Religious Intolerance

Muna Al Fuzai

Religious extremism is prevailing in the world today, especially in the Middle East, and the problem is that it is being associated with Islam because of ignorance and fanaticism. Is there a way out, and what can we do about our situation? What are the reasons behind the widespread ignorance and intolerance in the Middle East, despite the presence of education and scholars?

Every day we hear and watch fanatics who are against diversity, dialogue and freedom of expression and thought, because in the minds of these fanatics, they are the only ones who have the right to think, decide and judge, but we don’t have these rights.

Religious extremists have supporters in local communities including some well-known conservative scholars and officials. The cause of religious intolerance lies in the absence of information, which was created by extremists. For example, a Muslim scientist called Ibn Al-Muqaffa  was executed in 759 AD after being accused of heresy and being an infidel. Some other enlightened scientists like Al-Tabari also faced persecution.

Other causes of religious intolerance are due to differences between the divine text of the Holy Quran and the sayings of scholars and religious men, who may not be capable to issue the right opinions. With time, the public starts to consider views of the scholars as definite and begin to defend them as they defend the divine text.

Islamic civilization, which was launched 14 centuries ago, brought about the finest examples of tolerance and positive coexistence among nations and peoples of different civilizations, cultures, religions and races. Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) had a Jewish neighbor, but I know that no conservative today will accept to have a Jew living next door.

Religious intolerance has distorted the image of Islam in the world. The problem of not accepting differences and the legacy of hatred and prejudice have led to this condition today. These are disagreements about the niqab or the hijab, let alone other things in life.

Religious extremists have promoted sectarianism and justified the murder of Muslims. The worst thing is when terrorist organizations speak on behalf of more than a billion Muslims and seek legitimacy, such as IS, and impose their false views. This is an embarrassment for moderate Muslims. This corruption happens under the name of Islam, which is innocent. We must stand up against this campaign. Moderate thinkers need to advocate the public to put forward effective solutions to stop the spread of religious intolerance. The media and columnists need to carry out this task too.

If we want to end civil conflicts and bloodshed in our part of the world, we need to deliver the true image of Islam to the world and dry out all sources of extremism, killing and hatred. This is a long and hard mission and requires a new philosophy. But I honestly don’t see us moving an inch towards this direction any time soon.

By Muna Al-Fuzai
[email protected]

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