Thursday, February 19, 2009

Religion In A Secular Society 101

OK, so, I am sick & tired of this whole ridiculous hijab debate. But I still can't let it go. So today's post will be on that topic too. Just a few thoughts ... some things that I feel ought to be explained to a lot of people on the other side of the fence. Some things that IMO it's incredible that no one has already explained, loud and clear. A lot of the people in this debate - mostly Muslims - are using a number of arguments that have nothing to do with the issue. Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, discrimination against minorities - those are not relevant points. But for some reason there is a major misunderstanding among a lot of immigrants ... or, OK, to be honest, among a lot of Muslims. There is something very vital about our society - the society that, in the majority of cases, these people have chosen to live in - that these people seem to entirely fail to understand. I guess that's partly our fault, because we haven't forced that understanding on them, as we IMO ought to do. There can be no discussion of the fact that immigration policies in this country so far have failed to a large extent, and IMO that has a lot to do with the fact that authorities here make too few demands of and too many excuses for immigrants. But I digress.

There was a letter to the editor in this morning's Aftenposten ... or at least I think it was this morning, it may have been yesterday, there were so many newspapers lying around the lunchroom today that I hardly know which issues I read :-) ... that illustrated this fact very well. It was written by a woman who is a Muslim, wears the hijab, and works in some job where she deals with a lot of people daily ... and who of course didn't experience this negatively at all. Oh no, no one ever reacts negatively to her hijab. This may be true of course, although unverifiable, but it's irrelevant other than as an example of the casuistry so commonly applied when these people make their 'arguments' in this debate. This person was in a profession with no uniform regulations - not irrelevant, IMO. She made the argument that of course the hijab must be permitted everywhere, because it's ... I'm quoting from memory here ... it behooves a civilized nation to take into consideration its citizens' religious needs.

This is where my point comes in - this is the point where the Muslim understanding of Norwegian society seems to break down. Which is really extremely sad, because this is an absolutely integral and essential part of that society. Namely, the following: That your average Norwegian does not recognize religious needs as legitimate.

You, a random citizen, may have religious beliefs. But that is not the business of the state. You may feel that you need to do things or have things or wear things as a result of your religious beliefs. But again, this is not the business of the state. These are your private affairs, and you yourself must be responsible for them. Your religious faith entitles you to nothing.

This is what these people seem to be unable to understand ... and it's what I see as the most dangerous thing about this debate. It's really an issue that ought not to be seriously discussed at all. Someone ought to have put their foot down and said, You people, get this through your heads ... metaphysical arguments have no place in our public discourse. We cannot accept this form of argument. We really cannot accept it. These are people who in all seriousness state that they have no choice but to give up their attempts to achieve their dreams because they must wear a certain garment or the invisible man in the sky will get mad at them. And this will be the state's fault. That is what they're saying. It is an entirely unacceptable argument and it's a huge mistake that this has not been made clear long ago.

Do you live in Norway? Then you live in the most secularized society in Europe. We laugh at your God, and we drop ice cubes down the vest of Faith. We don't get where you're coming from, and we don't care. You want to express your religious identity on my tax money?? No. STFU ... and take that thing off your head if you want the general public to think you mean that line about wanting to be integrated. Like it or not.

Some articles (all in Norwegian though): here, here and here. And a fantastic new blog - at least the two posts so far are fantastic - this guy says it exactly the way it needs to be said. In Norwegian. :-)

40 comments:

DES said...

I hope they speak Norwegian in hell!

Ximinez said...

Are you perchance a Pat Condell fan?
I have some trust issues with people whose "highlight of the year" is the Eurovision Song Contest, but that is probably a bit off-topic ;)

You have a few excellent points. Norway isn't a secular country though, even though I wish it was.
I find it interesting to see how people defend the muslims "right" to bear hijab, but blissfully ignore the cross they are forced to bear at the same time.
If I was religious, (which I'm obviously not) I'd be terribly offended by being forced to wear a symbol for a religion that I didn't believe in. In fact, since we're talking about muslims here... I'd be terribly offended to wear a symbol that apes use for their religion. (I think christians were apes. Or pigs. Possibly dogs.)

Calyx said...

Hello there Leisha! As always, you manage to make murky subject more clear. I have a link for you:

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1233567867500&pagename=Zone-English-News/NWELayout

Notice the interview with Brahim Belkilani, about avoiding "outside influence", which is what we others call a democratic process. I can't believe I worked with that guy! he should be ashamed of himself!

Leisha Camden said...

DES: If they don't speak Norwegian in hell already, I'm sure I'll have plenty of time to teach them. ;-)

Ximinez: If I can't call myself a fan, it's only because I haven't listened to him enough. Yet, anyway. :-)

And what are you doing slandering the ESC?? OMG you are offending my beliefs!! I demand legal protection!!

Anyway ... Norway is not a secular state, no, but a secular society. Religion has ceased to matter to the majority of the population. And that is the direction we need to keep moving in, as I'm sure you agree. :-)

I accept the cross on the uniforms as part of the state's coat of arms ... as long as we still have a state church. The moment that's gone, the cross will have to go too. But it's an interesting point you raise. One which highlights for me even more that these women don't really care about becoming police officers. Not that they'd even get into the Academy - they'd no doubt fail all the physical tests. I can't imagine that one of these girls can swim, for instance. And if they did get in, they'd fail so many classes ... combat for one ... they'd never make it through to graduation. It almost begs the question, what is this demand for consideration really about ... ?

Hi Calyx! Good to see you. :-) Thanks for the link. That quote from Belkilani is really interesting. But of course they must avoid outside influences, otherwise they might start actually thinking at some point ... !! :-o

Anonymous said...

