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Protest good for the soul

November 22, 2003

One of the rights that Islam acknowledges and upholds for the

citizens is the right of protest and opposition to the policies of

government. This right has been acknowledged by Imam Ali, the

successor to the prophet, and other successors: that people are free

to voice their opposition and disagreement with the government and

the government should respect this right. The value of the human

being lies in having the right of disagreement and the diversity of

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opinions. As long as the protest is peaceful and does not amount to

agitation and violence, then the government should appreciate and

accept it.

Imam Mostafa Al-Qazwini

Islamic Educational Center

of Orange County

Costa Mesa

Protest is traditional in our heritage. Hebrew prophets' questions

kept kings of Israel more honest than they would have been otherwise.

Jesus protested the religious authorities who governed in his time

and place. Contemporary Christians have learned from Mahatma Gandhi,

Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King Jr. and many others how to protest

honorably against unjust and/or dishonest authority as responsible

people of faith.

When policies of government stand opposed to primary, pivotal

principles of Christian faith like justice and peace and -- of course

-- love for all human beings as beloveds of God, it is not only

permissible to protest peacefully, it is Christian responsibility. In

our Baptismal Covenant (Book of Common Prayer, page 305) we promise

to "strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the

dignity of every human being, with God's help." Christians in this

most wonderful "one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and

justice for all" should be proud and ever-vigilant of the blessings

we enjoy.

The Very Rev. Canon

Peter D. Haynes

St. Michael & All Angels

Episcopal Church

Corona del Mar

A third-century rabbi ruled that the "law of the kingdom is the

law." This command taught Jewish citizens to be faithful to the laws

of the lands in which they resided, as Judaism considers loyalty to

be a significant religious responsibility. Still, it is recognized

that where the laws of the government are iniquitous they should be

resisted.

When Moses witnessed an Egyptian overseer whipping a Hebrew slave,

he did not hesitate to slay the Egyptian. Many were the Hebrew

prophets who rebuked the kings of Israel when they abused their

offices and engaged in unjust acts. A principled stand must be taken

against tyranny. Several of the Founding Fathers proposed that the

Seal of the United States feature the newly liberated Hebrew slaves

marching through the sea to freedom and that the caption should read,

"Resistance to Tyrants is Obedience to God." They modeled their

battle against the onerous laws of England on the ancient

confrontation against Pharaoh.

Certainly, though, in a great democracy such as ours, tyranny is

not at issue. If one's conscience, though, persuades him that the law

is so evil that it cannot be tolerated, then civil disobedience is

called for.

In our very complex society, this should be seen as the last

resort. Peaceful protests of public policy are, of course, warranted

as individuals and constituencies approach issues from different

vantages and with different understandings. This is the glory of the

democratic process and distinguishes our way of life from that of

totalitarianism.

The right of free speech and the ability to appeal to the

government is one of our greatest blessings.

Rabbi Mark Miller

Temple Bat Yahm

Newport Beach

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