AngryFrenchGuy

Shooting the Shit with Jacob the Hassidic Bus Driver

with 27 comments

hassidic jew montreal

I met Jacob the hassidic bus driver in heavily hassidic neighbourhood where the streets are filled with religious bearded men dressed in black, their very bossy-looking wives and about a hundred million kids. This very close to what I imagine my grand-mother’s Montreal must have looked like. She was her mother’s seventeenth child. She pretty much grew up in a convent, only going out one week for Christmas and Easter and two weeks in the summer. They had mass every day and on Sundays she’d put on a clean dress and sit with her mother for a couple of hours on a hard wooden bench in the parlor.

Hassidic kids are golden. Compared to what my grand-parents had they live like California hipsters.

Québec’s hassidic Jews, their fights with their neighbours, their schools and their parking habits, come up in the news in Québec about once or twice a year, which is probably a statistical inevitability considering that Montréal is the home to the world’s third biggest community of ultra-orthodox after New York City and Jerusalem.

Most of the fighting is about small crap: homely lawns and zoning violations. Once in a while, though, and with consitent regularity, Montréal’s hassidics manage put themselves where they least like to be: at the center of storm. Their demand to cover up the windows of the Park Avenue YMCA gym led to the Bouchard-Taylor commission on Reasonable Accomodations and more recent reports that some of them send their children to 100% religious schools just might get the second round started.  (Notice how the Canadian English-language media won’t touch that story, hoping it will go away…)

Of course there is nothing the Jews hate more than the publicity. You have to feel sorry for that humble conservative community living a life determined by a millenium old code having to deal with our fast changing times in the midst of highly cafeinated French neighbours who feel the need to turn any novelty into province-wide philosophical debates.

Me and Jacob were driving two busloads of hassidc girls to Mont-Tremblant where they were spending the day. My grand-mother also went to Tremblant when she was young. Back in her day you had to take the train and skiing cost less than a dollar. How much does it cost now?, she asked me once. What is it, like 10 dollars? Try 80$, Grand-Maman.

Jacob likes the French-Canadians, he told me. He probably has to have that conversation whith all gentiles he spends time with. The French might tell you « Maudit Juif » to your face, he explained, but that’s it. The English they’re always giving you a big smile, but then they’ll stab you in the back!

The French they get shortchanged, he went on. I rent buses to do trips to New York all the time. Whenever I can I’ll rent a Québec bus and hire a Québec driver. New York drivers would never work for what we pay Québec drivers.

I suggested that the linguistic situation limited the French-speakers’ mobility. Moving to another province, let alone the US, is emigration, for a Québécois. It means your kids will grow up in a different culture and probably won’t be able to school in their language. The English-speaking workforce has a much bigger territory it can move around in, forcing employers to pay them more if they want to keep them.

Is it worth it? asked Jacob, genuinely puzzled. Why hold on to French, then?

For real, Jacob? He sat there sweating under his black hat, beads of sweat caught in his beard, speaking English with a thick polish accent three generations after his great-grand-father bought his first home on Avenue Hutchison, a greasy lock of hair hair twisted arround his ear for the pleasure of some minor desert deity, and he didn’t get how people could be attached to a language, a heritage, a history?

Jacob lived in Montreal his entire life, surrounded by French-speaking neighbours and his Yiddish-speaking brothers and family. He speaks Yiddish to his kids. But he speaks English to his neighbours, not French.

I know it, he says, but not well. They never thought me well. I think our leaders don’t want us to learn it. If we did we’d start talking to the neighbours more, and going to their houses… And we’d do it! They have so many problems in New York because everyone speaks the same language. Here, language keeps everyone separate and they like that. Rolling his eyes and with a knowing smile he adds, they say they’re goind to start teaching the kids better French, now…

My grand-mother grew up in an ultra-orthodox religious community called Québec. The overthrow of that religious order, many people forget, was what the Quiet Revolution was about. The political stuff, the language debates, all that came after.

Some people object to the hassidics resistance to integration to wider Québec society. That’s quite rich coming from North America’s champions of difference. Christ, for all we know this insitance on their right to live according to their own rules and just do their thing without bothering anybody else is something the Hassidics picked up from the Québécois!

But I wouldn’t want to live my grand-parents life and neither would most other Québécois.

I can only hope Jacob’s children will have a choice.

Those who will not protect their right to choose will commit a crime.

