot be a little bit pregnant you cannot be a little bit in favour of freedom of speech. Either all or nothing simple and clean.
    If you disagree with the author or speaker then you can exercise your right to free speech and challenge them or even ridicule them. The strongest argument nearly always wins. But if you throttle others right to exercise free speech you make it so much easier for those with weak arguments to win over strong arguments. Rebuttals in these circumstances don’t stand a chance.
    Some of the adherents of Islam demand free speech but when they have said their piece they attempt to shut down the discussion by throttling free speech using such devices as accusations of racism and lack of respect for their faith. In challenging those that would do that I also challenge your right try and shame the decision of Mr Duke to allow an article on this website that seems on the face to be an apologetic ‘s defence of religious fundamentalism and calling it simple decency.
    You have the right to rebut you have the right to declare indignation of a sentiment, you have the right to counter and even ridicule those that make such statements. What you do not have the right to do is attempt in any way to bully, cajole or demand that the guardians of free speech throttles those you do not agree with.

  • Harry Munz

    All you need, Dale, is to have some muslims – any muslims! – who are happy to stand up before their FELLOW MUSLIMS and declare their support for gay or lesbian people. Out loud. In public.
    Good luck with that.

  • Michael S Organ

    As I said earlier you are a bully and now it seems a Troll to boot
    I have nothing to say to you but I will report your disgusting unwarrented attack

  • Edwin Salter

    The opening piece seems a mix of the moral (persons/theologies) and the tactical. It commends focussing opposition on the extremes of religious fundamentalism (in contrast to just hating all religious people). The aim then is to further our social ideals by promoting a world that 1) we can survive in and 2) influence toward rational beliefs and solutions.
    The problem of migration is an additional issue. If you intend to settle in another country then tolerating that culture seems a minimal requirement that should be plainly imposed from the start. And no-one owns their family.

  • ShameOnYou

    It was entirely deserved and clearly needed in your case.
    You sneer about freedom of speech but when I call you out on it you go whinging to someone to have me “reported”, oh you are a disgusting troll indeed.
    Now my erudite and insightful post has been DELETED by our “freethinker” thanks to your intolerant idiocy which they evidently share.
    Yes, shame on you, too, you “I’m not going to talk to you and have you censored to boot” hypocritical sneering apologist bullshitter.
    @Duke – You really can’t hack it can you.
    Just let some smarmy type delete every fucking post you just don’t agree with, right.
    You should be sued for false advertising, that’s what. Freethinker, my ass.

  • Barry Duke

    @ ShameOnYou: An “erudite and insightful” post? Get real. You unleashed a torrent of abuse at Michael Organ, and even went so far as to threaten him:
    “You’d feel more than a ‘bad shiver’ down your fucking back if I were nearby, as I hold slimy apologists like you to be lower than the filthiest fucking child rapist at all times”
    Robust argument is welcome on this site, but abusing people who post reasoned opinions without recourse to the sort of foul language you used, is certainly not.
    Go wash your mouth out with soap before you post another of your hysterical rants on this site.

  • Michael Organ

    You seem to be under the impression that freedom of speech is the freedom to bully, insult and threaten anyone you disagree with, it’s not and never will be.
    Freedom of speech is the right to express your views and sometimes that can mean making a statement that is a personal attack against another’s opinion. But in doing so it does not give you the right to try and shutdown another’s right to free speech. If you cannot understand that simple fact then you will never understand why your method of response is never acceptable and why it is also a danger to your own freedom of speech.
    If you believe its ok to do that to others then you should know that there is always someone bigger, stronger and more erudite then you who will shut you down as easily as they would stamp on a bug and then it will be you who screams for protection.
    The true believer in freedom of speech is always in agreement with the quote attributed to Voltaire
    “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
    Although he never actually said it, his philosophy certainly supported it and it is a powerful and pertinent sentiment for all free thinkers.
    Anyway I do hope you at least think about your behaviour and I also hope that you come to the realisation that civilised polite debate (even heated which can be a lot of fun) is a far more powerful weapon than insults and threats ever could be.

