I am writing you this letter with an invitation to change some of your views and consider my arguments. As you know, we completely disagree on a topic of religious diversity. I remember you told me that religious polarization should take place and it seems for you a more desired outcome. I think you should reconsider this and take into account other points of view. I understand that this is what you were taught but I hope you can open your mind to my position. You always look for disagreements in religious beliefs and on that basis you separate yourself from those of differing religious adherence. I think it is a misleading approach. I want to convince you that religious pluralism is what we should aim for because it will give more positive outcomes.
First of all, every religious group has a right to have beliefs. Don’t you think so? As people are equal in gender and race they should not be discriminated because of their beliefs. Inter-faith tolerance is the cure for these conflicts and a new reality people should adjust to. The world is changing very rapidly and The States are not the same as the Founders of the nation wanted it to become. Due to such reasons as globalization and immigration it is not the Christian country, although the majority of population is Christian. But the presence of mosques, buddist temples and other prayer buildings forces it to deal with inter-faith challenges and change the attitude toward religion on the state level. As a non-Christian you may often feel some sort of discrimination from the exclusive Christians, but I’d like to show you a case where the Christians themselves were discriminated for their religious belonging. I wonder whether you’ve heard of the conflict in Vanderbilt University? It quite shocked me. Let me briefly tell you. The problem there was that suddenly the policies of the University had changed and students who belonged to a religious group were forced off campus if they don’t agree with the “new rules”. You may be surprised, but it is not about Muslims, it was a Christian group.
“When you start taking away freedoms – it harms everyone “, says Carol Swain, a professor of political Science at the university speaks for freedom of religion which was banned by the administration. The case of a Christian group forced to be closed shows that the same can happen any day with other religious or minority groups. I think it is a bright case which shows the problem – selecting people on the basis of belief is completely wrong idea. Firstly, a belief is a private business of a person and secondly, it is not a person’s status, as it can be changed unlike the last one.
I know, one may say that I am not a true Muslim if I promote religious pluralism, as accordding to our belief it is incorrect, Islam is the only true and conclusive religion and other religions do not have the last revelation as we do. But do you think that the enmity and war can bring any positive fruits?! In my opinion, we have to admit that all religions contain some element of truth therefore they should be seeking the source of truth through their worship.
Let me also give an example from the Muslim religion. Both Shi’ite and Sunni are valid and contain true messages. What I am also trying to say is that religious tolerance movement at the same time can be divided into inter-religious and intra-religious pluralism. The Jewish views on religios pluralism are not much different from the Muslim side. It is acknowledged is a shared set of rabbinic literature that the sole and exclusive source of truth does not belong to one religion, but it exists partly in different religions.
I encourage you to take a look on some books which shed more light on the topic. For example, a book by Diana Eck, a religious scholar at Harvard University, who presents the problem of religious mixture and diversity titled “A new religious America”. She claims that the States which started as a very Christian country became the world’s most religiously diverse nation. Therefore religious pluralism must be adjusted into these new cultural circumstances.
A famous researcher and a discoverer of clash of civilizations” phenomenon “Huntington states that nowadays differences in culture and religion are overwhelming any other conflicts. It is not based on nationality or economic status, people are fighting on a base of religious views. He notes that the clash of civilization is clearly visible between Islam and Christianity and informs that Islam countries have “Bloody borders” pointing to the wars and conflicts between Muslim anad non-Muslim countries.
The problem of free speech being on trial is raised in another video I suggest you to have a look on. The event that happened at Irvine University, California, where the members of muslim student union. The Orange County district attorney’s office charged the eleven arrested MSU students with counts of conspiracy to disturb a lawful meeting and the disturbance of the meeting. As a Muslim I find this case very appealing and unjust but I think that the method used by the students was not rightly chosen. The same is about terrorists. Fundamentalists and pro-war people are irrelevant to religion of Islam. I believe that terrorism and any other violent ways of showing intolerance have no religion in its roots.
In contrast to those videos a political scientist and a professor of Harvard University Robert Putnam brings the results of surveys showing that America’s religious diversity hasn’t generally involved much intolerance. An interesting fact is that if mainstream Christians view Muslims and Buddists quite negatively, black-skinned Christians treat Muslims more positively because of the contacts with black Muslims. It means that it is not only religion that causes conflicts and hatred between people but it is nationally and racially based.
Robert Wuthnow also studies the sources and consequences of religious diversity in the contemporary United States. He claims that religion matters and resisting diversity is a feature of those who deny to see the reality and stay tightly wrapped in their conservatism. He brings an example of Mrs. Mobley as a narrow-minded person who chooses to believe that only Christians will have a life after death and everybody needs to be converted. Her position is criticized by the author, who claims that now is a time to “ask God question they never considered before”.
Let’s also look on interfaith marriages. According to the surveys used by Putnam, nearly one half of Americans are in married with the spouses from different denomination of religion. This fact shows that harmony and peace between religions in possible to achieve. The topic is raised in Wuthnow’s book. Negotiating religiously mixed marriages is an issue for American society, he claims, saying that confronting different religion on a daily basis is a serious task. In my opinion, it is a sign that love, which is at the core of most religions, can overcome any prejudices against religious intolerance.
I encourage you to widen your worldview and understand that religious pluralism is better. The religious tensions also show your self-reflection. One, who does not respect others does not respect him/herself. For me religious pluralism seems a more desired outcome, I support the idea of World Peace and do not agree with a statement that killing or other violence can be done in the name of Allah. I hope the videos and books I suggested you will change your mind and you will join me in this position. We can also continue our discussion.
List of References
- Robert Wuthnow, America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity. Princeton, New Jersey, 2005.
- Robert Putnam, American grace: how religion divides and unites us. New York, 2010.
- Diana Eck, A New Religious America, Harper-Collins e-books.
- The Irvine 11: Free Speech on Trial. Mother Jones. Video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=qFADmnk5r4c
- Exiled from Vanderbilt: How colleges are driving Religios Groups off campus. Dir. Ted Balaker. Aug. 20, 2012. http://video.thefire.org/2012/08/exiled-from-vanderbilt-how-colleges-are-driving-religious-groups-off-campus/