Why Jews and Muslims Should Oppose the Banning of Public Symbols of Religion

March 5 2019

Last week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case regarding whether a 40-foot-high cross, built by the American Legion to honor U.S. soldiers and sailors who died in World War I, violates the First Amendment because it is located on Maryland state public property. Asma Uddin and Greg Dolin argue that such an expansive interpretation of the establishment clause would work to the detriment of religious minorities:

In the U.S. today, even if we banish Christian symbols from public spaces, Americans will still come across Christian symbols, history, imagery, and narrative. Minority religions in America do not enjoy this same pervasiveness. Most people are not familiar with Jewish ritualistic practices like kapparot (which, according to some customs, involves the slaughter of a chicken that is then donated to a needy family) or the sale and later repurchase of ḥamets (leaven, prohibited for consumption during Passover).

Similarly, most Americans are not familiar with Muslim ritual animal sacrifice on the annual Feast of the Sacrifice or even the dawn-till-dusk fast during the month of Ramadan on the Islamic calendar. The unfamiliarity in turn often breeds suspicions or worse—discrimination and hate crimes.

To make these practices more familiar to society at large, minority communities deeply appreciate when political leaders acknowledge these unique religious customs. Their participation sends a message that adherents of a minority faith are full members of the community and that their religious practices are welcome and not deserving of suspicion. A high-profile example of such acknowledgment is the annual menorah lighting that takes place in front of the White House. . . . The White House also typically hosts dinners for both Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim holiday that marks the conclusion of Ramadan.

These official acts of “recognition” would be banned under the interpretation of the Constitution put forward by opponents of public religious displays. . . . A decision that requires the government to forgo any interaction, no matter how minor, with religion, will disproportionately hurt practitioners of minority faiths.

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Read more at Detroit News

More about: American Jewry, American Muslims, First Amendment, Freedom of Religion, Politics & Current Affairs

Salman Rushdie and the Western Apologists for Those Who Wish Him Dead

Aug. 17 2022

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder and supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, issued a fatwa (religious ruling) in 1989 calling for believers to murder the novelist Salman Rushdie due to the content of his novel, The Satanic Verses. Over the years, two of the book’s translators have been stabbed—one fatally—and numerous others have been injured or killed in attempts to follow the ayatollah’s writ. Last week, an American Shiite Muslim came closer than his many predecessors to killing Rushdie, stabbing him multiple times and leaving him in critical condition. Graeme Wood comments on those intellectuals in the West who have exuded sympathy for the stabbers:

In 1989, the reaction to the fatwa was split three ways: some supported it; some opposed it; and some opposed it, to be sure, but still wanted everyone to know how bad Rushdie and his novel were. This last faction, Team To Be Sure, took the West to task for elevating this troublesome man and his insulting book, whose devilry could have been averted had others been more attuned to the sensibilities of the offended.

The fumes are still rising off of this last group. The former president Jimmy Carter was, at the time of the original fatwa, the most prominent American to suggest that the crime of murder should be balanced against Rushdie’s crime of blasphemy. The ayatollah’s death sentence “caused writers and public officials in Western nations to become almost exclusively preoccupied with the author’s rights,” Carter wrote in an op-ed for the New York Times. Well, yes. Carter did not only say that many Muslims were offended and wished violence on Rushdie; that was simply a matter of fact, reported frequently in the news pages. He took to the op-ed page to add his view that these fanatics had a point. “While Rushdie’s First Amendment freedoms are important,” he wrote, “we have tended to promote him and his book with little acknowledgment that it is a direct insult to those millions of Moslems whose sacred beliefs have been violated.” Never mind that millions of Muslims take no offense at all, and are insulted by the implication that they should.

Over the past two decades, our culture has been Carterized. We have conceded moral authority to howling mobs, and the louder the howls, the more we have agreed that the howls were worth heeding. The novelist Hanif Kureishi has said that “nobody would have the [courage]” to write The Satanic Verses today. More precisely, nobody would publish it, because sensitivity readers would notice the theological delicacy of the book’s title and plot. The ayatollahs have trained them well, and social-media disasters of recent years have reinforced the lesson: don’t publish books that get you criticized, either by semiliterate fanatics on the other side of the world or by semiliterate fanatics on this one.

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Read more at Atlantic

More about: Ayatollah Khomeini, Freedom of Speech, Iran, Islamism, Jimmy Carter