Monday, March 21, 2011

East's religion v. West's law


I wonder what would happen in a life without law.  One could say mankind goes back to the state of nature, the one in the primitive society where big was eating small. Well, it’s still the same if you look around what’s going on now in the world filled with laws: strong rules weak and big eats small. All is the same, but human beings now have ethics. So, law creates ethics. So does religion.
Khalil, the father of a friend of mine, went to Europe for business in late 2008. After spending three weeks there, he went back to Kurdistan region of Iraq. “There are no religions and ethics in Europe,” he said when asked by one of his guests during a dinner at home. And when he was asked how people lived without those, he said, “Law organizes and runs Europe. Law is their religion and ethics.”
So, does law replace religion, or vice versa? I think it does. Rushworsth M. Kidder in his book “How Good People Make Tough Choices” defines three ways of doing wrong. First is violation of laws in which he says it’s wrong to beat your spouse, wrong here means unethical. If there was no law, men would have increasingly beaten their spouses. Law in many countries has put strict punishments for domestic violence. What about countries where law is weak and is there only on papers but not in practice. Here, religion comes to play a big role. In Iraq, for instance, there is no active law on the ground to protect women from domestic violence. But Imams warn husbands to treat their wives respectfully and never hurt them basing on verses in Quran. This is why one can see why people in the Muslim world countries are so attached to religion. That’s because laws are only inks on paper and their main and only reference is Islam, which is also main source for legislation. And one can understand why law in the Western countries is above everything. That’s because there is freedom in religion. No religion is imposed on the other and no religion is the source of legislation. Here, law organizes acts of human beings and that leads to the creation of an ethical society.
The second way is to run away from the truth. Kidder brings an example of claiming sick while you are not. In many organizations this is considered as unethical and one might end up losing his/her job for such a claim. So, law does not let an employee claims sick while he/she is not. In religion, such a claim is a lie and religion teaches people not to lie.
The third way of doing wrong is deviation from the rectitude, Kidder says. “Suppose I see someone shoplifting, but I say nothing to the supermarket manager,” reads the example of Kidder (p.32). What is the role of law and religion here? The manager could not see the stealer, so he cannot report to police. Conscience plays a big role here. I think when it comes to conscience; the situation directly shifts to an ethical dilemma. I can tell the manager that that person stole something from him. By this I satisfy my conscience. But what if the manager quarreled with the stealer and as a result one of them gets hurt, injured or killed. The manager would not be affected by one thing missing in his supermarket. It’s better to keep silent and go. But if I don’t tell the manager, the stealer may get used to it and stealing may become a career for him. By letting him doing that, I teach him to continue.
Ethical dilemmas push every one of us to think twice and sometimes even more. Here are the tough choices in our daily life; choices which we may never expect them face us. But they are with us in everything we do. How religion deals with ethical dilemmas? In a situation of right versus right, religion teaches you do the one good for the greatest number of people. But what if both are sins according to Religion and right according to law? 

Note: this article is also available on http://www.aknews.com/en/aknews/9/220799/ 

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