Saturday, July 5, 2008

News from the FIsh Bowl: Forced Religion


In an event that sounds like something from a reactionary dystopian Christian sf novel, children in Alsager School near Stoke-on-Trent, England, were forced to kneel and pray to Allah during a religious education class. Two boys who refused were given detention. Here's the article from Mail Online:

Two schoolboys were given detention after refusing to kneel down and 'pray to Allah' during a religious education lesson.

Parents were outraged that the two boys from year seven (11 to 12-year-olds) were punished for not wanting to take part in the practical demonstration of how Allah is worshipped.

They said forcing their children to take part in the exercise at Alsager High School, near Stoke-on-Trent - which included wearing Muslim headgear - was a breach of their human rights.

One parent, Sharon Luinen, said: "This isn't right, it's taking things too far.

"I understand that they have to learn about other religions. I can live with that but it is taking it a step too far to be punished because they wouldn't join in Muslim prayer.

"Making them pray to Allah, who isn't who they worship, is wrong and what got me is that they were told they were being disrespectful. [more...]

America's Conservative Christians already imagine some pretty weird things are going on in Europe, and I suppose this will confirm their prejudices. At any rate, the teacher appears to have things backwards: refusing to participate in a religion you don't believe in is not disrespectful; practicing a religion insincerely or falsely is disrespectful. That is to say, the teacher was commanding disrespect for Islam from the students.

Speaking of which, we have Melinda Henneberger's opinion column from Slate, "How Sally Quinn Made Me a Better Catholic," in which she criticizes Sally Quinn, a Washington Post reporter and non-Catholic, for taking communion at Tim Russert's Catholic funeral, which Quinn writes about here. As Henneberger complains, Quinn shows disrespect for Catholicism by participating in a practice that isn't intended for outsiders.

Religions are not games of make-believe; their members take what they do seriously, or should, and whatever exclusions those religions make are not made arbitrarily. A news reporter should be able to grasp that, and even if she can't grasp it, a schoolteacher who teaches on religion should be able to.

Hat tip: Dispatches from TJICistan
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