More often than not these days, reading articles in the news about multi-faith communities gives me an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. The one I read which prompted this post describes another protest against the proposed construction of a mosque in Tennessee, US. Okay, this area of America isn't exactly famed for its religious broadness, but I can't help but be shocked at the lack of tolerance these people are exhibiting. The story is that the community's group of Muslims has outgrown their current mosque in a small office building and has bought some land on which to build a new one. A few non-Muslim locals who have got carried away with the hype of anti-Islamic feeling have in their small minds turned what is a mosque-come-community-centre to serve the small local Muslim population into some sort of centre for global domination reminiscent of a comic book plotline.
The response to the mosque has included vandalism, construction equipment on-site being set alight and a lawsuit. Even a couple of authoritative figures (one wonders how they came to be such) have put in their two cents. A Republican candidate for Congress commented that she was "opposed to the idea of an Islamic training centre being built in our community". Yes, right alongside their Christian training centres (if thats what we're now calling them).
Whilst theological debate is healthy, it is being used as a cover for prejudice and oppression. Scarily its beginning to feel as though all of these efforts towards so-called 'freedom' and human rights have been a waste of time and that humans are in some ways regressing. I don't suppose any of them have read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (major contributor: the United States) which permits every human to freedom of religion and "either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance". It shouldn't even need to be re-stated.
We can't just blame Americans, nor Christians for this transgression. The story is being repeated in many other parts of the world and among all religions. Egyptian authorities are currently in the news (again) for preventing the construction of churches, causing violent riots. In Syria too, the repression of Protestants and Evangelicals is being claimed as several buildings operating as churches have been closed down for not having licenses.
How, in our modern world of great scientific and technological advancement, is religion still causing such fear and fury?! At the moment Oman stands pretty well in terms of religious tolerance (at least officially). Lets just hope it doesn't get bitten by this dangerous bug.