Friday, April 17, 2015

Ultra Orthodox attitudes towards Women

I am just listening to a story on the radio about a woman who was seated next to an ultra orthodox Jewish man on an airplane, he refused to sit next to her and she refused to move. As noted on the radio, these rules about contact with women are relatively new (i.e., not rooted in ancient practices) but more generally this gets into the confusion between religion and culture. For many people, religion means following a set of rules, but this misses the point. Ultra orthodox groups of all faiths fall prey to worshiping the rules. Rules should always be flexible based on compassion. Treating women, or other groups, as second class citizens is not compassionate and is wrong.  These rules are false idols and cause nothing but misery. No one should tolerate or accommodate such rules. A refusal to extend compassion to another human being because of a rule is a deeply selfish and judgemental act. Cultures that support such rules should not be allowed to label it as a religious right. This is an uncomfortable topic for many people who want to respect other peoples cultural values but also find it unacceptable to accept prejudice against different groups. You cannot have it both ways. If you want to move forward in compassion you must stand up against bad cultural beliefs. Think of Jesus causing a riot and driving the merchants out of the temple. Historians agree that the merchants would have been armed, so this took guts. Compassion trumps culture.

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