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Written by angryfrenchguy

June 29, 2009 at 9:03 pm

27 Responses

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  1. It’s funny, things don’t change over time. Jacob’s take on the differences in the way Anglos and Francos relate to Jews parallels things I have heard from people who grew up in Montréal in the ’40s and in the ’70s.

    That Jacob may not pick up the Québécois’ attachment to the French language is, I believe, because religious Jews are attached to religion, not language. Back in the USSR long ago, religious Jews, when faced with a choice between sending their kids to secular Yiddish-language schools and secular Russian-language schools, almost always chose the latter, because the Jewish religion was singled out for criticism in the former while all religions were criticized equally in the latter.

    littlerob

    June 30, 2009 at 5:32 am

  2. This is the first time I’ve liked any of AFG’s posts for quite a while. I’m finding this glimpse behind the scenes (or under the hat) of this mysterious community thought-provoking and for me it’s opening up new ways of looking at franco vs anglo in Montreal… from a third viewpoint!

    Tony Ronto

    June 30, 2009 at 3:22 pm

  3. AFG, you always have a thought-provoking and open-minded viewpoint, even if you are a maudit indépendentiste. And I say that with love. I prefer to keep Québec in Canada so the rest of Canada doesn’t lose its Francophonie.

    Todd Kyle

    June 30, 2009 at 9:26 pm

  4. “Those who will not protect their right to choose will commit a crime.”
    or found guilty of negligence.
    i’m big on liberty and the right to choose.

    here for your celebration of july 1st:

    two video format versions of “the maple leaf forever” – an historical pass on the song itself – enjoy!

    http://3w.youtube.com/watch?v=5JFCg07apW8

    or

    http://3w.youtube.com/swf/l.swf?video_id=5JFCg07apW8

    either way – be forewarned – the last bit of this six minutes from piddingworth is underscored with elgar’s “pomp and circumstance”.

    rose, thistle and shamrock – what a legacy.

    vive le canada libre!

    johnnyonline

    June 30, 2009 at 11:16 pm

  5. The Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste adopted the maple leaf as its emblem in 1834.

    http://www.pch.gc.ca/pgm/ceem-cced/symbl/o3-eng.cfm

    Pure Laine

    July 1, 2009 at 10:48 am

  6. Great post. I love stories about Montreal, about politics, about people, about language issue’s, about religious issue’s, about our differences and about how we all share the same environment in one of the greatest and most open society that is today’s Québec.

    Keep up the good work AFG You’re the best !!!

    Steve_36

    July 1, 2009 at 8:09 pm

  7. ” Christ, for all we know this insitance on their right to live according to their own rules and just do their thing without bothering anybody else is something the Hassidics picked up from the Québécois!”

    Odd turn of phrase, since they’ve been doing it since before Christ… ;-)

    יומ קאנאדה סמח

    Edward

    July 2, 2009 at 12:50 am

  8. I feel pride when I see orthodox Jews in Outremont, living their life mostly without being annoyed by morons. I feel pride because that’s a proof of the advances we (the humans) have done in some parts of the world, including my own city.

    I am ashamed by the ‘reasonable accommodation’ controversy, and was more than just ashamed when the ADQ almost won the 2007 election. That was the sign that the situation was deteriorating into ethnic nationalism (ironically, that was celebrated in the ROC).

    That said, I wouldn’t have been so ashamed of Quebec that year if the fight was against every religion. Let’s put aside accusation of stalinist: it remains true that religion is a preemptive measure against the possibility of rational argument (because of this thing called ‘faith’: credo quia absurdum).

    Freedom of religion is not as important as freedom from religion. Without the latter, I don’t care much about the former. This debate is (was?) ongoing in the US and Britain, and was long resolved in France. But it need to be done in Quebec, because, as we often did, we just ignored religion, thinking it will go away if we don’t show up in churches. We need this debate, because relying on ‘faith’ instead of arguments to decide crucial issues is just… immoral.

    And for a start, this crucifix in the National Assembly could be put in a museum, where it belongs.

    Tancrède

    July 2, 2009 at 11:30 am

  9. “We need this debate, because relying on ‘faith’ instead of arguments to decide crucial issues is just… immoral.”

    You must be talking about the US under Bush, when the Christian right became very influential in Washington.

    Who in Canada/Quebec/EU is relying on faith to decide crucial issues? Religion is completely absent from politics and the decision-making process in this country and in Europe. Apart from some meaningless remnants of it, like the crucifix on the wall of the parliament, there is nothing left. Does the crucifix really bother you? I have no issue with it.

