Let Them Protest

Riyadh witnessed a comeback for cinema after 30 years of absence. Menahi, a movie produced by Alwaleed’s Rotana, was opened to public in King Fahad Cultural Center (KFCC) last week. I was curious to see how this was going to play out, but not curious enough to actually go there myself. The main reason for missing on this “historical event,” as some called it, is because I dislike Faiz al-Malki (the rumors about his assassination are false btw, he is alive and well, shooting a TV series in Taif). I believe I’m free to dislike al-Malki, and also free to express that dislike in any way I deem appropriate. Look, I just did exactly that in this paragraph. Some people go to extreme measures to express their opinions, and that’s also fine, as long as they don’t cause physical harm to others or damage property. It’s called freedom of expression.

That being said, I was not surprised to read that several groups of young men attempted to disrupt the movie’s showings at KFCC, by trying to persuade moviegoers to leave in order to close down the show. We have seen this kind of behavior before in the book fair, Yamama College theater, and other places.

Dawood al-Sherian does not like how the local media covered what happened this time, or more specifically how columnists and opinion writers like him talked about it. He thinks that most writers have linked between the behavior of these young men with terrorism. “They almost made it look like a plot by al-Qaeda,” he wrote. He says that if the writers support the return of cinema as a form for freedom of expression, then they should welcome the reaction of those men in the same spirit.

I agree with him that linking this behavior to terrorism and al-Qaeda is unfair, but I don’t think it is far-fetched to link it to extremism. I don’t know about you, but I really think there is something extreme about trying to convince people to leave and close down the show. I admit it is hard sometimes to draw the line between what is accepted as freedom of expression and what is not, but in this case it seems easy enough. The young men should have been allowed to hold their protests outside KFCC, under the eyes of the police to make sure that things don’t get out of control. Now of course Dawood al-Sherian would never say such thing, probably because his limits are different than mine, or simply because he knows that public demonstrations are not allowed here.

Although I’m not sure if/how this would work, but I think that if they were allowed to express their disapproval this way they won’t feel it necessary to go extreme and try to stop the show, or start vandalizing and destroying like what happened in Jouf where they burned a tent prepared for literary events.

Decades of fundamentalist religious propaganda have made the concept of “freedom of expression” seems very alien to our culture, but that does not mean it truly is. This is a universal basic human right; it was not invented by the infidel West. Some Saudi pseudo-liberals claim that too much freedom of expression is bad — even dangerous — for this country, simply because it would give their opponents more rights that these opponents are trying to deny the rest of us now. That’s a fallacy. The real test of how sincere we are about freedom of expression is in how much we are willing to tolerate those we disagree with.

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37 thoughts on “Let Them Protest

  1. Disruptive behavior should be controlled as you stated in order to maintain order.
    Due to our special circumstances, ban on public demonstrations have to be maintained throughout our transitional period to a more tolerant and receptive society.
    For our transformation to confirm to our religious beliefs and our cultural heritage it has to be gradual and smooth.
    We have to strike a balance between maintaining law and order and allowing for freedom of expression. We’re not there yet!

  2. Well I happen to believe that the religious establishment is protected by the government, which bans public demonstrations or any other kind of freedom of expression for that matter. They are really trying to keep a tight lid on the people of this country and its just not going to work any more.

  3. I think it is so sad that many people here are so obsessed with controlling others – even with something as simple as attending a cinema. My husband and I always have discussions about freedom and living in fear – we disagree because he thinks the West has lost many freedoms and people there live in fear, while I feel people here have fewer freedoms (especially women) and that people here live in fear. I think it’s interesting how different people’s interpretations of these issues can be.

  4. “Terrorism” has become an overused analogy and is most often misplaced.
    Freedom of expression is never entirely free. There are always areas of restriction, and some things characterized as hated speech or pornography and made illegal.
    I certainly hope Saudi evolves to a place of greater freedom of expression, and that the art and science of peaceful protest are learned, allowed, and applied.

  5. Woehahahaha, I can hear this robot voice in my head when reading Saudi Aspire!
    ”Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated”
    :mrgreen:
    You go Achmed! Hope you get to see some good movies in the future, there’s more than hollywood!

  6. I can’t help but to wonder why these protester are been given lots of freedom in expressing their extreme acts. Is it becuse there are no consequence?!

