The reason why I chose this topic was that it was quite a trending one during the year of 2018, especially in India, when priests started becoming politicians. A common example of priests joining political systems is also from India. Baba Ramdev is a priest who didn’t run for the position of minister, but instead helped his fellow spiritual brethren and even non-spiritual ones like Narendra Modi’s (Prime minister of India) common man party.
There are many consequences of mixing religion with politics, especially when voicing one’s beliefs on a public post such as that of a politician’s. Yogi Adityanath is the name of one such priest whose name concerns these consequences. He publicly spoke about Muslim ban and why it should be implemented upon India.
There are many views that have shown how religion can affect a country in a good way, where the people of the country become more understanding of good and bad, which reduces the crime levels of the country, but religion and politics can also take a bad turn, where one’s beliefs that are not so common among others can bring a country into downfall. Through this project, I can find out about religious problems in other countries that could affect their political sides too.
There are some consequences that come with mixing religion with politics. One such example is that of a priest named Michael Stumpf and how he was involved in a sexual child abuse case in Pennsylvania. The people of the US were ‘outraged’ according to an article posted by The Guardian (2018), stating that the country felt that churches ‘were tainted’ and could not be trusted anymore.
Another case where people became unfaithful about their religion is located in India, where a previously accounted priest, and now a politician had spread word about how Hinduism is the only true religion. According to another article posted by The Guardian in March 2017, Yogi Adityanath was known as the controversial politician/priest who openly supported Donald Trump’s beliefs on Muslim ban. The only difference in both these cases is why people were outraged by their actions. Yogi Adityanath’s problem consisted of involving political matters because of their beliefs and oppression against other religious beliefs, which shocked the whole of Uttar Pradesh and started riots as said in an article posted by Gulf News on December 2018.
Despite the fact that Dubai is a very religious emirate with its Islamic customs on things like modest clothing, this country is quite a tolerant one. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, minister of Dubai said that “(the) Emirates is a country for all religions, races and people”,” according to an article posted by The National. The country believes in supporting all cultures and rather advertises this in many ways. A common example is how H.H Sheikh Khalifa called the year, 2019 the year of Tolerance, signifying the support the UAE government shows for different religions.
On 5th February, the start of Chinese New Year, Dubai Parks and Resorts was decorated with red Chinese lanterns to fit the occasion. Customers got boat rides from Riverland Dubai to Mainland China to enjoy fireworks at night. This is an example of how the UAE is working towards inclusion from most cultures and religions to mark as the year of tolerance.
There are many more things that the UAE government will do as a step towards inclusion according to another article from The National. Examples of this include building a Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi to which will be readily presented in 2020 to show collaboration of different cultures and religions.
Saudi Arabia is a country where the official religion, Islam forbids women to do normal things that people in other countries might even take for granted. An example of this is shown according to an article posted by The Week, where it is stated that a thing that is as common as interactions with men who are not your family members are considered wrong and must not be acted upon. Most parts of Saudi Arabia have different segregations based on gender in public areas such as parks and beaches. If such rules are not followed, the accusers face harsh punishments. It is also written in the Quran in rule 173 about how it is Makruh (offensive act) to speak to non-mahram (not related by blood or family ties) women.
There are many other ways how Islam has affected Saudi Arabia’s political problems and has introduced the idea of gender discrimination through misunderstandings. Looking at the Quran (holy book of Islam), it is said that “Men are the maintainers/caretakers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others…” (4:34). The verse suggests that while men may be superior to women, they must take care and be the guardians of the family. Where it is mentioned that men are the superior gender, it is also said that women have roles too, however big or small. Saudi Arabia’s laws, according to my observations, use religion as a defence against things that are biased against women. According to an article posted by TheWashingtonPost in August 2018, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah have detained under the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia’s (Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud) orders. Samar Badawi was advocating and sued her father for the abuse of the guardian system, which allowed him to deny the marriage of the suitor of her choice. She also went on to become the first woman to file a lawsuit in the demands of allowing women to vote, and she also made an online petition on this matter. Her brother, Raif Badawi promoted women’s rights, therefore challenging religious establishments, for which he was arrested by the Crown prince and flogged 50 times in front of a Mosque.
Cases like this go to show how religion clouds one’s judgements, and political ones in this matter. Women in Saudi Arabia continue to be afraid of speaking out because of problems like this. Very few manage to do something about their situation. For example, a woman named Rahaf Mohammed Al Kanoon (aged 18) fled her family on January 5th in Kuwait to escape to Bangkok from harsh conditions in Saudi Arabia.
A problem that I’ve been facing while working on this project is the lack of resources, and the main reason for that, in my opinion, is the ban on certain websites that shine bad light upon certain countries (website example: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/11/saudi-women-detained-demanding-basic-human-rights-181129113259702.html). Religion is a topic that is unofficially forbidden its conversations could lead to false accusations or misunderstandings. I believe that we should as a community be socially active about religion to understand one another cultures and be tolerant of them, unlike Yogi Adityanath’s oppressive attitude towards Islamic religions and customs. World Religion Day (January 19) is an example of tolerance and understanding of everyone’s religions and being respectful of them. Foxnews talked about this in 2019 and gave a brief explanation and its origin (1950 by the National Assembly of the Baha’is, US).
Governments also play a major role in changing the face of politics, so they can also implement good relations with other countries’ governments on their cultures and religions. This will ensure better relations on better which benefits both countries. This idea can be implemented from the UAE’s first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi. Since the prime minister of India’s first visit, plans have been made for a temple that will be completed by the year, 2020. The temple will be inaugurated by Narendra Modi himself as said according to an article posted by Khaleej Times (2018).
People as a society can also help people suffering in countries by holding petitions and polls on social media against questionable religious laws and could gather as a strong front. This can cause considerable changes to benefit other countries or communities in need. Proof of success, in this case, can be seen written in an article posted by The Guardian (2016). The article talks about how people all over the World, including the Saudi Arabians themselves, voted for the removal of the Guardianship law in Saudi Arabia that required women to get permission from a male guardian to get married, travel and other elemental tasks. This even spread all over social media hence giving birth to #IAmMyOwnGuardian.
Opinion & Conclusion
I personally believe that religion does play a large role in politics, especially recently in India, where people have started voting based on their religious beliefs rather than rational ones. I believe that religion removes our better judgements on major cases, in this case, political ones. Beliefs are something that everyone has in common, which is why it shouldn’t be used as a tool to differentiate and make certain categories, like what Yogi Aditya Nath did.
Religion is known as a taboo topic, which should not be the case as it allows countries like Saudi Arabia to use as reasons not to change systems that need reforming. Beliefs are commonly criticised things that I believe should also be talked about to reach a common ground between everyone’s cultures as shown by the UAE.
We, as citizens of worldwide nations, should learn to be tolerant of everyone’s beliefs and religions to remove political issues and instead help create better bonds between all countries. We must help other countries in distress overlooking their beliefs and common stigmas that they may hold.