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Islam, sin and freedom of the press in Cairo

September 1, 2009

Another semester teaching Journalism & Religion at the University of Texas. And since it’s Ramadan, I decided to start with the section on Islam. We are reading Marvin Olasky’s Religions Next Door, among other texts, and learning that Muslims do not believe in original sin. Which makes this Eyptian columnist’s argument very intriguing. The NYT reports:

Writing in his weekly newspaper column, Gamal al-Banna said recently that God had created humans as fallible and therefore destined to sin. So even a scantily clad belly dancer, or for that matter a nude dancer, should not automatically be condemned as immoral, but should be judged by weighing that person’s sins against her good deeds.

Regardless of one’s theological perspective on sin, the fact that Banna (also the subject of this NYT piece) has a public platform for his opinion is very encouraging. Read on:

But only now, he said, does he have the chance to be heard widely. It is not that a majority agrees with him; it is not that the tide is shifting to a more moderate interpretative view of religion; it is just that the rise of relatively independent media — like privately owned newspapers, satellite television channels and the Internet — has given him access to a broader audience.

And there is another reason: The most radical and least flexible thinkers no longer intimidate everyone with differing views into silence.

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