Hello Leisha,

I read your post and was very much intrigued by your attitude. First, let me tell you that I am a Muslim American woman that was born and raised in the united states and was by the grace of God blessed to be born into a Muslim family. I think your attitude that Muslims are somehow a foreign presence in your country is very much misguided. Muslims such as myself have been living in western countries for generations and are productive members of those societies. Now, to your second point of integration....I, as a Muslim woman living in the U.S. wear Hijab (islamic headcovering) and am proud of that fact. As Norway, is a plurastic society much as the United States is...much of it's citizens live in harmony and yet come from different backgrounds, religions, cultures, etc. In order for societies like these to continue to be successful, we as citizens must respect each other's rights and choices. In your blog, you say the majority of people in Norway view religion as a private matter and something to be practiced in the privacy of their homes, and places of worship. You don't seem to understand that Islam is not simply a religion.....it is a complete way of life. Islam provides you with a code of ethics on how to live your entire life...i.e...how to interact with your neighbors, how to raise your children, how to interact with your spouse, how to take responsiblity for your obligations, etc. It is an entire code for your life. Not something that one can practice once a week on a sunday by attending church. I think this is where your basic understanding of Islam is lacking. I invite you to make friends in your country with people that practice Islam, then maybe, you might be able to open your mind and heart and understand different kinds of people. You say in your profile that you like to travel and meet different types of people...perhaps this beginning step can lead you in that direction. Salaams(Peace)to you, my friend.

Anonymous said...

I think those who want to wear full-head or fully-clothed facial wear, need to respect the country they live in. To me, it is insulting if someone is covering their entire face and I cannot see them.

Plus it raises suspicions. In a secular society, if someone comes into a store wearing something on their head, you assume they are going to rob the place. While, one can recognize religious garments from a masked robber, I still think it is only natural to distrust someone with their face covered.

Another question often ignored about converts to these extreme religions where their entire body is covered is what are their real motives? I think some young people get into it because they want to be "different"; stand out in a crowd. They get all the attention of looking unusual and they get a new association with another group. I honestly think some people really get into such religious groups because of merely that fact. Given some groups that oppress women, I cannot imagine anyone intentionally choosing that type of lifestyle if there wasn't some unusual motive.

Anonymous said...

Well, your comments were so long and windy that I was almost lost... :)
Anyway, let me start by saying that I respect the freedom of religious and atheist expression.
Religion, by its nature is conservative and more or less reflects the society norms from the time when that religion started. For example, wearing a headscarf was normal in the Arabic countries in the 8th century, it was expected. It was also expected that wealthy men have multiple wives and, in general, women did not have property. Hence, the Islam adopted those norms (this is valid for Christians, Sikhs, etc.). We can also talk about the reasons behind those norms (i.e. Muslims do not eat pork because pork meat is easily spoiled in the worm climate of the Arabic countries; Indians do not eat beef, because the cow is much more valuable as a source of milk and power, etc.)
Societies, as oppose to religions, are much more fluid. For example, the Arabs now have refrigerators and pork does not spoil easily; Indians have more efficient agriculture and do not rely on cows for source of power, etc.
It is inevitable that we will have those clashes - it does not mean that religions must be more progressive (part of their virtue is their conservatism) but it does not mean that societies must be more conservative either.
The issue is that we live in a society and some of us subscribe to a religion, which is a purely private matter. I am not advocating suppressing the religious expressions, however, when there is a valid social reason the social norms have to prevail.
For example, wearing a headscarf significantly limits someones field of vision. While we drive cars we definitely need all of our senses and we need them available at their full capacity (car is a recent invention and our body did not have the opportunity to adapt to it - our top speed is less than 10 mph and our vision, reactions, etc. work very well in that range). Therefore, to put additional restrictions on our already "impaired" vision is not a good idea. I do not have a problem if someone does that in private, the issue is that we drive on public roads. Then the question becomes: What is more important - someones freedom of expression or the safety of the society? We must find a balance, in some cases we will tip the scale towards individual's freedom, in others - towards the benefit of society.
To test that balance, let me pose a question: How would a feel if her headscarf is the reason for a deadly accident? Wouldn't she regret that? Wouldn't she feel that she violated her religion rule of "right to life"?
From a purely practical perspective, it seems that people pick and choose things that they like from the religious rules. If I elect to be a Catholic then I must follow all the rules, including the ban on divorce. If I am a Muslim, I must follow all the rules, including the ban on collecting interest.
In summary, I believe that religion is something private (and I am really annoyed by the US politicians who parade with it in public - in that sense USA is much more religious than some other countries) and should be treated as such.
See, I manage to create similar long and convoluted post:) I am not saying that I have the answer but I hope that at least I will make people think.

Matt said...

So I take it you're Native American because you say they are coming to OUR country and should live by OUR rules. You can't just disregard freedom of religion and expression. This is part of the foundation of OUR country.

Secondly, I think you may have some undue wariness. If you have lived in an environment where this (wearing of hijab) is normal, or seen often, you get over it pretty quickly.

Who/What exactly is being hurt by someone deciding to wear the hijab, turban, etc.? Someone who has preconceived negative notions of Muslims? Who cares about prejudiced people anyway?

You should think 5 times about your arguments before you make them. LOL.

The last anonymous post is too much. Completely covering your body in clothes to look cool? I think they are thinking of piercings and tattoos. Unless they are talking about meatheads and Affliction clothing.

Leisha Camden said...

Comment overload ... !! :-o I'll have to take it one by one. Starting at the bottom. >:-)

Matt, I take it you're an idiot? You certainly must be if you're talking to me about being Native American. I am a Norwegian living in Norway and this post is about current events in Norway.

The wish of a minority within a minority to wear the hijab with police uniform has nothing to do with freedom of religion or freedom of speech. You may misunderstand the issue to the point where you think it does, but that doesn't change the facts. I don't think you even know what my original post is about, since you seem to think you're talking to an American about something to do with the US. You're barking up the wrong tree.

If you have lived in an environment where this (wearing of hijab) is normal, or seen often, you get over it pretty quickly.

Wrong. I live in Oslo. 20% immigrant population. I see women wearing hijabs every day of my life. I still don't agree that they should be included in the Norwegian police uniform, and guess what, I never will.

The rest of your comment is just too stupid to bother with. Have a good weekend.

Leisha Camden said...

Anon @ 11:24:

Convoluted is the word ... ;-) I'm not entirely sure what you're saying. But to the extent that I understand it, I think I agree with many points you're making.

I don't oppose freedom of religion. Not at all. But freedom of religion really ought to be freedom from religion. It is a private issue and should be kept private. IMO, the state has no business obstructing the expression of religious beliefs (as long as these aren't harmful) but the state also has no business facilitating religious beliefs. People have to do that stuff on their own time. Not on my tax money, if you'll excuse the flippancy (it's getting late ... ;-).

