Religious tolerance is important in the sense that the aim of humanity should be for everyone to love one another and get along. In supporting the brotherhood of mankind, it is essential for people to reflect on their differences and to figure out ways of how people can best come together (Religious Tolerance, 2009). Religions can have a strengthening effect on people, building people up in their desire to know and be connected to the spiritual world, to God. However, religions are also divisive and exclusive, shutting out people who do not have exactly the same belief systems. In some ways, intolerance can be harsh and unnecessary. However, in other ways division serves to define a group of people and to distinguish the precise nature of their beliefs from the beliefs of others. So, in this sense, religious intolerance is also expected of people and can serve humanity well. It is good to be aware though, that some religions, especially extremist religious sects, can even be so intolerant as to promote harm to human beings, as noted in the case of Hadi Al-Mutaif, an 18 year old in Saudi Arabia, who said that people should “pray upon the penis of the Prophet”. Due to the nonexistence of freedom of speech in this violent Islamic country, the Shia Muslim boy was sentenced to death by the majority Wahhabi Muslims, later having the sentence reduced to life imprisonment by King Abdullah (Bit, 2006).
Keeping the peace is always desired, however, peace is not always what comes from human interaction. Religious tolerance is the aim of people who want to smooth the waters and welcome others into their midst, however, it is good to note that religious intolerance can help preserve ideology and faith. Even if everyone in the world were to agree, one or more people would have to state exactly what was to be agreed upon. In being realistic about religious tolerance, it is good to note that differences certainly exist between people, serving to illustrate their particular belief systems. Some of these differences in beliefs may even be dangerous and could not possibly be tolerated. In order to protect good, loving citizens, it is vital to know how to protect oneself. It is not rational to tolerate religious beliefs such as the imprisonment of an 18 year old boy in retaliation for speaking a word against a supposed prophet. In this case, religious intolerance would serve a person well, rejecting the religious belief in harsh sentencing. If a person were to tolerate the actions of the religious extremists in Saudi Arabia, then a person may have to abandon their own sense of faith in God, to reject their own belief in loving neighbors.
In considering the plight of Al-Mutaif, it is also good to consider that idea that he was, in fact, disrespectful to the Muslim religion in his statement. No one would expect a comment like that to be respected or tolerated. However, the severity of the handling of his case was a distinctly extremist and harmful act, in no way comparing to the small lapse of his judgment. Although Al-Mutaif was intolerant of Mohammed, the religious court system was also intolerant of Al-Mutaif. Tolerance on both sides may have served for calm and quiet waters. However, too much tolerance can prove to be silencing. Al-Mutaif certainly has a right to be intolerant of Mohammed or the Islamic religion, just as the court system has a right to be intolerant of nonbelievers. Perhaps it is in the precise actions taken though, in tolerance or intolerance, which can be viewed as right or wrong, good or bad. Maybe it was a bit rude to suggest praying on the penis of a deceased prophet, however, it is savage to imprison a boy for life. There is no absolute necessity to tolerate, nor is there any absolute necessity to be intolerant. Smart decisions in regard to religious beliefs and personal participation are the best paths to take, while maintaining a sense of respect for one’s neighbor, and remembering the sanctity of all life.
Bit, Q. (2006). Religious Intolerance: A Young Saudi Serves A Life Sentence For A Deadly Joke. Blog Critics. Retrieved on 6/3/2009 from http://blogcritics.org/culture/article/religious-intolerance-a-young-saudi-serves.
Religious Tolerance. (2009). Religious Tolerance. Retrieved on 6/3/09 from http://www.religioustolerance.org.