    You must be one of these New Atheists, like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett. I’m a lapsed Catholic myself, a skeptic, an agnostic, a doubter, but new atheism is another extreme. A belief that wiping out religion will solve all our problems is just another utopian idea.

    allophone

    July 2, 2009 at 12:23 pm

  10. say – what a great idea – throw out thousands of years of judeo-christian experience – because….

    actually i can’t think of any good reason – maybe if someone stood in a large glass container of piss as an expression of performance art i could get inspired.

    johnnyonline

    July 3, 2009 at 3:12 am

  11. “say – what a great idea – throw out thousands of years of judeo-christian experience – because….”

    Well… I’m not talking of just the religions of the book. But any religion.

    Speaking of judeo-christian experience, why keep it. Because we have succeeded in cutting the tooths and claws of official religions ? They will grow back whenever our vigilance is lowered, I’m sure.

    And they were covered with blood. Think of the Inquisition (where the Jew, but also almost everyone, were persectuted). Think of Europe’s or America’s “witches” (i.e., random women who were killed for the sake of superstition). Think of the silence of the Pope during the Shoa. His complicity with fascists in Spanish Civil war and after.

    In less dramatic terms, but for which the some total is awful, think of millions of life simply ruined by twisted values over the century, be them divorced, gays, atheists, or simply women forced to give birth to a family of 13 by an old man that never had a girlfriend…

    Think of the continuous religions wars since the dawn of humanity. The fact that awful economic conditions were justified by priests of all faiths.

    Perhaps we should exclude buddhism, when it is compatible with materialism and science.

    And have you read these books ? Because I have, from one cover to the other. All filled with hatred, vengeance, intolerance. Even Jesus said that he wanted to “bring the sword, not the peace”. And while he’s a slightly less disgusting figure than the ones that appear in the two other books, when I listen to pope John Paul II saying that he wants to “suffer to accompany the suffering of Jesus Christ” that’ nauseating.

    But here we have the right not to believe (like the 50% of ‘christian’ in this province, who are no christian at all for the most part) but not to say it publicly.

    For the “experience”, our democracy comes from the (pagan) greeks, and our science, philosophy and ethics comes from the rebirth of rationality following the discovering of Aristotle’s writing in the middle ages, preserved by the muslims (during a rationalist period) but not by the “judeo-christians”.

    And as a redemptive figure, I would be on the side of Spartacus more than on the side of the one who said “render to cesar, etc.” and “show the other cheek”.

    Mostly, everything good in christian society comes from the Greeks. The rest is somewhere in the book if you search long enough.

    And contrarily to ideology, religion cannot be saved by arguments of reason, because it is opposed to it (faith).

    Tancrède

    July 3, 2009 at 10:58 am

  12. “Speaking of judeo-christian experience, why keep it”

    How do you propose we deal with this “religion problem”. Should we have the government enact appropriate laws? Bill 101b maybe?
    If someone holds religious beliefs, as irrational as they appear, and harms noone in the process, do we have a right to intervene? Even when we’re dealing with religious people who are moderate, and don’t adhere to any dogma. Isn’t it their right to believe what they want, as long as they keep it to themselves and refrain from imposing it on others? What if it actually helps them become better people?
    Of course, religious extremism of any kind needs to be dealt with. Be it the Christian right interfering with stem cell research in the US, or Muslims in Saudi Arabia stoning women to death for adultery. Or the advocates of sharia in Canada. Or anyone advocating genital mutilation, for girls or boys. These people should be shown the middle finger, that’s for sure.

    “They will grow back whenever our vigilance is lowered, I’m sure.”

    I see that paranoia extends well beyond language issues.

    “In less dramatic terms, but for which the some total is awful, think of millions of life simply ruined by twisted values over the century, be them divorced, gays, atheists, or simply women forced to give birth to a family of 13 by an old man that never had a girlfriend…”

    I come from a Catholic country myself and I know how Catholicism has been corrupted. But you have to separate the theology and philosophy from the wrong-doings of the institution. Just because there are dickhead priests that molest children and incite intolerance, it doesn’t mean that everything is wrong with the core of Catholic philosophy.

    “Think of the continuous religions wars since the dawn of humanity”

    The wars will continue, with and without religion. That’s because we’re just flawed products of evolution, not much different than chimpanzees, with whom we share 98% of DNA. Not to be too nihilistic, but humans will always find reasons to kill one another, even in the name of achieving universal humanity. Religion in some cases might actually be used to curb it.