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! :-)

Leisha Camden said...

Anon @ 9:56:

Thanks to you too for sharing your thoughts. I disagree with you in your thoughts on conversion ... I don't think it's as simple as you make it sound. Too late in the day to get into details on that though. But I very much doubt whether kids convert to islam to be 'different' as you put it. Certainly not in this country.

As for what you say about respect, I agree with you completely. I don't know where you're from, but in this country, we hear from certain Muslim groups quite often about how it's so important for minorities to be respected and their religion to be respected and so on. But ... well, again, it's getting late, but let me just put it like this: respect is a two way street. It's not something you can just demand, it's something you have to earn.

Leisha Camden said...

Anon @ 6:42:

First of all, do not call me your friend. You do not know me, I am not your friend. It's disrespectful.

by the grace of God blessed to be born into a Muslim family.
And I'm sure you'll refuse to believe that that is the only reason you are a Muslim today. Which is sad. I was fortunate enough to be born into a family that let me think and decide for myself.

I think your attitude that Muslims are somehow a foreign presence in your country is very much misguided.
And I think you're full of shit. Come on, you can't seriously mean that?? My people - ethnic Norwegians - have lived in this country for 10,000 years. Yes, ten thousand years. Christianity has been the dominant religion here for about one thousand years. The first Muslims came to this country about 40 - forty - years ago. Of course they're a foreign presence! Give me a break! You are wrong, what else can I say.

However, that does not mean that there's no room for any Muslims here. We can live side by side with them, provided that they respect our rules and our laws. And the fact is that many of them don't. There are many Muslims in Norwegian jails. They demand halal food, because they have to be true to their religion. But they're in prison for murder, rape, drug smuggling - isn't it a little late to decide to respect their/your religion which supposedly does not allow these things? The fact is that this is our country. We were here first. Our rules take precedence. Take it or leave it.

As Norway, is a plurastic society much as the United States is
You are so off base comparing Norway and the US in this way. This was a strongly homogenous society until about 40 years ago. Nothing like the US. Seriously ... if you think our two countries can be compared on this, then there's hardly any point in discussing this with you, because you obviously don't know what you're talking about.

In order for societies like these to continue to be successful, we as citizens must respect each other's rights and choices.
When a woman chooses to wear the hijab, she also chooses to exclude herself from certain professions. That's just the way it is. Having a right to choose one's religion, as every person in Norway has, does not carry with it the right to demand special treatment. Religious belief is not a trump card that overrides the wishes and needs of society as a whole. Your delusion does not trump my reality.

You don't seem to understand that Islam is not simply a religion.....it is a complete way of life.
Oh, trust me, I understand that. I understand that fully. In fact, that is the main reason why I dislike islam, and why I believe so strongly that its influence in my society must be restrained.

I invite you to make friends in your country with people that practice Islam
WTF? How can you 'invite' me to do this?? It's also a disrespectful thing for you to say - you don't know me, you don't know that I don't have lots of Muslim friends. You assume too much!

Please read the disclaimer before commenting again on my blog. I don't respect your religion. Religion is a mental straitjacket that holds a society down and inflicts mental harm on its followers. Here in Norway, we have spent centuries freeing ourselves from one such mental straitjacket, Christianity. The very last thing we need is to important another pile of medieval claptrap to replace it with! Trust me when I say that there is nothing that can 'lead me in the direction' that you seem to want me to go in. Religion is bad news, and I oppose its influence on my society. Norway is, according to the UN, the best country in the world to live in. The reason for that is precisely because we have forced organized religion to its knees and created a society based on rationality and secularity.

You want me to make an effort to understand your religion. Be careful what you wish for ... I'm afraid I understand it too well as it is. I'd like you to do something, too, though - in the unlikely event that you ever come back here and read this. (I hope you won't, actually.) What can the reason be, do you think, if islam is so wonderful, that the Muslim countries in the world are so ... retarded? Technologically, scientifically, artistically, all the progress in the world is being made in the West and in Asia - outside the Muslim world. Saudi Arabia, for instance, is extremely Muslim, and they wouldn't even have been able to get their own oil out of the ground without extensive Western help. What could be the reason for that, I wonder?

Well, that's something for you to think about.

If you're happy living in the middle ages, that's your problem. I prefer the postmodern period. Have a good weekend.

Anonymous said...

" I understand it too well as it is. I'd like you to do something, too, though - in the unlikely event that you ever come back here and read this. (I hope you won't, actually.) ".

Hi, I'm back. I think, Leisha, after reading your rants that i have realized that you do not understand Islam at all and do not care to open your mind at all. You live in a cave shuttered with ignorance about the world around you and you intend to keep it that way. You're right, there is no reason to debate you in an intelligent and enlightened conversation about Islam...because your knowledge is truly lacking.

For me to call you a friend, is disrespectful? How so? Leisha, you don't have to debate me if you don't want to or even acknowledge my post. But, your attitude of "us vs. them" is very apparent. That is the same extremist and backward thinking that is employed by many extremists. And until reasonable people are willing to step out of their ignorance...the western and Islamic world will eventually come to an impasse.

As far as your rant about how the Islamic world never developed scientifically, technologically or artistically.....I guess you never studied your Islamic history, eh? Ever heard of the "Golden Age of Islam"? While medieval europe was still debating such things as whether women have a soul and how the world was flat....there were great advances in science, mathematics (alge-bra), medicine and art in the islamic world. As a matter of fact, Arabic was once the commercial language of the world as English is now....and if it had not been for the Muslims translating them into Arabic, etc....many a book of knowledge from the ancient greeks would have been lost. So, pls study history before you make your ill-conceived rants.

It looks like you are full of hate and do not wish to change. I feel sorry for you. I hope one day God (Allah) opens your eyes and delivers you from your darkness. Best of luck to you.

Calyx said...

I wanna fight too! :)

To anonymus muslim February 21, 2009 8:10 AM:

I must warn you, if you try to act condescendingly with Leisha, you will get your nose bloody. That's what the friend comment is about. As Leisha said, respect is a two way street, and so is friendship.

I assume you are reading this, since you came back for a second round.

