Table of Contents
Religious intolerance drives followers of most religions to feel that their beliefs are true and that those of others are, to some extent, false. Though the statement lacks detrimental effects on public order, it can result to profound implications where people of one religious group discriminate or oppress those from a different religion, resulting in hatred against each other.
In Canada, religious intolerance is against Muslims. On June 25th 2017, just a day after celebrating Ramadan, a group known as the Worldwide Coalition against Islam or WCAI, protested and assembled at the Municipal plaza in Calgary with the aim of protesting against Muslims (CBC News, 2017). The WCAI protest was against denial of an event permit for the rally by the city, upon realization that the anti-Muslim group perpetrated hateful and intolerance messages on their social media pages. According to WCAI, Muslims and their Islamic culture have no right to influence the Canadian culture. On their Facebook page, the WCAI stated clearly that “…Islam had no right to alter their Canadian way of life. Get out of our country (CBC News, 2017).” Clearly, the WCAI wanted Muslims to leave Canada. However, the religious intolerance and hateful messages by WCAI were countered by Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) who stand for Canada being a secular society where refugees, Muslim, Christian, immigrant, or Jew, and all peaceful persons being welcome there. The AFA group also gathered at the Municipal Plaza in Calgary with the aim of showing unity against the WCAI messages of intolerance and hate.
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The meeting of the two opposing groups was characterized by heated verbal exchanges between the two sides with some demonstrators carrying what seemed to be stun-baton style devices (CBC News, 2017). The exchange involved slurs, insults, and chants that were hurled back and forth. The rallies however maintained calm and no property was damaged or arrests made despite the presence of police acting as the only barrier between the two sides when they came face to face. This paper evaluates the many faces of religious intolerance. The paper uses the story in Canada to demonstrate sociological concepts present in religious intolerance, and uses a sociological theoretical approach to assist in further understanding the story.
Sociological concepts that best explains the story
After reading the story, several sociological concepts arise and these are prejudice and racism, discrimination, and pluralism.
Prejudice and Racism and religious intolerance
Prejudice, like religious intolerance, is a byproduct of the way human brains process perceived threats, worldview defense and self-regulation, and resulting emotional reactions (Brandt & Reyna, 2013). Through the categorization of people into social groups, the human mind quickly promotes unjustified fear or disgust reactions. Consequently, prejudice elevates comfort and security in a social and natural world full of imagined or real dangers and threats. The WCAI rally after Ramadan was a clear indication of expressed religious prejudice. Publicly expressing their feeling about the Muslims accurately and effectively provided accurate information on the reality of religious intolerance in Canada and the various factors contributing to the development of religious bigotry within people such as group identity socialization experiences, and cultural learning styles. According to WCAI, Canadian’s group identity was under threat by the presence of Muslims in their country (CBC News, 2017). However, having all Muslims leave Canada would preserve Canadian socialization experiences and cultural learning styles.
Religious intolerance is a form of ‘new racism’ especially because of persecution of minorities across the world. (Brandt & Reyna, 2013) Globally, counter-terrorism efforts and monetary marginalization are no longer linked with ethnicity, but with religion. WCAI is a group that openly demonstrates racial discrimination where Muslims are targeted for their religion. WCAI demonstration reveals the implications of authorities in Europe and United States counter-terrorism measures that often target Muslims. Besides the rally, WCAI use of social media to declare their anti-Islamic hatred reveal that social media and media are also used to misrepresent Muslims.