    “And have you read these books ? Because I have, from one cover to the other”

    From cover to cover? Right. Please dude, stop bragging. Did you major in theology?

    These books do contain a lot of nasty stuff for sure, especially the Old Testament. This is from Dawkin’s The God Delusion:

    “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    Dawkins is absolutely right. The God of the old testament is an evil prick. But who in the right mind reads the Bible literally, other than some Evangelical, Pentecostal, born-again fanatics and crackpots, who just happen to be the most vocal Christian group. I think most people these days use the “holy books” loosely, more as a guide, and pick and choose as what to keep and what to reject.

    “But here we have the right not to believe (like the 50% of ‘christian’ in this province, who are no christian at all for the most part) but not to say it publicly”

    Exactly!!!! We have the right not to believe AND the right to believe. Let’s keep both rights and not interfere with them.

    “And contrarily to ideology, religion cannot be saved by arguments of reason, because it is opposed to it (faith).”
    So? It gives a lot of people comfort that they need. Why do you want to fuck with that?

    allophone

    July 3, 2009 at 2:19 pm

  13. @allophone:
    me:
    “And have you read these books ? Because I have, from one cover to the other”
    you:
    “From cover to cover? Right. Please dude, stop bragging. Did you major in theology?”

    No. I just had lot of time to loose one winter long ago. And I must admit that I must have fallen asleep during the reading of the books of the prophets one time or two, since that part is really boring. At least the Bible is sometimes well written (the Ecclesiast, for instance, or the Book of Job). Which is not the case for other ‘sacred’ books.

    I consider this as a prerequisite for being able to speak about the religions of the Book. I don’t understand people who didn’t bother to read these horror books and consider themselve chiristian (Jews and Muslim generally know their sacred books). That said, it’s easier for protestant than for catholics, and I must say that the anglo have this for them, that they have the duty to read for themselves.

    me:
    “They will grow back whenever our vigilance is lowered, I’m sure.’
    you:
    I see that paranoia extends well beyond language issues. ”

    Well did you look the 2007 elections ? Where a party – ADQ – almost won the election, promising a constitution ‘based on our christian heritage’, and where overt racism in the population tooks proportions that I never saw in my whole life ? For what ? Well, religion. Religion succeeded to do what years of anglo propaganda didn’t: putting a strong element of racism in nationalism.
    There is nothing in history that compare to religion for that. I remember Foglia writing that Eta couldn’t have done the terror attacks in Spain, because nationalists have some moral standards; it must be done by religious: what value can have human life compared to the Word of God ? And he was right.

    Tancrède

    July 3, 2009 at 5:40 pm

  14. @allophone:
    “How do you propose we deal with this “religion problem”. Should we have the government enact appropriate laws? Bill 101b maybe?”

    I would say: apply the same criterion than to any mental illness. If the person is dangerous for him/herself or for others, then measures should be applied. That’s why even supreme court do not recognized freedom of religion as a legitimate motive to let someone choose to die in some cases. And I have yet to hear of a case where “you will not allow a witch to live” is still a good argument in court.
    No bill 101b needed.
    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/06/26/supreme-blood026.html

    @allophone: “I think most people these days use the “holy books” loosely, more as a guide, and pick and choose as what to keep and what to reject.”

    That’s a good way to read the bible or any sacred book. If the sacred book, (call it “the Babble”), say X, and you think X, then you believe the Babble. If the Babble say X and you don’t think X, and you don’t believe the Babble.

    I’m sure you see that any truly religious person would be horrified by this procedure. Why bother to check in the Babble if you disregard it anyway ? Everything that have any value have been written elsewhere by secular ethical philosophers.

    @allophone again:
    me:
    “But here we have the right not to believe (like the 50% of ‘christian’ in this province, who are no christian at all for the most part) but not to say it publicly”
    you:
    “Exactly!!!! We have the right not to believe AND the right to believe. Let’s keep both rights and not interfere with them.”

    I lament than I can say that I don’t believe in God (and promote atheist) without being censored, and you rejoice ? So you put freedom of religion over freedom of speech ??????? And with enthusiasm ???? What the hell is that ? Are we living in a theocracy ? Certainly not ! Not in Canada, this great country of democratic values, tolerance, rationality, “as close of utopia as one country can”…

    Oh wait…

    “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law…”

    Ok, then. I admit. We’re living in a theocratic monarchy.

    Tancrède

    July 3, 2009 at 6:01 pm

  15. “i lament that I can say”
    oups, sorry, i meant: “that I cannot say”.