The funny thing about the whole islam debate is that people drag out the same sorry arguments over and over again. I could make a list of all the standard arguments used, but it would bore everyone to death. The really interesting thing is the way the muslims using these arguments are so absolutely convinced that they are valid, and how nobody else is. There is a total breakdown of communication.

For example, the whole "golden age of islam" story. This is a myth put out by apologists and people who have an incorrect understanding of medieval history in Europe. Because of the great achievements of the renaissance, there has been a tendency to regard the middle ages as a black hole where nothing happened, but this is quite far from the truth.
In fact, navigators knew that the world was round, and the myth that they didn't was put out to glorify Columbus. I'm pretty sure muslim scholars were debating equally silly questions - in fact they are still doing it today, while the rest of the world has moved on.

The myth about how arabic scholars kept the greek philosophers' work alive while it was forgotten in Europe, is just that - a myth. Aristotle in particular had a lot of influence on the Catholic Church at the time, which is part of the reason why Galileo got into so much trouble over his scientific discoveries.

To the extent that the arabic world made great achievements - yes, but no more than other civilisations, and also because the arabs simply conquered more advanced cultures (for example Persia, where mathematics were advanced, and the Byzantine empire, which had great art and architecture) and incorporated their knowledge into their own culture - which was rather well done.

I don't dispute that achievements were made, but don't be so quick to disrespect other people's cultures. My main problem with muslim "spokespeople" is usually that they seem to feel perpetually offended, but have no understanding of how offensive their remarks are to other people.
I know lots of muslims who are normal, polite people. But I have never heard anyone defend islamic practices in public without offending people who are not muslims. I think it is totally possible to be a muslim without acting like a sect member, in fact lots of people do. But it seems Islam is stuck in a "dirty age" right now.

At the end of this little rant, I just have to laugh a little. Did you know Leisha has a Master in Medieval History? And you tell her to study history? That is really a bit rich...*giggle*

Have a fun day! And let us all live long enough to review the evidence!

Calyx said...

For more about the "Golden Age, have a look here:

http://www.islam-watch.org/SyedKamranMirza/Nostalgia-of-Islamic-Golden-Age.htm

and here

http://www.mwillett.org/atheism/islamicgoldenage.htm

I always thought those stories sounded too good.

Ximinez said...

Anonymous: "It looks like you are full of hate and do not wish to change. I feel sorry for you. I hope one day God (Allah) opens your eyes and delivers you from your darkness. Best of luck to you."

Actually, I think it looks like she's curious, intelligent and open. Frankly, you seem to be the one who is afraid of change, rigid in your ways. I'm pretty sure Leisha is willing to listen to reason and arguments that are founded in reality, rather than the figment of someones imagination.
Don't feel sorry for Leisha. She's doing fine and will continue to do so without submitting to islam.
I hope you one day open your eyes and think for yourself. (Btw, wouldn't the concept of "luck" be diametrically opposed to a god that controls everything?)

Leisha has translated a quote from a norwegian author from the 1930s that I find fitting:

There are many things we don't know, and many things we would wish to know. But every time our understanding, through the aid of science, has received a small push forwards, a pale anxiety moves through the congregation. They fear that God may be made ill of it, that he may die, that Christianity may dissolve, Christianity which is meant to protect us from knowledge. One fears that a ray of light may penetrate the darkness which one buries oneself in so that one does not have to see.
To put it in other words: One fears losing one's father, fears growing up, fears having to take up the struggle of life in all seriousness and on one's own account and risk. And one fears dying. Therefore the Father will live for eternity, he will assist when things go wrong, or when danger arises, and after death one will come to him and be with him. An exemplary compromise between the bitter experience and the desperate wish.


It works equally well if you replace Christianity with Islam.
In that light, I find this quote to be hilarious: " You live in a cave shuttered with ignorance about the world around you and you intend to keep it that way. You're right, there is no reason to debate you in an intelligent and enlightened conversation about Islam."

Do you feel that it is "intelligent and enlightened" and not ignorant to believe in something that cannot be proven? You sound pretty apologetic to me.

I always wonder when it comes to religion... This "god"-character everybody is having delusions about... He's all-powerful and all that shit. Why does he care what people believe? He's gotta be incredibly patient to wait up there for thousands of years, watching every believer growel and beg at regular intervals.

Damn... I shouldn't be ranting when I'm still half asleep...

DES said...

Ah, the irony of state religion!

I'm sure it won't surprise you to hear that there is an ongoing debate in Norway concerning the abolition of the state religion. I'm equally sure that some of you will be surprised to learn who's on which side of the fence.

The religious right are in favor of separation, because the church would then be free of political oversight. For instance, it would be free to appoint the bishops it really wants, instead of having progressive, pro-gay-marriage bishops appointed by the government. So in a sense, you could say that Norway has freedom of religion for everyone except Lutherians, because it is controlled by the state rather than by its adherents.

On the other side of the fence, you have—well—sorry, Leisha—royalists who are worried that excising the state religion from the constitution may weaken the King's standing in same.

Nevertheless, a coalition of parties including all incumbent members of the Storting have agreed to prepare and submit, within the next four years, a constitutional amendment which, while not directly abolishing the state religion, will reduce both the state's influence on the church and vice versa.

(See http://www.dagbladet.no/nyheter/2008/04/10/532149.html for details in Norwegian)

Oh, and Leisha, if you need help with the Norwegian lessons, just let me know. We all know I'm going there anyway, seeing as I listen to heavy metal and play role-playing games :-)

Anonymous said...

Hi to everybody on Leisha’s blog!
This discussion got very hot and that’s great. However, it slipped out from the main topic which is hijab on uniform regulated jobs in Norway. To sum up, the discussion was moved towards Leisha’s feelings about the Muslim world and then towards why or if the civilization advancement depends on secularity.
I would just like to comment on the post of the Muslim lady from USA:
Why do you feel Leisha has something particularly against Muslims if she supports the law in her country that says: no crosses, funny hats, funny make-up and such on jobs that oblige wearing uniform and representing the state? The NO answer would equally hit gothic metal guys – Marylin Manson fans! Why suddenly this turns into discussion about Leisha’s attitude towards Islam? Why do you feel so threatened?
The hijab case is nothing but an attempt by parts of the Muslim community in Norway to find a topic that proves that Norwegian society is intolerant towards them. There is a hard feeling they have. They feel left alone. They feel not understood. They feel unprepared for this system. They grew up in Norway geographically but not in harmony with the system, and if Norway is anything then it’s an overdesigned system. Hijab is just an excuse. This is the real question: Why do they feel left alone and what to do to help them?
And if Norwegians think this problem has nothing to do with them then they better try to go sit in a cafe in the center of Oslo during the demonstrations against the war in Gaza.