  7. Very happy yo read you, you give hope to the world, I agree with your point of views, and add what Voltaire, the French author, said in the 18:th century:

    “I DISAGREE COMPLETELY WITH WHAT YOU SAY, BUT I AM PREPARED TO DIE FOR YOUR RIGHT TO SAY IT”!.

  8. Ahmed,

    Your statement “The real test of how sincere we are about freedom of expression is in how much we are willing to tolerate those we disagree with.” is very insightful.

    I would ask everyone to name an idea with which we in our country generally disagree, yet is an idea that deserves toleration.

    As such, I purposely exclude (as Chiara says) pornography or incitements to violence — these have no place in our society.

    What are the ideas that we generally discuss privately and yet merit a public discussion?

    What are the ideas that we generally oppose, and yet should be able to be held by those within our nation?

  9. @Andrew As an western I reckon freedom of professing all kind of religions openly and this means be able to pray in a church, synagogue, whatever. I think this could be a thought sell in KSA.

  10. Countrygirl:

    I welcome your thought, but I am a bit cautious.

    You indicate that “westerners” are able to freely profess all kinds of religious beliefs, and yet in France women and girls may not dress in accord with religious beliefs.

    And in the USA, there exist a variety of “religions” that as a tenet of their belief openly profess racialist hatred.

    Does a “religion” that openly incites racialist hatred and violence merit the protections of freedom of conscience?

    What of a religion that openly incites hatred and violence towards me and my co-religionists?

    I see this as a point of controversy.

    Moreover, studies seem to show that the West is ever increasingly simply an irreligious society.

    Finally, I note that throughout the West, there exists governmental support or preferences of one type or another for the dominant religion of Christianity, thus belying the notion that in the West government is neutral as regards religion.

    I do not deny that there should exist freedom of conscience; I do query whether the West is in fact as tolerant and neutral as its advocates assert.

  11. Andrew
    A nice cautionary note. The countries of the West are indeed historically majority Christian countries and their institutions reflect this. However, they have wide ranging policies and attitudes.

    In France, la laïcité is a Napoleonic notion, the goal of which was to curtail the influence of the Roman Catholic Church (powerful, allied with the aristocracy, and against the Republic). The 1905 law on public schooling curtailed symbols of Judaism as well, and the most recent revision (2004) includes those of Islam, hence the ban on any apparel that is religiously symbolic including the headscarf. The Commission recommendation to include Yom Kippur and Aïd el-Kebir as school holidays was not enacted.

    In the US (founded by Protestant religious refugees), the current system has a proliferation of mostly Protestant sects, in part because anyone can start a religion and have tax exemptions to do so. Some of these sects are classified as hate groups.

    In my opinion hateful sects should not be tolerated, but then I am Canadian and we are more willing to curtail “freedom of speech” about pornography, hate, and violence (eg. the publication ban against the heinous crimes of Paul Bernardo was supported by the populace). All legal rulings about religious apparel in schools including the headscarf, the kirpan, the turban, etc. have been in favour of the freedom of religious expression.

    I think that as well as the history and laws, the mores of the country or region are important. Of course, in this, as in other aspects of its life, Saudi should evolve in a way consistent with its own history, laws, and mores. As long as religious laws are made clear, and applied fairly, those choosing to live in a country should respect them.

  12. Using the right for freedom of expression to allow the fundementalist to protest and try to stop the cinema is not logical. I have not ever heard of non fundemantalist raising thier voices and protesting any activities if so called religious establishments. Both parties should be given equal opportunities. personally I feel that government is 100% behind those extremists.

  13. “Does a “religion” that openly incites racialist hatred and violence merit the protections of freedom of conscience?

    What of a religion that openly incites hatred and violence towards me and my co-religionists?

    I see this as a point of controversy.”

    From the activities of various White Supremacist groups in the US that also use religion as further rationale for their hate and violent wishes, what happens is that collaboration with the local police and the FBI begins to form, where members are watched because what they say show signs of action instead of just plain speech.

    Nothing is done to stem their free speech. But the minute something is done; a violent crime committed by any members of the watched group, what is supposed to happen is a myriad of evidence gets rolled out and they get charged with conspiracy, etc, which brings about a more severe sentence.

