Saturday, August 16, 2008

This Is The Real Terror...

I have never been a big fan of the phrase "War On Terror", which I believe misues both terms. However, it cannot be denied that there is a terror in the world, and it is religious intolerance and ignorance. In other words, it is the use of religion to scare people to act in ways that are not in their best interest, through fear, coercion and outright abuse.

Never has this been made more vivid to me than in an AP story posted today on Yahoo.

Read it and see for yourself.

Child beggar's father fights abusive teacher

I am stunned and somewhat hopeful that the boy's father dared to bring charges. In his culture he has committed a sacrilege, but at least it was at the behest of the police.

Still, a long-standing "tradition" is being threatened, and as a result they are blaming "the west". I'm not entirely sure what their view of "the west" is, but it should at least occur to them that "the west" has the resource to set up a presence in Senegal, and the dignity to fight for the rights of children to be free from such insane abuse.

This, indeed, is the real "long war", this fight to separate religion from any sort of official doctrine determining the way people live. Humans must be free to choose their own religion - or no religion at all - and to be free from abuse based on that choice.

What's particularly coercive about this practice, as revealed in the AP article, is that the family receives food in exchange for sending their son to the religious school. So, the choice becomes: send my son to school like every other family does, and receive food so the rest of us can eat...or...or what, exactly? Where would a family stand in the social order if they directly opposed this practice? What abuse would be heaped upon all of them?

For all that the United States - and the west in general - gets wrong in international affairs, at least we live in a place where these choices are ours to make, and where such abuse would be unthinkable. At least I do not live in fear that I will be jailed for writing this blog. That's a big deal. Every day in some country where religious leaders rule, somebody gets carted off to jail for daring to suggest that there are some things wrong with the practice, for daring to suggest that perhaps people ought to be free to express themselves, ought to be free to challenge doctrine and question authority, ought to be free to organize and assemble with like-minded people.

It goes without saying that we live under such freedoms in the U.S., and while I refuse to be "thankful" that I am "allowed" to be free (which is, after all, my birthright), I am at least appreciative that fate saw to it that I was born here, where I do not live in the fear that those rights do not exist, or that they can be taken from me suddenly and for the flimsiest of reasons.

I am grateful for that.