2014 has been a milemarker for women, especially when it comes to politics. While Western women have taken a step forward, headlines suggest women in many Islamic countries have taken two leaps back.
In the West, Muslim activists have many women among their ranks, some of them artists, writers, reporters, educators and lawyers who want the world to know their vision of women in Islam. But women in many Middle Eastern countries have little or no rights or freedoms.
A city board in upstate New York has given a Muslim group the go-ahead to remove six crosses from the roof and spires of a century-old former Catholic church so the now-vacant Gothic structure can be used as a mosque.
More than 200 people had signed an online petition calling on the Syracuse Landmark Preservation Board to deny an application by North Side Learning Center, the church's new owner, to remove the crosses and build a six-foot chain-link fence.
Moving from New York City to Raleigh, North Carolina upon ordination was my first serious foray out of a somewhat insular northeastern cocoon and into “real” America. I was not exactly sheltered until then. I grew up in an ethnically diverse Queens neighborhood, and the inner city public high school I attended was a testing ground for class and racial coexistence. Still, I thought I knew what difference was until I discovered how different difference could be in the same country, less than five hundred miles south of where I grew up. The Raleigh and East Carolinas that I remember from the early nineteen nineties were a study in contrasts. The city is part of an urban powerhouse of cosmopolitanism that attracts people and businesses from all over the world. Yet it also boasts some of the world’s most rigidly conservative churches and it sits in the midst of the American tobacco farming industry, a very traditionalist, hierarchical culture.
Democracy is never in greater danger, than when self-appointed spokespersons for a deity decide to re-regulate religious dogma, to suit their own selfish designs and turn religious freedom into religious tyranny. This is the imminent danger with which deceitful minions of religious despotism now threaten the United States, under the guise of securing religious freedom via an entrenched uniformity.