Religious Suppressionists Everywhere Beware Of Rising Liberal Egocentrism

By Donald A. Collins | 11 November 2013
Church and State

(Image by FotoRieth from Pixabay)

How long, Oh Lord (or is that Allah?), say the screamers for reactionary policies inflicted on women worldwide and in the USA, before we can set up the ultimate state of religious control of all state functions!! Well, I suggest these various pulpits and mosques have a powerful new liberal antagonist represented for the masses by cell phones and satellites with voices representing enlightened liberal points of view. Like the unmasking of the Wizard of OZ, the fantasies espoused by preachers and prophets will fail to make future generations opt for the repressive strictures offered by their ancestors.

The Washington Post picked up the AP story of 11/10/13 by Zarar Khan about how the “Private schools in Pakistan . . . have banned teenage activist Malala Yousafzai’s book, saying it doesn’t show enough respect for Islam and calling her a tool of the West.”

You will recall that

Yousafzai attracted global attention last year when the Taliban shot her in the head in northwest Pakistan for criticizing the group’s interpretation of Islam, which limits girls’ access to education. Her profile has risen steadily since then, and she released a memoir in October, “I Am Malala,” co-written with British journalist Christina Lamb.

Although Yousafzai has become a hero to many across the world for opposing the Taliban and standing up for girls’ education, conspiracy theorists in Pakistan say her shooting was staged to create a champion for the West to embrace.

Adeeb Javedani, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association, said his group has banned Yousafzai’s book from the libraries of its 40,000 affiliated schools and has called on the government to bar it from school curriculums.

“Everything about Yousafzai is now becoming clear,” Javedani said. “To me, she is representing the West, not us.”

So here we got again. The Richard Landis 2005 essay just presented on Church and State perfectly delineates this eternal confrontation between the forces seeking secular progress in human behavior vs those who would take us back to medieval repression, the type existing in so many Islamic nations today.

In poor benighted Pakistan one would have hoped that the private schools would not mimic the repression of the public school systems.

But as the Post story tells us:

Kashif Mirza, chairman of the All Pakistan Private Schools Federation, said his group also has banned Yousafzai’s book in its affiliated schools. Yousafzai “was a role model for children, but this book has made her controversial,” Mirza said. “Through this book, she became a tool in the hands of the Western powers.”

He said the book did not show enough respect for Islam because it referred to the prophet Muhammad without using the abbreviation PBUH — “peace be upon him” — as is customary in many parts of the Muslim world. He also said that the book spoke favorably of author Salman Rushdie — who angered many Muslims with his book “The Satanic Verses” — and Ahmadis, members of a minority sect who have been declared non-Muslims under Pakistani law.

In her reference to Rushdie, Yousafzai said in the book that her father viewed “The Satanic Verses” as “offensive to Islam but believes strongly in the freedom of speech.”

“First, let’s read the book and then why not respond with our own book,” the book quoted her father as saying.

Yousafzai mentioned in her book that Pakistan’s population of 180 million includes more than 2 million Ahmadis, “who say they are Muslim though our government says they are not.”

“Sadly those minority communities are often attacked,” the book said, referring also to Pakistan’s 2 million Christians.

The conspiracy theories about Yousafzai reflect the level of influence wielded by right-wing Islamists sympathetic to the Taliban in Pakistan. They also reflect the poor state of education in Pakistan, where fewer than half the country’s children complete a basic, primary education.

Millions of children attend private school because of the poor state of the public education system.

How about the bravery of teenage activist Malala Yousafzai, who survived as our own Martin Luther King did not, when she confronted this urgent issue of human (read “civil”) rights against this national phalanx of power!

We continue to get more than echoes of this cognitive egocentrism from the conservative voices which widely dangerously still populate our country. Perfect example was reflected in E.J. Dionne’s masterful OP ED in the 11/11/13 Washington Post entitled, “What’s the matter with motherhood?”

Dionne begins:

If you’re a conservative strongly opposed to abortion, shouldn’t you want to give all the help you can to women who want to bring their children into the world? In particular, wouldn’t you hope they’d get the proper medical attention during and after their pregnancy?

This would seem a safe assumption, which is why it ought to be astonishing that conservatives are positively obsessed with trashing the Affordable Care Act’s regulation requiring insurance policies to include maternity coverage.

