Banning religious practices – a bad idea

In the wake of the Syrian refugee crisis the anti-Muslim propaganda has been coming out strong. And my home country of Canada has been no exception. It is personally sad for me to see this, because one of the things I most value about growing up in Canada is its tolerance towards other cultures and its celebration of diversity. As a result of this tradition I think it is no surprise that Islam in Canada is more progressive than any other countries. This declaration made by the Canadian Council of Imams speaks volumes to what Islam means to Muslims living in Canada. And I am sure you can make arguments about passages in the Koran supporting violence towards non-believers, and I can answer back with as many in the Bible so let’s put that aside and simply say that in the march towards a more humane society religion must evolve even if it doesn’t dissolve.

Of course there is much that is troubling in terms of the practice of Islam worldwide. You can find countries where people are killed for simply expressing dissent against the Islamic government, committing blasphemy, committing adultery, being gay, etc. There are of course the acts of terrorism which seem at times unending and of course have impact European countries and the U.S. and a big way. And of course there is the oppression of women, which is horrible and profoundly sad that we still must contend with such disregard for the rights of 50% of the population in this day and age. Some Islamic apologists will argue that this is not the way of Islam, but that being said it is certainly part of the cultural practice in many Islamic countries and I don’t hear a lot of Muslim clerics or imams in those countries saying “Hey let the women go to school and drive, this isn’t what Islam is about!” There are perhaps a lot of reasons to be worried about extreme Islamic practices, and keep in mind that many of the things that we think are extreme such as the oppression of woman, is common place in some countries.

So the question becomes, what do we do about it? Even though most Muslims are not violent and never will be, they have some very unsettling practices that they think are justified according to their religion. Many of them are just as indoctrinated as any of the evangelical community here in the U.S. when it comes to their views on women, foreigners, homosexuals, blacks, etc. So there are some people everywhere who could use some enlightening and so how do we go about doing that? And can in happen sooner than later?

Let’s start by identifying what doesn’t work and that is the banning of religious practices. Though France has banned the burka or niqab, and Switzerland has banned minarets, these practices have not been shown to impact cultural shifts in Islam and have only served to alienate and discriminate portions of the Muslim population, not only in those countries, but have angered Muslims in other countries as well. Isolating and alienating religious communities only builds resentment and will only increase the danger from Islamic groups that the laws seek to avoid. This blog post does a very good job of laying out the argument and I don’t want to repeat too much of what is said here, but any laws restricting religious practices at best do nothing and at worst, make the conflate the problem with archaic religious practices.

If history has taught us anything it is that oppression of a religion is a bad idea if we want to actually stop it. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and Europe. At least some of that may be due to the attempts at suppression of religious practices. Anti-Christian laws during Roman rule shortly after the time of Jesus actually led to an even faster spread of Christianity throughout Europe and Asia. It’s human nature that once you start persecuting somebody or some people for what they believe it causes a lot of people to start to ask questions, especially those who don’t trust the government. What is so dangerous about these ideas?  Why should we fear them? In general we are compassionate people, and when we see people suffer by not having the freedom to practice their beliefs (regardless of whether such beliefs are just) we tend to side with them. The last thing we want is a lot of people being on the same side of some unjust ideas.

I know for many of my readers, you have gotten into some arguments with people who have strong beliefs. How did those discussions go? We often think the more brilliant and final are arguments are the more impactful we’ll be.  As I wrote before this tends to not work so well because of the “backfire effect” and so if it doesn’t work very well on an individual level, such things tend to not work so well at a group level either. If our western society is to have any superior morality it comes from practicing the values that we think our important. If freedom is one of them than freedom of religion must be part of what we embrace. Giving people the freedom to practice their religious beliefs is something we want, because if the state starts making laws to ban religious practices, there is nothing to stop them from banning yours if they see fit. By valuing freedom we set an example that as a society that we respect other people and want them to enjoy the same freedoms that we enjoy. And of course there are other important values we must practice to which is tolerance, equality, compassion, justice, etc, so that if religious practices don’t value you those things we can show them how well it can work. If we want such people to convinced of a better worldview and a better way to live, we need to show that our values leads to a greater empathy, less suffering, and an overall increase in happiness. No words or laws are going to convince people unless they are shown. Part of why they may believe what they believe is that they’ve been indoctrinated against other cultural practices and have never seen any other way of life work.