    It’s not a perfect system. It certainly isn’t good to think on all those hurt because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    But suppression by the government doesn’t actually get rid of such thoughts anyway. It merely drives such groups underground.

    And as it is, freedom of speech in regards to religion is a totally different area of concern compared to freedom of speech when it comes to entertainment venues.

    Doesn’t Turkey have its own movie industry? What is the problem, really, with the KSA government commissioning “censor-approved” films from the directors there, if the government is so concerned about bad influences or images? Or even giving incentives for enterprising KSA citizens to submit scripts for approval before going into production? It could jump start a whole new industry.

    Really, all it seems to me is that KSA doesn’t want people to have fun.

  14. Sorry Andrew but you are wrong as Chiara said in France none can wear outside symbol that rappresent their faith and in the Us there’s that little wonderfull thing called freedom of speech. When I replied to your question I was speaking of KSA where no religions are allowed but Islam, I know I reckon that the majority of Saudis wants to mantain this status quo but i simply took your challenge “I would ask everyone to name an idea with which we in our country generally disagree, yet is an idea that deserves toleration” and from your answer I touched a raw nerve.

  15. Norvegica”

    You state: “Nothing is done to stem their free speech. But the minute something is done” actions are subject to prosecution.

    I would argue that such post facto governmental action may be too late, and certainly is for the victims of such violence.

    Moreover, based on the post by Chiara, in the USA, such hateful extremist actually enjoy governmental support, through tax exemptions!

    Thus, in the USA, a “religious” group that incites hatred and violence, and seeks to acquire members is actually supported by preferential governmental support.

    I assume that a bookstore that sells good quality literature in the USA — thereby promoting an entirely different set of values — is NOT subject to such American preferential support.

    With regard to the West, I am highly skeptical that it is a model to adopt in regards to tolerance.

    Certainly, there are points of tolerance at which the West excels, but I would assert that the West views itself at being far more tolerant than is actually the case.

    Moreover, the case of the USA, [in which the government provides a basic right to governmental support of “religions” that openly incite to violence while simultaneously the USA government asserts that there is a fundamental right for everyone to own firearms] is simply bizarre.

  16. @Andrew you keep on pointing out what is wrong in the west but so far you are simply ignoring my answer to your challenge….and please don’t speak about your perceived tolerance in the west because if you compare it to what is tolerated in KSA the winner is pretty easy to pick. We were speaking about TOLERANCE in KSA not in the US, Europe, Australia whatevere and you asked to us all

    ” What are the ideas that we generally oppose, and yet should be able to be held by those within our nation?”

    I replied with freedom of professing any religion but it seems with your lack of reply that you are against and don’t want to discuss it since instead of repling you replied with your perception freedom of professing a religion around the world.

  17. Mohamd–an excellent point.

    Norvegica–Speech in itself can be considered an action, especially since it is usually accompanied by other actions: transcription or audio recording, publication, distribution (in print in a variety of forms, including the internet, on video/audio sites, or by sales, etc.). Certain speech acts, like books, are barred from entering a country, eg. Canada (pornography laws, hate laws), Morocco (anti-HassanII books, or newspaper articles, during his reign), non-Islamic religious texts (Saudi), etc.
    Since speech reliably precedes action in the current hate group, genocide models of evolution, there are instances where curtailing speech and its distribution would seem justified.

  18. Country Girl–to the great credit of French Muslims, and Muslims living in France, they have in the vast majority chosen to obey both their religious beliefs and the law. Girls arrive at school wearing the headscarf, and remove it right before entering the school doors, replacing it immediately on exit. Some parents have chosen to send their children to private schools where the laws don’t apply. They also don’t apply in Alsace-Moselle a region that has spent so much time being swapped between Germany and France that it is still under German law on this matter (and has less separation between Roman Catholicism and the state than the rest of France does). Most importantly, even beyond the law, they have preferred to educate their girls rather than be overly rigid about headgear.

    Andrew–Indeed there are areas of tolerance and intolerance in any society. In the US any comment on Israeli policy is subject to accusations of anti-semitism (more so than in Israel itself), and while publication of the Danish Cartoons was tolerated, a major newspaper publishing on the joys of pedophilia with how to pictures would be censored in one way or another.
    I took your original questions to be addressed to Saudis “us”, please let me know if I misunderstood you.

