My Religion And Yours: Where’s The Line?

by Wafa Demashkiah

For some people, religion has no influence their way of living. For others, religion is as important as breathing. Whichever way you experience religion, there’s no denying that it is a main topic of discussion, from the media to family dinner tables. It is a topic we can never escape from, and coming from a religious Islamic family I know that first hand. I also know that religion is as much about worshiping in a particular faith as it is a cultural identity. There are teachings and traditions passed from generation to generation, and as many rules to be abided. But where do our beliefs and rules become a show of force onto another person, and where does it stop?

Is it okay to impose your beliefs on your family and children? How about friends and strangers? And, what of your customers? 

This is the moral debate at the center of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission; a case currently being heard by the Supreme Court of the United States, for which a decision will be issued in 2018. In this case, a Colorado couple, Charlie Craig and David Mullins, who were legally married in Massachusetts and who made plans to celebrate with family and friends in their Colorado hometown.  For this celebration, the couple ordered a custom wedding cake from Jack Phillips the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop. But, all of the celebratory planning came to a very abrupt halt when the owner refused to serve them based on his very Christian beliefs.  Craig and Mullins then took matters into their own hands filing discrimination charges. And, since 2012, this case has made its way all the way to the Supreme Court. And we will hopefully find out soon if this owner’s refusal is a violation of Colorado’s public accommodations law.

In my experience, religion should be personal and should always remain that way. Being of Middle Eastern descent, I take frequent trips to visit my family and homeland. And on those visits, I have had many run-ins with religion being forced upon me. There is one particular interaction that I will never forget. I was just about 13 when I had begun to question the essence of my religion. I started asking questions like: “who is God?” and “what is heaven?” To feed my curiosity my aunt took me to an Islamic teacher hoping that I would get the answers I needed.  Unfortunately, that experience was unlike anything I could have imagined. Not only did I not my answers but I was also told that I should not even be asking questions, that I was possessed by the devil for even thinking this way. I was washed from top to bottom for merely questioning.

Religion is only a problem when it is imposed on another person or culture. 

Two people will never have the same exact set of beliefs or values, thus imposing our exact personal, cultural, and religious beliefs on others will invariably create discord. I cannot name the countless times I have been walking around town and someone hands me a flyer about Christianity or Judaism. As kind as that person might be, it creates a very uncomfortable moment when I turn down the flyer. Religious beliefs should be kept personal and sacred. The goal isn’t to implement our every thought, belief, and ritual onto our families, friends, and especially not strangers in our bakery shops.

While holding my own religion and other people’s opinions on what I believe, I have learned that the most genuine practice of being good is to have a light heart. We can be as righteous and pious as we want, but what truly matters is treating others with respect as we are called to do by most faiths. Being a loving and accepting soul is way more important than imposing your way of practicing your beliefs.

Welcoming, loving, and respecting others is far more rewarding than we can imagine.

Photo via Flickr user Wall Boat