Bridging the Great Divide
The Constitution forms the supreme law of South Africa. It is a secular law which stands to prevent the persecution of people on the basis of race, ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation – and also religious freedom. Of course, most of the time you need to belong to a minority group of some kind to confirm that the law and the letter are being carried out in real life as they are on paper. In South Africa I can attest to the fact that the gap between the paper law and the real life application of these laws, which once seemed to be narrowing, is now just as wide, if not wider than ever.
Under the laws of this land, you have the right to hold to whatever religion, spirituality or faith that appeals to you, or suits you. You do NOT have the right to abuse the authority of state organizations, the law, or any other form of regulation to disadvantage, oppress or persecute other people who ascribe to religions or spiritual beliefs different to yours.
In as much as you would not like someone identifying with another religion doing that to you, you have to show others the same respect you would have for yourself and for your religion, EVEN THOUGH it may pain you to do so. Believing in something and identifying with a religion is never a crime. If people commit a crime, then address the crime, do not stereotype, slander and scapegoat all others who identify with a religion by defaming the religion – in public and in the press and in the media – and also in guidelines intended for use by government agencies, such as law enforcement.
If you feel that something shouldn’t be in the Constitution or should be changed, by all means follow the processes laid out in the Constitution that allow for changes to be made that will suit you better. However you DO NOT have the right to carry on regardless as if those laws you do not like do not exist or simply do not apply, allowing you to exercise your prejudice against others whom you choose to make into your victims.
If it is considered “factual” and relevant to push up sales via sensationalism and to report in the press that a “Satanist” did x, y or z, then it should also be considered relevant to do the same for criminals who ascribe to other religions and to report that a “Christian/Hindu/Muslim” did x, y or z. It should also be considered relevant for journalists and authorities to check their facts before simply publishing material of questionable accuracy or relevance to either the law, the incident or the religion which is being defamed.
State authorities should also engage in open debate with members or participants in any minority religious/spiritual communities to determine the correct facts about their beliefs and practices before lending their ears to the especially biased views of other perhaps dominant religious groups. Such groups might outright condemn and defame them, especially if it is in line with their own beliefs and practices to do so. Instead, we today have a police force which is a “force” and not a “service”. It propagates lies, fallacies and myths and the personal conjecture of religiously biased individuals and upholds them as training manuals and guidelines despite being criticized repeatedly over a number of years for their inaccuracies and fanciful invention.
When a state organ upholds misinformation about a community despite a repeated outcry by those it defames and dismisses, and attempts to engage with it by groups and bodies formed within that community; they are in the process of creating or perpetuating a human rights injustice. Further, when attempts to engage with the government or its bodies fail because they are ignored pointedly by the state, it is an indicator that the failure of democracy is imminent.
By doing thus, the State is doing nothing short of perpetuating the injustices of the past and visiting upon others what was suffered by people who were persecuted for that which we today hold to be the strength in our unity – our diversity.
First published here: Sour Grapes – The Fruit of Ignorance