Have you heard of the Iranian men and women who made a video of themselves dancing to Pharrell’s song “Happy”? It’s actually very cute and tasteful, but the Iranian government has deemed it vulgar and inappropriate. The problems were that the women’s heads weren’t covered, they were dancing in public (on a rooftop), and men and women were socializing together. These are all illegal in Iran. The dancers were all arrested but have since been released. The director of the video, however, is still being detained. You can watch a BBC news video about it here.
In my opinion, incidents like these are why religion should stay out of the government and the government should stay out of religion.
Sharia law is Islamic law based on the Quran. It dictates diet, sex, prayer, dress code, and hygiene. The law includes how economics, crime, divorce, and punishment should all be dealt with. It’s a melding of the religious and the political. Laws are made and enforced according to religious beliefs.
Islam is the official, constitutional religion in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan do not allow laws to be made that go against Islam. Some countries are very strict regarding these laws, such as Saudi Arabia, yet some countries, like the UAE, are a bit more lenient, like allowing some alcohol.
While I do think religion is important, the use of Sharia law assumes that everyone in that country or place follows the same religion and that all citizens entertain the same level of religiousness. I think the “Happy” video shows the dissonance in these assumptions.
So what about Christianity? I am a Christian. However, I do NOT want religion in schools or religion in the government. Some Christian friends are surprised when they hear me say that. I think all Americans should be free to practice their own religion. I believe that includes not having religion forced on them. Let’s talk about prayer in school. I think it’s absolutely appropriate for students to pray to God or pray to Allah or whoever on their own or in small groups. Do I necessarily want the class or the school to be lead in prayer as a whole? No, not really. Do I think 100% of the students are Christian? Of course not. Or maybe the person leading the prayer is Catholic, so even though they are a Christian, they don’t necessarily believe in the same things as you or pray in the same way. Let’s allow the freedom but not force any religion.
I do think people from smaller towns and more homogeneous communities have more trouble seeing this, because we grew up around people who are “just like us” and we all think the same and have the same beliefs. Well, not necessarily .
What about religion in the government? Let’s say the US suddenly became mostly Jewish. Would you appreciate the government telling you that you can’t eat pork? That you might get arrested for eating pork?
I think we need to be careful what we wish for. We just might end up in prison for “being happy”.