Leisha Camden said...

When I woke up yesterday I first read the comment from Brainwashees Anonymous, and I thought, Shit, now I'm going to have to waste my time talking to this chick and I'll get all annoyed having to actually pay attention to all her dumbassery. But then I opened some more emails and discovered that someone else had already done it for me. Awww!! Calyx, you rock. :-) And Ximinez, thank you. You rock too. :-)

Anon, sheesh ... I really hope that I'm just talking into thin air here, but just on the off chance that you really can't stay away, I just have to say a few things in addition to seconding everything my pals here already have said.

You don't understand how it's disrespectful for you to address my as your friend?? Are you serious?? Then let me spell it out for you: You don't know me. You are not my friend. It's very presumptuous of you to talk to me in that way. How can you fail to understand that??

There is indeed no reason for us to debate. There is really no reason for people like me to debate people like you. Because people like you are unable to understand rational arguments. Religion cripples the human mind. You are a stellar example of that. Rationality is wasted on people like you ... it's so sad ... your ability to use your reason has been so stunted and crippled by this mental straitjacket that you've been forced to wear. I mean, you hope that god will open my eyes and enlighten me ... ?? I can't take you seriously. You have the same problem as Fox Mulder - you want to believe. I don't know if you ever watched that show, but if you did, you'll remember that most people laughed at him ... ?

It's also pretty pathetic to hear you regurgitate the same old crap ... especially since that didn't even have anything to do with the question I asked you. I'm quite aware of the so-called golden age, thank you - in fact I think I probably know more about it than you do, considering what you've written here. (As Calyx mentioned, I do have a Master's degree in medieval history.) But even if that had been true, SFW? You really think these things are impressive today, a millennium later, when the islamic world basically hasn't gotten any further along at all during all that time?? Your precious religion is still stuck in the middle ages. Color me unimpressed.

And it's a lie that Europeans in the middle ages generally believed that the earth was flat. It is not to your credit that you have bought into that. Try to do a little bit of research before you believe everything you hear.

You are funny though, thank you for a good laugh yesterday. I'm in a cave shuttered with ignorance! That is rich. Thanks. :-D Bye now. Go pray.

DES, I look forward to us starting up a school together. How we shall torment our long-suffering students! Bwahahahaha!!!

To the latest Anonymous - good point, why does our Muslim preacher feel so threatened? If she's so right and we're so wrong, why worry? ;-) You make some good points in the rest of your comment too. I agree that the hijab thing is just an excuse. IMO this is part of basically a project that Muslim fundamentalists - such as they are in this country - are working on. These people want to force an acceptance in this country of arguments based in religion as sound and acceptable ... more acceptable, in fact, than arguments based in reason. It's incredibly dangerous, probably more than we realize. We can't let them succeed. And that has nothing to do with opposing freedom of speech or freedom of religion.

As for what you're saying about integration - as I understand it, anyway - I don't entirely agree. If people don't want to be integrated, then even the best effort can't make them integrate.

Ximinez, thank you for your compliments. :-) I've done fine without religion in my life for 32 years now, so I'll probably be fine for the rest of them too. ;-)

And to everyone who reads this - do not take all this to mean that I have anything against Muslims as such. Well, there are some people I could mention ... >:-) and religious people in general tend to rub me the wrong way. But lots of Muslims are good people too. The problem is religion, and the irrational demand for special consideration that it often carries with it.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. That's all I'm saying. Do as the Romans do.

Anonymous said...

Hi Leisha,
A few words about integration.
As you said: `These people want to force an acceptance in this country of arguments based in religion as sound and acceptable ... more acceptable, in fact, than arguments based in reason. It's incredibly dangerous, probably more than we realize.`
I couldn`t agree more. It is in fact so dangerous that it can easily slide the whole society backwards in only one day. That’s why I think integration is necessary. It is the only systematic method to insure we don’t listen to these `arguments` any more. It is not easy being a bad, misunderstood guy trust me. I have that experience. See EU isolated Serbia-my country for 10 years. The stronger the isolation the worse attitude Serbs had, having it confirmed that they are `hated`. Now integrating it into EU is harder then shitting a brick but it changes slowly. Not to mention how many MUSLIMS were killed because of RELIGION during that period. Keep giving people chances. They learn. It`s boring and long process but worth trying.
Now you know who I am ;)

Leisha Camden said...

Hi, N.!! I'm so happy to see you here! I just saw that there was a new comment from Anonymous and I thought it was that preacher girl again ... I was so happy to see that it was you instead. :-D

Thank you for your input, I appreciate it, so much ... I think it's a viewpoint that really needs to be heard in our public discourse. Partly because of the experiences that you & your countrymen have ... and partly I mean that the opinions and voices of well-integrated immigrants, those who really want to be integrated and contribute positively to this society, need to be heard. I think that that is so important. The people we are mostly hearing from now are extremists ... people who can't understand rational arguments and who just serve to polarize the debate.

Basically, as I'm sure you'll agree, we can't let people become isolated, and we also can't let them isolate themselves ... which some immigrant groups do want to do, but we can't let them do that. And part of that is demanding that they conform, in fact, to the rules of public debate that we have established here. We have to all be on the same playing field if we're going to play the same game. What an awful analogy! but it's getting late ... ;-)

Thanks for stopping by!! I hope to see you here again, I really appreciate your input on matters like these. :-)

Paul M H B said...

