(UPDATED) Pew surveys 30,000 Indians across 6 faiths and 17 languages and finds support for tolerance yet also segregation.
A third of Hindus in India would not be willing to accept a Christian as a neighbor. Neither would a quarter of Indian Muslims or Sikhs.
Only a third of Indian Christians are very concerned about stopping inter-religious marriage, vs. two-thirds or more of Hindus, Muslims, and the general Indian population.
A quarter of Christians say religious diversity harms India, while about half say it benefits the country.
A third of Indian Christians identify as Catholics and half identify with Protestant denominations. A third of Christians identify as members of Scheduled Castes, often called Dalits (and formerly the pejorative untouchables).
Almost all Indian Christians are very proud to be Indian, and three-quarters agree that Indian culture is superior to others.
These are among the findings of “Religion in India: Tolerance and Segregation,” a significant new report released today by the Pew Research Center. Its conclusion, in a sentence: “Indians say it is important to respect all religions, but major religious groups see little in common and want to live separately.”
Outreach programs to dispel COVID-19 vaccine disinformation are having an impact on vaccination rates within some Muslim communities.
Shaikh Rahman, a business systems analyst in Chicago, was not a proponent of COVID-19 vaccines because he did not feel that credible information about them was being disseminated effectively and the distribution seemed rushed.
“Our faith says to investigate a matter before passing it off as truth,” he says.
But Rahman’s sentiment changed after his local imam, Shaykh Jamal Said of the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois, began to suggest that those who were not vaccinated may be prohibited entry to the mosque.
Rahman was concerned about this potential restriction for prayer services and he considered getting vaccinated. He had tested positive for the virus prior to this potential restriction. So he decided to get the shot to build up his immunity after the Mosque Foundation held a Pfizer vaccination drive.
“With the country reopening, I don’t want my family or my loved ones to be at risk of exposure through me,” Rahman says.
While vaccine hesitancy trends continue to evolve across the United States, a shift also is underway within some Muslim communities. Vaccine rates among Muslims had been among the lowest in the nation in the early months of the pandemic. But outreach programs from mosques, community organizations, and cultural centers that work with immigrant communities are helping to dispel disinformation and promote vaccination.
As they hear from trusted figures, such as imams, some Muslims are now opting to get the shot.
Anti-Muslim views have become more widespread in Europe over the past 30 years, but it is important to distinguish between criticisms of certain forms of Islamic practice and the belief that Muslims are taking over Europe.
Mosque in Oslo, Norway. Photo: Oskar Seljeskog / Flickr / CC-BY 2.0
People with anti-Islamic views wish to restrict Muslim immigration and Islamic religious practices. In their view, Islam is a homogenous, totalitarian ideology that is threatening western civilisation. When we talk about anti-Muslim racism, the attitudes concerned are so generalizing that all Muslims are lumped together, regardless of whether they are secular Muslims or fundamentalists. In other words, we are talking not only about criticism of a set of religious ideas, but about attitudes that dehumanize and generalize a whole group in the population.
Although such attitudes have a long history in Europe, the idea that Muslims are ‘the enemy’ has become more widespread over the last 30 years. In the aftermath of the Cold War, one could say that Europe needed a new archetypal enemy, and research shows that Muslim immigrants gradually took on that status. For example, it became gradually more common for people to talk about “Muslims”, rather than immigrants with Pakistani backgrounds.
Events that direct a critical focus onto Muslims
Research from various countries shows increases in anti-Muslim views towards Muslims in connection with various critical events. This does not suggest that anti-Muslim bias is growing in a continuously upwards trend. Rather, it suggests that this bias increases temporarily in connection with societal events that direct a critical focus on Muslims.
In the 1980s, for example, the publication of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses provoked Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa against Rushdie, and many Muslims joined anti-Rushdie demonstrations and tore pages out of his book. In many cases, their demonstrations were met with highly generalizing and critical representations of Muslim in the media, where Islam as a religion was questioned.
Wayne Te Brake is Professor Emeritus of History at Purchase College, SUNY, and the author of Religious War and Religious Peace in Early Modern Europe (2017) and Making Religious Peace: Historical Perspectives on a Global Challenge (forthcoming).
Nearly twenty years ago, on October 7, 2001, the United States, supported by a broad international coalition, started what the Bush administration called a War on Terrorism; it began with an aerial attack on Afghanistan, whose radical Islamist Taliban government had harbored those responsible for the devastating 9/11 attacks. Two weeks earlier President George W. Bush had described the coming conflict as the necessary response to “a new kind of evil. . . . This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while, and the American people must be patient.”
The President’s aides quickly tempered Bush’s rhetorical impulse, insisting that this was not a “crusade” against Islam, but a defense of freedom and democracy. Still, Bush was right in at least one respect: The War on Terrorism has taken a while. At this point, we still don’t know how and when our war in Afghanistan will end, but the Taliban and “radical Islam” are still generally considered to be the principal obstacles to peace. As the Biden administration struggles with the questions of whether and how soon to withdraw the remaining US military forces from Afghanistan, it is critical to recognize the religious dimensions of our “forever war” and to accept the challenge of making religious peace possible.
