Saturday, November 27, 2010

Prohibition Mission

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.


  1. I enjoyed your post and I share the writer the concern on whether religion is still a cause of fear and fury and my input is that it sadly is. The idea of social religious freedom will always be a Utopian dream that might not see the light for many generations to come. for now having jedi as an official religion in the UK stand at the forefront of anti what can be seen as the ultimate mockery of ancient organized religious establishment.

    Jedi religion statistics

    Australia 0.73%
    New Zealand 1.2%
    England and Wales 1.79%

    May the force be with us all

  2. I wonder what would happen if they tried to build a church in Saudi Arabia? And I wonder what would happen if a Muslim there chose to convert to Christianity? I fear the backlash would be far more violent and extreme than a bit of vandalism and a lawsuit (which will probably fail).

  3. Mohamed sallalahi wa salaam said: "Expell the Jews and Christians from the Arabian pennisula" Sahih Al Bukhari.

    This was carried out in a slow process under Umar, the second Caliph, where Jews and Christians were given big tracts of fertile land outside the Muslim holy lands and freedom to trade with the Muslims.

  4. With regards to OPNO comments, you are right that Saudi is not based on religious freedom. They have not subscribed to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but to the Cairo Declaration (its "Islamic" equivalent) which doesn't guarantee religious freedom. But this is a fault of theirs, not a quality.
    Their acceptance of foreign workers however is not a fault, and in the present time it would be extremely backward to resist this.
    What happened in your example was 1400 years ago and times have changed since then, thank God. Those that think we should be staying static, clinging to 1400 years ago are doing an injustice to Islam and preventing the natural development of humanity. If God didn't want us to move on from those times he might as well have wiped us all out then.

    Also, I think calling an entire nation lazy is a bit unfair.

    As for Anonymous' comments...its true that Saudi wouldn't allow a church to be built but that doesn't apply to other Muslim nations. In fact I was reading yesterday that a Hindu temple is going to be built here in Muscat to serve the large Hindu community.

    I'm afraid this kind of attitude - reacting to one wrong by committing another - is half of the problem. How can you think it would be fair to punish one group of people for another's faults, just because they happen to be of the same faith? Should we punish all Catholics because of the sexual abuse scandal?

  5. Victoria, although your article highlights that the ideal of religious toleration has yet to be realised we can at least be heartened that the debate surrounding the mosque in Tennessee indicates that there is progress being made in the right direction. Your comment regarding the need to progress from a position adopted 1400 years ago is most apposite. We may perhaps have some optimism that the there is a current process of conciliation and tolerance being attempted between Christians and Muslims apparent by the widespread debate surrounding events in Tennessee. Can we also be optimistic that a similar process exists between the Sunni and Shia sects in Islam? The reference to Islamic Law by Omani Princess suggests that Islam provides how Muslims should conduct their relationship with those of other faiths and I wonder if it provides equally clear instruction on how Muslims should conduct relationships between themselves. It seems to me that a greater regard for the moral guidance set out in both Islam and Christianity would alleviate many of our current problems in this regard.

  6. Dear Victoria, I disagree, wholly. When people talk of women's rights, they say, look at what Islam says and the Prophet said and did, and that was pretty perfect 1400 years ago.
    What is DONE now by KSA to women today is NOT part of Islam, Muslim women like you and me would argue. KSA would say, well, the world has changed, people are more evil now.
    Your argument is doing the same thing, saying Islam was not perfect then, or the world requires something different than what Islam prescribes.
    I am not saying we can't have cars, ect, ect... or have to live in mud houses, but Quran and Sunnah is pretty clear on what is halal and what isn't for a Muslim nation. Well, importing workers of Non-Muslim faith to live and work there, not in the Dhimmi culture, is also not part of Islam. It is not backwards for me to say that. I am repeating what the Prophet Mohamed SAW said.
    As in Oman, there are MANY tasks, that the local population could fulfill, or even just the UNEMPLOYED WOMEN IN KSA, that would then lesson the foriegn non-muslim population. Cashiers, road maintenance, construction... But pride, and nationalism, plus greedy bosses who pay unfair wages, make these things off limits for Saudi society that suffers from a high unemployment rate. I call that lazy. Not on individuals, but on the cultural way of dealing with supply and demand of work.You said: "I think calling an entire nation lazy is a bit unfair."
    It IS INCREDIBALLY lazy. And I know alot of Saudis who'd call their culture lazy. Even themselves. I knew hundreds of Saudis, and only 1 who'd ever take a job doing manual labour (he's a guy) for a even a high salary. I lived with them for 5 years. Believe me.
    You said: [Their acceptance of foreign workers however is not a fault, and in the present time it would be extremely backward to resist this.What happened in your example was 1400 years ago and times have changed since then, thank God. Those that think we should be staying static, clinging to 1400 years ago are doing an injustice to Islam and preventing the natural development of humanity.]
    I am not the one saying women can't drive today, whereas they could 1400 years ago, camels donkeys what have you. I am not the one saying cause the problem that NEEDS one to break Shariah law (forbidding the import of non Muslims into the Arabian peninsula), need building of Pagan things or import of false doctrine into a place saved by Rasoolulah. If Saudi had followed the natural course of the law, this wouldn't have been needed. In these cases, following the law of 1400 years ago, is a BETTER OPTION, then the ones available now.
    That's the thing about something that is a truth. It doesn't grow untrue, no matter how much time passes, or how long it is ignored. "If God didn't want us to move on from those times he might as well have wiped us all out then."
    No offence, and I really mean none. Islamic law and politics facsinate, and I find Saudi Arabia to be terribly hypocritical, because they keep what laws as they see fit, and break the ones that mean they have to treat people more fair and give more money to people less than them ect... but if using that end point in logic, why did God create us at ALL with the ability to choose right from wrong?
    Philosophers have argued this FOR centuries.
    Islam says, it is because God wanted us to submit to Him. And to recognize the Prophet Mohamed as the Messenger of God, and the Messenger of God told us to do something. And we didn't.
    It's as simple as that.