Monday, December 04, 2006

Muslim Elected to Congress... and the Ensuing Hoopla

I just couldn’t resist jumping all over this one.

DISCLAMER: I am Muslim. By birth. In practical terms, I’m probably what some might call an evangelical atheist, in that I have a passionate belief in science and logic as opposed to wild leaps of the imagination to explain the (as of yet) unexplainable. In the words of my newfound idol, Dr. Richard Dawkins, “God may very well exist, but would be vastly beyond what has ever been imagined by any theologian or prophet the world has ever known” (apologies for the paraphrasing).

I can assure you this is a genes/pre-ordained personality thing as I was not brought up by hippies. In fact, when I was around 6 or 7, having seen some footage of the sixties and early seventies and somehow having made the link that this was my parents’ era, I thought apt to ask: “Mommy, did you used to be a hippie?” to which I received a very dirty look and a “Shame on you!” [spit, spit].

So no, I was not brought up by Godless hippies. I was however raised in the uber-repressive Saudi Arabia, but lest you think my atheism is merely a personal conduit for rebellion against “the system”, it’s really not: my parents are both quite liberal and perfectly reasonable (despite not being hippies). My mother is “practicing” in the personal, compassionate sort of way that compels her to buy Jesus calendars from nuns because well, they’re nuns and who can say no to nuns?, while my father is extremely well-versed in the Qur’an having studied it at grammar school but has decided over the years that it’s pretty much all gobbledygook.

So there you have it.

Now, with that in mind, I’d like us to look at this article I read this morning. There have been several instances while living in Canada where I’ve had to swear on the bible. Like the time I was working in the States and was unable to get back to Canada in time to vote in our election, but wanted to vote anyway, so I had to do it ahead of the election and swear that on the particular date of the election, I could not be in Canada. I guess I could have made a big stink and refused to swear on anything but the Qur’an, but (please see disclaimer above) I went along because really don’t care. Really, REALLY don’t care. The respectful thing to do would have been to say that to have someone like me swear on the bible would be an insult not to me, but to Christianity, because when you make people who don’t believe in something swear by it just to humor you, their doing just that, humoring you. They are not respecting you. Respect would be having enough faith in you that they feel confident they can tell you that as far as they are concerned, religious book X is gobbledygook, and swearing by it would be an insult to both parties not to mention the integrity of the ritual. But really, they don’t have all that much respect for the ritual at all (or you) and they go along with it anyway. And so the charade continues.

So, when a newly elected official to a United States body of government respectfully declines to swear on the bible, you should take it not as s sign of disrespect for the bible or the traditions of the US, but as quite the opposite. It is in fact a sign of respect for the institutions and rituals of United States system of governance. And yes, I’ve heard the “this is America, and Americans are Christians and if you don’t like it leave” argument told to me (just substitute “Canada” for “America”) more times than I can count. I’m glad the author of the post chose to include this handy quote from the constitution: Article VI, section 3, " religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Darn those liberal Founders indeed!

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