Monday, August 23, 2010

When Christians Are For A Secular State

One of the benefits of reading this blog is that you get to know a bit about my myriad of friends and acquaintances who are smarter and/or more talented than me (though that may not be saying much). One of these friends is Adam. Adam and I met as undergraduates. He was a Music major while I was Psychology student and dabbled in philosophy. Currently he works for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and spends a lot of time in sub-Saharan Africa working on Malaria prevention. Malaria is a particularly nasty disease that is spread by mosquitoes and in 2008 it is estimated that it killed 708,000 -1,003,000 (click here for the CDC Malaria page) people worldwide. Adam actually caught Malaria while he was in the Peace Corps but that's a story for a different time.

We were chatting the other day about Kenya's new constitution. Adam, who has spent a good amount of time in Kenya, remarked on how Christian groups and Muslims were in conflict about the document. Intrigued, I decided to do look into the matter.

But first I think we should do some Kenya 101. Kenya is a country that is in southeast Africa. It has about 37 million people and little bit smaller than Texas (thank you New York Times). Kenya sits in a rough neighborhood. To its east is Somalia where a civil war is being fought against Jihadists. Sudan is to the northeast, known for the conflict in Darfur, and not known as a defender of personal liberty. Uganda is to the west and that country had to be coerced by foreign governments not to kill gays - really I'm not making this up (check out a satirical piece I wrote on the topic here). Kenya has a lot going against it.

Kenya had been using a constitution it "inherited" from its colonial master Britain. There were many problems with this document (click here for the Times article).
After independence in 1963, Kenya’s ethnic divides were exacerbated under a winner-take-all political system that vested enormous powers in the presidency — and led to staggering levels of corruption. Kenya’s new Constitution aims to fix this by devolving more power to local governments, giving Kenyans a bill of rights and paving the way for land reform.
Wow! That previous constitution sounds pretty flawed.

The Jesus-ites are against the new document because it didn't outlaw abortion in every case. That's right, Kenyan Christians were not in favor of the clause that stated that abortion is permissible, "if the life or health of the mother is in danger." They implied (I'm using my deep authoritative voice) that this would pave the way for abortion on demand.

Right, and Gay Marriage has brought about the destruction of Massachusetts.

Did I tell you I have a bridge I can sell you too?

Back to Kenya. I don't want you to think that this new constitution is all puppies and rainbows. You see Kenya is home to loony Christians AND loony Muslims. It seems that the Christians were against the new constitution because it allows Islamic courts (you know the ones that do the wacky Sky Fairy sharia law) for Kenya's Islamic population. Wow. I agree with the Christians on this one and in doing so I want to take a bath and wash the ickiness away. I was reading an article on The Washington Post (click here for full article) when I came across the stated reason why the Christians were against Islamic courts.
They argue that Kenya is a secular state and that Muslims should not receive special privileges.

I stopped - that couldn't be right.
They argue that Kenya is a secular state and that Muslims should not receive special privileges.

Nope. I read it right. Christians arguing that Kenya is a secular state. Well hopping f*cking Jesus bring those guys over to the good old USA and tell their fellow Christians that the USA is a secular state too!

Yeah, I don't see that happening either.

To add to this tragic-comedy Judge Mudhar Ahmed, an Islamic judge, was interviewed and asked what he thought of the current situation. He stated that Islamophobia was afoot.  The article continued.
Muslim leaders say the maneuvers are part of an agenda to deny their community rights and undermine their beliefs. "They are creating hatred between Muslims and Christians," said Ahmed, his soft voice hardening.
Right, as soon as someone states that your courts based on your imaginary friend/deity aren't OK (and let us be honest they aren't whether it's Britain, Saudi Arabia, or Kenya) then it's all about denying "community rights."

I hate to tell the esteemed Jurist that you don't have a special right to coerce individuals within your community. I don't care how long you have been doing this rubbish (in Kenya it has been going on for centuries).  I don't care if your special courts aren't criminal courts (that is left for the secular ones) either - if you are ruling on things like  personal law, such as marriages, divorces and inheritances for Muslims (from the article) then what you are doing is wrong. The secular law should be the law for all. The secular courts should be the courts for all.

And no, that does not make me Islamaphobic.

Is there irrational fear of Muslims in Kenya? I'm sure there is. They are a minority in a Christian country during a major election (wow, does that sound familiar?). However, this doesn't mean that special Islamic courts should be operating in a free and open society.

So what did the Kenyans get with their new constitution? It's better for sure, but they have a loooong way to go.

We all do...

some more than others...

this is Purgatory.


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