  19. Chiara,

    You rightly understood me. I appreciate your thoughtful tone.

    Countrygirl:

    I agree that freedom of conscience should be permitted here, as well as anywhere else.

    However, I also believe that there should be limits, so that any supposed “religion” [such as a hate group masquerading as a religion] need not be permitted.

    As to here, well, things are complex.

    While to an outsider it might seem that only Islam is permitted to be practiced here, things are actually more complex.

    For example, some forms of Islam are denounced by some clericals as being heterodoxy (and thus not islam). Yet such “heterodox” forms of Islam are openly practiced.

    I recognize that such heterodox forms of our religion are often discriminated, and that this internal clash of orthodoxy seems a bit odd.

    In short, I do not suggest that freedom of conscience is in place here.

    However, I also assert that the West is not impeccable on this point, in that it suppresses freedoms of religion at times and does not support a wide variety of spiritual values.

  20. Andrew–thank you for your comment. I still hope Saudis will respond to your questions!

    By heterodoxy in the Saudi context do you mean non-Salafism or something else?

    One of the sects being financially supported by US tax dollars is the (pseudo-Islamic) Moorish Science Temple of America, Inc., founded by the “Prophet Noble Drew Ali” (an African American born in North Carolina) in Chicago in 1924, and addressed primarily to the “colored folk” renamed “Asiatic Nation”. Aside from exhorting followers to “Know Thyself And Thy Father God Allah”, claiming Moroccan citizenship (and hence exemption from the law outside of Morocco), and using the flag of Morocco as its emblem (bet King Mohamed VI doesn’t know about that), they reject standard medical care. Their spread to the African-Caribbean community in Canada caused the near death by starvation of an infant with a rare milk protein allergy (even to breast milk), whose desperate, and ultimately sensible mother saught care (finally) at a pediatric hospital. Those attempting to stop the hospital care were charged under Canadian law (religious freedom does not extend to compromised health care).

    While they are not hateful, it strikes me that there should be some sort of “truth in advertising” law curtailling their “freedom of expression” excesses.

  21. “However, I also assert that the West is not impeccable on this point, in that it suppresses freedoms of religion at times and does not support a wide variety of spiritual values.”

    Well, no, in that more people in general distrust atheists than just about any other group in the west. But it cannot be said that atheists in the KSA would be treated better than general suspicion.

    You really don’t seem to have a frame of reference for a place where different religions just are co-existing within communities. And of society where most people don’t much care about what you practice because they are busy with their own lives. My company has different religion-practicing coworkers and we are so busy working it just doesn’t come up in conversation at all.

    As somebody who doesn’t think any tax exemptions should be in place for any religious institutions, that’s not even part of the issue for me.

    The whole French thing comes from the logic that in order to equally not promote any particular religion, all in government spaces should therefore equally not express their religion with their clothing. Logical. But very blind to real life consequences and hurt feelings. There’s also ignorance about religions besides Islam, such as Indian Sikhism, where men keeping their heads covered is also integral to their religion.

    The American solution, as I have experienced it, is that as long as you aren’t running around naked, you can wear whatever you want, religious imagery/icons/jewelry/scarves/whatever, in public. Private entities such as workplaces generally follow that rule of “leave everybody alone”, unless you have to wear a uniform.

    The government isn’t supposed to support religion. Why would it? That’s completely personal to the person and isn’t even something that should be regulated in any way. (That’s my bias of course)

    The tax exemption is business, because many religious institutions also run charities and charitable organizations as a whole are given tax exemptions. The loophole in my point of view is that there are many religious institutions that don’t run charities and don’t really need any fiscal help in that manner.

    What happens is that pushy individuals get into positions of power within the government and start using their position as a means to intrude on others when it comes to religion. What also happens is that a lot of people don’t do anything about it because it is easier to be apathetic than pro-actively say: That is not your job, so do your job and leave preaching to the preachers.

    That’s just human nature. The government in of itself as a system isn’t religious. Waiting in line to fill out a bunch of forms in confusing language and paying fees for stuff you don’t much think you need to pay for and getting confusing mail for all sorts of things you should or should not be doing is just par for the course, irrespective of where you are in the world.

