The Presidential Pulpit
One of the things Presidents routinely teach is religion. Take Ramadan. Most people in America never heard of it until it became fashionable to celebrate it. What is it? Why part of the great American tradition of freedom and tolerance. The President said in his Ramadan message.
This year, Ramadan holds special meaning for those citizens in the Middle East and North Africa who are courageously achieving democracy and self-determination and for those who are still struggling to achieve their universal rights. The United States continues to stand with those who seek the chance to decide their own destiny, to live free from fear and violence, and to practice their faith freely. Here in the United States, Ramadan reminds us that Islam is part of the fabric of our Nation, and that—from public service to business, from healthcare and science to the arts—Muslim Americans help strengthen our country and enrich our lives.-- Barack Obama's Ramadan message
But news stories from Saudi Arabia depict an altogether different observance. In KSA, it is observe Ramadan or else.
RIYADH: Saudi authorities warned non-Muslim expatriates on Friday, the first day of Ramzan, not to eat, drink, or smoke in public until the end of the Muslim holy month's sunrise-to-sunset fast or face expulsion.
The interior ministry of the oil-rich kingdom called on expatriates to "show consideration for feelings of Muslims" and "preserve the sacred Islamic rituals." Otherwise, a ministry statement said, Saudi authorities will cancel violators' work contracts and expel them.
Will the Real Ramadan stand up?
It's a confusing state of affairs. How is a person to understand which is authentic? Does he listen to the imam in the mosque or the scholar-author of a book? Or to President Obama?
Here are approaches to solving the problem of understanding what Ramadan is and determining the proper attitude toward it
1. Quit trying to understand it. There is no "real" Ramadan. Like every other idea in the world, Ramadan is observed differently, depending on the cultural heritage of the host country. Hence Ramadan in America "is part of the fabric of our Nation", but in Saudi Arabia it is part of the fabric of that nation, and denotes something completely different.
2. President Obama is right. Saudi Arabia does not understand Islam and is practicing an unrepresentative and heretical variant of the religion of peace.
3. President Obama does not understand Islam. After all Saudi Arabia was where Islam started. They should understand it if anyone does. President Obama is talking through his hat.
4. The atheists of America were right when they argued that President Obama was wrong to offer prayers for the victims of the Aurora, Colorado shooting massacre. The best thing any politician can do in in time of a national tragedy is make vague references to being upset. Otherwise they will traumatize atheists by offering condolences with even the slightest religious connotations. The atheists argue they are "excluded".
“By the very act of praying, that’s a message of exclusion,” he continued. “If I’m a public official, I think I’m going to look around in the morning and conclude that, ‘hey, this religion thing is just too hot to handle, I should stay away from it in my official capacity.’”
5. The atheists of America by advocating non-praying are imposing an atheistic view upon the public space, effectively excluding the deists. Since someone is bound to be "excluded" whether you pray or you don't Presidents should just stick to whatever traditions are already widely observed and go through them like the Queen of England goes through her ceremonial duties, in the hopes that if they do nothing unusual nobody will notice.
6. All religions and non-religions are perpetually at war, because the ideas of mankind have been at daggers drawn since the beginning of history. There has never been a peace, only a truce between them that is occasionally observed. Therefore belief systems will always square off like the Dead Rabbits and the Bowery Boys at the Five Points. Presidents are not neutral in belief systems. The only thing that counts is which side they are on.