All over the world, individuals are subjected to discrimination, violence, perpetrated and sanctioned violence for exercising their faith. Conflicts are happening in the world in the name of religion. Governments of almost all religions are subjected to repressive policies, discriminatory laws. These activities not only infringed on freedom of religion themselves but these also often created a permissive environment for human rights abuses.
Conflict in Yemen. (Photo Source: http://www.liverostrum.com/)
North Korea stood out first for its absolute prohibition of religious organizations and punishments for religious activities. In Pakistan, government continues to enforce blasphemes’ laws. It restricts religious freedom. Tajikistan is such a country in which the law prohibits person under the age of 18 from participating in public religious activities. In Turkmenistan, according to a report, 1,200 to 3000 individuals remained imprisoned for their religious beliefs in 2013. (Religious freedom Restoration act report 2013)
In Iran, government imposed legal restrictions on proselytizing and regularly arrested members of Christian community for participating their religion. Same conditions exist in Uzbekistan, Sudan, Russia, Bahrain, Syria, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Iraq, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia too.
In USA, freedom of religion is protected in constitution by the first amendment. And also the 14th amendment guarantees the religious civil rights. In 1993, congress passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act then 24 states passed this law.
US didn’t witness religious war and conflicts of the scale seen in the Middle East and Europe. At the same time it is said that America in a nation founded on religious conflicts.
In USA, Seattle is different in this connection. Seattle is a city of diverse cultures, ethnic groups, religions. But there is no any religious conflict here. Muslims and other minor groups are treated equally. University of Washington is the best example. There are seven mosques in UW campus. There is independent Muslim Student Association (MSA) here.
Muslim Student Association of University of Washington. (Photo by Kashaf Saleem)
“Seattle is the most tolerant city in USA. There is Islamophobia in other states but it doesn’t exist here. People are treated equally here” Says Muammar, The Imam of Islamic House, UW. “I don’t feel any discrimination but alienation” Says Danes, Student of UW. “Alienation can be a problem that might create psychological problems” He adds.
Before coming here, I thought that I wouldn’t be treated equally as I was practicing muslim and even I was bearded. But the behavior towards me changed my perception. My friends here told me to inform them if I face any problem in the connection of performing prayers and fasting. Whenever I went market for food, the shopkeepers told me that they had Halal food option for me though I didn’t ask them. When I went in my host family here, they told me to perform my prayer and fasting without any hesitation and to ask them if I feel problem.
I am really amazed here at people’s respect to each other religion, believe and opinion here. Seattle can be a model for all over the world to build a nation of peace irrespective of religion, race, ethnic minority, diverse culture etc.
This story was produced in the 2015 SUSI program.