Why you shouldn’t be offended

Posted on June 18, 2012. Filed under: Atheism, Atheist Ethics, Personal, Religion, Social Justice |

So as promised, I’m blogging my impressions of my brother’s wedding to a wonderful Muslim girl- which happened this weekend.  This event will be followed by their coming reception on July 2nd.

My post has taken a different turn though.  Things did not go as expected.

My wife and I dropped off our middle three kids with relatives and headed down on Friday afternoon to attend the wedding that was scheduled for Saturday.  As you can imagine- when you have five children- we had to make several concessions in order to make this trip

Who has two thumbs and is about to politely tolerate misogyny? This guy.

happen.  My second had a birthday party to attend (he doesn’t get invited to many of them- it was a big deal)- my wife and I had to watch him cry when we told him he couldn’t go.  For the last several years, my wife has spent Father’s Day weekend with her dad- golfing one day and going fishing the next.  Ahh, but it’s my brother’s wedding- and things like this are important.

So off we went with oldest and youngest to make it down for the barbeque Friday night with family to celebrate the coming wedding.  Friday was great. I finally got to see my Aunt and Uncle’s new house, it was great seeing cousins and my brother and his bride-to-be.  Everything was planned for Saturday, we would all meet at the Mosque and share in a nice ceremony and a different culture together.

Saturday morning- and the bride calls to let us know that women will not be allowed to attend the ceremony at the Mosque.  When I say “women”, I mean all of them- bride included.  Now the dynamic changes.  My wife is mad- and rightfully so.  She thought she was making all these special plans in order to go to a wedding.  Now she is told that her vagina disqualifies her as a guest at the wedding.  I’m mad- I can’t believe that anyone would be okay with telling women they are not important enough to be included in a wedding.  My Mom is here, and she is finding out that she will not be attending her son’s wedding.  She seems unfazed- my Mom always seems that way.

Any of you who follow me on Twitter (and, because the accounts are linked-Facebook) know how I dealt with the issue.  I live-Tweeted my personal ruminations on the visit to the Mosque.  The tweets were petty.  They were cheap shots.  They were purposely offensive:

Here they are in order so that you can read just how bad they were.

I’m sure that people are offended.  That’s good.  They should be.  They should be offended that my wife and my mother were forbidden from being at my brother’s wedding.  They should be offended that people think that this is okay.  They should be offended that some cultures think women are so unimportant that not even the bride needs to be at a wedding ceremony.

The problem is that those who so far seem offended (save a few- shout out to Nelson!) are offended because I dared disparage Islam on my Brother’s wedding day.  How dare I ruin their special day! How dare I make a scene by doing this on their wedding day!

I guess nobody cares to ask “How dare they treat women that way?”

So my actions- grounded in my deeply held beliefs- made family and friends uncomfortable and offended.

What is the lesson I’m supposed to learn about my bad behavior?

I assume it is that decent people don’t let their deeply held beliefs ruin a moment by making friends and family uncomfortable and offended.

To that I would say

“EXACTLY!”

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15 Responses to “Why you shouldn’t be offended”

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George, some might think it a bit rich to go to the service and then disparage it. Or perhaps they might think it a bit gauche. If you were so fundamentally offended, why not just not attend?

Peter Loewen deserves an award for being the first person I know in real life who has commented on my blog.
Pete,
I don’t disagree with you per se. Not attending would have likely been the bravest statement I could have made. I took a stand on principles I am not ashamed of, but I concede that the method was far from ideal. At the time, I was surrounded by family that insisted that we all hold out tongue and go. My principles wanted to stay with my wife, but family pressures got the best of me. I dealt with the issue in a way that was not the most constructive, I admit, but it was far more constructive than silently condoning misogyny.
The question becomes whether there was an undue lack of respect on my part by mocking elements of Islam publicly in light of my brother marrying a Muslim. Certainly I would argue that religions deserve no respect or reverence for doctrines that are obviously false and harmful to human progress. In cases like this one, where I would argue that the doctrine is objectively both false and harmful, I cannot see any reason whatsoever to treat it with anything shy of mockery and contempt. Ideas deserve the respect they earn.
The other side of the argument, of course, rests on whether my actions breached a contract of expected civility with respect to my relationship with the people involved- and whether I ought to assume that my family will be able to seperate my feelings for them from my feelings about the result of epistemological shortcomings they hold to. This is where I can see a problem with my actions. I see how what I did would certainly be perceived as a slight against them- even though I don’t believe my criticism was personal at all. The circumstances surrounding my actions- the fact that my wife was told even the night before that she was welcome, the fact that we were thrust into a situation without being fully informed, the added pressures of family expectations- put me in a situation where I felt cornered. I don’t regret my actions- I regret the circumstances.
Besides, Peter- When have you known me to be tactful and diplomatic?

You’ve left a LOT out. You don’t explain how you could possibly go to the lengths you did without knowing that women weren’t allowed. What a lousy communication system you have. Your brother couldn’t have told you beforehand? I think I’m glad you had an exasperating time. You deserved it.
You’re a silly person. You should have gotten ALL the important info before the trip!
Religion comforts…and cripples. That’s the truth.
You (and your now married brother) should be spanked, hard. You’re both fools.

