I must express strong disagreement with the op-ed by Manal Omar of the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Center for the Middle East and Africa [“Return religion to the public square,” Opinion, Nov. 20].
Omar claims that the reason religious extremists seem to be proliferating is because the forces of secularism have demonized religion as oppressive. When good people abandon religion, she alleges, it is left to the fundamentalists, who then take over. The answer, she offers, is to bring religion back into the public square.
This is essentially the same argument as: when good people can’t get guns, only bad people will have guns. In neither instance does it make sense.
Secularism in the public square, with acceptance of all forms of private worship, is the hallmark of enlightened societies. In places where religion is fully integrated into public life — such as Iran and Saudi Arabia — it is indeed a tool for repression, especially of women.
By contrast, in those societies with the highest standards of living and the most personal freedoms — the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands — religion plays little importance in the lives of most people.
The answer to religious extremism is more secularism, not less.
Richard Schloss, East Northport