Religion and State

Maroc Mama shares her experience as a Muslim convert and talks about the impact politics may have on the freedom to explore, engage, discuss and learn independently about one’s own faith.


Wife, mom, student, activist, traveler, Moroccophile and curious spirit 10 comments

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Over the past three weekends my local mosque has been participating in a multi-series panel on “Understanding Islam”. I live in a predominantly Anglo-Christian area of the Midwest, where diversity means someone has an Italian grandparent. So for the community to a) acknowledge the presence of a Muslim community and b) care to discuss and try to understand Islam was surprising. An even more surprising fact, nearly ¾ of attendees averaged age 65. They were there to truly have an open mind to learn and try to understand. It just wasn’t the crowd I was expecting to see.

As a convert to Islam from Christianity I’ve always felt a desire in my heart to reach out and help others to see my faith for what it is and not how it is portrayed. At the end of the last session, each member of the mosque spread out and sat with a table of attendees, to talk more personally. One of the first questions I was asked was, “How does it make you feel that if you were a Muslim who converted to Christianity in Saudi Arabia or Iran your life could be in danger?” Whoa. I curtly replied “Well sir that bothers me because even though I made the choice to become Muslim I still respect the Christian faith and believe that everyone should have the opportunity to practice the faith that they choose.” I tried to explain that government control of religion had little to do with religion and more to do with politics but I am not sure he really wanted to hear anything because what came out next was “well that’s what Islam is isn’t it? All political?” “No sir, no it’s not to me.”

I have since thought of a million responses to that. But what I’ve dwelled on the most is the fact that whether or not we like to accept it religion is political no matter where you are – even in the United States. Think about the debate over abortion, stem cell research, euthanasia, the death penalty, education, you name it. Just about every single social issue and policy is riddled with religious relativism. In the case of Morocco the least I can say is at least they are up front with the fact that it is a Muslim country.

A cynical part of me wants to think that by imposing religious regulations on citizenry governments are simply opting for a way to control the population. The optimistic part of me wants to think that those in power want to preserve the religious heritage and moral integrity of a country. It isn’t clear to me that religion can be completely separated from a nation’s identity. It’s a part of the national fabric. The United States has the largest mixture of people, ethnicities, languages, cultures, religions of any other place in the world and we haven’t been able to completely separate the two. I dare say it would be impossible for Morocco or any other country to do the same. If such a feat were attempted there is no doubt in my mind that the two sides of the argument would not be able to compromise on a solution.

After saying all of this I am obliged to point out that, I am more free to practice my religion in the United States than I am in Morocco – a Muslim country. I am not compelled to fast during Ramadan, nor am I compelled to follow societal rules and roles for a woman. I am free to explore, engage, discuss and learn independently and in a group setting about my faith. I am able to deepen my understanding and free to learn about other faiths. This act allows me to grow in my own spiritual journey while respecting the tradition that it grew out of. By not allowing this free flow of information and diversity of opinion Morocco and other Muslim nations do a disservice to their citizenry and in effect control what people are allowed to know about Islam and the world. Perhaps the crown feels that this level of control is better for the moral and religious direction of the country, I however couldn’t disagree more.

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Posted on Saturday, November 20th, 2010

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10 comments on “Religion and State”

  1. The optimistic part of me wants to think that those in power want to preserve the religious heritage and moral integrity of a country

    Oh yeah…”moral integrity” like silencing critics of Islam, jailing people who sip water in public during Ramadan, imprisoning homosexuals, discriminating against women in inheritance law…and that’s the so-called moderate version of the Islamic state! If we were doing what’s written in the Quran and the Hadith, we’d be killing apostates and stoning adulterers.

