On Religious Freedom in America
By Negar Azizmoradi
A couple of months ago I started working as a barista for coffee company; a small but expanding business owned by two wonderful brothers which works under a hospital.
A couple of weeks ago, a customer asked me about my necklace emblem; the Raelian Symbol which contains, namely, the Star of David and a misinterpreted ancient Swastika. Both of these symbols can be found in the background of all nations across the globe and even some other religions being practiced today such as Hinduism, as a sacred sign. His main focus was the connecting Swastika in the middle; a concern that in addition to the later stereotypical sequences led me to identify him as a Jew. Interestingly, he was well-informed about Raelians and the origin and true meaning of the Swastika. However, it didn't stop him from returning back to me on the corner of the register while I had a line of customers to take care of, with a simple but meaningful question in mind. “Don't you think wearing such a symbol in public might offend some people?", he asked. I answered with a smile out of respect, though with raised eyebrows, "well, I prefer to educate the people who don't know about the origin of the symbol.”
Then, regardless of my answer, he continued by repeating the same question adding a "still..." to the beginning.
I replied in the same manner, "first of all symbols do not harm, people do and secondly, I am just being myself!" After I apologetically pointed to the line of customers waiting for me, he finally decided to leave.
A few days ago, my employer pulled me aside to talk to me. He said, with a hesitating manner, that he has received a complaint from a customer, backed up by a person in HR of the hospital, and that it would be better to cover my symbol since it may offend some people. You cannot imagine my feelings of outrage! I'm sure my face turned to red and I was shaking. The reason of exasperation was not because I believed I would need to follow such flagrant direction, but due to what this image clearly shows: an American doctor, (as his proud signature on his email apparently indicated) who knows better than I, a so-called alien, about Amendment 1 feels so confident, not only to deliver his complaint about my religious symbol to the owners, but dares to take his nonsense to HR. A woman from HR validates that claim by bringing it back to the owners. After a few minutes and some effort to manage the emotions, my first words were to ask my boss if he knows my story, which he obviously didn't.
"If you want to know how much wearing this symbol, a sign of being myself, matters to me, just google my name and you will understand that I didn't put my life at risk, sacrifice being with my family and friends, and suffer so much so far from home to hear the same fanatical nonsense as in Iran, during the interrogation, I was unexpectedly told that “there is no concern with what I believe in, but the problem starts when I make it public.”
To make the story short, although being aware of my religious rights in this country (at least according to the US Constitution), I declared, “if I'm supposed to choose between my job and wearing the symbol, my choice would definitely be the latter.” He said all is well and he is going to learn about and explain my story to the person in HR (I'm not sure about the necessity of explaining to anyone but it's his business). At this moment, it won't be a matter of surprise anymore to encounter any further actions from the concerned Holocaust doctor or his agent at HR. They have already proven to be unconcerned about the American Constitution and its first Amendment, enough to make the first move. And I'm not concerned about it either as the Raelian Movement is officially being recognized as a religion in United States and any further action from their side would be taken to the court. My concern is whether Americans are aware of such a powerful and perverse influence that is dangerously writing down the dooming of their nation. The influence emanates from the people that Gilad Atzmon identified in his must-read book, “The Wandering Who? A Story of Jewish Identity Politics”, as the third category and the problematic one: "Those who put their Jewish-ness over and above all of their other traits." And this is exactly what that "image" meant to me!