Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stop Funding Or Ban It?

I have been thinking about this point of possible disagreement I may have with Ayaan Hirsi Ali ever since I put down Infidel that I wanted to discuss her further. As I mentioned in the book review, Ayaan Hirsi Ali glosses over some of her political opinions at the end of the book, vaguely mentioning what they are in the context of the story but never elaborating or explaining why she came to such conclusions. It is in this indirect way that I noticed that, at the very beginning of her political career, she mentions that she does not think the Dutch government should be funding Muslim schools, despite the fact that Article 23 of their Constitution endows them with this right (I presume that is how the article was interpreted, seeing as the Article seems to be more about the freedom of parents to choose how to educate their children, but see for yourself and let me know if there's something I'm missing). Later on, she mentions trying to ban Muslim schools altogether, as well as abolishing Article 23.

This is the point in which I tend to disagree with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. One thing that we can agree on is the issue of funding. I absolutely agree that the government should not be funding any religious schools, Muslim or otherwise, and I also think that they should pay the same taxes that any other private entity has to pay. However, this is a far cry from all-out banning and removing a parent's right to choose (within certain bounds) how to educate their children.

I tend to balk at the idea of banning things because, having only recently left teenagerdom, I remember full well what indiscriminate banning can do. It causes a backlash, a resistance, a barrier to reasoned dialogue because it feeds the flames of the fear of persecution, something that most religions wallow in. It turns the debate into an attack on religion and faith itself, not one on the blatant discrimination that was at the heart of her problem with the schools themselves.

I suppose that this, in essence, comes down to the definition of Islam that Ayaan Hirsi Ali outlines in her book. The way she was raised as well as for millions like her, Islam is at its heart a sexist, violent religion. Furthermore, she claims that because of the fact that the Qu'ran is the "word of God" and cannot be questioned, you cannot be Muslim as well as believe in the true equality of the sexes.

To this I have to make the obvious connection to other main religions. Yes, I agree that Islam is not peace. Yes, I agree that at its foundation it is a sexist, racist and violent religion. However, I believe that it is something that it has in common with the other Abrahamic religions. There are some unbelievably sexist, racist, violent and outright immoral things in the Bible and Torah, and there are still some fundementalists or orthodox believers that hold to these tenants as "truth" because their holy book contains the one true and only word of God (let's not forget this eye-roller in a long list of examples).

However, when it comes to Christianity and Judaism, the majority of believers seem to (admittedly conveniently) have disregarded these unpalatable parts of their religion. It is not the social norm to abhor slavery, despite the Bible defending it repeatedly. It is the social norm to be disgusted by domestic violence, despite the Bible allowing for it. Humans will forever find ways to twist and ignore parts of their religion in order to be able to hold on to it despite their evolving morality. I do not think that the followers of Islam cannot do this too, and every one of the Muslim people I know are a testament to that fact.

It is because of this that I do not think that banning any religious school is the way to go, it is too broad and I think it sends a message that will cause this fight to come to a standstill. Instead, I would propose, a part from not giving any religious institution government funding, to enforce some basic rules in human rights that should be present in the country anyway, making to exception for religious institutions.

You can rule that schools cannot be segregated based on religion, race or gender. You can mandate certain guidelines for education, including sex education and science. You can prohibit the teaching of inflammatory beliefs involving homophobia, sexism or racism. These rules should apply to everyone, every school, no exceptions. If there is a religious school that doesn't like it tough shit, close your doors, because the values you teach are not compatible with the values of the country you live in. These are some rules that the US could benefit from too, another disgusting example of religious discrimination here.

You can decide that your want to declare a political war against faith, all I am saying is that I believe it is a different fight, and one that will be far slower in reaching a conclusion. In this case I believe that the war is about discrimination and the suffering that is allowed and being ignored for the sake of "religious tolerance". I think that making a strong distinction between attacking faith and attacking values that are not compatible with the law of the land will be the quickest way to get to carving out the social tumor of religiously tolerated inequality and suffering. While I know that there are some people that will never be swayed by reasonable arguments and believe this to be religious persecution regardless of the method, but I think this is the best way to get as many people on board as possible.

This is why I do not think that the Dutch should just flat out ban every religious school. It is an uneducated and naive one perhaps, but it is my opinion nonetheless.

Where do you stand on this issue? Why?


  1. Here you go again being pragmatic, just like the "majority of believers (who) seem to (admittedly conveniently) have disregarded these unpalatable parts of their religion."

    It won't do in the long run. I knew a number of Muslims studying in universities across Europe, and being all pragmatic and European and stuff. The moment they got back home, zzzzap.. Back to reality. And reality is that these are the people who will not voice anything untoward in their communities, but go with the flow and conform with prevailing circumstances. That's all fine and dandy until you find yourself on the opposite end of such pragmatism. Never been betrayed by friends, have you?

    As for the schools - brainwashing children into believing what we today know are lies? I don't think you would endorse that.

    1. I would never endorse it, but I'm not so naive as to think that I can prevent it by banning it, and history has taught me that banning this kind of thing only leads to more fundamentalism and stronger community (making martyrs out of leaders has that effect), whereas approaching silly ideas with rational logic and promoting a forum for open discussion has so far had far more success. You dont have to endorse something just because you dont think banning is not a good idea

    2. If you don't ban it, you let it go on. That's not endorsement actually, true, but it falls into category of doing nothing. And doing nothing is why evil wins..

      "All people can be made to follow the course of action, but not all can be made to understand it." Or something along those lines. Which kind of says that open forum and discussion will have little or no impact on people "educated" by religious standards.

      Besides, we shouldn't ban the religion, or the people, we should ban (or rather outlaw) fraudulent practices. Be it education, or making profit on threats, false promises, deceit, etc.

    3. I dont think that investing in a strong educational campaign countering them qualifies as "doing nothing". They have worked in the past far better than banning anything - look at US prohibition for example.

      Fraudulent practices are already outlawed. You could expand the scope, sure, and I'd be on board with that 100%, but the problem is that a lot (not all, and not the most powerful surely, but a lot) of the people that spread this stuff believe in the shit they sell. Thats not being fraudulent, no matter how wide a berth you give the term, that's being duped just as badly as the ones that listen to you. That is why I focus on education, youd be surprised how many people fall into this category. Why do you think all major religious institutions try desperately to ban their flock from even hearing other points of view? It can have far more impact than you may think.

    4. "Fraudulent practices are already outlawed."

      Right, but the law is not enforced when it comes to religion. Why not?

      And believing in things that are not there (not to mention talking to them and seeing them) constitutes delusion, and that at least questions one's sanity. Not recommended if you want to educate someone.

      Again, not a ban.

      Far more impact on whom; individuals who would figure it out on their own anyway?
      Besides, the sole reason for having religious schools is to ascertain continuous flow of members of the flock. You think you can stop it without getting your hands dirty?