Democracy in the Middle East

I just read Ken Blackwell’s essay called “Purple Fingers Aren’t Enough”. He has given eloquent voice to the thoughts running around in many of our heads as we watched the revolution succeed in Egypt. In effect, most of what he said can be summed up in the quote he gives from Edmund Burke: “Men of intemperate minds cannot be free; their passions forge their fetters.”

I’m trying hard to think that that’s not going to prove true in this case, but when you see what appear to be ignorant, poor, and intolerant people shooting automatic weapons in the air to celebrate their victory over Hosni Mubarek, it does not bode well for the freedom of the religious minorities among the people in Egypt. What of the thousands of Coptic Christians who reside there? What of the Jews still in Egypt? Their fate at this time is in jeopardy.

Respecting the religious beliefs of others is a cornerstone of a free society. Without that religious tolerance built into its constitution — the right to believe for oneself what one wants — a new government can be very oppressive, indeed dangerous to its minorities. It seems obvious that a government formed under the Muslim Brotherhood would be more intolerant than the government of the uncaring Mubarek.

Sharia law, if implemented by the Muslim Brotherhood (and what else would they implement but some form of Sharia law) with its fickle dhimma based on taxing unbelievers — seems more a form of organized religious oppression than religious tolerance.

Hopefully I’m wrong.

Religious freedom is a precious thing — only in the last couple of hundred years has it really been guaranteed and enshrined in any governments at all, however poorly.

As children going to school in the 1950’s in Texas, we would often start the day with a prayer during morning assemblies where all the kids and faculty were gathered in the auditorium to get the day started. As an agnostic child, I sometimes felt pressured to pray with everyone else, but held it as a matter of personal pride that I never did so. I protested the seeming requirement to pray (everyone else was praying) by simply remaining silent.

When we recited the Pledge of Allegiance, I would simply leave out the “under God” part of the pledge.

I came to realize that NO ONE CARED — not one iota — whether I believed in God or not, whether I prayed with them or not.

No one ever tried to force me to pray.

I think it wrong to have it reversed now, where children are NOT allowed to pray in American schools. To my mind, that shows a definite LACK of respect for their religious beliefs. If the coach wants to pray with the team before a football game (and I think is ludicrous to pray for something as trivial as the outcome of a football game), he should still have the right to do so.

What’s your view?

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