    Tancrède

    July 3, 2009 at 6:04 pm

  16. “I would say: apply the same criterion than to any mental illness. If the person is dangerous for him/herself or for others, then measures should be applied. “

    What if they’re not dangerous? What if they go to church and just mind their own business? Like these old people who go to mass in the church close to my house. Do you want go after them too?

    “I consider this as a prerequisite for being able to speak about the religions of the Book”

    Not if we’re talking about belief in God in general. We’re not talking about any specifics, and I agreed with you that the so called holy books are full of violence and gore and a lot of disgusting stuff. In addition, they were written a long time ago and are often inaccurate and self-contradictory. So you’re not telling me anything that I don’t already know.

    “So you put freedom of religion over freedom of speech ??????? And with enthusiasm ???? What the hell is that ?”

    Yeah, what the hell is that? Where did you get that? Are we on the same wavelength?
    Today we have full freedom of speech, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Today you can say you’re an atheist and don’t believe in god without being burnt at the stake. I can say that I’m an agnostic and just don’t know anything about god and it’s really impossible to know anything about god, without being tortured by the holy inquisition. At the same time, someone else can freely say that Jesus is his lord and savior. And as long as he leaves us alone, we have to leave him alone. Otherwise, we’d be no different than them.

    “I lament than I cannot say that I don’t believe in God (and promote atheist) without being censored, and you rejoice ?”

    You cannot say it? Who’s stopping you? The question is, why would you want to promote atheism? Why do you care what other people believe (or not believe). We should all stand up against religious extremism (like we should stand up to nationalism), true, but I don’t get why you would “promote” non-belief in general and go after people who believe without imposing their beliefs on you.

    “Are we living in a theocracy ? Certainly not ! Not in Canada, this great country of democratic values, tolerance, rationality, “as close of utopia as one country can”…”
    “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law…”

    What are you talking about? Let me know on what wavelength you operate, so I can tune in.

    allophone

    July 3, 2009 at 9:14 pm

  17. Speaking of Maple Leafs, see my website for the flag that I propose be adopted for an independent Quebec (click on my name).

    Tony Kondaks

    July 3, 2009 at 9:17 pm

  18. Regarding the link you posted, Jehovah Witnesses’ refusal to accept blood transfusions or any sort of medical intervention is an example of religious extremism that I deplore.

    allophone

    July 3, 2009 at 10:20 pm

  19. @allophone:
    “What if they’re not dangerous? What if they go to church and just mind their own business? Like these old people who go to mass in the church close to my house. Do you want go after them too?”

    Obviously not. For the same reason that if you believe you are contacted by aliens and they tell you wonderful things at night, I won’t care. Or if you think you are Napoleon. Or anything like that. Only in Soviet Russia they had no laws to protect mentally ill people from being interned without their consent. We all know what happened: dissent became a mental illness. So we absolutely need these laws.

    I won’t care if you believe you received messages from another solar system. But if they instruct you to not receive any blood transfusion even to the risk of death, or do any other such things to others, then, we’re in another category. And the law should make no exception under the pretext that a crazy belief system was generated 4000 years ago instead of the night before. The line is clear: mad people should be interned against their consent if and only if “dangerous for themselves or for others”.

    allophone:
    “Today we have full freedom of speech, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Today you can say […]. I can say that I’m an agnostic […]. At the same time, someone else can freely say that Jesus […].”

    Well, then I misunderstood your sentence. But the confounding sentence was similar to the following:

    allophone:
    “And as long as he leaves us alone, we have to leave him alone. Otherwise, we’d be no different than them.”

    Leave him alone, in what sense ? I saw people claiming that they were “offended” by the ‘atheist’ buses ad campaign (‘Dieu n’existe probablement pas alors profitez de la vie’), that it shouldn’t have happened. I grant these people the full right to say and promote (at their expenses) whatever weird belief system they have (and they often do, on STCUM buses too). At the same time, I don’t think we should “leave them alone” in the sense of not arguing against the coherence and the (historical, psychological, social, conceptual, methodological) dangerousity of their belief system. That’s like alcohol: it’s not illegal, but we must have the right to tell if it’s good or bad for our system.

    allophone:
    “’Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of law…’
    What are you talking about? Let me know on what wavelength you operate, so I can tune in.”

