Sunday, January 21, 2007

A question of respect

Sam HarrisI have previously touched upon religious discrimination against women - including wearing of the veil, forced marriage and female genital mutilation. This is a topic which unfortunately has a great bearing upon family law, even in 21st-century England - perpetuated by the modern requirement that we must respect cultural differences, irrespective of their effect. The whole subject is aired eloquently in this powerful article by Sam Harris in the Washington Post. As he says:

For millennia the world’s great prophets and theologians have applied their collective genius to the riddle of womanhood. The result has been polygamy, sati, honor killing, punitive rape, genital mutilation, forced marriages, a cultic obsession with virginity, compulsory veiling, the persecution of unwed mothers, and other forms of physical and psychological abuse so kaleidoscopic in variety as to scarcely admit of concise description.

He goes on to explain that the net effect of religion (especially Christianity, Judaism and Islam) has been to "demonize female sexuality and portray women as morally and intellectually inferior to men", and I could not possibly find better words to conclude than his:

If we ever achieve a civilization of true equity, respect, and love between the sexes, it will not be because we paid more attention to our holy books.

Sam Harris is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. His work has been published in over ten languages.

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