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The Culture of Religious Freedom
I had the honor of walking by the White House last night with some friends.
This experience of walking by this historic landmark was distinctly different than I expected it to be- not one of reverence and respect for our country's leaders, but rather I witnessed an eye-opening example of what religious freedom in America can mean.
A muslim man was praying in front of the White House.
The nature of the prayers unknown to me, it could have been involving praying for those who's lives were lost at the hands of the US or could have been as ordinary as one of the five times a day Muslims must pray-I wouldn't know. All I know is that it is a cry for attention.
An older, wiser, man than I pointed out that if a man or woman of another religion were to pray in public, outside of a historic landmark, in some Muslim countries, they would be killed. From what I know of Arab countries, this is slightly prejudiced, but also true.
This is exemplified in Saudi Arabia, home to the Muslim pilgrimage city of Mecca, where on the Saudi tourism website, it is stated that Israelis, anyone who has an Israeli arrival or departure stamp, those who don't abide by "Saudi traditions", and "Jewish people" are all banned from the country.
In 1937, Saudi king Ibn Saud stated, "that for a Muslim to kill a Jew, or for him to be killed by a Jew ensures him an immediate entry into Heaven and into the august presence of God Almighty"-effectively stating the country's policy about Jews.
This policy has not much changed, very recently, Delta Airlines complied with Saudi Arabia's policy of denial of entry for those with passports with Israeli stamps on them, for those who are flying to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and discrimination of Jews is only one of many examples of discrimination based on religion, though.
And for the man praying in front of the white house, just because he has every right to, just because he can, doesn't mean he has to, he is taking advantage of the rights allowed to us in the first amendment of the Constitution-but maybe the fact that he took advantage of this right and no one stopped him shows how effective our Constitution is.
The fact that people have the right to try to gett attention in this way without being persecuted or prosecuted makes me proud to live in the country that has made the most progress anywhere on eliminating discrimination based on race, sexual orientation, and in this case, religion, and I will raise my children in a place like this.
June 25, 2011