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Chavez and religious freedom

The right wing in America devolves into fits of apoplexy at the mere mention of Hugo Chavez.  And while I’m no fan of his, he seems to have more respect for the rule of law than does the current American administration so beloved by the same right wingers.  So it’s highly amusing to see the man Pat Robertson wanted assassinated assert his right to “practise Christianity in public” in Saudi Arabia.

In addressing an OPEC summit in Saudi Arabia, Chavez crossed himself.  According to Caribbean News Net, “under Saudi law, the act of practising a religion other than Islam in public and non-Islamic religious symbols are forbidden.”  Chavez also made reference to Christ

“The only way to peace, as Christ said, is justice,” he told the audience. “All of us here have engaged in the Third World’s struggles, the people who have been colonised, invaded and oppressed for centuries.”

While a reference to Jesus would not have been problematic, calling him Christ is an assertion of his being the promised Messiah, which may also be problematic under Saudi law.   The Saudi press seemed to see it as “grandstanding” to his home audience

Jamal Khashoggi, editor of the daily al-Watan, said Iran and Venezuela wanted to create a “media frenzy” in Riyadh to grandstand to their own publics back home.

It was American disrespect for Islam that drove people like Osama bin Laden to his war against the West.  I rather doubt Chavez would create the same sort of ill feeling.  Why?  Because it’s never “what you say”, it’s a matter of who says it.  Things like this are only meaningful (and thus, only offensive) in the context of power differentials.  Chavez doesn’t have the ability to enforce his will on the Saudis.  Nor is he likely to be seen as having the desire to do so.  Not so for the US.

H/T Religion Clause.


One Response

  1. […] Further Thoughts weighs in on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his open demonstration of religious fervour at the OPEC summit in Saudi Arabia. Share This […]

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