Religion or justice?

On Monday, the nation of Saudi Arabia had its court system sentence a 75-year-old woman to receive 40 lashes and 120 days in prison – and after that she will be expelled from the country.

Her crime: having an non-relative male in her home. She was arrested by the state’s religious police, who are charged with enforcing the fundamental interpretation of Islam called Wahhabism that governs the U.S. ally’s polices.

Being a secular person in my own beliefs, I can’t find a better argument for separation of church and state better than showing what happens in those countries without it.

I’m not just bashing on Islam; Christianity’s history is rife with violent intolerance towards woman, other religions, and gays too, but I can’t remember the last time I read a story about America’s religious extremists that provoked such blind outrage and demonstrated such clear ignorance on behalf of the government. (The “Monkey trial” of John Scopes?)

Like a creation from George Orwell’s novel, 1984, the religious police in Saudi Arabia are called “The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice” and the courts fall under the guise of the “Ministry of Justice.”

The two men the old woman was arrested for ‘mingling” with, knew the old woman and were delivering her bread. One had been raised by the 75-year-old, but was not a blood relation.

In court, the man’s legal argument appealed to the Koran, where he claimed that under the Muslim holy book, he was considered the woman’s rightful son because she had breast fed him as a child. The Ministry of Truth ultimately disagreed.

The moral and legal argument for the state-sanctioned beating of an old woman boiled down to who she breast fed as a child. Complete insanity. Maybe in the next trial they could toss her into a pond, and if she floats, she must be a witch.

As in any system of law where religion takes precedent, you will see the death of justice. For justice is found on the merits of reason and upon the evidence of the case and not in the eyes of any religious authority. America might swear on the bible and the word ‘God’ will appear periodically in our doctrine, but you won’t find it in our deliberations of law and justice.

The religious police are also responsible for enforcing dress codes, prayer times, segregation of the sexes and keeping women from driving. There is a standing law in Saudi Arabia dictating that a woman may only travel with the permission of a man.

My question to Islamic fundamentalism is why do you hate your women? You hate them; there is no other way to describe it. Now it’s true that most cultures have their bouts with tyranny, but the brutal persecution of women and the belligerent rejection of human rights by countries based on the prevailing religion is just wrong. It’s not a difference of cultures, it’s wrong. Any belief that circumvents the basic rights of any person in order to force the lifestyle choice of another is self-serving.

Religion has no right in governing any modern country and no place in the creation of laws. Those theaters of thought should be preserved for the fair, objective and pragmatic philosophies of our time and not based on the 2,000 year old writings of a mythological medieval prophet or messiah.

Even if those beliefs turn out to be viable ones such as, “thou shall not kill,” then let’s recognize them across all religions for their true moral and legitimate value to society instead of focusing over who first carved them into the stone.

There is a humanist morality beyond the realm of religion that we all can find a common ground upon. If we do this, we may start to find that many of our beliefs have overlapping virtues that represent the best of what our faiths have to offer. However, if we are compelled to find the devil in the literal details, so to speak, we might end up as twisted as Saudi Arabia.

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