  • Daz

    @Harry Munz

    “All you need, Dale, is to have some muslims – any muslims! – who are happy to stand up before their FELLOW MUSLIMS and declare their support for gay or lesbian people. Out loud. In public.
    Good luck with that.”

    Here ya go, Harry: The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity.

  • Edwin Salter

    Thanks for the absence of mere hatred. As we were saying…

  • I see no reason to kowtow to any delusional person’s delusional needs despite these gross attempts at defrauding the public I see everywhere on their behalf.
    If you are delusional, rest assured that there are plenty of good, rational reasons to “marginalize” you, remove you from those you seek to harm, kill or severely injure you in self-defense, remove your ability to vote, bar you from entering a country, or from doing anything where your delusion is the problem.
    Since I see no one rooting for free speech here, then let us start with censoring delusional people from having internet access, disregard everything they say, write, or do that is directly related to their delusion, and force them into treatment since they have no mental faculties with which to seek their own healing.
    There is no basis in science or law in giving credence or respect to the ravings of a delusional person.
    You will never see a religitard / con artist / pathological liar fully support anything which will remove their ability to harm others, but just look at the responses I get simply by pointing this out.
    The nasty sneers and bullying is beyond the pale. The sheer unadulterated gall of the criminal apologist is breathtakingly disgusting.
    The smarmy piers-morgan-wannabe posturing is so over-the-top offensive that I see zero reason to respect these slimeballs, the bullshit they say, or the slimeballs they seek to protect, or anything they do, really.
    This website is a sack of pus masquerading as a place for actual discourse. The small content, small minds, and small number of echo-chamber commenters makes this a sad place to visit.
    charlie hebdo is a shining example of courage, while the freethinker is a sad example of cowardice.
    Don’t worry. Since you cater to muslim apologists you are in no danger from muslim attack now.
    I hope it was worth it, you sad pus-filled cowards. I guess the money was hard to turn down, eh.

  • Michael Organ

    I strongly advocate for free speech here and would do anywhere (please see above). Freethinking by its very nature is an advocate for it. No one could possibly hold that right for themselves or others whilst at the same time not fully supporting freedom of speech and association it’s just not reasonable or logical.
    Freethinking by its nature has implicit support of freedom of speech built in. You as all those who would supress free speech degenerate into the very bullying that you blame others for and to boot you add the most base and insulting language because you lack the ability to be erudite to do otherwise.
    It never fails to surprise me how those who claim for themselves a right use that right to shut down others. I would be outraged if I had not heard and read it a thousands of times before.
    Your rant whilst being poor and lacking in any credible content has to be tolerated by the advocate of free speech, never the less is also has the effect on the reader of revealing the writers immaturity and lack of language skills. Having said that the free thinker should still support you rights but hopefully at the same time dismissing your argument as nonsense and move on.
    In future your posts may be taken more seriously if you resist the temptation to allow your temper to override your intellect, a skill that pays dividends in any interaction between intelligent people.

  • Edwin Salter

    Off topic simply to insert something positive. The BBC news yesterday included the ‘happiest countries’ list. Four (Nordic) of the top ten are also in the top ten for ‘religion unimportant’ (Wiki: Importance of religion by country) and all (possibly excepting Iceland, no comparable rating) are in the top 20% for ‘religion unimportant’. This can’t claim direct cause, but the correlation is wholly compelling.
    Some are clearly unhappy with this site. Freethought is definitionally about reason and evidence so we don’t provide for abuse and threat. Surely there is an alternative place (in Trump’s US?) – particularly suitable if it is open to all beliefs, especially opinions very contrary.

  • Michael Organ

    @Edwin Salter
    I read that as well. I am a frequent visitor to Norway and being given the accolade of happiest nation set up a bit of a conundrum for me.
    I know a lot of Norwegians and a less happy smiley lot I have never met. For those walking in the street it is apparent that happy smiling Norwegians are a little sparse on the ground. So I can only conclude that inner contentment is not always mirrored by external expression. It also makes a lie of the physiological theory that smiling makes you happier and lack of makes you less content.
    Time for a rethink it seem or else those carrying out the study are Norwegians.