Editorial: Interfaith Education, not Banning Religious Symbols, is the Road to Tolerance

December 19, 2003

Source: International Herald Tribune


On December 19, 2003 the International Herald Tribune published an editorial responding to the recent French ban on headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large crosses: "So far, thanks to God, karma and Constitution, nobody has proposed an outright ban on religious head gear on this side of the Atlantic. Yet it reminds us that the freedom to be religiously different is always fragile. For example, in August 2001, the New York Police Department dismissed a Sikh man who refused to remove his turban and shave off his beard. When the Sikh community announced a lawsuit, leaders of other faiths came forward in support. Their backing reflected an important consensus among religious people of all stripes: religious freedoms must be protected. But how to protect both religious freedoms and the secular state? The answer is in interfaith education and cooperation. The Interfaith Center of New York works with hundreds of religious leaders whose views span the religious and political spectrum. Whether they are Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian or Jewish, liberal or conservative, they all believe in religious freedom for all faiths. While there are frictions between the communities, they all recognize that when one group's religious freedoms are taken away, all are threatened. At the same time, the vast majority sees the separation of church and state as protection for their own freedoms."