The twentieth and the twenty first centuries have been marked by many changes in social, religious, political, and social realms, to mention just a few. Religious tolerance is one change that has been evident in most parts of the world. It refers to the condition where by people are allowed to practice their own religion and their religious practices without any hindrance. In such circumstances, religious tolerance is characterized by the practice of many and different religions in a particular area. In the view of the fact that most people are religious in nature, the condition affects almost every person in the society. For instance, the condition affects an individual, a family and other institutions in the society. As an individual, one is affected by the condition since it allows someone to practice a religion of choice without any hindrance. Any outcome of intolerance like violence and conflicts affects an individual negatively. In addition; it enables a person to relate with other members of the society effectively as there is usually no criticism that hinders effective relationship.
There are many characteristics of religious tolerance that can be observed in the community. In a family set up, it is possible to find that children ascribe to a religion that is different from their parents’. In addition, in a work place, it is also possible to find people of different religions. Some organizations which are religious based go the extent of employing people who ascribe to other faiths. According to Banerjee (2008), a study conducted in America indicated that most of the citizens believe that it is possible to ascribe to other faiths and still inherit eternal life. Further studies illustrate that more than seventy percent of those people who were examined agreed that other religions can still lead to eternal life. Therefore, although there has been cases intolerance, such studies are a clear indication of religious tolerance.
As much as religious tolerance is encouraged in United States, there have been a few cases of religious intolerance. For instance, last year, an article appeared in the New York Times with an aim of raising a voice against religious intolerance. The article titled ‘Concern Is Voiced Over Religious Intolerance’ by Goodstein explains that a meeting was held by prominent religious leaders from Jewish, Christian and Muslim faith to solve a case related to religious tolerance. The problem had been caused by the proposal by Muslim religious leaders to build an Islamic Community Center. Worse still, a Pastor from Florida by the name Terry Jones from Florida had planned to burn copies of Koran on 11th September to act as the anniversary of the attacks. However, most of the religious leaders and the state were against the plan as such an act would have led to more violence. Although religious leaders did not voice their position concerning the location of the Muslim Community Center, some religious groups like the National Council of Churches did not show any problem with the proposed location (Goodstein, 2010).
Islam has not only been regarded as a religion of war but also as a religion of intolerance as indicated in the Qur’an. According to the studies of Spencer ( 2005), Islam can be referred to as an intolerant religion because it refers to the Jews and the Christians as the ‘people of the book’ or dhimmis according to the Islamic law. Although they are not treated as pagans or idolaters, they are labeled guilty because of their rejection to Prophet Muhammad and due to the fact that they have distorted the revelations they received from (Allah) God. Despite the fact that non Muslims are allowed to reside in Islamic regions, they are not treated equally. On the contrary, most Christians do not have a problem with them since they allow them to practice their religion without any significant hindrance. Although the issue of religious tolerance can be controversial especially concerning the Muslim faith, evidence from the Islamic law indicates that the beliefs of the Islam faith have not yet embraced religious tolerance.
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