    There isn’t need for government support of different spiritual values because people just plain live their lives choosing to believe in what they believe in. If people drift away from certain religions, as is happening in the US, it means that they are not fulfilled spiritually by those old institutions. It doesn’t mean that the government has or has not done anything about the issue.

    Does discrimination happen? Yes. And they could sue in court. Employers by law cannot ask you what your religion is or fire you because of it. Does it mean that some coworkers can act mean to a person because of their religion? Yes. But that’s just people being mean people; you deal with it with what social skills you have. And threaten to sue if you have to.

  22. “While they are not hateful, it strikes me that there should be some sort of “truth in advertising” law curtailling their “freedom of expression” excesses.”

    The same could be said about Scientology. I am beginning to think it really is a giant pyramid scheme that targets celebrities so that fans of those celebrities join the “religion” so that the people in charge get all the fees paid.

    It’s a swindle game, all the way. Do I think the government should do anything about it?

    Not as a religion thing. Punish them for swindling; it is against the law to defraud people.

  23. Norvegica–indeed the French law of la laïcité applies to all religious symbols without exception. On this topic, I favour the Canadian position, which does allow (defends and even celebrates) the wearing of religiously required or desired apparel. Rules are rewritten to accomodate new situations (hijab wearing girl soccer players–originally in contravention of sports codes designed to protect players from injury or foul play; kirpan wearing boys at school–hysterical mother objected). Even the national police force, the RCMP, has a regulation Sikh turban.

    You are right about hurt feelings–my sister has broken the teacher’s “do not touch the child rule” by fixing a sobbing ten-year- old Punjabi student’s top knot for him (it had fallen apart during a game on the playground).

    Agreed, that other legal disciplines should be invoked to prevent fraud, and abuse (such as withholding medical care from minors), and that Scientology is dangerous in its rejection of science (especially medicine and psychiatry).

  24. Andrew–thank you for your answer.

    If I were Saudi, I suspect I would be arguing for tolerance of recognized major forms of Islam that do not claim a prophet after the Prophet Mohamed (eg. not the Nation of Islam, nor the above mentioned “Moors”), but then I’m not, so I won’t.

    I would imagine that although it is easier for Western expats to leave the country for religious sacraments, like baptism, christening, First Holy Communion, Marriage, etc., it is harder for the less fortunate (like Filipina maids) to do so; and, for those who value ongoing religious services or require the last rites this would be difficult. Still, as I said above, since the law is clear, that should be a factor in choosing to live in Saudi or not.
    Otherwise, I am generally against proselytizing, which seems to be a further issue of religious freedom, and discrimination in employment.

    Okay more than my 2 cents worth, even for a Daughter of the Book, married (Islamically) to a Muslim. LOL :)

  25. Chiara,

    Yes, greater toleration within our religion is certainly needed.

    The issue of proselytisation is certainly more complex. Allowing groups to solicit members (like those that I have experienced in the West) that have as a core belief that all Muslims are damned would be certain to greatly inflame public passions.

    Indeed, I recall that several such groups in the West would regularly inform me that my religion was diabolical.

    Such beliefs, even if sincerely held, would cause great social tension if publicly proclaimed.

  26. Andrew–Thank you for your thoughtful reply (which also answers in part the mystery of your outstanding English language skills LOL).

    If you care to elaborate, I would be interested in who approached you with these ideas (eg. what sect or category of sects), what made them think you were Muslim, and how hard they were to shake off. There are sufficient problems with “religious recruiters” on university campuses that the Chaplaincy Offices have become involved in helping to explain to students the difference between a religion and a cult. Some groups are very subtle (at least initially) and prey on the newly arrived and the isolated. Opus Dei (a sect of Roman Catholicism, or a cult, depending on one’s perspective) is very active on campuse, as are or were the Moonies, and some specifically ethnic based groups.

    I once treated a young woman who arrived on campus as a very devout Greek Orthodox teenager (altar to the Virgin Mary in her bedroom), intelligent but shy, and very protected at home (in the same city), who had had her mind so scrambled by a cult that she could pass for schizophrenic (wasn’t and no history or family history of this). The biggest problem for her was rebuilding trust in her parents (fairly recent immigrants with no education) and in the therapists. This was one of the few times I’ve had to work very hard not to cry, and the only time i’ve hugged a patient–in the presence of her nurse, and because it was the only way she could understand that I was leaving and would no longer be her therapist.

