Malaysia is preparing to go where they've never gone before -- into space. And in preparations of sending their first astronaut into space with other Russian 'nauts in 2007, their short list of 4 candidates has brought some new concerns to the table.
Of those four candidates, three are Muslims, and two will be chosen in May to train as astonauts. That means at least one Muslim will be chosen. A Malaysian government official gave light to the concerns being discussed: "Among the astronaut's needs, if he is a Muslim, are guidelines on performing prayers in space, and other aspects of life according to Islamic principles". In short, the astronaut may have trouble knowing which way to face to pray towards Mecca, and may have difficulties kneeling in zero gravity.
Zainol Abidin Adbul Rashid, a professor at the National University of Malaysia, wrote a software program that can calculate prayer times and positions for astronauts after keying in their positions. And orthodox answers to other concerns include kneeling on tissues or praying while seated and strapped into a chair.
America won't allow their children to pray in school because a non-believer may be offended. Malaysia writes a software program so their Muslim astronaut can find Mecca from orbit, and sends it with him to Russia where he will be trained and catch a ride into space.
For those who aren't paying attention to what this author is saying, let's recap: Malaysia is telling Russia how their Muslim astronaut will be allowed to pray on his free ride into space on a Russian spacecraft. That's gutsy. That's supporting the religious beliefs of the people. Quite frankly, that's inflicting said person's religious beliefs on another country and their people.
In our quest to have freedom from religion and freedom of religion, have we forgotten that is the religion itself that is the basis for the argument? We seem to have put the emphasis on the "from" with less regard for the "of" and forgotten the religion altogether.
If this Muslim-believing Malaysian astronaut were hitching a ride on an American space shuttle... and showed up for training with his software program to find Mecca from space... and told us he was going to be praying the believers' required 5 times a day, using his program on our equipment... what would we tell him?
What does that say about us?