There are two things we're encouraged never to discuss: politics and religion. Though not one to shy away from either topic, many times I've wished I'd not battled with others over positions of governance, or faith. Let's hope in sharing this point-of-view, I don't find myself with my tongue nailed and body burned at the stake. Consider Giordano Bruno who met with such a fate back in 1600. This was the response from the Christian church in his day. Matters of such heresy (as some readers may suppose I'm up to in this piece) often meet with public displays of grotesque punishment.
What's at the root of religious discord in human life? We're left with little choice but to discuss such things today. With proclaimed connection to terrorism, for instance, the entire faith of Islam is increasingly under attack in many nations. Christianity too. The Jews, have suffered more than their share of abuse. In the case of Muslims, take a look at a workplace situation rising in the country of France.
A recent article in The Local reports that office-conflict due to religious differences is on the rise in the country. The article quotes information from a study published by the Observatory for Religion in the Workplace, stating that religious conflict has 'doubled in the past year'. What is the source of the religious disagreement?
Muslim women and religious dress. The scarf and veil covering the face of Muslim women, the niqab, is proving the source of much of this workplace religious strife. Nationally, France banned the wearing of the niqab in public places in 2010. Religious symbols of any kind have been banned in schools in France since 2004, a professed secular society (the article states).
Such conflict is no doubt in response still to the events of 9-11 and resulting escalation of Middle-East conflict. Entire nations defending from the 9-11 insult are steadfast in keeping Muslim religious attire out of the public space; it seems as some form of continued retribution. We've all sensed a rise in the debate of such issues since terrorism first struck the U.S. Centering out Muslims from within the boundaries of otherwise culturally diverse nations seems all the rage these days, whether individuals of the faith are part of a radical terrorist sect or otherwise.
In Canada, as well. Here, female Muslim immigrants to Canada insist on wearing the niqab during citizenship ceremony. The government will have none of that. The current Prime Minister, seeking re-election, insists that these women are offensively covering their identity. Obviously, Mr. Harper uses the issue as an opportunity to garner votes. There are private means to ensure the identity of an applicant for citizenship in Canada, when issues of faith and dress arise. Such means have previously been exercised in many such cases without conflict, according to an editorial in the Chronicle Herald.
Muslims argue the issue in both situations as discriminatory. In both the workplace issues discussed in the article relative to France, and in the citizenship stance of the Canadians, perhaps something deeper is going on. Something as humans, we are frankly not honest enough with ourselves to profess.
The position against the dawning of the niqab doesn't make sense in any democracy professing high-value on the importance of defending fundamental human rights. We insist in countries of democracy that all mankindholds individual right to religious faith. Any expression of faith comes with rites of attire and certain rituals. To stand against a Muslim woman practicing her faith, stands against the very freedom of religion most democratic nations proclaim. Insisting on a position against the wearing of the niqab (or, hijab) creates a serious contradiction in terms of the values professed in any democracy.
That French society would see such a rise in religious-based discrimination and alleged harassment (doubling in as short a span as a year, according to the article) is no surprise. The Charlie Hebdo incident in the country certainly hasn't brought any sympathy towards a Muslim cause. In response to alleged discrimination, Muslim woman, insisting on religious freedom, are standing in an already developed position of psychological self-defense related to the events of 9-11, the resulting war, and in France to the Charlie Hebdoshootings as well.
Why do humans do such things, as this? First of all, why would Muslim women insist on wearing the niqab in the workplace or citizenship ceremony? Why would the leader of a nation insist that it is offensive to Canadians she wear one, and thereby contradict the right to religious freedom exercised in a democracy? Why would humans choose to battle one-another on religious grounds, evoking terrorism and inciting retaliatory battles to do so, murdering others in God's Name is absolutely senseless.
To understand the root cause of why humans create issues over such things, consider the following proposal: It is the human need for structures of hierarchy, and power-assertion among primates that is the root cause of all such human disagreement & religious discord.
We are primates, human-animals, after-all. Like other animals we practice dominance and accept subservience across-the-board in human life. This is how human societies function, and this is the way it's always been. We live with few true leaders, and a multitude of followers. Some argue standing against our fellow man on religious grounds is simply part of our nature. Standing in favour of our own beliefs (over the beliefs of another) is a form of personal, psychological self-defense.
To support this position, I refer readers to the work of Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University, and the documentary Stress: Portrait of a Killer produced by National Geographic. Though far from a religious discourse, the film is enlightening in terms of understanding primate social behaviour and the similarities between the lives of humans (at work) and our primate cousins.
Social Identity Theory suggests we use religion to propose to ourselves (psychologically) how much better or stronger we may be over someone else. Having God on Our Side, how much stronger could we get, than this? Race, religion, gender, or any other such labelled affiliation-any ammunition we can find to ensure our place in the human-primate troop, we'll use psychologically to keep that place. Therefore, any such conflict as discussed in the French and Canadian articles has likely nothing to do with religion at all.
Religious conflict among humans is inevitable, given our need to find as dominant a position in the hierarchy of human-life as we can. Psychologically, we need to establish where we fit in the human pecking-order of things. It's by learning to do so (in a somewhat twisted sense) that we can survive and maintain acceptance (individually) in our day-to-day lives with others in the human-troop. Siding with others bent over issues of religious attire, keeps us in the good-book with our fellow workers and others within our nation. Siding with others who subscribe to our religious faith, offers us parallel acceptance. When the leader of a nation takes such a position against religious-attire as discussed in the referenced articles on our behalf, so much the better. He's made a decision for us to follow and we are therefore not required to make any such decision for ourselves. We simply choose to follow the leader to keep our own place.
I suspect, it's this same need that drives any human-affiliation with terrorist groups today, bringing such a bad-name to the Muslim faith.
Limiting the discussion to Christianity and Islam, each claims to be: The Religion. The One and only True Faith. We use this position (both consciously, and unconsciously) as psychological ammunition to view ourselves as higher-in-order, considering ourselves animals of course, pushing all references to spiritual humanity aside.
We all exercise these behaviours in family, community, state, nation and ultimately the world. To empathize with this position, all one need do is reflect upon our own experience living with trauma and stigmatization to appreciate how psychologically devastating it is when we find ourselves tossed out and rejected in human society.
Perhaps this oversimplifies human behaviour. But, I think we all can relate: If we can't be the dominant monkey in the crowd, we certainly want to ensure we aren't cast out?
The answer for what lies at the root of religious discord just may be, as simple as that.
Injustice Over the Hijab, The Chronicle Herald Editorial, Online: May 3, 2015. http://thechronicleherald.ca/editorials/1272427-editorial-injustice-over-a-hijab?from=most_read&most...
Religious Conflict On The Rise in French Workplaces, The Local, Online: April 24, 2015. http://www.thelocal.fr/20150424/religious-conflict-on-rise-in-french-workplace
Stress, Portrait of A Killer: National Geographic, 2008. (Background for position on human/primate hierarchy). http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B001D7T460?adid=0BK4N6JT1JQNH0HBDQXC&camp=213385&creative=390985&cre...
Adam Waytz, The Psychology of Social Status, Scientific American: 2009. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-psychology-of-social/
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