    That’s the preamble of the Constitution. Happily, Quebec never signed the piece of paper that begin with this medieval theocratic statement. So I am glad that I am not (at least in Quebec), in my most fundamental values, in contradiction with the Constitution of the country where I live (because the so-called Constitution of 1982 is “illegitimate”, in the very words of the Supreme Court). It’s just a glimpse of the mess we have as a country.

    Tancrède

    July 3, 2009 at 11:23 pm

  20. @allophone again:
    Our little debate shows me how interesting it would have been if the “reasonable accommodation” turned to be about the place of (any) religion in a modern society and the debate on religion itself instead of turning into a sterile “our religion vs their’s” debate (a kind of bad remake of O’Reilly’s delirium about “War on Chrismas”).
    We badly need all ideas to be debated about this subject that we just swept under the carpet in the 60’s.
    But this is perhaps a bit offtopic. Or perhaps not ?

    Tancrède

    July 3, 2009 at 11:38 pm

  21. @Tancrède & @Allophone

    You might want to head over to the Reason Project, led by Sam Harris, and read the following debate he had with Philip Ball, from Nature :
    http://www.reasonproject.org/archive/item/what_should_science_dosam_harris_v_philip_ball/

    Very interesting.

    (I’m on Harris’ side : you can’t be a “rational extremist”… Science and reason should always attack irrationality : especially of the dogmatic kind.)

    Raman

    July 4, 2009 at 2:51 pm

  22. Thanks Raman, interesting reading.
    Contrarily to what was said at the beginning, I do not know much about the new atheist, but I wish I would. I will abjure soon and I want that to be an occasion to reflect about this whole question.

    Tancrède

    July 4, 2009 at 9:58 pm

  23. Le piège de l’indépendance : le Québec sera-t-il affaibli par la souveraineté?

    Valaskakis, Kimon
    Fournier, Angeline

    Hamer

    July 6, 2009 at 7:15 pm

  24. Where would Quebec or Canada for that matter,be without “religion”.?

    What fascinates me is how people yearn for an “indepedence” that cannot be, considering how, take away language, any language, most people are merely willing subjects of a “consumer society”.

    Michel

    July 7, 2009 at 9:07 pm

  25. “Their demand to cover up the windows of the Park Avenue YMCA gym led to the Bouchard-Taylor commission on Reasonable Accomodations”

    Enh?

    Hérouxville, Québec, anyone? Islamophobia? Ringing a bell at all?

    Shep

    July 10, 2009 at 2:41 pm

  26. Your story was touching and sensitive, and while I’m glad the Chassidim feel safe and secure here, no, I do NOT support any public funding to religious schools of any confession. Almost all of them teach the inferiority of women, for one thing, counter to the Québec and Canadian charters.

    Maria Gatti

    July 20, 2009 at 3:54 pm

  27. In Saudi Arabia, all citizens are reeiurqd to be Muslims, and the public practice of other religions is forbidden. Private practice of other religions is sometimes allowed and sometimes persecuted; there is no law protecting even this.Iran is officially a Twelver Shiite state. Some other religions (Christianity, Judaism, Zoroastrianism) are permitted, but are not allowed to proselytize; and they are sometimes persecuted even if they don’t. The Bahai faith is not allowed at all. Sunni Muslims are subject to some restrictions also.In China, all religious organizations have to be authorized by the government. This has given rise to conflict when the government appoints religious leaders different from what the religion itself chooses. There are state-appointed Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Taoist, and Muslim leaders. These are not always approved by the religious organizations outside of China. Those who practice religion outside these state-approved organizations are subject to severe persecution.In Turkey, since the secularization by Ataturk in the early 20th century, the government permits all religions but keeps them all under close surveillance. Special religious clothing (the veil, the fez) is not permitted to be worn in public. Turkey is predominantly Muslim, and there is some prejudice against other religions.In North Korea, virtually no religious practice is allowed except a limited amount by foreigners. Worship is considered a political offense.Cuba was for years officially atheist, and religious practice was seriously discouraged, with some persecution. But now religious people are even allowed to join the Communist Party. The government is secular rather than atheist, and religious practice is pretty much free.These are a few varied examples of governments which have restricted religious practice. In our time, the States that restrict religious freedom are mostly Muslim or Atheist.I can’t think of any other belief system that does this in modern times.Religion is the source of meaning and values for many people, and restricting it restricts the growth of the human soul. In countries where a religion is imposed, it loses some of its growth potential. In countries where religion is not restricted or mandated by the government, it flourishes and leads to better values and ways of life.

    Daniel

    May 27, 2012 at 9:36 pm


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