I found a small news pieces on Yahoo! News (from the AFP) regarding Muslim garb (read it here).
Apparently, the French lower house of parliament voted 335 to 1 to ban Muslim women from wearing full veils in public. This is certainly a rich issue – rich not only in political wrangling, but also in years of religious interpretation and history.
There are many sides to this debate, including women’s rights, whether the Quran backs full cover or merely “modest” dress, and if full-body covering can be a safety issue in the current wars on terror.
But these robust discussions are not the point of this article.
Rather, my concern is with the comments below the Yahoo! article. Many are of concern due to their…well…outlandish nature. No matter one’s views on Muslim garb or French politics, I’m not sure hateful vitriol is the way to make the point. Some of them are bitterly and angrily anti-religion-in-general, and some are specific to Islam itself. Some folks said that if one wants to act Muslim, they should stay in a Muslim country. Others call for a ban on Islam.
The Internet is a wonderful tool. It makes our world simpler in many ways. Unfortunately, it complicates our commitment to civility and tolerance in ways that can be incredibly destructive.
Anonymity. There is a great comfort in anonymous commenting.
We never have to face the ‘other.’ We never have to answer to anyone in person.
We can rest on limited views and hold them up as solid truth. We are able to take a piece of controversy and burn it in acid. Pent-up frustration and anger can spew forth unabated. I’m sure it makes many individuals feel better, but it has a deleterious effect on community.
I’m not sure how many problems anger has solved over the centuries. The same would go for bigotry, intolerance, and hate. These emotions and reactions stem from misdirected personal passion. Usually, these feelings and reactions are based on half-truth, misinformation, and possibly personal experiences that spawned skewed worldviews.
There is value in getting to know someone of a different culture. There is value in learning about different religions and different lifeways. There is value in open dialogue and honest airing of views in an open forum. And, there is certainly value in disagreement.
But I want to stress that creative and constructive difference only works against a background of tolerance. Disagreement only makes sense when all sides seek compromise. Otherwise, what hope is there?
I know I’m not asking new questions. I know I’m not pondering anything groundbreaking here. I am more than aware that this lament is just one more in a long line of lengthy laments on this topic.
But, it’s a contribution. It’s a start.
At least for me.
Do me a favor. Go to a blog today and find a controversial issue. Then, leave a constructive comment that engenders civil discussion instead of hate.
That is a good start, too.
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