Muslims are Failing to Call for Minority Rights in the Islamic Countries
by Anjum Jaleel
It’s been quite interesting to read and hear all the rhetoric, for and against, on the community center that has been planned for near Ground Zero in New York – the site of an evil act that took place on September 11, 2010, in which over 3,000 innocent were brutally murdered, about 10% of them were Muslims.
Both sides have produced their arguments and some of them have clearly tried to politicize the issue for their own purpose.
But, in the spirit of self-criticism, as a Sufi Muslim who believes in the unity of religions, I would like to emphasize one issue on which the Muslim individuals and organizations do not say much. And, it’s the issue of religious minority rights in the Muslim countries, especially, since one argument against the building of the community center in NY is that the Muslims do not allow the building of churches, synagogues, and temples in their own countries, especially in Saudi Arabia, so why should we?
Though this argument is also irrational – for America is a light unto other nations, a model for all humanity, and its freedoms and laws should not be dependent on the laws of the repressed, undemocratic, backwards Muslim countries, it is, nevertheless, a point which the Muslims must deeply reflect upon.
The fact of the matter is that Muslims living in the Muslim countries are generally intolerant towards their own minorities, and are even less tolerant towards members of other faiths. This usually comes from a lack of interactions with the religious minorities, myths and misconceptions about them and a sense of superiority as well as irrational fears.
The idea of a pluralistic Islamic society is alien to most of the so-called “practicing” Muslims living in the Muslim countries. Luckily, many Western Muslims have now discovered religious plurality in the original Islam and for which they are indebted to the Western influence.
For example, Ahmadi Muslims are a persecuted minority in Pakistan, and Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. – all American allies – are not very particular about allowing non-Muslims to build their places of worship in their countries.
At the very least, the individual Muslims and Muslim organizations, as well as the imams in the West, must become more vocal in favor of more religious rights for the minorities in the Islamic countries and even go a step farther and demand that they are allowed to build their places of worship and centers in the Muslims countries, are allowed to practice their religion peacefully and even allowed to promulgate their religions freely.
What is needed is a clear, organized and concerted efforts by the Muslims living in the West to fight for religious equality and freedoms for the non-Muslims and the Muslim minorities, like the Shi’as, the Ahmadis, Christians and Hindus in Pakistan, the Bahai’s, the Jews and Christians in Iran, the Sunnis and the Christians in Iraq, and the Shi’as, the Sufis, Christians, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs in Saudi Arabia and U.A.E.
Without that, I am afraid their demands for religious tolerance and equality here in the West are hypocritical and therefore ineffective.
The very first organization that should adopt my suggestion immediately is the organization that is planning for a community center near Ground Zero. They need to become more vocal and demand the Muslim countries to allow the non-Muslims to build their places of worship in the Muslim countries.