Racist, and not a particularly helpful solution to terrorism.

I believe if anything is going to erode fundamentalism from any religion it is by showing those people the effectiveness of the values that we hold most dear. It is about embracing those people while at the same time showing them diversity of thought and ideas. It is about offering them a high level of education for their children, to help them think critically about the ideas that have been indoctrinated into their culture. It is about being humble enough to recognize that even if there many values that we do not share, they may even have something to teach us. We say we want these people to respect the laws of our country and yet this seems like much to ask if we exclude and not include. So instead of memes that enhance Islamophobia, why not spread memes that empower those that are oppressed to take advantage of the freedoms they would have in our country? Why not merrily shout out what rights they game by coming here? Why not greet them as friends instead of treating them like the enemy?  It is likely that to truly raise the consciousness of many of those indoctrinated it will take the course of a couple generations as children are born into a freer and more equitable society.  So let’s those children also growing up seeing the compassion and tolerance their parents did not have the freedom to enjoy.

Maybe a more positive meme as a way to empower Muslim women

22 thoughts on “Banning religious practices – a bad idea

  1. Dang I hate these small reply boxes, it is too easy to hit send when you are just trying to scroll back to see where your head was…

    …so sure how well it would work. Islam needs to lose its ugliness, and a damn lot of it, before I could honestly say I’d be on board with welcoming Islam with open arms.

    I know there are good people who adhere to this religion. I know there are many of them who would gladly lend a hand in need. I know they can’t all be bad. But when all I see is the hate, the killing, the destruction, the treatment of the women, and above all, the fear of the moderates to speak out against the acts of terrorism, I am not too eager to open my heart or my neighborhood to it.

    If I could see growth in a more moderate direction, less convert them or kill them attitudes, an end to the popularity of terroism, seeing them slack up and let women drive or wear clothing that suits them, doing away with the brutal Sharia law, I could maybe feel more as you do here.

    I know, my stance is wrong. I know I should feel exactly as you do with this post. I can’t get over the hump just yet.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I know they are ridiculously small. I feel it wasn’t always like this.

      Thank you for your comments and the introspection. I mean I do get it, but I think you said it right there “All you see”. We see what the media wants to show us, and if there is a lot prejudice against Islam after 9/11. But even so it doesn’t change the fact that what works in the long run is a more diplomatic solution. Things might hurt a little more in the present, but sometimes, if you just want a more peaceful planet where everybody gets along one has to extend the hand instead of slapping it away. Even if you occasionally get bit. And I guess if I were to say where my heart is coming from, it’s because I’ve seen it work. I’ve seen racial harmony amongst immigrants and how easy it is to get along when you live in a country who at it’s cores aims to respect other cultures and ways of life. Canada at least used to be that way until the conservative government got its hands on it for the past decade. I respect and understand your opinion though and I’ve never been one to claim that I can’t be too idealistic at times. 🙂


      1. Yes. The media is definately part of the problem in many ways.

        I still agree with your premise. I do want to be accomodating to all cultures, I respect everyones right to their culture and their belief. Even though my personal take on religion is, I despise them all equally. I have no personal use for any of that B.S., but I do respect a persons right to believe as they see fit, as long as that belief does get legislated, or forced upon others.

        Islam right now, appears to have a Super Villian complex in its apparent desire to take over the world. It has so many bad, or downright evil aspects to it I am in no way eager to make its aquaintance. (I know that bad or evil can be interpreted in many ways, and can be cultural. Some aspects of culture may need to be modified a bit for modern society?)

        In regards to banishment, I would have to disagree with that. As I said before, I do respect a persons right to believe as they see fit, with the aforementioned caveat.


  2. Even though hyper religiosity has adversely affected me- and I have obvious issues with fundamentalism of any variety- that doesn’t mean I think we should ban religion or nix it altogether as you said, and I agree. You, Victoria and me are all on the same page on an egalitarian goal for humanity- for us to all be free to be who the heck we want to be ❤️😎 I think it’s cool that you step out on a limb for the voiceless in these particular populations- and that you are showing the negative affects of extremism of any variety. Thank you!