The day the aerial attack on Afghanistan began, Andrew Sullivan declared, in an essay in the New York Times Magazine, “This is a Religious War,” not unlike Europe’s religious wars. As a scholar of Europe’s religious wars, I appreciated Sullivan’s sense of historical recognition, which is still useful today. The problems and enmities that underwrote Europe’s religious wars as well as the War on Terrorism were religious in the sense that the forces in conflict recurrently and often insistently identified their enemies in term of religious ideas, behaviors, or affiliations. While some observers framed the War on Terrorism as a global struggle between Islam and the (Judeo-Christian) West, Sullivan framed it as a “war of fundamentalism against faiths of all kinds that are at peace with freedom and modernity.” After twenty years of “religious” war, however, religious fundamentalism has not been defeated in Afghanistan. It’s long past time to make religious peace.
But how do we shift from prosecuting religious war to making religious peace? Here the historical analogy with the religious wars in Europe is particularly useful. During more than a century of intermittent and increasingly destructive religious wars, Europeans learned to accept and manage their religious differences, thereby establishing the foundations of modern religious pluralism. This European religious peace, which I have described as complex and messy, has since been disrupted by revolution, nationalism, authoritarianism, and world war, but so far it has survived even the mass religious migrations of the last decades without descending to the coordinated destruction of religious war.
To learn anything useful from this history, however, we must shift our focus from contentious ideas to political action. Ideas, theologies, and ideologies provide useful clues for understanding the motives and intentions of those who prosecute wars, but it is a much broader array of political actors and actions that make war and peace possible, as often as not quite unintentionally. This is because the outcomes of large historical processes – like the cycles of religious conflict, violence, war evident in early modern Europe and in the world today – are the product of contentious human interactions, which do not yield clear winners and losers. Indeed, European history shows that if the essential foundation of religious war is ideological intransigence, the essential foundation of religious peace is political compromise.
Islam is the world’s fastest growing religion, embraced by one fourth of the global population and with three and a half million adherents living in the United States. Yet dialogue between Christians and Muslims is fraught, given differences in theology, ethics, history and contemporary political realities. Benedictine Br. David Steindl-Rast offers this slim book, 99 Names of God, as a beginning point for Christians to enter into the devotional life of Muslims in the hope of opening up dialogue between them.
Steindl-Rast is well positioned to do this. Born in 1926, he was awarded a doctoral degree in psychology and anthropology from the University of Vienna. He entered the Benedictine monastery at Mount Savior in Elmira, New York, in 1953 and was co-founder of the inter-religious Center for Spiritual Studies. Although best known for his writings on gratefulness, he has been engaged in interfaith dialogue since 1966, in both Christian-Buddhist and Christian-Muslim discussions.
His insight is that if Christians can explore a principal devotional ritual of Islam, namely repetition of the Koranic names of God, this will give them a starting point to appreciate what can seem like a strange and inaccessible religion to some Christians. All three of the Abrahamic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — are “people of the book,” each has a written scripture and all name God.
Steindl-Rast is clear about why humans name. In their encounter with God, who is understood as “Thou,” they make clumsy attempts to address and call by name the transcendent yet intimate reality. He attests that this naming expresses the human experience of God, but only indirectly the Ultimate Reality encountered. All these 99 names are related and connected but none singly or together can capture God. Steindl-Rast analogizes these names both as a prism that refracts God’s resplendent beauty and as windows onto God’s mystery.
Some of these names of God derive from human intellect and reason, including the “almighty,” “the powerful,” “the sovereign.” Others arise from the intimacy of the encounter, such as “the merciful, “the compassionate,” “the ever-forgiving.” The devotional purpose of repeating these names is to bring one closer to the encounter that produced them. Naming is a stammering attempt to “call to” Ultimate Reality experienced as “Thou.” Christians should find here a ritual practice familiar to them.
Below is an excerpt from The Collective, Poynter’s newsletter by journalists of color for journalists of color and our allies. Subscribe here to get it in your inbox the last Wednesday of every month.
When I was covering a protest one day in Brooklyn, an elderly woman came up to me. She was shorter than me, her hair was silver, and she walked with a limp. I can’t remember if she held a cane. I was standing on the side of a crowd that had gathered, with a notepad in one hand, a camera around my shoulder and my press pass around my neck.
Old women at protests are usually sweet and warm. They ask me where I work, what I am covering, where I am from. Sometimes they tell me they like my hijab. And then they ramble on about how they went on their daily walk, saw the protest and just had to join. I always enjoy speaking with old women. So when she approached me, I smiled.
“Did Arabs murder any people today?” she asked. “Did your people burn any pregnant women?”
I was stunned. I couldn’t seem to comprehend what she asked. I stood there, and she stood there, too, staring at me, as if daring me to answer. I think I muttered a “no” until someone approached the woman and told her, “Let’s go walk over there.” She left, but I still stood there.
