Sajida Bibi teaches class at a shelter for abused women in Pakistan. (photo: Nicholas Kristof/The New York Times)
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“My hunch is that the violence in the Islamic world has less to do with the Qur’an or Islam than with culture, youth bulges in the population, and the marginalization of women. In Pakistan, I know a young woman whose brothers want to kill her for honor — but her family is Christian, not Muslim.”
The audio clip above from Krista’s interview with Nicholas Kristof, regrettably, never made it into the final show. Here, he recounts how the story of Sajida Bibi, a Pakistani woman abused by her Christian family, serves as an example of the symbiotic relationship between culture and religion. This story reminds us, once again, to question our assumptions about faith and culture as we listen to stories different than our own. It also begs the question: how much of the dominant religious belief system, even in countries that purportedly keep church and state separate, seeps into cultural customs and cultural conformity.
Thinking about this story also made me wonder about the power of conformity. Isn’t cultural conformity itself almost a religion? Do believers in synagogues, mosques, and churches around the world do what they do primarily because of their belief systems or to conform to the social or religious cultures around them? How much of what we call consider faith expression originates from actual religious belief and how much of it originates from a desire to conform to the expressions of others that share our faith?
In fact, we live neither our religious lives nor our cultural lives in a vacuum. And as the story of the Pakistani woman illustrates, neither does anyone else.