UK: Muslim peer says cultural issues can be criticized

VEIL wearing, forced marriages and the low status of women in some Muslim communities are cultural, not religious, issues – and fair targets for criticism, according to one of Britain's most senior Muslim politicians.

In an unprecedented attack on the way cultural practices have been allowed to become blurred with essential religious observances, Yorkshire peer Baroness Warsi last night called on communities to question non-religious rites and rituals that did little more than create and exacerbate divisions.

Shadow Communities Secretary Baroness Warsi of Dewsbury warned that British Muslims as a whole risked "retreating into a theological corner of (their] own making" and had a "foremost responsibility" to break free from a "siege mentality" created by hardliners and "hotheads".

It was right for mainstream schools to set and enforce their own dress codes, she said, and right for women to be required to remove their face veils for security or heath and safety reasons, provided it was done sensitively.

Unless a "vital distinction" was made between cultural and religious practices, there would simply be more "separation as devout young people think it's their religious duty to cut themselves off from wider society".

Speaking to a conference on diversity in London yesterday, Baroness Warsi said: "We can and must be utterly intolerant of cultural arguments that try
to divide our country and our communities".

"There are people in Saudi Arabia who say women driving cars is un-Islamic. In Somalia, some say Muslim girls should be circumcised. That's not the Islam I know.

"But there are ideas we get here in Britain which are just as wrong.

"Take forced marriages. Islam is unambiguous in its condemnation of forced marriage – it's not a religious requirement, it's a cultural outrage and Muslims reject it."

Underlining the right for people to question, debate and criticise the cultural practices of some Muslims, Baroness Warsi said: "If an issue is religious, it is less appropriate for society and the state to monitor, regulate or comment on it – so long as its doctrines and practices are legal, of course.
"But culture is different. Culture is in the sphere of criticism and commentary and, if necessary, of interference by politicians."

Source: Yorkshire Post (English)


Anonymous said...

I suppose this is true, but weren't all of Muhammad's marriages forced?

Esther said...

Is there really a difference between culture and religion? why is it ok to criticize one and not the other? is there anything that is 'ok' if it's 'religious' but not if it's 'cultural'? if you think forced marriages are wrong, does it matter if it's somebody's religion or not?

KGS said...

I think that Esther brings up a good point. Both religion and culture are well within the bounds of criticism and debate. While the individual is rightfully set on equal par with all others, not all cultures and religions ar equal.

Though an individual is born into both systems, and will become by default a member of either or both, that in itself does restrict the individual from being criticized of the views he or she holds.

Religion as with culture are obtained from birth, but since it has nothing to do with one's genetic make-up, they are both something that most individuals will experience in flux, especially if one moves to different areas and makes contact with other people holding different views.

So since all ideas, cultures and religious beliefs are subjected to change naturally through individual and group experiences, they are already, by default, a part of the realm of debate and criticism.

What is in question here then, is a portion of society demanding/exclaiming that they are not a part of what develops naturally on an individual basis. What they are telling the rest of society is that, both their culture and belief system is above all others.

Where have we heard that before?