Thursday, October 18, 2007

Whose sacrifice? When religious observance affects others, the connection with political gain is all too apparent.

reposted from:
Chris Street comments are in bright green; highlights in blockquotes (yellow).

David Green

Whose sacrifice?

When religious observance affects others, the connection with political gain is all too apparent.

October 12, 2007 11:00 AM |

Which is the odd one out? The supermarket checkout worker who will not serve customers buying alcohol; doctors who will not treat patients with conditions related to alcohol or sexual activity; a dentist who insists that his female patients cover their hair; the pharmacist who refuses to dispense the contraceptive pill; or a medical student who failed his finals because he refused to examine a female patient?

The student sacrificed his chosen career to fulfil an assumed religious obligation. All religions demand sacrifice from their followers and whether the medical student was misguided or not, the cost of his actions was borne by him alone. After years of study, he cannot call himself a doctor. The other four examples are political demands hiding behind religion.

They involve no self-sacrifice. On the contrary everyone else is expected to adjust to the demands of the religious adherent. Demands that others must tiptoe around religious sensibilities may even be inspired by entirely selfish motives, particularly the desire to secure personal salvation or to get to paradise.

As a guiding principle, if a religion demands self-sacrifice by its followers and seeks reconciliation it can be accepted as valid. If it makes demands that other people change and, into the bargain, puts the promotion of grievances above forgiveness, it is more a political movement than a religion.
Moreover, these political demands are made for a reason. We know from the work of Ed Husain (the former Hizb ut-Tahrir activist who revealed the ways of the jihadists in his book, The Islamist) that innocent-looking demands are made as part of a wider strategy. At Tower Hamlets College, for example, Husain describes how demands for a bigger Muslim prayer room were used to encourage recruitment. The activists were exultant when the college authorities gave in after initial resistance. The demand for a prayer room was an entirely political technique. If the college had refused, then the activists had a grievance on which to base recruitment. If the college agreed, then it proved that militancy was successful and encouraged new recruits, permitting yet more demands to be made. And sure enough before very long all the women students came under pressure to wear the headscarf, the primary symbol of female subordination in Islam. If aggression pays you will get more of it.

Isn't this a conspiracy theory? Yes, but it's a conspiracy theory admitted by former conspirators like Ed Husain. Moreover, the decision by Sainsbury's to allow some Muslim checkout staff to refuse to process alcohol sales was discussed on Radio 4 at the weekend and Asghar Bukhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee UK gave the game away when he claimed that protests against the decision were an example of the victimisation of Muslims. It has only become a big deal, he said, "because it doesn't matter what the Muslims do someone is always ready to bash them and make a hoo-ha out of it". According to Mr Bukhari, Muslims should fight back: "Let them come, let's defend our rights and stop running away from them."

This is not religion, it's politics and it's precisely why, since the 17th century, liberal democracies have tried to separate the two.
Western democracies should look upon these campaigns for concessions as probing attacks on our defences, and learn to say "no". Religion is entitled to respect when it demands much of its followers. It deserves none when it wants everyone else to make the sacrifices.

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