Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Refudiating religious bigots

I received an invitation to join a project aimed at dispelling misconceptions about the Muslim community. I will highlight the project, but the topic also caused me to go into a rant about a number of other things, so bear with me...

The voiceover in this video is directly at odds with the images we see. There are many angry Americans to whom the productive, peaceful Muslim community is invisible.

When Sarah Palin coined the Shakespearean word "refudiate" she showed her profound ignorance and came across as the bigot she is.

Since President Obama took the oath of office (and before that, as a matter of fact), one of the main "insults" aimed at him is that he's a Muslim. It says a lot about these blinkered people that being a Muslim is considered an insult and a threat. The Declaration of Independence refers to a Creator, but doesn't specify a particular entity.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

All men are created equal, not just white, Christian Americans.

The First Amendment is also quite clear regarding freedom of religion:

Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The Constitution of the United States doesn't specify the Christian faith as a requirement to serve as President of the country.

Qualifications. The President must be a natural born citizen of the United States, at least 35 years old and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years.

It doesn't mention religion at all. The President could be Jewish, Christian, Bhuddist, Muslim or any other religion. He could be an atheist! If the Constitution protects the rights of all citizens in the free exercize of their religion, I expect it would protect such rights in the case of the President...

Is there an unwritten Amendment to the Constitution that requires the President to be, say, Evangelical? The Tea Party and the likes of Sarah Palin seem to believe so, although Sarah Palin chooses to accessorize depending on which group she thinks she's pandering to: big crucifixes for certain venues, or a big, shiny Star of David for others.

If Sarah Palin is going to dish out signed copies of the Constitution and decorate her bus with images of it, I suggest she takes some time to read and understand it.

This unwritten requirement to serve in public office creates a very divisive and pernicious narrative which has infected the political discourse in the US. Different groups of people are targeted as being the "enemy," some politicians think they have the right to legislate over women's reproductive organs and so on and so forth, all based on certain extreme Christian values.

The reluctance to accept a diverse society is not a problem unique to America. It can be observed around the world, but is more noticeable in affluent countries that attract economic migrants.

We have a couple of choices. We could reject whole sections of the population, as the voiceover in the video suggests, ignoring the actual images that speak for themselves, or we could embrace diversity and coexist in peace, we could celebrate our differences and appreciate the contributions each group makes to the cultural fabric of our countries.

I choose the latter.

And I firmly believe that religion should be left out of politics altogether. Why should the population at large be at the mercy of a particular group of religious zealots and abide by laws that serve their very narrow agenda? Why should wars be started because of religion? Why should certain groups be singled out as enemies of the state? Why should some segments of the population lose their freedom over their own bodies? Why should some beliefs be considered better than others and the views of people who embrace them imposed on the rest of the country?

Where does it stop?

Please find out more about the "My Fellow American" project and add your name to the list of people prepared to fight prejudice and ignorance.