Secularism and the Barometer for Democracy

Facebook | May 25, 2013

This statement by Ed Hussein makes absolutely no sense:

“If the barometer for democracy is France or Britain, then Muslim countries are not on that trajectory. Why should they be? Theirs is a different culture rooted in scripture, unlike that of secular Europe. The freedom to blaspheme or “insult the prophets and God” is not acceptable to most Muslims or even Christians living in Palestine, Pakistan, Egypt, or Lebanon. This tension between Western and other approaches to democracy will remain a cause for ongoing struggle.”

My comment: The barometer for democracy is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the concept of universal rights leaves no room for cultural exceptions. Secularism begins when people begin to acknowledge that scripture has its limitations and that their minds and consciences should the final arbiters in regard to a variety of issues and challenges. People do not have to reject their faiths and scriptures completely, but a critical number should reach an understanding that religiosity is an individual choice and that each person has much leeway, in fact, has the right to chart his/her own path to God and to develop his/her own relationship with the Great Unknown. Culture should never be used as an excuse to limit universal rights. Slavery is not only wrong in the West, it is wrong everywhere, so is limiting people’s freedom of expression and choice. Islam is not an exception to the rule in this regard. The West’s did not accommodate itself to the right of blasphemy and homosexuality overnight, it took centuries for that to happen and there was a pushback every inch of the way, which continues to this very day. It is only natural for many people in Muslim-majority countries to find themselves facing a similar set of challenges at this stage. Change in attitudes will be hard and gradual, and occasionally violent, but achieving universal rights remains the goal, and making allowances in the name of cultural specificity is defeatist, hypocritical, shortsighted and morally repugnant.