  3. Although I disagree with your comparison of the Bible and the Koran, Islam being fundamentally different from Christianity or Judaism, I fully support your conclusion. I have been deeply disappointed with our current Conservative government (I would point out there’s a difference between Conservative and conservative as you used a small ‘c’) in regards with personal rights and freedoms.

    Freedom of religion is a fundamental right and a cornerstone of Canadian society. Some of our ancestors came here expressly because they were given military service exemption since it was their religious conviction that killing people is bad. I cannot imagine what it would be like if people of different beliefs and origins had not been allowed to come here and I don’t want to imagine what it will be like if we don’t continue in that tradition.

    The Al-Rashid mosque was built in Edmonton in 1938 and was the first mosque built in Canada. Somehow, Edmonton has been able to withstand falling under Sharia law for almost 80 years, yet this is precisely the kind of thing some people fear will happen if we let Muslims in (at least that’s what people say if you read the comments on CBC news stories, which I should probably stop doing).

    To date, not a single extra space has been added to immigration quotas to accommodate refuges from Syria and Iraq. Hopefully that will change after the next election.


  4. There appears to be a level of astonishing gullibility that goes with Islam that is well beyond that demonstrated in Christianity and Judaism. Well, not YEC evangelical Christianity, but that is the bottom of the barrel, after all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. LOL…Well as I am sure Victoria might tell you, the level of fear exploitation in Islam is just as high or higher, meaning that if applied at childhood, reasoning skills decrease. The level of poverty and economic inequality is also higher which I believe makes people much more susceptible to “easy” solutions out of poverty.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, the “long answer” does certainly include education levels in Islamic countries, which is genuinely atrocious for all but the fortunate few… but still, in the age of information, ignorance is (to a large degree) a choice.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Not in countries like Pakistan where information is censored, and I imagine it is like that in a number of middle-eastern countries. My mother lives in Pakistan and 50% of the children (majority girls) don’t even go to school. So it’s a little bit much to expect them to easily raise themselves out of their ignorance.

          Liked by 1 person

            1. Agreed!! I mean cricket seems like one of those games where you really wouldn’t care if you lost…because…well cricket. lol

              The situation in Pakistan is also very bad because the government is trying to change history. Despite the fact that one of the oldest civilizations in history, the Harappans, originated in the Pakistan-India border area, they seem to be only interested in starting history for their students when Islam came to the area. So even if you aren’t illiterate, the knowledge you are learning is highly tailored.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. ryan59479

    I’m so torn on this.

    On the one hand, I agree that banning certain religious practices doesn’t really do anything to help people see the error of said practices, or how they might be harmful. I fully get the backfire effect.

    On the other hand, though, I also understand that cultural assimilation and tolerance are tricky issues. If I don’t believe that women are equal to men, and then I move to a place where they are equally valued, should I not expect some push back? And do the people of the place I move to not have a right to preserve their beliefs and ways of life?

    Two cultures with opposing values living in the same area is quite a difficult thing to pull off, and I’m not sure it’s any fairer to ask the French to look the other way regarding behavior they find abhorrent than it is to ask someone to suppress or hide their religious beliefs.

    And that’s where I think liberalism kind of fails. I get that having freedom means accepting the bad with the good, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that we act on the bad in fairness. Here in the states, the first amendment ensures your right to be an asshole, but it doesn’t mean people are obligated to support it.

    And so too I think it is that many Western cultures view religion. Western nations believe that people have a right to subscribe to whatever beliefs they want–but that doesn’t mean they have to support things that harm people or run contrary to their own cultural values.

    Does a burqa really hurt anyone? Well perhaps not the same way that genital mutilation does. And perhaps Muslim women are fine with the burqa or even like it. I don’t know. But no matter how you slice it, the practice stems from sexist misogyny and only reinforces patriarchy, even if nobody is being physically harmed. For a western country to accept that in their culture would, in my own opinion, be tantamount to spitting in the face of everything done to advance women in those cultures over the last hundred or so years.