Later, I would wonder why I hadn’t answered her. I would wonder why I didn’t tell her, “Ma’am, you are racist.” I would wonder why I didn’t educate her. I would wonder why — as a person who encourages others to share with me their truth, as a person who is obsessed with words for a living — no words came out of my own mouth at a time when they should have most.
For the past three and a half years, I have covered everything Brooklyn. From crime, to the opening of a small business, to the pandemic, to lost dogs who later found each other, to politics, to death. Brooklyn is huge and it’s diverse. I live in a neighborhood surrounded by Muslims on one side, Orthodox Jews on the other. Right across from my building is a Roman Catholic church. Brooklyn is the only place I have ever truly known, which is why by default it’s a place that I write about. I try to write stories I never grew up reading, about communities not usually covered by the media. If we don’t share the stories of people in the communities that we belong to, how can we trust anybody else to?
People often write to me online. Sometimes they send an email. They DM me. They comment under my article on Facebook. “Anti-Semite.” “Terrorist.” This is nothing new, and thousands of Muslims experience the same thing. Other Muslim women journalists experience this, too.
Such statements that bridge faiths are rare, based on my two decades working on religious freedom. Christians need to make more.
While headlines focused on intra-Baptist fights during the recent Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) in Nashville, many commentators overlooked a remarkable resolution advocating for Uyghur Muslims in China.
With Resolution 8, Southern Baptists joined Pope Francis in highlighting the abuses suffered by Uyghurs but went a step further by labeling their persecution as genocide.
Uyghurs are an ethnolinguistic group, predominately Muslim, found in the western Chinese province of Xinjiang. Chinese atrocities specifically targeting Uyghurs and other traditionally Muslim ethnic groups are well documented. These abuses by China were a rare area of agreement between the Trump and Biden administrations, with both labeling the Chinese persecution as a genocide.
In Nashville, among resolutions dealing with sexual abuse and electing a new SBC president, the 15,000 delegates or messengers considered Resolution 8: “On the Uyghur Genocide.” It cited “credible reporting from human rights journalists and researchers” which “concludes that more than a million Uyghurs, a majority Muslim ethnic group living in Central and East Asia, have been detained in a network of concentration camps in the Xinjiang Province.”
Griffin Gulledge, a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, drafted the resolution. He became outspoken after watching videos of Uyghurs chained and shackled. “China is committing one of the grossest acts of human rights violations in modern history,” he wrote on Twitter, “and we aren’t saying a word because it financially benefits most of the rest of the world.”
Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa is an Islamic cleric and the secretary general of the Muslim World League.
This month, a Canadian Muslim family was nearly wiped out after four members were killed in an Islamophobic terror attack, while the fifth — a 9-year-old boy — was left with serious injuries. This came two years after a gunman murdered 51 Muslims on the other side of the world, at a pair of mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. In the face of such mindless hate, many are asking what more can be done to save Muslim lives.
One way forward begins simply: Let Muslims tell their own stories.
Muslims often do not have agency over even their most traumatic stories. Earlier this month, a film called “They Are Us” was announced, starring Rose Byrne as New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. The film focuses not on the murdered Muslims and their bereaved families, but on Ardern’s experience of the terror attacks. Even when portraying the worst instance of Western Islamophobia in years, Muslims are reduced (at best) supporting roles. The film was denounced by Ardern herself, who said her story is “not the one to be told.”
The chronic underrepresentation of Muslims in Hollywood and other Western media cannot be separated from the widespread bigotry faced by many members of our faith. This year, Islamophobia — which is not just the fear and hatred of Islam but also includes anti-Muslim discrimination and violence — reached “epidemic proportions.” The United Nations reported that nearly 1 in 3 Americans, and an even higher percentage of Europeans, view Muslims negatively.
WASHINGTON — On June 20, communities from around the globe celebrated World Refugee Day, established by the United Nations as an international day to acknowledge the strength and courage of people forced to flee their home countries due to conflict or persecution.
Yet, the commemoration of World Refugee Day comes at a record low for refugee resettlement.
Despite the long tradition of welcoming refugees in the United States, largely supported by faith-based organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, the number of refugees resettled in the United States was at its the lowest in 2020 since the founding of the resettlement program in 1980.
At the same time, the past year marks a record high number of people forcibly displaced around the world.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are currently 26 million refugees who have been forcibly displaced due to “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
In response to the current climate for refugees, World Refugee Day interfaith prayer services were organized across the United States by MRS, in collaboration with the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors and the Princeton University Religion and Resettlement Project, to pray publicly for the well-being of refugees in the United States, across religious and political lines.
According to Todd Scribner of MRS, one of the principal organizers of the event, part of the purpose of these nationally coordinated services was to pray with and for refugees as a way to rebuild relationships with these communities, and highlight “the religious traditions out of which many of these communities have emerged and embraced.”