I'm sorry, but I can't help myself commenting on this one even though it's a few months old. :P Truth is, I'm writing a longer thesis-esque politico-philosophical argument for the separation of state and church and it's interesting how our arguments start off the same and then fork off in completely opposite directions. Just goes to show I guess...
Basically, we agree that the state is a public institution and that religion is a personal issue. So far so good. However, I disagree that it should follow from there that religious clothing be made illegal.
Instead, I go the other way. I believe that since religion is private, the state has nothing to say about religious clothing, decoration, etc. A state that introduces laws declaring what you can or cannot wear is moving in the wrong direction - backwards. I don't see how a hijab interferes with integration any more than the hindu tilaka or for that matter persian carpets.
A hijab does not interfere with the efficiency of society and therefore the state cannot legitimately abolish it. (I think it is fair to say that every single law is in place to secure efficiency in society). Instead, the state, or a population, may move to moral grounds (contra legal) to try to justify hijab-abolishment, but such an action would be hypocritical as morality is a religious concept and thus for an atheist, like you or me, does not exist.
For those reasons, we cannot abolish the hijab, neither can we say it is wrong not to do so.

Again, sorry to bring this issue up once more, VG and Dagbladet have digested so much of it already... :S

Ximinez said...

Paul: Do you feel that a uniform should be adapted to fit the wearers religion?
That's basically where this entire debacle started. It's a uniform, and no matter what faith the wearer has, it should still be a uniform.
In what I've seen in norwegian media, most of the population don't want hijab banned. They just want the uniform to stay "neutral".

By wearing a hijab/jilbab, one takes a conscious choice to not work where a dress code is required.
No banning necessary, but respect for dress codes and uniforms are required.

Leisha Camden said...

Hi Paul, nice to see you here - I've been reading your comments around & about and I think you have some smart things to say. Mostly. But you seem to have ... well ... not understood the first thing about this post.

I don't want to ban the hijab. Where did you get that from? Where did I ever say that I want to ban the hijab? I think people wearing it are idiots, but that's unrelated to your claim. I'm almost impressed by how wildly you've managed to misread what I wrote.

So read my lips now: I don't want to ban the hijab. No one in this debate wants to ban the hijab. That is a falsehood ... spread by those who are our mutual opponents, in fact. To sum up my original argument: The state has no obligation to either facilitate or hinder the religious 'needs' of its citizens. Do you see where you went wrong?

Possibly in about the same place where all those hijab-wearing gals went wrong. They claimed that it's discrimination that they are not allowed to wear their hijabs in a certain profession (which they have little or no hope of ever qualifying for, but that's another story). And although you say that we - ie you and I - agree, I'm almost getting the vibe that you side with them on that point. o_O Which means that you and I certainly don't agree.

It's called a uniform, not a multiform. Not being allowed to wear the hijab, or any other headgear one personally prefers, with an established uniform that does not include such a garment is not discrimination. The same rules apply to everyone. That is the exact opposite of discrimination.

The uniform regulations of the Norwegian police force say nothing about 'religious clothing'. It doesn't need to. Get it?

And if religion is a personal matter and not for the state to say, then how can anyone claim the 'right' to enforce their own religious beliefs in the public sphere?

In closing, there's something in your comment that I take strong exception to. Morality is not a religious concept. What on earth are you saying??! Honestly: I'm sorry to say it, but that is the most ridiculous statement I've heard all week. Please don't repeat that in any discussions with any fundies you may come across. It's what they all long to hear from an atheist.

Thanks for stopping by, though. :-)

Leisha Camden said...

Ximinez: Thanks for stopping by to you too. It's good to see you here again. I agree with your thoughts, well said. :-)

Paul M H B said...

I'm sorry, please allow me to elucidate.
First off, I do apologize for misreading. You're right. I suppose my excuse could be that I read in the early hours of the morning.
To the uniform debate, I think it's crucial to establish what the purpose of a uniform is. I do not admit that a uniform contains the purpose of similarity. I would say, in strictly philosophical terms, that the similarity would be more of a consequence. Uniforms do, however, contain the purpose of displaying membership and authority.
Many would probably bring up the issue of hair in this case. That men in the military must have short hair, or that women in uniforms as a rule must have their hair tied up. But there is a difference between a choice of style and a choice of religion. These people believe that it would be shameful to Allah not to wear a hijab, and although personally I must say that this is in all likelihood rubbish, I also acknowledge that such a claim is most pressingly true to many, and I do not submit that I have any right in telling them it is not so. It is a personal issue, and the above reasoning cannot be applied to hair.
On a more pragmatic level, I must say that if a person feels a uniform is disturbed by religious clothing, it has more to do with prejudice towards religion than it does with aesthetics. It cannot honestly be argued that a uniform loses its meaning because of a hijab, or if it can, then it is more of a claim to religio-phobia. These are people, it is important to them, and I don't see any reason why it should harm us.
Now, please permit me to explain my claim on morality. I believe you may have understood me in a way I did not intend. Follow this: a law or code is irrelevant without an enforcer, without punishment. In practicality, a law without an enforcer would cease to exist. Morality, as it is understood in current society (a la an objective morality), is a set of universal laws. Where is the universal enforcer of these laws? For a theist it would be God, but I am luckily not one of them, and I cannot find a suitable candidate. So I must come to the conclusion that objective morality is a religious concept and for a non-religious person it ceases to exist.
Obviously this does not mean that atheists are - well - 'immoral'. Enter subjective morality. Mostly acquired by a sense of justice, empathy and efficiency, this code of laws is different for everyone, and its enforcer is personal emotion.
I hope that made my views clearer. Again, my apologies for misreading.
Regards,
P.

Ximinez said...

Paul:
So you believe that a purpose of an uniform is not to be uniform?
Do you realize how incredibly stupid that statement is?

A huge part of the hijab "problem" is that hijab isn't as much a muslim religious symbol, as it is an islamic political symbol.
It was popularized during the early '80s by Ayatollah Khomeini.
Would you say that it is OK to use other political and/or religious symbols with a police uniform?
And if you allow some political symbols, where do you draw the line? Are swastikas OK?
Why not?

Why this need to proclaim ones personal beliefs during working hours? Why do I as a civilian need to be informed about "your" specific religion, when "you" are representing the law, and required to be neutral?

Leisha Camden said...

Paul: Apology accepted. :-)

OK. You 'do not admit that a uniform contains the purpose of similarity'. o_O That statement is to me utterly meaningless. And in this debate, it's also irrelevant. You are moving the goalposts. The meaning of a word doesn't change simply because you apparently don't like it.

'Strictly philosophical terms', oy vey ... Sorry, but I live in the real world. I don't deal in the 'strictly philosophical'.