    So while banning religious practices is certainly going to backfire, I don’t really think acceptance or tolerance will work either. It would seem to send the message that those practices, since they’re accepted or tolerated, are really valid when in fact they more than likely are not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the comment Ryan. I do agree that this is a tough issue. I find the level of misogyny hard to swallow also. I think tolerance can be defined in a number of ways. There is a difference between tolerance and condoning and action also. First I would say do we not already have misogyny still in this country? Sure. So now we have a bunch of people who also have similar views, it doesn’t change anything in terms of what freedoms women do have. There are many controlling husbands out there that we can’t do anything about. In places like Saudi Arabia those women have no choice but to be compliant, but here they do have the freedom to not be compliant. And while it might be hard for the first generation that comes over having been raised in such unequal conditions, those children going up here we’ll be exposed to a different kind of what is “normal”. So in a way, we are giving future generations a chance of freedom they never would have had also where. I also find the idea of evangelicals scaring their children with stories of fire and brimstone which we know actually causes changes to the brain and weakens critical thinking skills by using fear to force belief. Yet we can do nothing about those practices either. The only way to combat it is to again hold fast to good values to exemplify why those values are better. As I said to Shell, having grown up in Canada I have seen it happen. And things to get better. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi Ryan,

      I think that without tolerance, there is tyranny. Tyranny is fine, if you’re always right, but I know that I find it difficult to always be right and it’s not something I expect from my government or society.

      Does a burqa really hurt anyone? I would say, yes. Should women have the right to wear one? I would also say, yes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ryan59479

        I understand where you’re coming from, but that’s ideal advice in an imperfect world. Tolerance and right and wrong are completely subjective, and in order for something to be tolerated, it means someone, somewhere had to give something up.

        I’m not prepared to say it’s “right” for either side of any tolerance argument to give anything up. If it isn’t right to take away someone’s right to wear a burqa, then it seems equally wrong to force someone who disagrees with that practice or finds it harmful to tolerate it.

        That being said, I don’t think that situations in which tolerance can’t be found always have to lead to conflict. There are a lot of things that I don’t tolerate, but I don’t suggest every like-minded individual go to war over it. But sometimes there just isn’t a middle ground, nor am I completely sure that there always will be or should be. In that case, there are civilized ways to arrive at a solution through political or social means.

        But I’m very wary of forcing any group (even ones i disagree with) to tolerate something that they don’t think is fair or right (or that which we can see causes harm) simply for the sake of cultural understanding. Culture may be relative; harm is not.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I agree with what you’re saying, and I have a feeling that my next blog will be about the topic of tolerance. lol I have never been one to say that tolerance is always right. Gandhi was intolerant, MLK was intolerant, and it was the right call. I guess it all depends on how one views tolerance. Does tolerance mean passivity? Does it mean in action? For me I guess I have seen it more as having an element of patience to it, and not having a knee-jerk reaction. Banning the burka is just such a reaction and so I would preach tolerance towards the women. What I wouldn’t say we should be tolerant about is the oppression of women, but then what do we do about these people that we’ve let in who have archaic views towards gender equality? Punishing the women by banning what they wear seems to be the wrong tact, and in general passing laws that ban religious practices probably won’t achieve the desire result either. It seems to me that such laws are a sign of fear and lack of understanding and thus tolerance is required. There are ways though to empower and raise the consciousness of both women and men from this culture and it requires more proactive tactics. This is what I really wanted to say in this piece and perhaps didn’t say it well. If women are all ready being oppressed it seems wrong to pass laws that now alienate them and isolate them. The reaction to such laws tends to strengthen the same views we want to erode.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. ryan59479

            All completely fair points. And I really like what you mentioned about passivity and action. Personally, I think that a civilized way of objecting to something would be to do it passively. Although I guess at some point passivity can only get someone so far before they have to decide if they’re going to take action, and what kind of reaction is warranted (I can’t help but make Hitler and Nazi Germany an example).

            As for the burqa, perhaps a better law would have been to protect women who choose to NOT wear one against retaliation or discrimination in their own communities?

            I’ll admit that I’m no expert on Islam and certainly not it’s members. But I have to imagine that not EVERY Muslim woman would wear one if given the choice. Some–maybe even many–probably do wear them willingly and like them for whatever reason. And perhaps some of them only wear them because they fear the repercussions within their communities.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I guess when I said passive, I meant more just inaction, rather than passive resistance like practiced by Gandhi and MLK. But I agree that this is probably a more humane and moral way to be in opposition to what one views as injustice. Although such acts of passive resistance are only passive in a non-violent sense, but certainly not in an “I’m not going to do anything about it”. Perhaps indifference or apathy is a better word than passive which is a little more ambiguous in this case.

              Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Tolerance | Cloak Unfurled

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