08- September

Dear Sam

You said:

You appear to be working from the premise that taking a particular belief and defining it as a “religious belief” gives it special status, and that it should not be subject to any criticism or restrictions.


Not at all dear Sam; and I am sorry if I wasn’t making myself clear enough and gave you the wrong example and/or impression.

This is not my argument.  I don’t believe that having a religious belief gives it any special status at all, to criticise or restrict a religious belief is not the issue.

 Nothing is more disturbing to me than to find myself thinking or believing that I or my ideologies are above criticism.

I loathe this idea whether coming from me or from anyone else.


The point that I was trying to clarify is that having a secular state is no guarantee for anything, certainly no guarantee of giving human rights to all. You did not respond to any of the examples of bad bad behaviour by secular states except to this one. Talking about accusation against people of faith in that context is only relevant to the point that I was trying to make; not that we deserve special status or treatment but precisely the opposite; i.e. we deserve the same treatment, equality and  respect that other members of society have.

A minority living in a secular state should have the right not to be discriminated against just because of their beliefs, as long as they are not imposing their faith and practice upon others, and that those beliefs and practices are not harmful to others.

But in reality living in a secular state is no guarantee that all members of society will be treated fairly and equally. Some will definitely be more equal than others. Some will be persecuted and indeed imprisoned for their beliefs (many are in Turkey and Tunisia).  Some will be allowed to dress as they please some won’t. Some will be allowed to teach their views and some won’t.

You are probably aware that in USA it is illegal to teach the “Intelligent design” as a theory despite the compelling scientific evidence.

Some will try to deprive others of their rights because of their contempt of religious people. And you know that holds true amongst some secular fundamentalists; to some, religions are viewed as number one enemy even before capitalism and imperialism, to many, religion is the opium of people, and to many more religions are viewed as irrational.

 Despite the fact that both groups (those who believe in a Creator and those who don’t) are standing on equal footing when it comes to logic and rationality into scientifically proving their case.


To clarify my position; there are two main points I argue for:

1) Secularism is not a guarantee of establishing a Utopian society which I argued above and previously.

2) People in different societies must be allowed to choose the way they want to run their lives, the methods of establishing their own government, and their own laws/legislations that reflect their ethics and morality.

I as -a Muslim- have absolutely no problem with having and living in a secular state if it was voted for and as long as my human rights are protected.

 I will live by my values and will not try to impose them on others; however, I would expect exactly the same from secularists, if they live in a country with a religious majority.


In a society were the make up of that society is mainly of people of faith were they wish to live by laws that reflects their values, I see that as a basic human right.

 That right doesn’t mean that any minority in that society will lose out or become marginalized or oppressed. They have the right to live by their own set of values and morality as long as they don’t impose it on others, and without inflecting harm on the rest of society.


 We as a Muslim minority here try to live with our ethics without forcing it upon others; we don’t drink but never expect that other people should follow our moral code. For the sake of argument, suppose that we have a belief that enslaves women or prevents children from getting education; the host society senses the harm done to women or children; they then have the right to restrict our harmful religious practice.

A minority of nudists living in a Muslim majority have no right to impose their ethics on others by going out naked publicly as it will be viewed by the Muslim majority as harmful to some members of the society (the young).

 But if nudists live in a country of their own as a majority and are happy to practice their nudity publicly, then it is not the right of a Muslim or what ever minority living in that country to impose their morality on the majority and force them to dress up.

They can have the choice of either keep living in that society and bearing the consequences of the harm done and trying to persuade the majority of its harmfulness, or find another place to live.


 But I don’t see that imposing the ethics of the minority on the majority as a fair option.


Giving the right to govern, legislate and create laws for a secular minority against the will of a religious majority in a particular country and trying to impose secular ideologies upon that society is not a fair act.


 Simply because it implies one of two things: either that secular morality is superior to others, or that there is only one set of human values namely: that of the secular. None of which is true.


 We have seen time and time again that secularism can’t be trusted blindly when in power. So why should I vote for it if I live amongst a Muslim majority?


Therefore I adamantly refuse to give the secularists the free hand and the absolute right to create the world’s laws and legislations based only upon their own perceptions, views, ethics, and morality.



The other point that I want to discuss with you is about morality.

Morality -as I understand it- is not absolute, what is moral to you might be immoral to some one else, and visa versa.


A secular might see in the refusal of blood transfusion by religious parents as a great wrong and immoral act yet at the very same time have no problem but indeed defend the right of a mother to kill her baby (abortion) in the name of women’s right, yet both involve the killing of a child.

To me these two acts are as vile and as immoral; but I see it not my right to impose what I think on people; however I can always put my vote where my morality leads me.


