Last week the University of Kentucky removed The Holocaust from its school curriculum because it "offended" the

Muslim population which claims it never occurred. What is going on in in the US? Are Americans carrying this concept of separation of church and state to absurd lengths? How can you delete history simply because it “offends” a certain section of society? Are we not debasing the memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated by the Nazis? Now, more than ever, with Iran among others claiming the Holocaust to be "a myth," it is imperative to make sure the world never forgets. Some would call it political correctness, but I would label it as craven cowardice. History is replete with periods of atrocities. If one were to delete everything that is disturbing to some people, history books would be very slim indeed – not to mention boring to the point of numbness. And who are we trying to appease anyway? The Muslim population? Do the countries where Islamic governments are in power show a similar consideration for the sensitivities of people belonging to different faiths? Just recently, I read of a British schoolteacher in the Sudan who is threatened with imprisonment and 40 lashes. Her crime? She asked the youngsters in her class to come up with a name for the new class mascot, a teddy bear; and they chose Mohammed. Blasphemy! The supreme irony is that the Muslims of America enjoy far greater personal and political freedoms in the US than they would in the countries they left behind. There was the recent shocking case, where a young Saudi woman was raped by seven men and, instead of her attackers being punished, she was imprisoned and sentenced to 200 lashes – because she had the effrontery to sit in a car with a young man who was not her husband. Incidentally, though the US State Department did register a protest against this gross miscarriage of justice, it was blithely ignored by the Saudi monarch – who George Bush proclaims is a staunch ally. With friends like these, who needs enemies? I suppose, compared to some nations where it is ridiculously easy to commit an act of blasphemy – with horrendous consequences - Americans should be extremely thankful for their system of government. However, I can’t help wondering if, in the zeal to appear fair and even handed, the pendulum isn’t swinging too far the other way. There was that frankly ridiculous brouhaha last year about a sculpture of the Ten Commandments in front of a courthouse. School prayers are disallowed, singing Christmas carols on school premises is frowned upon; where will it end? What I don’t quite comprehend is why the state needs to do anything at all in matters of religion. If the US Constitution decrees a separation of church and state, that is exactly how it should be – a separation. Why does the state interpret this clause as giving it a licence to pass laws dictating what religious practices an institution may or may not perform? There should be no coercion, certainly – as is the case in Iran and Saudi Arabia, for example – but if the teachers and children of a particular school want to have voluntary school prayers, what business is it of the government? Are not prayers a form of expression; and is not freedom of expression also one of the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution? By being extra sensitive to the sentiments of one or another group of people, you are, in fact, curtailing the freedom of expression of the general population. This lunacy is not restricted to the US, of course. Britain, too, tends to overdo political correctness at times - and this at a time when Islamic fundamentalists are openly preaching hatred in some mosques in the heart of British cities. In India, politicians in some states go out of their way to appease minority religions, although their motives are not altruistic, but merely a selfish ploy to

consolidate their vote bank. Apart from some Arab countries, Israel is probably the only nation that does not display any hypocrisy on this issue. The problem with organized religion – even more so these days – is that a few ‘holy men’ have appointed themselves the sole interpreters of the word of their god. They know best; and their co-religionists had better listen to them – for their own good. These ‘men of god’ do a pretty good job, on their own, in stirring up base emotions in a significant portion of the population. When the government gets into the act, the resulting mix has the potential to become positively lethal.