Have you read the International New York Times today (16th March)?, well I have. On paper print, first time after a really long time. I do it online. But, as am in a long flight from Birmingham UK to Calgary Canada, I picked two newspapers- NYTimes and WSJ to read. Trust me, most of the news in both papers are depressing narrating issues from rising inequality, to the usual USA prominent figures such as McCain rambles/complaints about USA’s weakened foreign policy on the face of a ‘gymed’ Russian foreign policy, to social stuff such as privacy in social media, and…uugh the missing Malaysian flight etc.
Well, stopping here…the real issue that has stroke me hard is the issue of “freedom to worship” or “religious freedom”. Can you imagine today’s NYTimes runs two articles on religious freedom. 1. Talks about the despicable situation of Muslim refugees running from the extremist Burmese Buddhists to Malaysia through Thailand. 2. The Oppression of Christians in Iran. Both of them are so sad. I will talk about each of those from my very general and little knowledge.
Oppression against Muslims:
It is very sad (let’s all acknowledge) that the international media has not been very “interested” to report on the oppression of Muslims around the world. New Terrorism wrongly and unfairly blackmailed the Islam and this has significantly contributed to a systematic oppression of Muslims in many parts of the world. The media has also been “mean” in telling the world what happens to innocent Muslims around the world.
We have had stories of oppression of Muslim communities in Burma. Sadly, this country had been on the spotlight for many years when its national democratic hero Aung San Suu Kyi was under house arrest. Suu Kyi case enjoyed media attention to the point that she got global sympathy, which exerted significant pressure that has set her free. Suu Kyi’s freedom opened up another human right abuse that is done to a whole community of Muslims. (By the way, has she publicly say anything about Oppression against Muslims in her country)? The Buddhist extremists have been systematically discriminating, oppressing, and even killing Muslims. Why are they doing this? I don’t understand. Do these Buddhist extremists remember the international outcry when their scared places where destroyed by the Taliban? Are they (as a friend of mine keeps telling me “you are reactionary?”) reacting? I doubt! Why are they violating the universal religious principle of “do unto others what you would like them to do unto you”? Well, I guess my issue at this point is not trying to figure out their stupid inhuman rationale…it’s about the little attention (at least media wise) this issue is getting?
Why are we allowing the biased and unfair discourse on terrorism hinder us from condemning people who oppress Muslim?
Burma is not the only case…there is Central African Republic (CAR). A poor central African country ravaged by war has allowed a complex systematic oppression of Muslim community in the country. Why are these acts not being condemning? Thinking aloud, what if it was the Muslims oppressing the other faith groups?
Well, may be the international media would have been more interested…do we have an empirical evidence for that? I am not sure…and as a social scientists, I cannot dare assuming that at this point…But let’s see the other story first and then we can figure out an “acceptable” assumption or may be reach a simple way forward…
Oppression against Christians:
When I was thinking about oppression against Muslims and getting very disturbed in my heart, I asked my self…why have Muslims come to suffer so much because of their faith? Then I remember the emails I receive from Open Doors, a Christian advocacy NGO working towards universal religious freedom. The emails come with so different cases of Christian oppressions especially in Middle East. I don’t always get time to read all of the emails but the frequency of those highlight a big issue. So, almost as a shock, while I kept turning the unmanageable long pages of NYTimes, I came across the article on Oppression against Christians in Iran.
My quick conclusion was then…it does not really matter what religious faith you belong to, circumstances can call for discrimination against you entirely on your religious conviction. Unfortunately, religion fights religion…every religious faith feels superior to another and wants to convert and dominate. Sad.
My PhD research thoroughly looked at the “double-sided” nature of religion- as a force for good but also a force for bad. Although I focused on its “force for good” side…I reviewed literature on its “force for bad” side intensively. It is just too complicated.
This is a shameful situation in a globalized world where the smallness of the globe should help us appreciate our differences more than polarizing us. Can you imagine how boring the world would be if we all had single faith?
Well, before I start rumbling, we really have to figure out, at the individual level, how are we going to live to promote harmony especially with people who have different faith.
Ok, I am writing this on the plane, the moment I land to Calgary and pass through the immigration (you see I’ve to remember this with my green Tanzanian passport that always trigger many questions despite its visas and stamp dirty pages) I will post it…of course after hugging tight my (I swear the most beautiful) niece – she belongs, by the way, in a mixed faith family. Her parents are in an “interfaith marriage”…they are extremely happy and so in love!