On secularism

First, I read this interview with a female Yemeni photographer.  Then I just happened to listen to this podcast a few days later from American Public Media’s On Being series that was recommended to me by a good friend. Fairly early on in both interviews, the subjects challenge the French or European model of secularism, the Yemeni photographer specifically with the view that the veil is not always a symbol of oppression and that the French should not ban it. The Turkish writer at one point discusses the purging of the Turkish language of all Arabic and Persian elements under Kemal Ataturk, including changing the written language so the population became illiterate practically overnight.  And as recently as 2007, Tony Blair waited to “come out” as Catholic until he was no longer Prime Minister of the UK.  Uproar over Obama’s and Romney’s religions appear trivial compared to that, no?  I know many Americans prefer the European model where no display of religion is permitted, but I really do think Americans have the right of it. We may end up with more religious people overall [which bothers some Americans as they deem it a sign of stupidity for some reason], but probably less oppressed whackjobs in the long run since everyone [barring the breaking of any laws] is free to practice whatever religion they choose in whatever manner they choose.  Ideally, members of government  would not vote or legislate based on their religious views [abstinence-only education, I’m looking at you].  But I still prefer our more liberal system where they don’t feel they have to hide.   Now if we could just separate the legal institution of marriage from religion completely and have civil unions for everyone…

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