Dan,
You are right. I left a lot out.
Like how my wife didn’t want to go in the first place because she was concerned about this kind of behaviour.
Like how I, along with my family, reassured her constantly that she was being unreasonable.
Like how we all insisted “She had to be there”.
Like how up until 10AM the Saturday of the ceremony- all of us were under the impression that the whole family would be invited to the ceremony.
Like how we repeatedly expressed concern that we were not given enough information leading up to the ceremony.

I felt, and I still feel, that I let my wife down. That I staked my reputation in an attempt to strongarm her into a situation she was not comfortable in. I felt, and feel now, that I failed her. Our duty, as spouses, is to honour and protect the people we give our bond to. I did get what I deserved- because I set aside the concerns of my wife (who was more right, in retropect, then any of us could have imagined) in order to appease “family obligations”.

I asked for all the important facts. I called and spoke to my brother on more than one occasion. I drove 4 hours to his ceremony on what I consider false pretenses.

Religion, no doubt, can be “comforting” for people who need that sort of thing. That doesn’t excuse it from criticism when it perpetuates attitudes and beliefs that are worthy of disdain. It doesn’t excuse from mockery when it is worthy of nothing better.

Thanks for your two cents, though next time be aware that we charge a dime around here….

Reblogged this on Le Café Witteveen and commented:
Take the time to read George Dub’s account of his brother’s wedding!

How very passive-aggressive of you George – I totally approve. Although I have to be honest, I probably would have just made those comments under my breath instead of Twittering them to the world.

Sadly, I might be a bit of a firebrand online, but I’m a big wussy in real life. When my family asks me to accompany them to their local place of religious worship, I’ll usually acquiesce (at least for the “important” functions). Sometimes it is all I can do to suppress the skeptical asshole in me as the urge to stand up and scream, “Why are you people sitting here listening to this idiocy? Can’t you see how silly this all is?”. I also rarely voice my true opinion when they invariably ask me afterwards what I thought of the service, instead I usually mumble something like, “It’s what I was expecting” or “I didn’t learn anything new”.

The burning misogyny at that Muslim wedding, though – I never would have guessed they could be so ridiculous as to not even allow the bride to attend her own wedding. I think you hit the nail on the head when you commented on a “traditional” Muslim marriage being just another transaction, like buying a cow or house. Yet another example of how the “foundation of civilization” turns out to be a fairly elastic tradition.

Thanks Sinned.
It’s a little known fact that I’m more diplomatic on the internet than I am in person.
In real life, I’m a fantastic asshole.
If you meet me and I’m nice to you, I’m doing it to be ironic.

I didnt get it how can there be a marriage without the bride??
I have been to muslim weddings and we didnt have to go to mosque cos well women are not allowed but wedding is always held outside..i mean if there is a bride then…
i read your tweet and i am following you so it cant be that bad…but seriously..there must have been some misunderstanding..without a bride???

I’m a bit dumbfounded. I knew Islam was bizarre (what religion isn’t?) but this one takes the cake. Seriously?! The bride and female family members weren’t allowed to attend the ceremony? That’s the height of something-or-the-other.

I think your brother may have some explaining to do on this one since it appears that you guys had the wool pulled over your eyes until the absolute last moment.

Religion: ruining everything that has the potential to create great memories.

George, was it your impression that the plan changed overnight or do you think you were deliberately misled? I’m wondering if the decision to exclude all women was in place all along or a result of a last-minute change to appease some particular relative or group. It’s hard to understand why they would keep a detail like that from you until the last minute. How could they not expect such behaviour to be resented?

Blondin,
Yes, I am under the impression that the plan changed suddenly. I don’t think my brother of his wife were aware that women would not be welcome until the very last minute. I can’t be certain though, my family does have a habit of delaying the inevitable.

I am not sure what you did wrong. Your reaction was to speak against wrong decisions based on a wrong tradition. The circumstances you faced were difficult. You and your family were at the most treated dishonestly and unkindly and at the least treated unkindly. We need to embrace using words and creative harmless actions against harmful traditions/and ideas and violent behaviors. Put more plainly we need to talk more and fight less. Our history is steeped in violence. We gain hope from rising above and reaching beyond it.

I think maybe, Calla, what people are saying is that my choice of protest was not constructive. That I maybe missed an opportunity to create a dialogue by poisoning the well. I regret no just packing up and leaving on principle. That would have been the wise move. I don’t apologize for what I said or did- but there was a better way. I still believe it would have been morally unacceptable to hold my tongue.
Thank you for your comment, I hope this is not the last….

I think that probably would have been more constructive.

You could’ve spoken to your brother and his fiance and explained that your absence from their special day was as hurtful to you as it was to them but that your conscience would simply not allow you to acquiesce with even more hurtful behaviour towards your wife and other female family and friends. It’s one thing to respectfully comply with religious traditions of others but entirely different, and unacceptable, to be expected to disrespect and treat as inferior or subhuman one’s spouse or mother because of someone else’s irrational beliefs.

Yeah, that’s what I would probably be wishing I had done if I were in your shoes now.

[...] joined Twitter (yay!!!!)- then proceeded to cause a major rift in my family by tweeting my anger about the way Islam treats women [...]


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