    Proselytizers can be a very dangerous lot!

    I also find evangelical Protestant groups proselytizing in majority Catholic or Muslim countries to be misguided (to say the least).

  27. I’ve been approached before walking through my college campus. And had people walk up to my family’s house to knock and just stand there, bothering us.

    Frankly speaking, since I am a visible ethnic minority, I just attract the attention of people looking for non-Christians. Racist, actually, that they would assume just by looking at me that I’m not a Christian; I don’t see them bothering whites half as much. But that’s a whole other issue.

    The fastest way is just avoid eye contact and walk very quickly away and possibly mutter that you are late to class.

    If confrontation is inevitable, my ruder friends have advised to beg off because you have an upset stomach and you really need the nearest bathroom.

    Overall in a campus environment, people are always walking away in a hurry and they can’t follow you into buildings as a rule.

    It is an annoyance to me and no more because any imprecations of me being damned or whatever really… pales besides me needing to get to class on time. It’s all in the priorities.

    Now, granted, it’s just rude to go around saying so. So I can see objects to vocal proselytizing on those grounds. But it isn’t something I would want the government to interfere with.

    My college had a Muslim Student Association, actually. They set up a stationary booth in campus and there were pamphlets and they sat very quietly. If anybody was interested in learning more about Islam, they would approach the booth on their own volition. It’s not obtrusive, that sort of proselytizing, compared to Christian organizations where there were roaming people bothering others.

    And my brother was the one who had to deal with the door-knocking-people the most. He mostly used our pet dog. My brother would hide behind the door, get the dog, and slowly open the door. The proselytizer was faced with what appeared to be a dog who opened the door. And obviously, nobody can convert a dog to anything and the absurdity of seeing a dog who can open a door pretty much cut their attempts short.

    Of course, people shouldn’t have to go to such trouble to get others to just leave them alone, but the great thing about US property rights is that you can throw people off your property by just saying so. Really. “Get off my property. No solicitors.”

    I’m of the opinion that if anybody’s religion was so great people would just convert anyway on their own free will after meeting and knowing practitioners of that religion on their own volition instead of having proselytizers that are viewed as pests and annoyances for the majority of the public. My brother has a specific adjective for such people: God-Botherers. They bother.

  28. I was approached in Europe by American Baptists.

    They likely assumed that i was Muslim due to my use of Arabic.

    They were very, very persistent and bothersome.

    Later, as I engaged in studies of other religions, they were (perhaps) perplexed that I could respond to their assertions in a meaningful manner.

  29. Norvegica and Andrew

    Thank you both for your replies. Jehovah’s Witnesses are the primary door knockers. We once had 2 Arab ladies target our apartment because of my husband’s Arab name on the intercom system. They caught us walking into the building. He being polite, and a neophyte at this, talked to them longer than I would have, until I saw he was having trouble extricating himself and put an end to it, politely but firmly.

    Unfortunately, American Baptists have become progressively more conservative religiously and politically, and more evangelical. Another group has been formed to try to bring them back to their more charitable (in the broad sense of the term) values–it includes Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton.

    Another persistent catch-you-on-the-street, in-the-subway group are the Mormons (LDS) who have as part of their religion a required year of proselytizing. They are up to levels of harassment of regular commuters. I once heard an exasperated woman say loudly “Twice a day you approach me on my way to and from work, for months. I have a religion, I don’t want yours”.

    I think the Muslim Students Associations do a great deal of good both for the Muslim students on campus and as a liaison to the community. They are in my experience very discreet, informative when asked, knowledgeable, and non-pushy.

    I certainly agree with sharing knowledge, information, and ideas, which to me is different than having an agenda to convert someone else, or to transform the religious nature of a different country, eg. American protestant evangelicals I’ve met in Costa Rica, read about in Morocco (truly an insane idea in my view), and met on their way to India.

    The assumption that a visible minority is not Christian is ludicrous given the history of the spread of Christianity and the impact of colonialism. In my experience Goans are particularly offended that they are assumed to be Muslim or Hindu when in fact the majority are Roman Catholic as a consequence of Portuguese colonialism, but happily so now.

