Thursday, May 31, 2007

Code Of Ethics (an interesting response i got)

I received this response on my email from Kristen, a researcher on education and its effects on Egyptian identity, it had some interesting points so i thought sharing it would be beneficial. It actually shows me how much work we need to do to order to rectify the image of our system. I replied but in a very unorganized manner, will put it in order and post it later :)

Hey there,
So I didn't post this because it is long and complex, but feel free if you want to discuss it with your friends. I had a few questions about your position. I mean, you do admit the one thing about religion that drives secularists, and therefore many Westerners, crazy and that is the contradiction religion presents its followers with. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all are guilty of being contradictory about being both tolerant of other religions and yet condemning them at the same time. Yes, you are supposed to respect people of other religions, but if you don't believe that they are practicing God's command correctly, you are creating an "us" versus "them" mentality, you are saying to some extent that you are better than them... no? This is in itself, at least it would seem to me, a contradiction that is impossible to reconcile. Therefore, some people of course are going to follow the former more fervently and truly tolerate others, truly believe that those others have just as much a chance of going to heaven as themselves even if they don't follow the same religion. But there will also be those who follow the latter more and who conclude that their religion's followers are the only ones who will be saved on Judgment Day, who believe themselves to be better than others simply because they follow God's "correct" path (this can be a Jew, a Christian, or a Muslim). Finally, what about the people who don't believe in religion or in God at all? Are they just damned straight off the bat or is there also tolerance for them?

I want to explain real quick the idea of Western Liberalism. It is the idea that people should be tolerant of other people's views, religions, ways of life and that the state should not impose anything on its people to limit this in any way. It creates a core, definite code of ethics from the religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam to base its laws on and keep order in the society. But anything that can be deemed personal choice is a private matter that the state is not supposed to intervene into. I will be the first to admit that this theory, like religions, does not play out perfectly in practice. But I do argue that it provides a much more solid basis than religion for toleration of the views and lifestyles of others because there is no way to interpret it as otherwise. What do you think?

Finally, you really think that Egyptian religious education has no impact whatsoever on the development of Egyptian minds? I hear people say all the time they just forgot it all, but then they strongly remember their specific religious teacher who taught them this and that or they realize that they pray the same exact way they were taught in school, etc. Are you saying that the Egyptian religious education system is not based on the religions it says it is or that it does not, at least, reinforce what you learn in other places (home or the mosque)??

Hope all is well,


Mona said...

Liberalism is not some neutral playing field devoid of values. It is based on Judeo-Christian values yet claims that it is based on no religion and equality and justice for all (See Talal Asad's book Formations of the Secular). Only in the past few decades even has this been acknowledged by some western scholars. In fact the founders of liberalism were talking about equality for all, justice for all, while practicing racism, class and sexism in their own countries and in the colonies. In fact, the idea of viewing everyone as equal was acceptable because it was based on the fundamental exclusion of women and of people of color. So I think it is important to recognize that to blame religion for inequality and for the 'us' vs. them' attitude that prevails in contemporary society is first, not recognizing history and second, not recognizing that religion is not just some thing out there. It is constantly interpreted, performed and reiterated. Yes many interpolate religion to further another mechanism of exclusion, but the issue is with that process. We cannot hide behind the guise of secularism as the band-aid that will fix all social ills. I'm not saying religion is going to solve them-- I’m just saying that there are some real fundamental problems with the way religion is interpreted and therefore played out on the ground but the same can be said for secularism. Processes of othering and dehumanization lie at the heart of the problem and can exist without religion. Religion though is a convenient guise to hide ones differentiation under. It is much easier to claim that God made xyz inferior instead of admitting it is ones own biases.

haijekov said...

phew ... that was actually full of sense. And actually goes a lot deeper than i was intending to, or to be honest, deeper than my knowledge or interpretation of the matter.
Thanks that was actually really beneficial :)