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Clash of Civilized Ideas – How Can We Reconcile Religious Freedom and Individual Freedoms

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If you follow my articles, you know that in addition to the Liberal and Progressive sites I include in my regular reading list, like OpEd News , Democratic Underground and Daily Kos I wade through the postings on Free Republic. I read FR for two reasons. First, I want to see what my diametric opposites are thinking, doing so helps me see what arguments are made against the ideas I have and how to counter them. I also read FR because sometimes, people from a different viewpoint/culture/etc. can come up with ideas that you would not, which is one of the ideas behind and arguments for multiculturalism.


The Freepers hit on something the other day. Of course, when they refer to people of Progressive or Liberal thinking, it is all in a nasty or condescending way, but they asked in a mocking way how Liberals and Progressives reconcile the idea of promoting women’s rights and women’s empowerment with promoting the rights of Muslims to freely practice their religion. Because the Freepers have a narrow minded and specific hatred of Islam, they didn’t stop to think that #1 – Only a small minority of Muslims treat their women this way and #2 their argument can also be made against sects of Judaism and Christianity who operate in such a way that keeps women in subjugated roles. I wrote an article two days ago criticizing Chick-Fil-A for promoting media by Focus on the Family and James Dobson. FOF and Dobson see wives as subservient to their husbands and not as equal members of society.


Considering all of that, what should be the position of Progressives and Liberals? Do we support those highly conservative Muslims, Christians and Jews in the most free practicing of their religion even if it means that some practitioners, many of whom may be vulnerable and not able to speak for themselves, surrender some of their individual rights or do we promote the rights of women and others that these religions sometimes attempt to subjugate and in doing so force some religious practitioners to back off some of their practices like making women wear veils or not allowing them to work outside of the home?


I try to write articles that contain solutions. I have to admit to not knowing the right answer(s) here. It is easier for conservatives like those on Free Republic. They just hate Muslims and say Islam should be eradicated from the world and Christians and Jews are OK in anything their religious practices say they should do, end of problem. They accuse people like me of “colluding with Islamo-Fascists to take over the world”. In reality, people like me have struggled for centuries with how to allow religion and those who believe in one to have as much freedom as possible without infringing on the rights of others, that includes allowing women and even children and other vulnerable people who are in religious families to leave the religion and its practice.


The stakes in this policy exercise are high. Groups like Al-Qaeda are trying to engineer a “Clash of Civilizations” between the West on one side, and practitioners of Islam on the other.  If the Western countries adopt Freeper/Conservative Republican-inspired policies toward Muslims, they may help Al-Qaeda convince the world’s Muslims that the West is their enemy and the ultimate clash will be a reality. However, we should not sacrifice our safety or our belief in equality or individual liberties either.

 What is your suggestion? I’d like to hear it.
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A political blogger for the International Business Times, Steve Leser is a hot national political pundit. He has appeared on MSNBC's Coundown with Keith Olbermann, Comedy Central's Daily Show with Jon Stewart and Russia Today's (RT) Crosstalk with (more...)
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