If I live in a society where the majority voted for the woman’s absolute right to have abortion or to refuse blood transfusion (or indeed any thing that contradicts my morality); I will try within my available means of campaigns and dialogue to defend the weak and vulnerable (the baby) but I will not try to forcibly impose my morality on the whole of society by saying -for example- it’s a great sin in Islam to kill your child.

however if I lived in a society with a Muslim majority, who voted and accepted to live by Islamic morality then I think it is the right of that society to produce legislations that says abortion is illegal  without taking away the right of the minority to protest and try to campaign against that law.

If I lived in a prominently Muslim majority- why should I accept that my government adopt the secular’s definition of what is right and ethical to adhere to and to derive its laws from? 

In a Muslim society (and like any other society) we might have issues that we think are wrong and unethical yet they might not be seen likewise by others; for example consuming alcohol, usury,  or free sexual relationships that lacks any form of commitment, why do we have to adhere to the views and perceptions of the secular. They are perfectly ethical to him/her, why should we as a majority produce our laws to reflect his morality?


I am sorry for the long wended essay, but all I am trying to do is to make myself clear, basically and simply I am trying to defend the right of any group of people to live by their own laws that reflects their morality, and that does not necessitate that these laws should be secular, or should reflect the secular’s understanding and perception of the world. For what the secular think and perceive as right and ethical could be seen otherwise by others and visa versa.


 Morality is not universal; neither the morality of one group is superior to that of another.


My freedom ends where the freedom of the other starts.

With all my love and respect



08- September

Dear oh Dear Nahida,

You have such a wonderful way with words.  I would dearly love to be able to write like you.

The arguments in your email and the way you present them are complex and I need time to read them carefully.  Thus for example, when talking about nudity, you make reference to the “consequences of the harm done”.  It is as you say a view of the Muslim majority that going
without clothes causes harm yet you seem to treat it almost as if it is a statement of fact.  However it will all have to wait for another time.

The one thing I cannot let go is your statement about there being compelling scientific evidence for "Intelligent design".

I simply do not understand how you can make such a statement.  There is not one shred of evidence to support the idea of intelligent design other than the fact that there are certain phenomena for which we do not at this time have explanations in the physical world.  Whether this be contradictions or gaps in existing theories or phenomena about which we do not have a clue, the absence of knowledge does not mean you can assume intelligent design.

It also helps to explain why the vast majority of the scientific community does not accept intelligent design and I do mean the vast majority for the numbers who support intelligent design are almost insignificant.  Furthermore you will know a scientist’s standing is
based on their contribution to their specific field. Next time you see a so-called scientist who supports intelligent design, go on the web and check out his/her background.  What contributions has he/she made?
How much has he/she added to our knowledge in their particular area of study? How many articles does he/she have in reputable journals? What positions does he/she hold in the scientific community?  Nearly all will be non-entities in the scientific world.

The other day I was in the library and I happened to stumble across the section on molecular genetics, a discipline, which is primarily based on evolutionary principles.  Actually much of modern science is based on those principles but that is another story.  The library had shelves
and shelves of books and journals with articles and research papers adding to our knowledge of molecular genetics.  I guess one of the advantages of intelligent design is that we could throw out all those books and journals and simply put up a sign saying, “no need to do any
more research because everything we wish to know can be explained by intelligent design.

Actually if I had to chose between defending the idea of intelligent design or the idea that the world is flat, I would chose the latter. I could structure my arguments around what I can see rather than what Imust assume is there because I cannot see anything.

I am afraid this is definitely one, which we will have to agree to disagree.



08- September

Dear Sam

Indeed I mentioned that as a consequence nudeness might cause harm to children in a society of a Muslim majority and I base my statement on my limited understanding of the psychological nature and psychodynamics of a Muslim society.

 Modesty and sexual intimacy are integral part of that society.

Nudity and sexual exposé are also -to a certain degree- interlinked, at least in Islamic societies if not in most societies.

 Children generally are protected from early exposure to sex and psychologists and psychiatrists confirm that that sheltering is a major contributing factor to the child/ potential adult’s psychological health.


Those children who were introduced prematurely to sex and sexual experiences suffer a great deal of psychological problems in their adult life, their agony might take a life time to heal if ever.

In Muslim societies we take that on board, and we take it very seriously, we also think that in exposing children to nudity might have similar psychological effect on the child that lives in a society that values modesty.

 May be future studies will reveal something about this; it is just hard to do experiments on children and human beings.

So the harm that I am talking about is conceived in relation to children living in an Islamic society, therefore it is relative (i.e. in primitive societies where nudeness is the norm and being dressed up is the exception; children might develop a normal healthy psychological profile, I simply don’t know).

Yet that harm is also real and to those living in a Muslim society it is a matter of fact.


Now the other point about intelligent design must and have to wait for the next chapter I’m afraid.




Hi Nahida,

I certainly would not challenge what you are saying in the context of a Muslim society.

Before starting that chapter on intelligent design, please have a look at the following site:


Do take care.


© Copyright 2006 Nahida Izzat & Sam Semoff -PoetryforPalestine – All Rights Reserved

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