Suffer the Religious Minorities

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary

In a forum on Religion and Public Life done by the Pew Research Institute, religious intolerance has increased around the world. There are those countries under a Communist form of government like China, Vietnam, Laos and Cuba that greatly restrict all forms of religious activities (North Korea was left out of the report since there was no data of any kind on that country). However, countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Algeria not only restrict but simply do not tolerate any religion other than the official religion. In the case especially of Egypt, the Christian minority, which encompasses 10 percent of the population, has been the object of severe social restrictions, physical attacks from Muslim extremist groups, and government persecution. In the case of Myanmar, the Muslim minority has greatly suffered from physical attacks, inter-communal violence, and government indifference to their situation.

With the possible exception of the Americas, religious intolerance has increased or greatly increased around the world. Even in Europe religious intolerance has become a concern. With various European governments passing laws to restrict the building of mosques, the banning of certain traditional Muslim dress for women, and prohibitions on public places serving foods served in traditional form to Muslims (and even Jews), even in usually tolerant European countries there has been a serious social and legal backlash against Muslims and to an extant even against Jews. This has become especially true in Poland where Muslims are prohibited from serving food considered “clean” (“halal” in Arabic) by Muslim traditional practices since the Polish government considers those methods “inhumane” towards animals. In Malaysia, the government seems to be taking a far more intolerant attitude against religious minorities—especially against the Christians.

One of these controversies in Malaysia includes the use of the word “Allah.” Although used by Christians as well as Muslims on the Malay peninsula for centuries, lately Malaysia’s religious courts have ruled that the word “Allah” (which simply means “God” in Arabic) can only be used by Muslims. To this end, Malay officials in the States of Salengor have confiscated all Bibles that mention “Allah” in the Malay language, and a number of churches have been burnt down. The real danger is that this is running against the Malaysian civil constitution that guarantees complete freedom of religion, and we might be seeing a destabilization of the Malay peninsula. And this is one of the greatest dangers of intolerance of any and all religious minorities—the complete destabilization of whole regions of the world and with it wars, massacres, and the further brake-up of whole countries. Perhaps we should all be giving thanks for those of us who live in the Americas that we take freedom of religion for granted where hundreds of millions of people elsewhere cannot.

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