I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week or so, about religious tolerance and the kerfuffle over Chick-Fil-A.
It started when the president or owner of this fast food restaurant I’d never heard of (Chik-Fil-A) expressed his opinion against gay marriage.
Reminds me of a moment during the Canadian Library Association convention in Edmonton where I was delivering the speech I’d written for the Danish IBBY congress. You can read it here: http://www.rukhsanakhan.com/articles/Freedom%20of%20Speech.pdf
Since writing that speech the world has gotten a lot more intolerant and even downright hostile towards Islam. Switzerland passed the law banning minarets on their mosques and France passed the law not only against the burqa but against hijab as well. Belgium as well has followed suit.
And yet the ‘tolerance’ of freedom of speech has deteriorated to the point where the president of Chik-Fil-A can’t even express an OPINION against gay marriage without receiving a whole lot of flack for it!
Then the gay community was planning a ‘KISS IN’. Where they’d go to all these Chik-Fil-A store sites and kiss each other in front of the patrons.
Thing is we live in a pluralistic society.
I absolutely love my adopted country and all the freedoms and access to justice that I enjoy here. (A LOT more freedoms and justice than are available ANYWHERE in the Muslim world–as far as I know.)
I am free to practice my religion to my heart’s content, and boy do I appreciate that!
And along with that freedom homosexuals also are free to practice their lifestyle to their heart’s content.
But some things belong in private.
Frankly, they should get a room.
I remember when my family first went to New York City. I couldn’t have been more than about seven or eight years old. There was a moment my parents took us on a bus or subway for some reason and this dramatic lady with long frizzy dark hair came waltzing down the bus’s aisle with her boyfriend in tow and plunked down in the seats opposite me and they started SMOOCHING!
Now I had never ever seen SMOOCHING except on T.V.
In Pakistani culture, and yes, even Islamic culture, parents don’t kiss in front of the kids. These days maybe some do, but I had NEVER EVER seen my parents kiss each other! And that felt RIGHT and WHOLESOME! (I mean what kids want to see their parents SMOOCH!? Yuk!!!)
Seeing this couple, in broad daylight, in front of all these STRANGERS on a BUS sucking each other’s faces was ALARMING to say the least!
And then, at the next stop, when the guy had to get off, the woman did a strange thing. She adjusted her coat and glanced around at the other passengers and particularly at me, this seven year old brown girl STARING at her!
I remember how she fidgeted a bit and averted her gaze.
And me I just kept staring at her.
It must have been very disconcerting.
And then eventually she hopped up, rang the bell, her frizzy dark hair flying out behind her, and bounded ever so dramatically down the back stairs of the bus.
Our encounter was over.
I can’t help but think that for women, such public displays of affection are a sort of petty showmanship. A kind of ‘nana nana boo boo, I’ve got a boyfriend’ sort of thing.
They might see it as a triumph but I see it as a real mark of insecurity.
I’ve never understood it.
Hubby and I have carried on the Islamic tradition of discretion in front of our children.
Personally I would prefer that all kissing be relegated to privacy.
Think of how uncomfortable it gets when you’re watching a movie and there’s a big makeout scene, and your son is sitting right there in the room. *CRINGE*
I like the old days when everything was implied! But that’s my personal preference.
I realize that I don’t have a say in how society censors such displays, and I’ve accepted that.
But I guess for gay couples it must be galling to watch all that heterosexual smooching going on and their protest of Chik-Fil-A was a reaction to that sort of thing.
It’s like they’re saying ‘deal with it’.
But again it’s like that moment on the bus in New York city, and to me it just feels wrong.
Back to that moment in Edmonton during the Canadian Library Association convention when I was delivering my speech.
At the end, during the question and answer segment, a lady asked me a question about tolerance within the Muslim community towards homosexuality.
I’ve thought this issue over very seriously, and I’ve researched it and the conclusion that I’ve come to is based on Islamic principles. First and foremost, as a Muslim, there is an unspoken pact that I enter into when I live in a non-Muslim country. A kind of ‘treaty’. I MUST abide by the laws of the country I live in. I MUST uphold those laws, and operate within their perameters.
(For the most part that’s not a problem. You’d be surprised at how COMPATIBLE Canadian and American law is with principles of Islamic sharia.)
Anyway, the point is that even though homosexuality is definitely considered a major sin in Islam everyone has every right to live their lives FREE OF ANY PERSECUTION. Muslims have got to LIVE AND LET LIVE.
It’s all about TOLERANCE.
So when this lady got up and asked me how I dealt with the Muslim community’s attitude towards gays (she was a librarian who served the London, Ontario community and she particularly worked with Muslims) I told her that I explained to Muslims that all people regardless of their religion, race, sexual preference, etc. were allowed to live their lives without fear of being molested in any way.
That we, as Muslims, relied on that freedom, and it was only fair that we respect that freedom in other people.
It was all about tolerance.
The lady said, “Well, as a Lesbian, I don’t just want to be TOLERATED! I want to be ACCEPTED.”
And I answered, “Not me. I don’t care about acceptance and I certainly don’t expect it. The most I hope for is TOLERANCE. We live in a pluralistic society, we come from different faiths and I think the best we can do is tolerate each other. In thousands of years we haven’t been able to agree on these things. Nor will we. We need to work towards tolerance.”
I don’t think people should underestimate tolerance.
It really is a significant step towards a civilized society.
But when it comes to SMOOCHING…PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE GET A ROOM!!!