By John Ballard
Yesterday's news cycle in America was cluttered up on all channels by clerics and politicians (notably Republican presidential wannabes) with boxers in a bunch over a totally secular issue having nothing to do with faith or religion. By now everyone is aware that the hoopla is the result of a directive from HHS that employers offering group health insurance to employees must insure that contraception be among the services of their plans.So far, so good.
The rule has nothing to do with provider practices, only what is made available to their employees. But officials of the Roman Catholic Church, sensing that sinners on their payroll might be using contraceptives, protested indignantly that their freedom of religion was being abridged, that the church must not be compelled to allow its employees, even Infidels or other non-Catholics, contraceptive drugs or services. (Never mind the fact that a majority of American Catholics use birth control and have done so for years.) The theme was quickly seized as another opportunity for critics of the president to twist this issue into an attack on religion. Righteous indignation burst upon the airwaves like teargas and pepper spray at a demonstration. Last night's evening news aired the fireworks on all channels.
We know that religious extremists in other countries are a threat to our national security and we must be prepared to make war against them if necessary. But that's different, you know. Unlike our extremists, those extremists are evil.
For what it's worth, the newly convened Egyptian parliament, with a Muslim Brotherhood majority, is not immune from exremists in their midst. The Brothers, whose faith rests securely on eighty years of experience, now face the challenge of practical governing, most of which has little or nothing to do with religion.
The [footage below] is from a surreal moment in yesterday's session of the Egyptian parliament (where you can be guaranteed a surreal moment at least twice a day) during which Salafi MP Mamdouh Ismail suddenly decided to call the azan, the call to prayer. Never mind that it actually did not seem to be prayer time, or that parliament was in the middle of discussion (of the Interior Ministry clashes I believe). Ismail is a very nasty type of Salafi, the litigious kind. He has brought countless morality lawsuits against prominent people, the latest of which is the ongoing one against Naguib Sawiris for putting a cartoon of Salafi Mickey and Minnie Mouse on Twitter.
A wonderfully forceful reaction by Speaker Saad al-Katatny, who told him that if he wanted to pray he could go to the nearby mosque and that he was not any more Muslim than anyone else. Good to hear that from a Muslim Brothers, who have been known to act like they're more Muslim than some. A lot of people among the Twittorevolutionaries are making disparaging sounds about Katatni but I think he's generally been a very effective, stern speaker � whatever his biases are.
It's not necessary to understand Arabic to get what is happening here. Look at the expressions on the faces of the other members and listen for the applause when he is called down by the moderator.
(Just yesterday, listening to C-SPAN, I heard someone in the US House of Representatives delivering one of those worthless little speeches they routinely make, railing against Harry Reid, Majority Leader of the Senate,the other legislative body, in vulgar violation of protocol. He was allowed to finish but the Acting Speaker politely reminded all members not to use the second person when speaking, but to address all points to the Chair.)
Who needs a circus when we have legislators?