Sunday, May 06, 2007

Do not touch

In Norway, it seems, a football match was organised to build friendship between Christian and Muslim clergy. But it was called off -- because the Christian team included women players and the Muslim imams "refused to play against women because it went against their beliefs about close physical contact with the opposite sex."

The article concludes with the meaningful quote from the Christian side: "Both sides have learned to better understand our cultures and we have had an open discussion."

I'm sure the obvious conclusions will be drawn by readers -- Muslims are backward creatures whose culture doesn't belong in Europe. But, given that women priests were unheard-of in Christianity until recently and are still uncommon, and that mixed-gender football teams are extremely uncommon, I can't help wondering if some mischief was afoot.

The other story this week about Islamic intimacy was of the uproar caused by the conservative, Ayatollah-appointed Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when he kissed and embraced his elderly former schoolteacher. The kiss was on a gloved hand, and the old lady was more than modestly clad, but conservative media in the country were appalled.

Peter Hitchens (brother of Christopher, and a lifelong rightwinger) observed recently that Iran is historically more an Indo-European than an Islamic culture, and the present regime is not at all representative of what the people want (and it would be ridiculous to go to war with that country). If even a nutter like Ahmadinejad can fall foul of the ayatollahs, I suppose that illustrates his point.


Anonymous said...

kid gloves for the mullahs I see. Now if the persecuted were male South Indian scientists, instead of women and homosexuals, you would probably be singing a different tune. This one:

Rahul Siddharthan said...

kid gloves for the mullahs I see

You see that where? Does pointing out that Christianity doesn't have a glorious history equate to "kid gloves for the mullahs"?

km said...

Rahul: you can't expect to blog on this topic and not expect people to, you know, "see" things where there aren't any :)

But yeah, it's funny how people have *willingly* let themselves believe in generalities like "Muslims are backward".

Anonymous said...

sorry my comment came out meaner than I intended it to be. The point I am trying to make is that tolerant people should not be rhetorically swayed into being tolerant of people promoting intolerance. So what we need is pragmatic tolerance not a kumbaya singing artifice.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

manasi -- A proper answer would be rather long. The short answer is that I'm more concerned with intolerance at home than in Iran or Norway, and even then, I think action should come from within the community and cannot be imposed from outside. I may be upset at how some Muslims treat women and may imagine that women in my community fare better, but I know that some Muslims treat women very well and some Tamil Brahmins treat women very badly. What is necessary is to reduce the hold of orthodox religious leaders on the community, which has happened to a greater extent in some communities and to a lesser extent in others. Education is the best solution.

I think all ancient religions (except Buddhism) are barbaric, if you go by the text. The difference is to what extent the people who claim to know God control the rest of the population.