  30. But didn’t you know? Catholicism isn’t real Christianity to US Protestant proselytizers. Granted, asking why would only confuse them.

    It is absolutely hilarious how so many proselytizers just really have no historical knowledge of the formation of their own sects. And I’m not talking about the Schism where there were two different or three different Popes that messed things up in Europe for a while or the bigger one that happened back when Istanbul was once Constantinople that split the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church. Simple Reformation era changes and upheavals. And then the particularly bothering/bothersome strains that infested the US. It really is a US cultural thing, where people will just march right up to you and spew nonsense. I don’t see English Anglicans bothering people right and left. But then, that really was why the Pilgrims ended up in the US in the first place. They bothered everybody in England enough to piss off the King and he shipped them off to the US. And they various little separate sects they formed haven’t ceased bothering others since.

    I mean, I suppose it is a little fun to throw historical figures like St. Augustine and St. Paul at people and show that most Christian orthodoxy stems from two guys who didn’t personally know Jesus, but I don’t want to waste my time.

    Just… I know more about your religion than you, which is why I don’t believe, so please, yes, go away. Blaaargh.

  31. Hey, be careful what you say about the One True Universal Church! LOL :)

    Indeed, some very earnest people are very ignorant of their faith’s history.

    I do also have a problem with self-proclaimed Muslims who think there was a prophet after the Prophet Mohamed, preferably one with a criminal past. However since some NOI converts eventually make their way to greater understanding and adopt Islam, or at least keep themselves out of jail, and sober, perhaps I am being too harsh.

  32. The whole Pilgrim/Puritan thing does color the US version of religious freedom, though.

    Those first founding peoples were pushier and noisier about their preaching. They wouldn’t want anybody to curtail their ability to bother others, especially not in the Bill of Rights.

    But at the same time, they being Protestants from Europe during a time of continuous waves of oppression between Catholicism and Protestantism mean that they also don’t want any state religion because it would protect the churches from the power of the state; King Henry the Eighth’s seizing of church property for himself and etc. It helped that there were enough different sects of Christianity within the group of Founding Fathers to make it important. It wasn’t that long ago in the 1700’s when Puritans were burning Quakers to death. They’d remember and not want that to happen again.

    So in the end, what’s important is that you are free to bother people, but they are free to bother you back. And also, private property trumps all, so you can’t keep trespassing. Unless you want to get shot. On the other hand, people can say that your beliefs are crazy talk right to your face and that’s them practicing their First Amendment Rights.

    “You can’t say that! That’s offensive!”
    “Actually, yes. Yes I can, and I’m saying it again.”

    Can’t arrest me or anything.

    Which is why the First Amendment and the Second Amendment aren’t going anywhere.

    It pretty much adds up to other religions in the US getting lucky in that the protections afforded to Christianity in the US also apply to them because there is no imposition of official state religion.

    The proliferation of harmful cults and swindling and racist nonsense aren’t things that can’t be dealt with through other means.

  33. “In God We Trust” on all coins and $bills, to me says it all.

    Indeed, your historical analysis is accurate. The Protestants (Puritans, Calvinists, Amish, etc) who founded the US were the most conservative among their own religion within Europe.

    I usually find the Constitutional right “to the pursuit of happiness” and the second Amendment “the right to bear arms” to best explain some of the American behaviours, but thank you for pointing out the “challenge” of conflating the 1st and 2nd Amendments.

    Also your and your brother’s use of the “God Bothering” people is a great one. They would argue the care enough to bother though. No matter, it is still an excellent description.

    Other laws, can and should be put in effect for abuses by “church groups” of whatever sort. In medicine this is easy to circumvent for minors, but adults are at the mercy of their spouses, families, and religious elders.

  34. My primary concern with what I would call pseudo-Islamic sects in the US is that some are overtly racist, and preach violence, while others deprive their adherents of appropriate medical care. Given the level of ignorance about Islam in the US (though there is improvement) there is at best misrepresentation, and at worse exploitation of vulnerable people. In my humble opinion, those seeking to convert to Islam would do better to explore the mainstream currents within Islam, rather than follow self-proclaimed American prophets (not just imams, but prophets).

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