Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What is Religious Freedom?

Does religious freedom mean that Muslims can segregate men and women at a Muslim public meeting on a university campus?

A British University said yes, Muslims could seat men and women separately.  But they back tracked when the public cried foul, drawing the British prime minister into the debate. No Labor government, he said, would "allow or tolerate segregation in our universities.”

Kenan Malik, in an interesting article for the New York Times, argues that the issue is not about patriarchy but about religious freedom.

"A religious institution should be free to bar women from acting as clergy members or to segregate the sexes in religious services or private meetings. But enforced segregation in a public forum is a different matter and must be opposed."

Kenan believes that religious freedom gives us the right to express our beliefs whatever they are, to assemble to promote them, as long as we don't incite violence or harm anyone.

Is Malik right? Is segregation of the sexes in religious and private meetings an issue of religious freedom? Would Malik agree with the so-called "side entrance" policy of many American mosques (see post below).

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