Religious intolerance revisited

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

I would like to believe that one of the reasons that make this country so unique and awesome is the different cultures and traditions that we embrace forming a beautiful tapestry that is unprecedented and humanitarian in scope. It is not only our similarities that unite us but our differences. Believing this is why I find it unfortunate and shameful when you find a segment of people adamant in practicing intolerance toward those who do not share their same religious beliefs or practices. Especially when this intolerance or blatant disrespect is subjected onto a group who have not manifested any danger or harm to their opponent’s way of life. We are referring to a group spurned for merely wanting to worship freely—a group offering no harm or disrespect to others.

The right to freedom of religion is one of our most guarded constitutional rights as American citizens and should be protected and shared by all Americans regardless of race or ethnicity. When this vital right is denied to any group, we all suffer. Then it is only a matter of time until injustice is revisited on those participating in its denial. We are referring to those who are so willing to judge people who have not done anything physically against them personally—nothing but be different in culture and tradition. These are groups who have families and loved ones just like you and who seek spiritual guidance to honor their higher power. Ironically those who are being lambasted have shown more love and spirituality than those who seek to oppress them.

At this time you have probably guessed that we are referring to a group of Muslims in Murfreesboro, Tennessee who have encountered an uphill battle by a group of supposed Christians and hate mongers who have fought viciously to keep them from building a mosque in the city. We are talking about a group of Christians who have used financial and political forces as well as casting aspersions to promote public support against those who only wanted a place (mosque) to worship. Fear was a factor apparent among many of the opponents, citing the Muslim group as anti-American and as potential terrorists.

After two years of obstacles such as vandalism, anti-mosque rallies, asserting there was not enough promotion for participation in a public hearing in which construction for the mosque was approved—the mosque was finally built, and eventually the group was allowed to worship without any harm to the community. Now this Muslim group is encompassing rage and verbal opposition from some of their former opponents for wanting to be able to bury their dead on the mosque property. This is a practice and right that is zoned and afforded too many churches, especially in rural areas.

As a practicing Christian myself, I am embarrassed and highly upset that we have those supposedly calling themselves Christians, playing God and trying to dictate or force their beliefs on others. As a person of color (African American), it only reminds me of the time when Blacks here in the United States were dehumanized, discriminated against, and marginalized as sub human because of our ethnicity. What made this ordeal even worst was that many White Christians participating in this abuse used passages from the Bible they worshiped from to support their sordid practices. It is not hard to see how some people used their religion to practice hatred and intolerance for others, which is anything but spiritual. You cannot force or demand someone to follow your religious practices but inspire them to follow you by presenting yourself as an example to be emulated.

Practicing religious intolerance against those differing in our personal views rob us from getting to know and love good people who are part of our humanitarian family. I, for one, feel gifted because of my rich array of friends who practice Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Islam. Thus, I have relationships with kind, loving and respectful individuals exposing me to cultures and traditions that help me personally respect the love, mercy and greatness of our omnipotent higher power. I unapologetically assert that any practice of religion void of love for your fellow man is not spiritual or of God—or whoever you may call our higher power. I remind those on their spiritual journey to be mindful that man’s ways are not always the ways of our God and sometimes you may be forced to choose. Choose wisely the way that promotes true spirituality.