Thursday, January 17, 2013

Breath taking hypocrisy in The Age Opinion piece "Shutting out the Sinners Feeds Bigotry".


I read this article in The Age this morning with a mixture of disbelief, wry amusement and cynicism.

'Allowing religious organisations to discriminate undermines the true meaning of faith.' trumpets Joumanah El Matrah. Her piece is remarkably well written and logically argued. Top marks for essay writing, but it is the content and the seductive tone of conciliation, which when put in context, is worrying. What is her real agenda? Is it really religious tolerance and inclusiveness she is after or the opposite. I am guessing she is a full on adherent to the Muslim faith and therefore, seen in the light of her religion's actions and practice, it would seem surprising.

I do not see Muslim schools hurrying to hire Jews, Christians or Atheists or Hindus or same sex attracted people. Quite the opposite. To be honest, not allowing religious organisations to discriminate positively and hire their coreligionists or people who are sympathetic to their beliefs, is anti diversity and requiring that we all believe the same and conform to an ideal which may not be in keeping with the beliefs and values of individual faiths. Especially in education and in welfare organisations, these are organisations that are set up to cater to the cultural beliefs, customs and values of individual groups. Such organisations need to have a certain flavour. Jewish Care for example, has a very wide umbrella and would be seen to assist people who are both halachically Jewish and who identify as Jewish because a male parent is Jewish and has, I have heard, even helped the non Jewish spouses of Jews. The Salvation Army, The Sacred Heart and other Christian Mission organisations also help people across a wide denomination of beliefs, cultures and ethnic backgrounds that are not of their particular faith. There has yet to come to mind an Islamic Charity organisation that helps us 'infidels' because we are described as dogs and less than women??? We Jewish infidels come in for some interesting tags such as apes, donkeys and pigs. Whenever I come across these full on Muslims in their white PJ's with their white knitted skull caps, wielding rubber hoses at the livestock market, belting young steers over the head, trying to drive them down a race by just belting them with their length of black hose, unmindful of the fact that they are standing in the steers' path screaming and belting and then they think the steers are stupid for crashing into a closed gate at the back of the race in their efforts to get as far away from these madmen as possible, I want to do monkey or gorilla impersonations, scratching under my armpits and jumping up and down going 'WHHOOOO, Whoo WHOOO'. Either that or grab the hose from one of these morons, tell him that this is Australia, we are no longer in Bagdad or Cairo and we know how to handle stock and either he wants this hose rammed in one of his orifices or be belted across the head with it, or he learns a little about how animals work and deals with them compassionately and with respect.

When we do away with the rights of religious organisations to hire and fire staff as they see fit, then we are on the path of autocracy and the democratic rights of the individual and individual organisations are removed. I received a letter from a Christian School rejecting my application to work as a CRT because I am a committed Jew and observant. I respect the right of that organisation to tell me that 'we only hire teachers with a Christian world view,' and so they should, if that is the type of person that they are educating and they want them to be Christians. I have a committed Jewish world view and we allow diversity and differences of opinion within Judaism as well as outside the Jewish belief structure. It is called respecting others. I understand who I am as they understand who they are.

I found Ms El Matrah's opinion piece extremely hypocritical because to be honest, same sex attracted people are not particularly welcomed in countries like Syria, Iraq, Persia or Iran and Egypt, just to name a few. I bet you do not have too many rainbow organisations in Egypt, but they are tolerated in Israel and they are not beaten, stoned or hanged. We may not approve or promote their lifestyle but they are allowed to live and do live well there with citizenship rights etc. The push for same sex marriage is not even on the agenda, because it is a non issue. If you want to get married, marry a person of the opposite sex. The rest is a matter of choice and those who say it is not, need to learn a bit of self control and work at being a normal person.
The most troubling of Ms El Matrah's opinion piece are these snippets:
Placing restrictions on the rights of faith-based organisations to discriminate against those who do not comply with or embody their view of religious doctrine is not an attack on the freedom of religious belief.
 Oh yes it is an attack Ms El Matrah, and a very clever one at that. To have religious diversity, we must tolerate the fact that some groups want to hire those who support their values and their beliefs. To deny them that right is to say that their belief systems are not relevant and are disallowed or socially unacceptable. We are on a very slippery slope here.

In allowing religious organisations to discriminate, it is not religion that is protected but the institutionalisation of conservative religious forces who no longer have a meaningful moral vision of what it means to be a person of faith in today's society.
We need to examine the forces that are shaping today's society and investigate their agenda. Why do religious institutions no longer have 'a meaningful moral vision of what it means to be a person of faith in today's society'? I am sure that both Christian and Jewish and Hindu or other religious leaders would disagree. We need to meet the changes and challenges of the contemporary society within which live and we need to understand that some values are a constant, despite the fads of the times. For some it is fashionable to be gay, goth or whatever, but some of the values of marriage and family and generational interaction are constants that have maintained us throughout the generations and set us apart from the animals. There was a philosopher called Jean jacques Rousseau in 18th Century France some of his ideas are quite interesting.
I do not say I agree with him in entirety but he does make some interesting points. I find it also incredibly ironic that all of his five children to an illiterate chamber maid, his lover were deposited in a foundling hospital in France. So here we do also have a person expounding some wonderful ideas but woefully inadequate practice of his ideas.

The government has privileged an extremely conservative reading of faith that is problematic. It is increasingly a minority view: it does not represent the breadth and depth of religious thought and debate within religious communities about issues of sin and sexuality.         
Actually it is not the government's 'conservative reading of faith' that is problematic. What is problematic is the expectation of this author that we should not allow diversity of opinion and faith. The minority view is Ms El Matrah's. The government's view does represent the 'breadth and depth of religious thought and debate'. By not allowing this diversity of opinion and the freedom to choose, we will kill debate and destroy the breadth and depth of religious thinking in its tracks. The government is on the right track. When we destroy freedom to debate and freedom to choose, then we destroy the rights of the individual. Part of the 'same sex attracted' debate for marriage hinges on the idea that 'they cannot help themselves' as 'some people are just born that way'. I find that insulting to all of us who are human beings and capable of forming and shaping our lives and future through our self determining intellect and innate intelligence.

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