    “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.” T. Jefferson

    • Oh yeah…”moral integrity” like silencing critics of Islam/
      Seriously? make no mistake, people in general do not accept criticism to their religion in general…is a human nature…try criticizing Christianity in any southern state.

      jailing people who sip water in public during Ramadan/
      Child please! seriously? are you from Morocco? becasue I seldom fast…only thing I gotten was reprehensible looks.

      imprisoning homosexuals, discriminating against women in inheritance law/
      About homosexuals…yep I guess it does happen, but once again; they may not be imprisoned somewhere else in the world…yet they are discriminated…I’ve found people in USA who accepts gays just because it will be against the law to discriminate against them.
      Despite recent progress discrimination against woman in Morocco is still a big concern…I agree.

      If we were doing what’s written in the Quran and the Hadith, we’d be killing apostates and stoning adulterers/

      If we would follow the Bible more than half of this country would be dead:

      Deuteronomy 22:22 “If a man is found sleeping with another man’s wife, both the man who slept with her and the woman must die.”

      Leviticus 20:10 “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife–with the wife of his neighbor–both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death.”

      Now why would I do that? we are not animals, but rational people…I can tell from right and wrong…no need to stone or kill anyone.
      At the end of the day, Islam is my personal choice, it has nothing to do with the country I came from or where I live…my love for Allah is steady…unchangeable.
      You can choose to follow or be who you want, is none of my business.

      • So…your only argument is that Christianity is also bad? It’s a tu quoque that fails on all levels. Particularly so because neither Deuteronomy nor Leviticus are looked upon as legal texts in the US (the whole separation of church and state thingy!). Because the US’ society is far from a model (it’s very religious). And because I am not American, nor do I live in the US. In fact, I never set foot in the country you’re railing to me about.

        Hanna, I have no qualms with your personal beliefs in Allah, tooth fairies or unicorns. But I have a big problem with you sitting in the US lecturing oppressed Moroccan non-believers. You see, in Morocco, no such choice exists: If you’re born “Muslim”, you have no way out…with all that entails to civil rights and personal freedoms.

        I respectfully ask you to redirect your energy towards preaching your non-totalitarian spiritual-only version of Islam to Muslims.

  2. I hope you read the rest of my piece. As I later went on to point out that their attempts are counter productive.

    • No, no…you tried to sell us the ludicrous idea that some “moral integrity” of the old days is worth preserving under the banner of religion. I am not tackling your essay as a whole. Just the pathetic argument that religion somehow preserves a moral integrity worth preserving. Only a deluded person revising history through color-tinted glasses would venture into making such an absurd statement. In case you didn’t know, slavery was common practice in Morocco up until the French took over.

      If your life is so devoid of sense that you have to seek meaning in a book of mythology, fine! But don’t confuse your benign belief in a higher being with the organized and highly oppressive religion that is Islam. Next time you want to lecture Moroccans about the “niceties” of religion from your cozy Midwest where the 1st-amendment reigns supreme, keep it for your lecture at the mosque. Apologist discourse crumbles when faced with scrutiny.

      • I am afraid that you missed my point. I was simply pointed out some arguments that are made for the reasons why the Moroccan government imposes regulations. Nowhere did I state that I believed in them. Nor did I say that it was what was being done – only an argument that I have heard. In the final paragraph I stated that the government hampers their citizenry by imposing regulations based on their interpretation of Islam and what the rules and regulations should be. I am in no way an apologetic for the regulations Morocco places on their citizens in the name of Islam, however I don’t believe Islam is to blame rather the will of those men in power who feel control is better gained through the veil of religious morality and authority.

      • Well…when you start a sentence with “The optimistic part of me wants to think”, the reader has no way to differentiate between your own wishful thinking and arguments you just heard somewhere. Either was, it was sloppy.

        If you are unable to unambiguously state your opposition to state religion, expect to be called on it.

  3. slt 777777777777777777777777biba a zwina

  4. dont know why ive been invited back here, I have no patience with kuffre people so what can I say that would not couse offense.
    not one trick passes me by .
    becouse I am darn sure that the kuffre live to be offended and strive to remove religion from society. no matter which way or what way they dress it up.

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