When people believe something that seems to be BS, you certainly do have every right to tell them so. If someone told you that they believed that they had a colony of fairies living in their back yard, you would probably feel free to tell them that that this was nonsense. I wonder why you feel that religions should be given special consideration on this score?

But the whole point is that people are in fact free to wear the hijab. People are free - in our wonderful society - to do all sorts of ridiculous things. No one, however, has the right to alter established uniforms to fit their own personal worldviews. I don't understand that you seem to not perceive the nuances here? And as Ximenez says, why not, then, a swastika as part of the police uniform? Why not?

On a more pragmatic level, I must say that if a person is disturbed by a uniform being altered and altered and altered - because allowing the hijab means that we immediately have four different police uniforms, and why stop there? - it's because they basically feel that if it ain't broken, don't fix it.

Anyone who feels that they can only be a police officer if they can wear the hijab, has thereby disqualified themselves by showing their unsuitability for the task.

Thanks for explaining your views on morality, but I still gotta say that it's BS. I have the flu and don't have energy to go into details here, but seriously, it's BS. For my part, I don't need god, I have my conscience. Think about what you're saying.

And please don't ever use this argument when debating with theists. They're longing to hear an atheist say this very thing.

Leisha Camden said...

http://humesrazor.blogspot.com/2009/04/svar-til-de-troende-del-6.html

Paul M H B said...

Ximenez and Leisha:
No, you are relying on a literal interpretation of the meaning of the word. I explained that there is a different way of looking at the meaning of 'uniform'. Do you believe an atom is indivisible? The word comes from Greek 'atomos' and means 'indivisible'. But we have learned that atoms are indeed divisible. Progress.
If you want to keep pressing the issue, then ask yourself what the usefulness of a uniform is if it is only to be similar to itself. In that case it would be cheaper to manufacture t-shirts and jeans, but there is a reason this is not done. Why not?
There are also different uniforms for men and women. Should these be made into a unisex uniform only because the etymology of the word means 'single form'?
The hijab may be a political symbol in the eyes of you, or me, or Khomeini, but it is definitely not for those who wear it. It's a silly conjecture: I still don't see why you or I should be given favour for our perception of the hijab. The swastika is not a prominent religious symbol (yes, I know, hindus and buddhists) and a hindu or buddhist is not compelled to wear it because of their religion.
As I have said before, the hijab is not a direct proclamation of beliefs. Believing muslim women are compelled by their religion to wear it. And if it offends you that a policewoman is a muslim on duty, then that's more of your problem than hers. It does not affect her policing.

As for the fairies in the back yard analysis, Descartes teaches us that no, you cannot be completely certain that it is - as you say - BS. It most probably is, but there is, you must admit, a tiny sliver of possibility that it is not. The same applies to God. Even the staunchest atheists cannot claim to know that God does not exist, or Allah, or fairies. It's just most probably so. Therefore, logically, you must respect a person's privacy of beliefs.

Yes, conscience as morality, but conscience is a subjective morality, and varies from person to person, and is based on emotion, empathy and a sense of justice. I'd say we're saying the same thing.

Leisha Camden said...

logically, you must respect a person's privacy of beliefs.This is where you and all these apologetics tend to go wrong. Respecting someone's right to believe what they want is one thing - it does not follow from this that one must respect their rights to actions that follow from those beliefs. People can delude themselves all they want that their big sky buddy doesn't like them showing their hair to strangers. That doesn't automatically give them the right to do so in all sorts of situations where it goes against established rules and regulations.

I respect no religious beliefs. I never will. I respect people's rights to cling to them, but that's something else entirely.

Believing muslim women are compelled by their religion to wear it.No, they're not. There are lots of
Muslim women who don't wear the hijab, who never would. Are you saying that those women are bad
Muslims?? Who are you to decide that? (It's not true anyway, but that's another story. I suggest you do some reading.)

And if it offends you that a policewoman is a muslim on duty, then that's more of your problem than hers.Flippant answer: When someone she's trying to arrest pulls her hijab down into her eyes so she can't see, kicks her in the face and runs away, it'll be her problem too.

Anyone pushing their religion in my face, or in the face of society at large, offends me.

Why can't people just accept that the rules are what they are? Why must one group have special consideration? Christian officers aren't allowed to wear crosses or crucifixes around their necks, even concealed underneath their uniform shirts. You don't hear them bitching about that, do you? If you want to be a cop, there are some rules that apply. Accept that, or find some other dream career.

It does not affect her policing.Yes, it does. Islam teaches, for instance, that homosexual behavior is wrong. So what if the victim of a gaybashing calls the police, and the person who arrives to help him literally advertises her allegiance to a faith that denounces his entire lifestyle as immoral? That does not affect her policing? Pull the other one, it's got bells on ...

OK, like I said, I'm sick, I have no energy. And this is getting to feel increasingly like a waste of my time. But Ximenez, feel free to take over. :-) Personally I think I'm done with this hair-splitting now. Have a nice night, what's left of it.

Ximinez said...

You're not the only one with the flu, Leisha ;-)
Paul: Your semantic logic is spread so thin you can't possibly believe the utter crap you're spouting.
The police uniform have a few main purposes. Neutrality/equality is one of them. Authority is another. Visibility (eg. for deterrence) is yet another. The design of the uniform and the uniformity itself are tools in achieving this.
Does a hijab promote neutrality and authority to you?
Or do you have some more flawed semantics to make those words mean what you want them to mean?

You say that the wearers of hijab do not view it as a political symbol. Can you in any way prove that? Because the hijab was "invented" by some imam in the '60s, and pushed through by Khomeini. There is no passage in the Qur'an that requires a woman to wear a hijab.
So there's no actual religious fundament for the hijab, but plenty political. But you're claiming that its wearers are stupid enough to believe there is only religious reasons?
Not only are hijab-wearing women stupid enough to believe there's a religious fundation where there is none, but they are also stupid enough to believe it is in any way required of them, when even prominent muslims (Like a female public figure in Norwegian Muslim Council) do not wear them?
Way to go "defending" muslim women.

The hijab is voluntary, just as wearing a cross is. Or a star of David. Or a "democrats"-button.
And as all other personal effects, they have no place on a police uniform.

BTW, both of you: It's Ximinez.
NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as: fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope, and nice red uniforms.

