Who Preaches Religious Tolerance?

Andrew Sullivan —  Apr 1 2012 @ 6:28pm


Earlier this month, the senior cleric in the Saudi religious hierarchy, Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, issued a fatwa calling on the faithful to destroy all churches in the Arabian peninsula. Walter Russell Mead contrasts Islam and Christianity:

Christians, especially in countries like the United States where the ideal of religious liberty has been an important element of Christian teaching for centuries, believe that the rise of religious tolerance in the Christian world is one of the signs that Christianity is true: believers are becoming more like Christ in his infinite compassion and profound respect and love of every human soul despite error and sin. Moreover they see the spread of tolerance and the repudiation of false ideals like “holy wars” (such as the Crusades, fought not only against Muslims but against heretics inside the Christian world) as signs that God is working in human history to bring us to a greater light and deeper understanding.

For many Muslims, however, the rise of tolerance in Christianity looks less like maturity and self confidence than like the senescence of a religion in decline. Christianity, these critics say, is losing its hold on the western mind. The rise in religious tolerance is the result of necessity — the churches are weak, the believers indifferent, and so Christians no longer have the inner conviction to stand up for their faith.

Clifford D. May piles on:

Churches have been burned or bombed in Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Philippines. … [T]he U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 14th annual report identifying the world’s worst persecutors. Of the 16 countries named, twelve have Muslim majorities or pluralities.

(Photo: An Egyptian Coptic Christian mourns during Sunday mass on January 2, 2011 at the Al-Qiddissine (The Saints) church in Alexandria which was targeted on New Year's Eve by a car bomb attack in which 21 people were killed. By Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)