Monday, December 19, 2005


In yesterday's issue of the International Herald Tribune, an interesting article on the occasion of the centenary of the law separating the Church and the State in France. I especially liked the passage where the author likens the French interpretation of secularism to a new "state religion", which in my opinion is a fairly accurate characterization. France's brand of secularism is a self-centered, intolerant ideology that severely limits people's religious freedoms. What is worse is that, despite the recent riots and despite all the tensions that traverse French society because of it, the French people are not prepared to do anything about it.

There were also some disquieting comments by the iranian president. After eight years of conciliatory policies under former president Mohammad Khatami, Ahmadinejad is trying to revive the revolutionary zeal of the early days of the revolution, and his fiery comments are attracting growing suspicion from neighboring countries as well as from the West. I don't like bragging, and I find Ahmadinejad's bragging about Iran being the standard-bearer of "true islam" a little offensive. True islam, Mr. President, will shine through your actions, not just through your words. When your actions will measure up to the fairly high standards of your religion, people will notice, even if you don't say a single bragging word about it. This ideological bragging makes all the difference between Ahmadinejad and someone like Khatami. For while both were devout muslims, Khatami never bragged about it, or about his nation being at the forefront of "the struggle for Islam": he just let his actions speak for him. I am afraid that Ahmadinejad's comments will only invite trouble for his country and for the whole region.

[Note added: after I wrote the above, I discovered that Ghassan Sharbal has an opinion piece just about this in today's issue of al-Hayat. Take a look: it's a great read, as usual ;-) ]