Juan Cole, who always has an Informed Comment, offers his perspective on Gov. Robert Bentley’s sort of apology to Muslims, Hindus, Jews and others for excluding them from his personal brotherhood. Cole concludes his post,
It seems to me that the groups that protested Bentley’s statement have some international responsibilities. Would the
governorchief minister of Gujarat in India be willing to say that Muslims are his ‘brothers and sisters’? Would Avigdor Lieberman in Israel accept Palestinian-Israelis as his ‘brothers and sisters?’ How many Pakistani Muslim politicians would speak of brotherhood and sisterhood with the country’s 3 million Hindu citizens? Maybe some letter-writing to those figures is in order, too.
Please read all of Cole’s remarks. He isn’t at all critical of the complains concerning Bentley’s public exclusivist remarks. He just thinks they deserve broader application. Cole is also sensitive to how the “civil religion” with which Bentley failed to comply disadvantages non-believers, “Obviously, it somewhat disadvantages non-believers, now 14% of the population, but most of those are not atheists but agnostics and so far have not mounted a concerted challenge to this tradition of discourse.” I think it is high time to mount that concerted challenge. Government officials and employees have the right to hold and express their individual religious beliefs but they should consistently refrain from expressing those beliefs in any form where there is a risk that their remarks might be understood as being made in any official capacity.
If you wonder why I said “Bentley’s sort of apology,” his words, “If anyone from other religions felt disenfranchised by the language, I want to say I am sorry. I am sorry if I offended anyone in any way,” are another example of a pseudo-apology that shifts the responsibility for the offense to the sensitivities of those offended and away from the offender. PZ Myers spells out the problem at Pharyngula.