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June 18, 2004

Thank Allah for separation of Church & State!!!

I know many conservatives complain that "separation of church & state" is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution, and I also know historically that a moderate level of state establishment of denominations persisted in places like New England deep into the 19th century, but articles like this from England point us to how fortuitous some American legal traditions have been in dealing within the brave new world of "multiculturalism." The article is published in The Guardian, so it's not a right-wing tabloid. Here are some "recommendations" made by a group of Muslim intellectuals & educators:

  • "compulsory religious education from 14 to 16, a new A-level in Islamic studies and a teacher of Islam in all Muslim-majority state schools for Muslim pupils who withdraw from religious education."
  • "all majority Muslim schools should provide a teacher of Islam for students who withdraw from collective worship"
  • "Insensitivities included organising cooking and dancing classes involving Muslim children during Ramadan"
  • "The study also proposes schools should adapt physical education changing facilities, such as communal showers, to comply with privacy codes, and consider prayer rooms for pupils over the age of 10"
  • "It calls for a reversal of the trend towards mixed-sex schooling, saying many parents would prefer their children educated separately at secondary level. "

I am bolding the last part about mixed-gender education for a very important reason. I believe that some level of gender mixing is crucial for the continuance of liberal democracy. I haven't fleshed out my thoughts totally on this issue, and have been predated by centuries of debate about the "civilizing impact of women" on the male gender, but my experiences in segregated gender societies where men and women do not talk to each other in a socially intimate manner suggests to me that something is missing in these societies (from the perspective of liberal democrats!).

I am not here suggesting that what we need is even full-bore equity feminism, though that is my preference. The level of gender mixing common in the early 20th century West would suffice. I would would like to reiterate my position that there is something deeply "natural" about gender segregation and "oppression" of females in complex societies, it is a stable equilibrium, so to speak. In other words, patriarchy is inevitable. I would be comfortable with all that stuff about Allah, and prayer and what not, as long as genders kept mixing, beause I believe that this social interaction is a very important exercise in moderating the tendencies of both sexes.

In many places in Europe, like England or the Netherlands, where there is more funding of religiously sanctioned activities and facilities than in the United States, they will be faced with issues of how to be balanced in their treatment of various faiths in the context of new pluralism. Frankly, I have always found the feminism card handy in preventing the multicultural tendencies of anyone I'm talking to from getting the upper hand, but recently, it hasn't been as powerful, as people are more likely to respond, "well, that's there culture" [fill in the blank about treating women like chattel].

So again, separation of church & state, three cheers!. Now, how about separation of race & state? Separation of ethnicity & state?

Addendum: Guest blogger Randy McDonald has spoken of how only 10% of American Muslims attend mosque regularly. Assuming that this is projectable to Europe, that 10% is the portion likely to be politically active, ergo, take control of government monies that might be directed toward the "Muslim community".

Posted by razib at 09:01 PM