Apologies for being absent, I’m working my butt off right now, and making up for the time I took away in Japan and last week in New York.
I read with interest the news story about the young Christian woman who was blocked from a graduate school program in counseling because her religious scruples would prevent her from counseling gays.
And then I was kind of surprised to see some of the conservative blogs weighing in on the subject.
They’re flatly wrong.
Let’s play Atticus Finch for a moment and do a thought experiment. What if she was a Muslim man? A devout Muslim man, who would refuse to treat woman or nonbelievers? Such a person seems pretty clearly disqualified from a role as a licensed counselor. A cleric, to be sure. But a state-licensed counselor?
I’m thinking no.
And thinking about that issue started me thinking about the broader question of the appropriate boundaries around religious actions.
And that brings me to the Ground Zero Mosque.
For me it really comes down to who’s behind it and what it will be used for,
Look, I do think that Islam is an expansive religion with some aspects I don’t like much (I’m not talking about Wahabbism or about Salafism – different ballpark, game, league). I’m not big on Evangelical Christianity either, and yet a Calvary Chapel church just took over an empty warehouse/retail complex near my house, and the kids come around every month proselytizing or fundraising – and I pretty much see it as a part of my community. I’ve even gone for a neighborhood meeting there, and donated money for some of their programs and had my car washed there one Saturday morning by a bunch of enthusiastic teenagers.
I get it that many folks – and many folks here – think I’m deluded and that the war is with Islam itself. I don’t think so. That might happen, but rather than focusing all our energy on hating Bin Laden and Zawahari, why not spend a little time outhustling the ummah and proselytizing for our own way of life instead? We need to deal not only with their growth of radical Islam – the kind we need to kill people to stop – but with the plain growth of Islam itself.
So if the mosque and cultural center is going to be backed by people who are related to Wahabbi or radical networks…that’d be a flat “no.” If it will be used – and the uses set out in the permit process – as a religious and cultural center in ways that we approve of (that’d be no sermons by Abu Hamza), then “yes.”
As long as I’m riffing on this, the topic of the veil and burqua comes up as well.
I commute through an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood these days (and I’ll say that young Orthodox moms SUV’s have taken over as the most frightening drivers in LA. How is it that they think they have to drive like they are in Israel? Is part of their religious education? Jeez…), and I certainly see a large share of people wearing religious garb, following the dictates of their religion by walking on Friday evening and Saturday rather than driving. I’m not particularly concerned about it (except for the mom/SUV driving part).
I’m more concerned about Muslim neighborhoods, and there’s one simple reason; because over and over again we hear about Muslim social norms being enforced by violence (although to be honest, the hard data is thin). I know formerly-Orthodox women who left their communities – and don’t look back over their shoulders in fear. It seems to be that as long as we keep hearing about force being used to keep young women behaving in religiously observant ways in Muslim communities, the attire – and the acceptance of the cultural differences it brings – is going to cause concern.
Perhaps rather than focusing on rules about what Islamic women should wear, let’s focus on the question of violence within Islamic communities that keeps women (and children) observant from fear, rather than devotion. There are Muslim organizations doing that now…we need to help their positions become the dominant ones.