There’s much hooting and hollering happening in the United States right now about whether or not it should be considered a “Christian country.” The facts are, of course, arrayed in multitude that it is absolutely not founded on Christianity. Facts are, however, of limited use when you’re talking to the religious. There may be some confusion among the less faith-headed over why there is such opposition to the idea of a Christian country. After all, Christianity is a religion of peace, right? Religious values built this country, didn’t it? Why would anyone resist the idea of a religion-based country?
Somali militants who have seized a radio and TV station say it will now broadcast only Islamic messages. Hassan Dahir Aweys, who leads the Hizbul Islam group, said he wanted the broadcasts to serve Islam.
Muslim scholars and moderates maintain vehemently that Islam is a religion of peace too. Those who use violence in the name of Islam are said to be “not really following” the religion. The whole thing about religious belief is that there is no “true version” of it. History has shown us that fractions inevitably occur within a group that is, at least titularly, following the same doctrine. Within Christianity there’s a wide swath from Unitarian or Anglican churches, wherein most of the specific religious rules are ignored in favour of a fuzzy kind of belief, to the Westboro Baptist Church, which is ultra-conservative and strict. Neither one of these is the “right” version of Christianity – members of both churches consider themselves True Christians.
This is the same phenomenon happening in Somalia. Fuzzy moderate Muslims in Canada probably don’t recognize their beliefs reflected in the actions of these paramilitary thugs who would torture and beat journalists in the name of Islam. However, the thugs themselves probably don’t recognize any True Muslims who would tolerate blasphemy against Allah or Muhammad, or go to schools with people of other faiths. Both groups can mine the Qu’ran to find justification for their respective beliefs. It is clearly not to the benefit of the people in these societies:
Radio stations provide a vital source of information for residents of Mogadishu who, because of the ongoing violence, need to be constantly updated on which areas are unsafe. But in the face of ongoing attacks, it is virtually impossible for them to carry out their work.
It is for this reason that secular humanists like myself are immediately wary of anyone who wants special recognition for religion – any religion – enshrined by law. History has shown again and again that when religion gains worldly power, it takes away civil freedoms by degrees, all in the name of the betterment of society (by which it means the church). This ‘better society’, instead of being based on observable, agreed-upon, verifiable evidence (such as vaccination campaigns, public health care, welfare programs, pension programs, etc.) is based on fundamentally unprovable promises of effects that can only be seen after death. I might not like paying taxes, but I can see the benefits of social programs now, requiring no faith on my part.
Luckily, there appears to be some pushback against these actions:
Somali journalists have walked out of a radio station recently seized by Islamists in the capital, Mogadishu. The staff at GBC said they refused to take orders from Hizbul Islam militants… The journalists from GBC, which was popular for its broadcasts of international football matches, said they had been ordered to refer to the government as “apostate”. “We defied because we do not want to lose our impartiality,” one of the reporters said, asking not to be named for security reasons.
But I don’t expect these gunmen to be particularly happy about it, or to say “well that’s your right to do it.”
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