Mrs. Clin­ton’s wrong mes­sage on re­li­gion

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

Dur­ing Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton’s Asian tour, a Ja­panese stu­dent asked her how to “elim­i­nate the prej­u­dice to­wards the Is­lamic world” in the con­text of the war on ter­ror­ism. Mrs. Clin­ton re­sponded that the strug­gle against ter­ror­ism is not the re­sult of prej­u­dice against the Mus­lim world, but a de­fense against vi­o­lent ex­trem­ism. So far so good. Then she added, “Ev­ery re­li­gion has peo­ple who mis­use that re­li­gion. You know, I’m a Chris­tian, and through the cen­turies we’ve had many peo­ple who have done ter­ri­ble things in the name of Chris­tian­ity. They have per­verted the re­li­gion.”

Th­ese pan­der­ing re­marks send the wrong mes­sage. First, we won­der why Mrs. Clin­ton felt it nec­es­sary to bring up Chris­tian­ity. “Chris­tian ter­ror­ism” is not ex­actly mak­ing head­lines th­ese days. Per­haps she has a work­ing knowl­edge of what con­sti­tutes “pure” as op­posed to “per­verse” Chris­tian­ity.

More im­por­tantly, it is wrong to as­sume a pos­ture of value neu­tral­ity vis-àvis the Mus­lim world on the mat­ter of the free ex­er­cise of faith. One cer­tainly never hears th­ese kinds of com­ments from Mid­dle East­ern diplo­mats. This is a part of the world where many coun­tries, though not all of them, have erected le­gal and other bar­ri­ers to the ex­pres­sion of faiths other than the of­fi­cial re­li­gion. Non-Mus­lims are charged spe­cial taxes (jizya), con­verts from Is­lam are threat­ened with death, and for­eign mis­sion­ar­ies must con­duct their ac­tiv­i­ties as covert op­er­a­tions or be killed. While Europe many Mus­lim states.

Rather than pan­der­ing, the United States should be send­ing a pos­i­tive mes­sage to the world re­gard­ing the role of re­li­gion in our so­ci­ety. The United States is a plu­ral na­tion with con­sti­tu­tion­ally Obama likes to point out, the rights of the non-be­liev­ers as well. Mrs. Clin­ton might prof­itably have ex­tolled the value of re­li­gious plu­ral­ism in In­done­sia, the next stop on her trip, which is not an Is­lamic state de­spite hav­ing the world’s largest Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion. In­done­sia’s con­sti­tu­tion guar­an­tees free­dom of wor­ship and the state rec­og­nizes six ma­jor re­li­gious de­nom­i­na­tions. Christ­mas and Good Fri­day are na­tional hol­i­days, as are Hindu New Year and Bud­dha’s Birth­day.

Were Mrs. Clin­ton bolder still, she could use the ex­am­ple of Is­rael, in which free­dom of wor­ship is so re­spected that Is­raeli sharia courts have the same le­gal sta­tus as rab­bini­cal courts in mat­ters of per­sonal sta­tus, such as cases of mar­riage and di­vorce. Fur­ther­more, the holi­est site in the world for Jews, the Tem­ple Mount, is dom­i­nated by a gold-domed mosque. Will we ever see a syn­a­gogue in Mecca?

Mrs. Clin­ton should not give am­mu­ni­tion to our en­e­mies by offhand­edly rais­ing the is­sue of Chris­tian “per­ver­sions” and plac­ing the re­li­gious free­dom that we en­joy on the same moral plane as the re­stric­tive poli­cies prac­ticed in other parts of the world. If she truly wants to com­mu­ni­cate “what we stand for and who we truly are,” she should de­fend our val­ues rather than sur­ren­der­ing the high ground on the is­sue of re­li­gious free­dom.

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