Never mind that we who are lucky enough to have health insurance end up paying to cover conditions we may never suffer ourselves. We all want to avoid cancer, but we don’t begrudge those who do get it when the premiums we pay into our shared insurance pools help them receive care.

Yet critics of Obamacare apparently think there is something particularly odious when a person who might not have a baby pays premiums to assist someone who does. It’s true that men cannot have babies, although it is worth mentioning that they do play a rather important role in their creation. In any event, it is hardly very radical to argue that society is better off when kids are born healthy to healthy moms.

Yet the conservatives’ ire over this issue knows no bounds.

This brings us face to face with the urgency of the mission of this web site, which seeks to speak out about keeping any religious voices from mandating and enforcing their beliefs down the throats or vaginas of those who think otherwise.

It is not my intention here to get into the Obamacare debate as this has many secular components which will need further treatment. However, the parallel idiocy of our own repressive religious forces here about caring for women’s health gets full play in Dionne’s piece:

“And so what if a health policy lacks maternity care?” wrote Deroy Murdoch on National Review’s Web site, the italics on that impatient “so what” being his. “Not all women want to bear more children — or any children at all. . . . And how about lesbians who do not want kids, and are highly unlikely to become pregnant accidentally?” It’s touching, actually, to see such concern for lesbians in a conservative publication. Behold the miracles Obamacare already has called forth.

On “Fox News Sunday” this month, host Chris Wallace was very worked up as he pressed Zeke Emanuel, a former health-care adviser to President Obama, over how unfair it is that a single woman with a 24-year-old son would be forced to pay for such coverage. “She’s not going to have any more children,” Wallace said with great certainty. “She’s not going to need maternity services.”

Writing on the FreedomWorks Web site, Julie Borowski declared, unhappily: “Maternity coverage will be mandatory — even for men. . . . Adding coverage for things that some people do not want will only increase insurance costs for everyone.”

Well, not exactly. But you get the drift. Who knew that supporting motherhood was suddenly controversial?

All of which ought to present members of the right-to-life movement with a challenge. In the name of consistency, they need to break with their conservative allies and insist that maternity coverage be included in all health-care plans. Shouldn’t those who want to prevent abortion be in the forefront of making the case that a woman will be far more likely to choose to have her baby if she knows that both she and her child will get regular medical attention?

For too many politicians on the right, what they say about abortion is at odds with what they say about so many other issues. They speak with great concern and compassion for the unborn, and I respect that. You don’t have to support making abortion illegal to think that there are too many of them in the United States.

To their great credit, some right-to-lifers really do follow the logic of their position and support expanded health coverage, food stamps, the Women, Infants and Children feeding program and other measures that help parents after their kids are born. This reflects a consistent ethic.

But many other conservatives would make abortion illegal and leave it at that. Thus we have the spectacle in Texas of right-wing politicians trying to make it as difficult as possible for a woman to obtain an abortion while proudly blocking the state’s participation in the expansion of Medicaid to cover the near-poor. Does it serve the cause of life to keep more than 1.8 million Texans from getting health insurance?

President Obama apologized last week after all the criticisms of what’s happening in the individual insurance market. But where is the outrage over governors and legislators flatly cutting off so many lower-income Americans from access to Medicaid? The Urban Institute estimates that 6 million to 7 million people will be deprived of coverage in states that are refusing to accept the expansion.

If health coverage — yes, including maternity care — isn’t a right-to-life issue, I don’t know what is.

Worldwide over 40 million abortions occur every year, but only half are done legally and many cause fatalities or permanent health issues. Acting to achieve safe abortions for any women who desire one seems a higher humane calling than any religiously derived strictures against safe, well established medical practices that these repressive religionists can offer.

So the short term hope. The current cell phone revolution (e.g. as many cell phones as people by 2014) offers the chance for enlightenment from the world wide web of human information which likely won’t be perpetually blocked in even the most backward places. Despots of every type, religious and secular, face the opening of minds via universal knowledge that will be very hard to suppress.

Thus the long term reality will certainly be a world (if we survive our current population crisis) where religious fiction won’t play a dominant role in secular affairs.

Former US Navy officer, banker and venture capitalist, Donald A. Collins, a free lance writer living in Washington, DC., has spent over 40 years working for women’s reproductive health as a board member and/or officer of numerous family planning organizations including Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Guttmacher Institute, Family Health International and Ipas. Yale under graduate, NYU MBA. He is the author of From the Dissident Left: A Collection of Essays 2004-2013.

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