Discrimination and religious intolerance
Discrimination is actions by which some categories of people are treated unequally. Through their protesting and having marches, WCAI groups makes Canada feel unwelcoming to Muslims (CBC News, 2017). For the Muslims and the pro-Muslim groups, the protests are aimed at increasing religious hostilities, while causing the targeted Muslim group feel harassed for their beliefs. Evidently, the protests and marches demonstrate failure to accommodate Islamic religious needs at any given point, especially because WCAI requires that all Muslims leave Canada to avoid eroding their culture. The discrimination against Muslims on religious grounds is against the Equality Act and is illegal (Hall, Martz, & Wood, 2010). The factors that could lead to religious discrimination include increase in religious diversities in the nation’s workforce, the unique nature of Islamic religion compared to other protected categories, increased expression of religious beliefs, and individual variations such as stigma consciousness, and system justification beliefs. Evidently, holding the rallies and matches immediately after Ramadan is an indication of increased freedom for Muslims in Canada to express their religious beliefs. However, the Canadians, who are not Muslims and are anti-Islam protested to demonstrate their disagreement with such freedom of religious practice among Muslims in their nation.
Pluralism and religious intolerance
Pluralism state permits two or more religions to coexist. The implication is that racial and ethnic categories under the law have almost equal standing despite being two distinct elements (Macionis, 2017). The presence of the AFA group at the Municipal plaza in Calgary emphasizes the fact that Canada is a pluralistic society where all people regardless of their ethnicity or race are equal under the law. However, the protest by WCAI does not successfully dispute the pluralistic nature of Canada. While Canada comprises of peaceful people from numerous religions including Christians, Jews, Hindus and others, the WCAI only targets Muslims and not any other.
Sociological theoretical approach: Social conflict paradigm
The most applicable Marxist-based social theory for the story is the social conflict paradigm. The paradigm basically argues that individuals and social classes within the society have their interactions founded on conflict unlike consensus. According to Marx, groups in the society only attain varying amounts of material and non-material resources through some form of conflict, thus resulting in wealthy groups and poor groups. Based on Marx argument, theorist in the conflict theory argue that conflict is a change agent given that it produces contradictions that are at times resolved through creation of newer conflicts and contradiction within continuing talk (Dunn, 2010). Contradictions in existing dialects revolve around interests, while conflicts revolve around rare resources. Often, the social class that is higher in power attempts to maintain their privileges social status, power, and social position, thus influence institutions including education, politics among others with the aim of protecting self-interests. Conversely, the class low in power lack a particular form of need to protect, thus end up concentrating all their efforts to obtain the capital and resources owned by the higher class.
In the story, the powerful high class constitutes of the anti-Islamic Canadians who are rightful Canadian citizens while the powerless low class constitute of the Muslims. While using their rights as Canadian rightful citizens, members of the WCAI group exercise their freedom of speech to express their opinion regarding the presence of Muslims in their country. Additionally, seeing that the Muslims in Canada have been provided the right to exercise their religion beliefs freely including Ramadan, the anti-Islam Canadians feel threatened, thus seek each opportunity to delineate Muslims. Using protests to delineate Muslims would help reduce the threat felt by the Anti-Islam Canadians, and reaffirm their status as the majority and powerful group. Additionally, the protests by the AFA group were also crucial for the pro-Muslim Canadians as it would propel their interests to gain access to the rights and freedoms that the anti-Islam Canadians have.
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- Brandt, M., & Reyna, C. (2013). To Love or Hate Thy Neighbor: The Role of Authoritarianism and Traditionalism in Explaining the Link Between Fundamentalism and Racial Prejudice. Political Psychology, 35(2), 207=223.
- CBC News. (2017, June 22). Branded ‘hateful’ by Calgary officials, anti-Islam group vows to march regardless of permit. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/anti-muslim-coalition-against-wcai-phillips-calgary-city-hall-muslim-hate-group-1.4173321
- CBC News. (2017, June 25). nti-Islam rally in Calgary met with counter-protest but remains peaceful. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/calgary-anti-islam-rally-1.4177583
- Dunn, R. (2010, February 25). The Three Sociological Paradigms/Perspectives. Retrieved from http://cnx.org/contents/[email protected]/The-Three-Sociological-Paradig
- Hall, D., Martz, D., & Wood, W. (2010). Why Don’t We Practice What We Preach? A Meta-Analytic Review of Religious Racism. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 14(1), 126-139.
- Macionis, J. (2017). Race and Ethnicity. In Society: The Basics. Canada: Pearson.