DES said...

Paul, it's really quite simple. I can see why islamists don't understand, or refuse to understand, but I'm surprised that you, as an atheist, and as a fairly rational person, don't understand it either.

It is inappropriate for a representative of the state, such as a police officer, to promote or condone any religious or political movement. Therefore, it is inappropriate for a representative of the state to openly display a religious or political symbol

By the way, it is “shameful” for a Christian woman to show her hair (1 Cor. 11:6)—or, for that matter, for a Christian man to let his hair grow long (1 Cor. 11:14)—yet Christian female police officers are not allowed to wear a headscarf or any other headgear except their uniform cap, and nobody is complaining.

Leisha, about the flag: there isn't much point in changing it. Our current flag is not particularly religious; the shape was chosen for its similarity to the flags other Nordic states, and the colors were inspired by those of the flags of France and the United States—whose constitutions also served as models for ours.

France was completely secularized in 1905 (and was de facto a secular state long before that), yet still uses a flag whose colors traditionally represented the royal family (blue), the divine right of the King (white) and the patron saint of Paris (red), although there are other interpretations, such as the King (blue), God (white) and the Revolution (red).

The royal standard (gold lion rampant on a red field) and coat of arms (gold lion rampant on a crowned red escutcheon) of Norway go all the way back to the 13th century and have no religious significance whatsoever, except perhaps for the cross at the top of the coat of arms.

Speaking of France: freedom of religion and freedom from religious discrimination are enshrined in the first article of the constitution, but they are no more or less than logical extensions of the freedom of thought and speech. There is no constitutional freedom of religious practice. Like any other activity, be it shopping or making love or taking a walk in the park, religious practice is permitted only insofar as it does not violate the law or impede the proper functioning of the state. To maintain the state's religious neutrality, public employees are forbidden to wear blatant religious symbols, which include the Muslim hijab and the Jewish kippa. Discreet symbols, such as a small cross or star of David or crescent or what have you, are permitted. The same restrictions apply to schoolchildren, but not to college or university students (which is problematic, as a hijab could conceal an earpiece or other device used for cheating at an exam).

DES said...

Oh, and I almost forgot: morality is most certainly not a religious concept. Just ask Hume.

Paul M H B said...

DES: I have read Hume's epistemology and his political philosophy, but have not yet, as far as I know, encountered his moral theory. The link you gave only explains Hume's theory on the usefulness of morals, not where they come from. (I have a good library of Philosophy here at my University, so I will look for a book on it tomorrow and come back to you if he says anything about the origin of morality). Notice I am saying that objective morality is a religious concept, and that subjective morality is intrinsic to human nature, arising from emotion, empathy and a sense of justice. I find it hard to believe that my view and Hume's view are incompatible, with Hume being a fellow atheist and all.

DES said...

All right, I didn't get the “objective” part. Moral absolutism and universalism are not intrinsically religious; one contemporary non-religious example is the concept of human rights.

Paul M H B said...

I'm so glad you mentioned human rights. It's a great example.

In reality, you don't have human rights by virtue of being human. For all we know, there could be humans living on another planet somewhere or there's a tribe on an undiscovered island in the Pacific ruled by a despotic murderer. Human beings that the UN cannot protect do not have human rights. Similarly, without the UN or police, we would not have rights by virtue of being human either. They are artificial and imposed. You cannot say that a man 6000 years ago had the right to free speech and an attorney. Yet he was human. So I would say it's not absolutist or objective at all. It's just a bigger subjective morality.

Ximinez said...

Paul: And what reasoning do you think the murderous despot uses to subdue his subjects? There is no tool better suited for this evil rulers plan than religion.
The morality and ethics in religion are at all times goverened by powerhungry psychopaths like Yusuf Qaradawi, who feel that gay people must be killed, and holocaust was Allahs will. One of human rights' worst enemies is religion.

But, I'd like your answer on whether you believe that hijab promotes neutrality and authority?
The hijab signals that the wearer submits to Allah. Way to project authority, don't you think?

Do you think the women who wear the hijab are blithering idiots, by the way?

Paul M H B said...

Ximenez:
Mao, Stalin, Mussolini, Hitler, Pol Pot. The greatest despots in modern history are afraid of organized religion. One could argue similarly to Plato in the Euthyphro: that religious 'objective' morality is the subjective morality of God (It is Good because God likes it), or that even God is a moral being and that moral laws exist outside of God (God likes it because it is Good). In the first case, objectivity ceases to exist. In the second, God's authority is undermined, and the question becomes a lot more ontologically complicated. So yea, religious morality is even likely to be subjective, but I do have a human perspective on it, and we should not forget that a huge population of the world believe that Morality (capital M) exists as a singular code of laws which everyone must obey. That's what I protest against.

Like I've said, there's a distinction between the public and the private sphere. Policing is a public action, and it carries with it a set of certain qualities, like neutrality and authority. The choice to wear a hijab is a private action, and as long as it does not coalesce with the public action of policing, then there is no undermining of neutrality or authority. i.e. if the hijab-wearing policewoman discriminates or acts outside of police expectations, then they are unfit to police, but that has little to do with the hijab. There are plenty hijab-wearers who do not discriminate or project their religion beyond their private sphere. Submitting to Allah or God or Jahve or Shiva has no effect on authority. Policemen submit to their Chiefs and Commissioners, it would be the same thing, but in the private sphere.

I'm not even going to answer your last question. Excuse me.

Ximinez said...

Paul: I know that Hitler was a catholic, so he couldn't be too afraid of organized religion, could he?

How the f**k can you claim that religious headwear symbolizes neutrality? If they are so submitted to their religion that they are required to wear this political symbol, what makes you believe that they have not submitted to their religion on other matters that will affect their policing?
Hijab-wearing women here in Norway have proclaimed that they wear the hijab because their religion is very important to them.
A religion that promotes anti-semitism, death to gay people, anti-democracy and a lot more.

If a hijab-wearing policewoman shows up where there is a religious conflict (eg. jews and muslims), do you think that her headgarment displays "neutrality" in any possible meaning of the word?
Whether or not this is a common occurance is a non-issue. The police is supposed to be neutral in all cases, and a political/religious symbol like the hijab completely destroys that neutrality.