Religious freedom – an essential for a real civilization

Steno Sari

Religious freedom is so important that without it no freedom of conscience and no public liberty may exist.

by Steno Sari — Following up the death of the 22-year-old woman Mahsa Arnin, deceased after being arrested by the religious police of Teheran because she was not wearing her veil appropriately, protest rallies arose in some cities in Italy and Europe. In Iran, many women removed their Islamic veil, burnt it publicly, staged the haircut protest and advocated a broader freedom. Which led to beatings and arrests and caused 154 casualties on the part of the security forces.

Religious freedom is so important, that without it, no freedom of conscience may exist and no public liberty as well. This is nothing minor, for usually people’s attitude in a country towards freedom, has a high influence on its credibility at international level. Religious freedom could be said to be one of the highest values as far as human dignity is concerned: its violation would impede any pretense for a rule of law. It is the basis of other liberties: political, economic, cultural and civil. This is why ideological pluralism and people’s right to a different think are the foundation of society itself. It is not through force that discording opinions are sorted out – on the contrary, that would be a sign of weakness, whereas one who is certain about his ideas may hardly feel threatened by another who thinks differently. Yet it is true that, although precious, freedom is not absolute. Certain laws even when issued with best intentions, may interfere with citizens’ private lives. But in regimes, those who hold the power often make their arbitrary decisions for sake of “governmental religion” and do so with the monopoly of information media as well as conditioning the judicial system. This is clearly shown not only in Iran but also in Russia where religious minorities are discriminated.

“Only the ignorant would believe that diversity of religion creates and incites turmoil in a nation.” According to Pierre de Belloy (1540-1613), who spoke these words, a nation’s harmony is not based upon religious uniformity, unless the government itself is subject to religious interference. However, open-mindedness may bring to a debate that enriches people. One would naturally be suspicious towards another having a different idea, but such attitude may be overtaken through reciprocal respect, administering an education that aims at developing judgment, reflection and ethical reasoning. One should remember that if the statement “no man is an island” is true, nevertheless true is the fact that we are interdependent on one another and we cannot remain indifferent – a single man’s pain is everybody else’s sorrow.

This truth, recalls to me the words of one of the greatest masters of the classic Persian literature, the Persian poet Saadi Shirazi, lived in the XIII century A.D., whose verses are woven on a carpet hung on a wall in a hall of the United Nations, “The children of Adam are limbs to each other, having been created of one essence and soul. If one member is afflicted with pain, the other members uneasy remain. If you have no sympathy for human pain, the title ‘human’ you cannot claim.” (Bani Adam).

Article issued in Libero on October 9th, 2022, reissued with the author’s authorizatio,