Excellent article, Abufares. I think your choice of the three most obvious religious societies are great examples to help answer this very general question. After Dr. Ayman’s comment I had to think long and hard about what both of you had to say. My conclusion was that on the surface, it may appear that Saudi Arabia, and other Islamist societies are less tolerant than either Jewish or Christian societies. The Saudis are very overt about their intolerance. However, a lot of intolerance is not so obvious and it is important to consider the blurred line between religious intolerance and racism. Canada boasts religious tolerance and as part of it’s Constitution. The large centres like Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal (for example) have Jewish, Hindu, and Buddist temples, mosques, Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox churches. Many people who live there embrace the multiculturalism. If you were to go to some smaller centres, however, you would encounter an entirely different make up. The only places of worship found would be Christian, and MAYBE but unlikely, a Jewish temple – depending on the size of the town. I guarantee that if you were to approach the citizens of any of these places and ask them how they would feel about a mosque being built in their town they would all be up in arms (not literally). And why is this? Because this would mean that “Arabs” would be moving into their town and they are deathly afraid of the cultural shift. They are terrified of something different. Years ago…I can’t tell you how many…the Lords Prayer was removed from the school system here to create a secular public system. Many people, to this day, don’t understand why it needed to be done and they are bitter – very bitter. This is something so simple, and yet when someone complains about it, it speaks volumes about what they are really trying to say, don’t you think? There are official and unofficial levels of tolerance and I think the deeper you dig beyond the official level, you will find that many people are very faithful to their own “tribe”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribalism)
Isobel, I can tell you from my own experience that when I introduced myself to a “pure” Canadian as a Syrian born Montreal, they usually assume I am a Muslim (I’m Catholic). Their first statements are positive and pleasant. When I later explain I am a Christian, I start hearing a less tolerant version of their opinions of Islam and Muslims and Arabs. Nothing as bad as the Saudis though … if a Mosque is built in their neighborhood they will tolerate it, but not like it. In Saudi Arabia they will burn a church if it is forced on them on the same street.
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