Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Under the Eyes of God: The Conflict Between What is Right and What is Holy

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Throughout this semester, my studies have expanded my understandings of global issues—broadening my perspective to discover the many dimensions of social controversies that once seemed so unbending. As I have been exploring the depth of our global discord, I have come to realize our good fortune often blinds us from the harsh realities that exist outside our sheltered customs. In turn, our coddled society has created a fractured perspective on the world around us. Our censored views lead us to overlook cultural and social circumstances that do not personally inhibit our social norms. 


Malala Yousufzai was a visible, vocal advocate of women’s education in a culture that is sharply divided on the issue. Some people like her father, fully support the emancipation of women by being sure that they have the education to make critical choices for their lives and their lives of their families. Malala was lucky that she was born into a family with this progressive viewpoint. On the other hand, another segment of the culture is represented by very conservative Islamics who have a deep and passionate conviction rooted in their history and traditions that women should play a much more subservient role and that educating them would cut against their vision of the role. Malala was shot because an extremist of this conservative viewpoint felt that she deserved to be executed for her defiance of the traditions he thought she ought to abide by.


To us, as Americans, the issue seems so simple.  We live in a democratic society where most oppressive gender issues have been resolved, specifically the right to an education. It is hard for us to fathom how one in this day and age could take on such a repressive tradition. It is even more disturbing that a member of that culture could seek to kill her for asserting what we would think of as a fundamental human right.


But if one views this from the perspective of people who have grown up in and have been fully immersed in these ideas and traditions about women, it is possible to understand how he could believe that it was not only his right, but his religious duty to uphold his traditions. As the line of ethics begins to blur, we struggle with invalidating either side of the argument. Who are we to excuse the oppression of women as tradition? Who are we to stop their means of religious or cultural expression? The problem is, is that when ones’ religious traditions conflict with fundamental human rights, we must become universalists even if it means limiting the way individuals within religions try to express and enforce their deepest beliefs.


Examples of religion that has had the clash between individual religious and cultural convictions have been forbidden in favor of the broader human rights approach. The United States banned polygamy even though the Mormon culture found it to be a violation of their religious beliefs. The British government put an end to the Hindu practice, Suttee (the burning of the widow). Currently, we are still attempting to stop the tradition of female mutilation, which has been affecting well over 120 million women within Asia and Africa. Malala’s case is just another example of religious influence hindering human rights.


As Eleanor Roosevelt says, ““All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” We must provide every individual with the opportunity to use their own reasoning to form their beliefs yet we must be sure their beliefs will not interfere with the rights or dignity of anyone else. Education is the stepping-stone to a universal understanding of human rights. We must expose ourselves to the world around us in order to progress as a global society, not just as our own cultural niche.

By Abrielle Josephson

Works Cited





%d bloggers like this: