The freedom to insult?

| 02/06/2008

By Judy Singh – Monday, 2 June 2008


Having read MLA Julianna O’Connor Connolly’s recent comments during
the Finance Committee hearing (here)
I am compelled to respond. I am deeply disturbed by Ms O’Connor
Connolly’s comments regarding Radio Cayman’s potential
obligations under the proposed Bill of Rights to give equal airtime to
religions other than Christianity, and specifically her reference to
Hinduism and Satanism in the same phrasing. How can an educated woman
and member of our country’s government say something so insulting?

Hinduism is a peaceful and loving religion that preaches devotion to
God and integrity of self above all other things. I can’t think of
anything less satanic than that. My parents are devout Hindus and are
the most honest and compassionate people I know in this world and they
most certainly are not devil worshipers.

They have always taught me to have the utmost integrity in myself and
to be gentle with others.  God, they say, will always be there
for the pure-hearted person, regardless of the ifs, whats and hows of
his/her theology. I have always admired their ability to sift through
the often outdated rhetoric of organized religion (including their
own) to focus on what’s really important – God and Love.

As a non-practicing Hindu I would like to offer a few points worth
noting about my family’s ancient practice of “Satanism.” 
Hinduism has been practiced for thousands of years (since at least
1500 BCE) and is the world’s oldest organized religion.  Hinduism
has been around longer than Satan himself! It is the 3rd most
practiced religion in the world after Christianity and Islam. It
is also not polytheistic as many people assume. Hindus worship
one supreme God and the other lesser deities are the equivalent to
Catholic Saints, representing various aspects of life and
virtue. I think many will also be surprised to know there is even
a Holy Trinity in Hinduism made up of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva – much
like the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Many of the old religions of
the world are not really that different if you look closer at the
framework of their doctrine, and I think upon such closer examination
one might find several parallels both structurally and contextually.

I take great offense to these brash assumptions that any religion
other than Christianity is the equivalent to Satanism, which by the
way isn’t even a religion!  I make this retort, not for Hindus,
but for everyone, including Christians and non believers, so that no
person of any faith or non faith should have their beliefs insulted so
recklessly in a public forum – during government business no less!
Regurgitating rumours, stereotypes and uninformed misconceptions is
hardly appropriate behaviour for members of government. The above
circumstance is case in point of the true necessity of “Freedom of
Religion” in this country. Are all non-Christians supposed evil
devil worshippers by our government? Why not then make sworn
Christianity a prerequisite for all work permit holders?  Heck,
why not make church attendance mandatory for everyone? 

That all being said, we might all do well with a little reality check.
Thousands of people from numerous backgrounds and faiths have co-
existed on our little islands for decades and we can all agree that
this is a Christian country – and always has been.  How many
other faiths really practice openly here that aren’t denominations of
Christianity anyway? There is the beautiful little Jewish Synagogue on
the Brac, but other than that, probably nothing of substantial
noteworthiness.  Has anyone ever heard of devil worshipers here?
What about Hindus for that matter? Of all the hundreds of Indians I’ve
met who actually live and work here, very few are practicing Hindus
most are Catholics from Goa. 

Don’t you think it’s just a little ridiculous to think that passing
the proposed Bill of Rights (which nearly every democratic country
employs and every other British Overseas Territory honours) is going
to magically bring devil worshippers (or Hindus) to the island to set
up shop and take over the island or its airwaves?

 If there have been no signs of religious combat to Christianity
now, it stands to reason that there aren’t any. Under a Bill of
Rights, Radio Cayman, or any other government agency for that matter,
doesn’t have to do anything different than what it’s already doing
unless it’s actually asked to – which is simply unlikely. If it
is asked, requests can be dealt with in a reasonable manner. If a
small group of Hindus wished to put together a half hour segment to
celebrate God and educate the people of Cayman about the true and pure
nature of their religious beliefs would that really be such a bad
thing? Looks like we could use a little education on the
religions of the world around here!  

Freedom of religion is about acceptance, and we all accept that this
is a Christian country. Christianity is deeply ingrained in the
social fabric of Cayman and a law saying that it’s OK for someone to
be Hindu is not going to change that one bit. Yes, there are crazies
in the world, but our population is equivalent to a small town in the
US and simply cannot be weighed against the stories we hear on the
news from places with millions of people.  Let’s be realistic and
not cater to our pedantic whims. Shouldn’t we be focusing on how
the Bill of Rights will empower us by making us equal as human
beings? Shouldn’t we examine how it will bring the incredible
cultural mosaic that is Cayman together? Fear mongering and
propagating unlikely scenarios is just a waste of time.  Why are
some people so obtuse to the reality of the world? Is it because
they are afraid that if Cayman is educated about other religions that
some might choose to explore these faiths?

Nicky: Della, first of all, Grand Cayman is not a country. It
is one of a trio of islands that make up a country, and having lived
on Cayman Brac for 20 years, I can tell you that people on the Sister
Islands get pretty tired of being dismissed out of existence.
Secondly, the United States was founded on the basis of tolerance and
acceptance of people and their right to their own beliefs – a reaction
away from the religious intolerance that dominated Europe throughout
most of its history, which the Founding Fathers recognised as a bad
thing for nation building. Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of
the Declaration of Independence, said, “The constitutional freedom of
religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.”

Thirdly, as a mother of two Caymanian children, one of them teenager,
I can say that yes, you are right – one of the great things about
raising children here (on the Brac) is the emotional and physical
security of a small community, and I wouldn’t want to raise them
anywhere else. However, Caymanians are human beings not a
nation of saints, and child abuse, including sexual abuse, certainly
does happen in these islands and always has. 

Godfrey McLean: After reading these letters it makes you
realize how many of the expats we so depend on are ignoramuses, and
the scariest part is many of our leaders subscribe to this type of
thinking. After listening to the circus called legislative meetings on
the radio, it leaves you wondering what is going to happen to us. So
much intolerance and hate mixed with vindictiveness that is spouted
each session.

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