The Problem with Islam is Christianity
by: Diana Agorio
Diana Agorio is the author of Sex Rites: the Origins of Christianity, available on Amazon.
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I appreciate the concern about the so-called "creeping Sharia." However, focusing on Islam misses a much larger problem of 'creeping theocracy" by religious groups, which have much more power in the US than our small Muslim population. There are so many examples of religious organizations self-policing in ways which are in opposition to our secular legal system. They attempt, sometimes successfully, to impose their theocratic ideals on the rest of society. They are also acting internationally, in ways which undermine Westerners' moral high ground in criticizing Islam. Rather than lashing out at Islam in discriminatory fashion, we need to take a look in the mirror and be honest about the encroachment of all religious organizations in Western governments.
The most stunning recent example is the Catholic Church handling the sexual abuse of children by priests, internally. They should have turned the priests over to the US authorities, rather than acting as accessories to the crimes. The Vatican is a foreign theocratic government, which acted within the United States in covering up crimes against American children. The sex abuse problem in the Catholic Church is not merely that they have a lot of priests who abuse children. The Vatican acted globally in covering up the abuse of at least 30,000 children. The UN has formulated a declaration, indicting the Church for their illegal behavior; but, no formal action has been taken against the Vatican by Western governments. How can Western countries hope to influence Muslim countries to improve their human rights standards, when we are not willing to take on the Vatican?
Another stunning Catholic example was the recent case of a nun being excommunicated for allowing a life-saving abortion at a Catholic hospital. The woman was too ill to be moved to another hospital; so, she had no choice about her care. It is outrageous that the Church even has the right to deny a life-saving procedure in their hospitals, based on their doctrine. If their doctrine conflicts with modern medical standards, they should not be in the business of healthcare. Imagine if Muslim hospitals became as common in the US as Catholic hospitals. Would you want an Imam in Saudi Arabia dictating your healthcare? Yet, we already have a system in which the Pope of Vatican City dictates the healthcare of non-Catholic Americans, who end up in Catholic hospitals.
The voucher system, which religious groups push for funding their schools, would require public funding of Muslim madrasas, alongside schools run by the likes of Warren Jeffs. The central problem with the FLDS case was also a religious leader, Warren Jeffs, acting as a dictator in his community. Of course, the adults in his community freely chose to live by his rules; but, the children did not have the same legal protection as children outside of the religious community. Another recent case was a pastor in a relatively mainline church, who covered up the rape of a teenage girl by a church member. The girl became pregnant and the pastor arranged with a pastor in another state to care for the girl in secrecy and arrange adoption of the baby. In this case, two pastors, the mother of the girl, the family who cared for the pregnant girl, and the couple who adopted the baby, all cooperated in covering up the crime of another man. They conspired to cover up a crime, simply because they all belonged to the same Christian sect. It is really stunning that so many people in the US support a voucher system of publicly funding religious education, when so many religious leaders demonstrate that they are horrible caretakers of children. For many children, their only contact outside of their religious communities is the public school system. They must be guaranteed a right to an equal education and access to the same social services that protect children from abuse in secular society.
Our biggest conflict between religious freedom and civil law is deciding where to draw the line in protecting the rights of children. None of the Abrahamic faiths respect children because all three of the religions were born in cultures in which children were considered the property of their parents. They all have traditions which dictate that the faith of the parents be imposed upon their children. Long ago, religious freedom was defined by our secular legal system to extend a right to parents in imposing their religion upon their children. Circumcision is a very extreme example of parents having a legal right to physically impose their religious rituals on their children. The legality of circumcision sets a precedent which is so extreme in violating the rights of a child, that we are handicapped in addressing other violations by religious organizations. Because male circumcision is so well accepted in Western society, we end up discriminating against particular religions, in singling out their practices as illegal. We really do discriminate against Muslims in singling out female circumcision as illegal. We really do discriminate against cults which deny children healthcare. We really do play favorites, by allowing certain sects to violate children's rights and not others. Our religious freedom in the US is not applied equally to all organizations.
Religious groups which have far more numbers and much more political muscle in the US than Muslims are extremely active in trying to impose doctrine based law in the US. Prop 8 in California was primarily sponsored by the Mormons. Religious organizations were also extremely active in congressional debate over healthcare. Religious lobbies are very powerful in Washington and seek to dictate laws which affect all of us. As we allow these organizations so much power, there is nothing to prevent a Muslim lobby from gaining influence. All they need is money and the Saudis have plenty of money.
We also have US based religious organizations which fund illegal activities in other countries. The most obvious are the Christian and Jewish groups which financially support the illegal settlements on Palestinian land. Those settlements are clearly illegal; yet, Western governments are doing very little to prevent them. Any other country would be subjected to sanctions for such settlements. But, in 2009, the US gave Israel $7 million dollars per day in military aid to Israel. Those illegal settlements are protected by the Israeli military. There can be no question that Americans are supporting illegal settlements, both privately and publically. US policies with Israel are strongly influenced by lobbyists, funded primarily by religious organizations. With our religiously dictated foreign policy, we lose all credibility in Muslim countries. Another bizarre example is the US Christian groups who financially support the move in Uganda to impose capital punishment on homosexuals. How are those Christians any different from Muslim groups seeking to impose Sharia laws in Western countries?
It is likely that the Muslim population in the US will continue to grow. If Americans are seriously concerned about "creeping Sharia" we need to address the problems with religion in general and be honest about the problems with our favorite religions.