Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Thursday, 22 January 2004

Religious extremism from a Christian (Catholic) cleric and a Moslem (Wahhabi) cleric

One of the proteges of Pope John Paul II has, like his spiritual leader, told a bishps' conference in Belgium what he thinks of homosexuals and of the concept of 'one person, one vote':

"I am prepared to sign here in my blood that of all those who say they are lesbian or gay, at most five to 10 per cent are effectively lesbian or gay. All the rest are sexual perverts."
and
"Politics, democracy. Don't make me laugh. The right to vote, what is that all about? I find it strange that a snot-nosed, 18-year-old has the same vote as a father of seven. One has no responsibilities whatsoever, the other provides tomorrow's citizens."

These are the views of Cardinal Gustaaf Joos, one of the very many elevated last October by the Holy Father to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his pontificate. (And, not coincidentally, to stack the college of Cardinals - who will elect his successor - with those who share his views)

In Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Sheikh, the grand mufti and its most senior Islamic cleric, believes:

"Allowing women to mix with men is the root of every evil and catastrophe. It is highly punishable. Mixing of men and women is a reason for greater decadence and adultery. This is prohibited for all. I severely condemn this matter and warn of grave consequences. I am pained by such shameful behaviour in the country of the two holy mosques."

His remarks were made in response to a speech made by Lubna al-Olayan, the country's most prominent businesswoman, in her opening speech to Jeddah's annual three-day Economic Forum. Her call for change in the Kingdom:

"Without real change there can be no real progress. If we in Saudi Arabia want to progress we have no choice but to embrace change."

was received very favourably in the hall and it is reported several dozen stepped up to the microphone to praise her.

It might be thought that, in these two instances, the reactionary agendas being advanced can safely be left to nebulous 'forces of history' which will prevail in due course. I caution against such complacency - history shows that whenever one group's cherished beliefs and entrenched privileges are threatened it is necessary for those who oppose them to be extremely vigilant, and unremitting, in efforts to thwart them. One need only think of the struggles to achieve female suffrage in this ocuntry in the early part of the 20th century and similar struggles to end racial discrimination in the United States in the 1960s and in South Africa a couple of decades later.

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