On religion


I still cannot get used to the fact that people pray every now and then on the office kitchen floor with their little rugs. I am not used to religious people around me. Sometimes office colleagues light scented candles. And I am not a big fan of this smell. My mum calls that smell a smell of a Buryat Buddhist Shrine.

Lake Baikal By Sergey Gabdurakhmanov

Well my mum is from Buryatia – a region by the lake Baikal – the deepest lake on earth with the largest fresh water supply on the planet. So folks, in case of 2012 End of the World we all will be saved by this lake. Local indigenous people – Buryats are mainly Buddhist. Unfortunately their traditions and culture are slowly fading away, and the Soviet regime did not contribute to its preservation either. Their culture is rich with different tales and shaman traditions. Buryatia has great pine tree forests with extremely tall and old trees. When I was a little girl my family used to spend every summer in Buryatia. Picking up mushrooms and wild berries was one of my favorite activities.

But well, going back to topic.

Religion has no importance in my life. Well, no, absence of religion is vital for me. I was born and raised atheist. Mocking religion is one of the sophisticated pleasures that I exercise with my close friends. Back in Central European University we had several believers and they all seemed a bit odd among the rest of the crew: agnostics, atheists and people who don’t give a damn. [also, another thing: you cannot argue with stats correlation between the lack of education and presence of religious believes.]

Woman vendor with burqa by Jay Galvin

Cairo is shocking in this regard: westernized people [along with people from the West] on the streets are mixed with countless women wearing this scary black thing with only eyes visible to public; male dominated society with women hiding in the corners. Maybe it sounds a bit exaggerated, but the situation is pretty unusual for me. So yesterday I read an article in the Newsweek about a Canadian writer Irshad Manji and the fact that she questions Islam and precisely “cites the Koranic precept of ijtihad—the right to think independently.” This woman has published a new book, Allah, Liberty and Love, “a rallying cry to Muslims—especially young ones—around the world to think and talk more freely, one that’s bound to incite great anger among authoritarian Islamists.” As Newsweek puts it: “Manji spent almost a decade trying to show Muslims “that open debate was possible in their community and for others to see that Muslims could exchange ideas in a civilized atmosphere.” As Papa Soros taught us to question many things, scientific fundamentals and bases , I am questioning many things and will never get tired of this. Like Emily once said: you can get a girl out of CEU, but you cannot get CEU out of the girl.

I feel like I lack some basic knowledge on history of Islam and history of the region. For the past two years I was preoccupied with the post-Soviet block and now I would need to fill in the gap in my knowledge.

So this book is clearly on my list of books to read.


About Masha Egupova

I am coming from the small city on the Russian Far East called Vladivostok, but Chinese call it 海參崴 [Hǎishēnwǎi] meaning "Sea Cucumber Cliffs." In my blog I will present the view from and about Vladivostok and my views on what is going on in Russia in general.

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