January's topic for the Social Justice Challenge is Religious Freedom. What is religious freedom?
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Violations of religious freedom can take many forms:
Switzerland votes to ban the construction of minarets.
China mistreats the citizens that follow banned religions.
These are just two examples from Amnesty International.
For this challenge, I read Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks.
I chose this particular book for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Brooks is an Australian author, I am Australian, and I want to make a point of reading more books written and published in Australia. Secondly, I don't know a lot about the Islamic religion and I want to learn more.
What this book is not. This book is not about freedom of belief or the freedom to manifest religion.
This book is a memoir of the time that the author spent living with women in various predominantly Islamic countries, with the express intention of finding out the real story of these women's lives.
I did, however, learn a lot about freedom of belief and the freedom to manifest religion. Though it is easy to believe that The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is "immutable international currency, independent of cultural mores and political circumstances" (Brooks, 2008, p.237), that is not the case. Not all people in all countries agree.
Also, the practice of religion is affected in complex ways by the political climate and cultural norms of a country. Not all Muslims practice their religion the same way or believe the same things.
I highly recommend this fascinating insight into the lives of Muslim women.