Trump says ceasefire in Syria is holding despite few skirmishes    Johnson faces perilous Brexit ratification after Brexit deal vote blocked    China's economic growth could fall below 6% in 2020: IMF    Salah returns to Liverpool's trainings on Monday, says Egypt's coach    Lebanon set to cut ministers' pay in bid to defuse protests    Banks weigh on Saudi stocks ; other Gulf mixed    Match abandoned in latest blow to Mexican football    Tennis: Murray beats Wawrinka to win first title since hip surgery    Spanish PM to visit Barcelona, criticises regional chief    EBRD bank praises Egyptian reforms efforts – official    Sisi: Russia-Africa Summit reflects historic friendship ties    Parliament committee to address problem of stray dogs in Egypt    Shell Egypt to sell assets in Western Desert to focus on offshore exploration    WHO hails 'triumph' as Ebola vaccine gets European green light    Current and ex smokers may lower lung cancer risk with exercise    Lebanon agrees final budget with no taxes to appease protesters    Egypt's Sisi praises SCC's role in protecting justice, rights, freedoms    France's President Macron receives Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II at Elysee    Egypt inks deal with Euroclear Bank to upgrade public debt management    Egypt's Cooperative Insurance Society to cover NGOs clients' loans    After a young pupil dies of meningitis in Egypt, tips to help prevention    Egypt's PM urges US's ADTRAN Inc. to invest in communications equipment    French President Macron receives Egypt's Coptic Pope Tawadros II at Elysee    'Passports should be valid for six months,' Egypt's foreign ministry advises citizens planning travel abroad    Grand Nile Tower Arts & Cultural Centre launches second round    Egypt's coach Hossam El-Badry satisfied with winning start despite technical problems    Luxor's new discoveries    Moroccan film Nomades scoops awards in Alexandria Film Festival    Toshiba's JV with Egyptian Elaraby opens regional HQ in South Africa    Six authors vie for Booker prize 2019, Atwood in the lead    In Photos: A sneak peek into rehearsals for the Cleopatra ballet world premiere    Sisi, Ethiopia's PM to meet in Moscow to discuss GERD issue    Sisi: army engaged in attrition phase against terrorism in Sinai since 2013    10K fans to attend Egypt's friendly against Botswana in Alexandria: EFA    Sisi, Ethiopia's PM agree to overcome obstacles in Nile dam talks    Farwell to Egyptian comic actor Talaat Zakaria    Court sentences six to death, 41 to lifetime imprisonment violence related case    Trump says he would release Mideast peace plan after Israeli elections    ACWA Power compares 3 bids to supply production units for Luxor power station    What do you know about gold alloying?    NBE announces EGP 2.5m prizes for handball youth teams for their world achievements    Jennifer Lopez evokes Egyptian outrage post her North Coast performance    Al-Sisi honours Egypt's scholars on Science Day    IS claims responsibility for suicide bombing killing 63 in Afghan wedding    Political parties gear up for parliamentary, senate, local elections    Unprecedented Glory: Egypt win Men's U-19 World Handball Championship    12th National Egyptian Theatre Festival fuel up public theatre art scene    Ministry of Environment has a plan for "black clouds season"    







Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.





Religious pluralism in today's Muslim world
Published in Daily News Egypt on 02 - 08 - 2009

PHILADELPHIA: In his June 4 speech to the Muslim world from Cairo, US President Barack Obama started his discussion of religious freedom by pointing out that "Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance .
Citing its long history of protecting religious minorities as well as his own experience growing up in overwhelmingly Muslim Indonesia where Christians worshipped freely, he then drew upon the present, turning his attention to those vocal Muslims among whom "there is a disturbing tendency to measure one's own faith by the rejection of another's . He urged his Muslim listeners to continue the spirit of tolerance that is reflected throughout their history.
The rejectionist Muslims whom Obama referred to are but one part of the vast Muslim world. Surveys conducted in 44 countries as part of the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project show that people in Muslim countries place a high value on free speech, free press, multi-party systems and equal protection under the law. However, while many Muslims desire the type of pluralism that comes with Western-style democracy, those in the Muslim world who push for such ideas can face pressure, and sometimes threats of persecution, by both their governments and rival groups that see no place for religious freedom in Islam.
The discourse on religious pluralism and its political ramifications has roots in Islamic political and intellectual history and continues to be interpreted and re-evaluated today. For some, the core of this discourse lies in the definition of the "People of the Book , a Quranic term that refers to those to whom Muslims must extend full religious tolerance.
Many Muslims assume it covers Christians and Jews only, as those were the People of the Book during the Prophet Muhammad's life in seventh century Arabia. However, as well-known South African Muslim scholar, Farid Esack, points out in his article, "Muslims Engaging the Other and the Humanum , throughout Islamic history the term was not defined in terms of who was considered a Person of the Book; rather, it defined how religious groups treated those in need.
According to Esack, the main element differentiating "pagans from the People of the Book in early Medina was the way that so-called pagans reportedly used institutional religion to exploit the disadvantaged. At various times in history, therefore, scholars - depending on the time and place in which they lived - considered groups as diverse as Hindus, Buddhists, Magians, Zoroastrians and Sabians within the broader categorization of People of the Book.
Among lay Muslims there is a broad range of views on religious pluralism.
A few see the religious other as the enemy. Others view non-Muslims as people to whom the message of Islam must be preached. Still others see people of other faiths as deserving of tolerance and mutual respect, while another group among Muslims goes beyond mere tolerance, believing that other faiths are equally valid theologically to Islam.
From all of these various groupings, the one that defines most Muslims is that of tolerance and mutual respect. A 2003 World Values Survey comparing 11 Muslim majority countries with several Western ones found that in all but one of the surveyed countries, public support for democracy - including its concepts of religious pluralism - was greater or equal to such support in Western countries. A more recent poll by the Gallup Center for Muslim studies - representing 1.3 billion Muslims - found a similar desire for democracy, human rights and freedom. Clearly, there is support both for religious pluralism, as well as political systems that uphold it.
There is a disconnect, however, between what most Muslims believe and the policies of many of the governments under which they live. While many Muslims want religious freedom as standard domestic policy, the member states of the Organization of Islamic Countries support measures such as the non-binding UN Defamation of Religions Resolution, which urges countries to legally and constitutionally prohibit the defamation of religion. For the most part, this seems admirable, but it is also seen by many as a measure to restrict freedom of speech, since domestically many of these same countries enforce harsh blasphemy laws against religious minorities and Muslim dissidents.
The real question, then, is not whether there is Muslim support for religious pluralism, but whether or not Muslim reformers will be able to persuade their governments to uphold it.
Asma T. Uddin is an attorney and editor-in-chief of Altmuslimah (www.altmuslimah.com). This article first appeared in Washington Post/Newsweek's On Faith and was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews) as part of a series on pluralism in Muslim-majority countries.


Clic here to read the story from its source.