• Hifza Farooqi

Through ignorance grows intolerance

Hifza says that religious tensions start with prejudice, and can easily be avoided if one strives to properly educate themselves about religion and regard others with curiosity and openness, rather than suspicion and contempt.


Religious tensions have been a central issue in human society, from conflict over deities in ancient civilizations to terrorist attacks in more recent times. The primary cause of religious tension in any community is prejudice, or preconceived opinions about another group.

Prejudice, eventually leading to negative association, is a prevalent cause of religious tension. Following the 9/11 attack in 2001 by a terrorist group identifying as Muslims, followers of Islam, many people target Muslims with anger as shown by the 481 documented hate crimes against Muslims in 2001. A recent study from researchers at CSUSB found hate crimes against American Muslims were up 78% over the course of 2015. Due to the actions of some, others are perceived negatively. If one man chooses to kill someone, does that mean all men kill people? Does that mean only men kill people? Clearly, a few people’s actions cannot speak for an entire population.


Negative association should not be due to only one negative circumstance or crime. The most prominent example of prejudice is the Holocaust. An American historian Deborah Lipstadt explains, “The first generation of post-war deniers…. Justified Nazi anti-Semitism by asserting that the Jews were responsible for their own suffering, since they had caused Germany’s financial and political problems.” The Holocaust had many supporters not because people perceived Jews as inherently evil. Rather, Germans saw many people who had jobs and lived comfortably were Jews. These Germans were unemployed or had low paying jobs, and instead of blaming themselves or the system, blamed the Jews.

Prejudice typically occurs in religion due to ignorance. Ignorance is an issue in America today, not only ignorance about religions, but ignorance about the basic rights of Americans. Nearly 48 percent of Americans consider freedom of speech a guaranteed right but only 15 percent consider freedom of religion guaranteed. If an American is unaware that people have a right to practice their own religion, how can an American not believe that his or her religion is the only one allowed and the only one right? Religious tensions can also stem from prejudices within a religion when different people practice in different ways, have different interpretations, or follow certain things. Believing in scientific discoveries is not easy when continuing to practice one’s faith, when evolution or the Big Bang theories do not align with popular texts including the Bible, Quran, and Torah. Commonly, when people follow only some “rules,” a barrier can be formed between them and other followers.


The main cause of religious tension in any community is prejudice. Much of today’s issues and conflicts are tied to religion. However, these issues can be resolved if one strives to properly educate themselves about religion and regard other faiths and followers with curiosity and openness, rather than suspicion and contempt.