Religious Issues in Globalization

September 2, 2012

Perhaps 30 years ago, the case of a 14 year old learning handicapped Christian girl being accused of burning the Koran in Pakistan would not make it to the papers in the US or London. If it did, perhaps most people would not feel we have any right to judge or to interfere.

But we have this thing called globalisation, which has instantaneously delivered this news to every major city in the world. Along with the news comes a plethora of observations by foreign notables. This is a dramatic example of issues exacerbated by globalisation.
The young girl is in jail, awaiting trial, the penalty for conviction potentially being death. And, even if she is released, local press report that her life will be in danger in Pakistan, notwithstanding that there are strong allegations that a Muslim cleric, arrested today, was seen planting burned pages of the Koran into her belongings.
These comments are not intended to address the right and wrong of this situation. It’s clear that most all of us Christians and many of other religions in the West are of the opinion that this young woman should not be arrested. While it is not morally OK in the west to burn our religious books, it is not illegal. There might be a few extremists who would endanger one who did so, but such threats or endangerment would not be tolerated in most Western societies.
However, in Pakistan, it seems there is a very vocal and significant group of citizens who feel strongly that destroying the Koran is a sin so very grievous that anyone doing so should face death. Have we ever had such types of beliefs in Western societies? Yes, of course, we have, probably some such sensitivities and/or laws dating back only 2-300 years. Would it have occurred to those conducting the Salem witch trials in 1693 that people of a different mind on this from other countries should have a right to opine or to interfere? Of course not.
It is clear that today, 2012, we have instant knowledge transfer of news like this, and we have strong feelings in countries very foreign to Pakistan, with no clear authority or rights to influence human rights (or religious freedom, as some of those extremely dedicated Muslims might call it–those who see the burning of their religious book as a mortal sin), feelings that say “No!” “This is wrong.” “Stop, release this young woman, and by the way, change your laws to give people the same freedoms of religion (choices, practices, all of it) that we have in the West!”
I admit to being of this opinion. Most everyone I know would probably agree. Nevertheless, herein we see a vivid example of the process of globalization. What right do the people of my nation state have in judging and trying to control the attitudes, religious preferences, and laws of another distant nation state? There is no IGO with overriding rules covering this aspect of human behavior. There are no rules, no authorities, nothing other than publicity and moral suasion available to the objectors to enable them to force the will of the majority of developed Western nations upon those of a different persuasion!
We will soon know the outcome of this particular extraordinarily sensitive matter.
As to globalisation, one thing we can say is that it’s unstoppable, permeating into all aspects of life, worldwide. Notwithstanding the absence of authorities, rules or agreements, whatever weapons that can be found will be used to influence. It doesn’t mean that the opinions of developed countries will always prevail, but it does mean that the time of quiet enjoyment of your own local traditions is gone, likely never to return!

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