During these troubling times, various forms of religious intolerance are on the rise. In the past two decades, there has been a sharp increase in violence against people of all faiths, from shootings in places of worship to anti-Semitic and Islamophobic attacks. Since the beginning of religion, people of all faiths have been harassed, assaulted and murdered in the name of religion. In order to make meaningful change, religious groups are addressing religious intolerances and the impact that has on their communities.
Religious intolerance is the act of denying people from another religious faith the right to practice and express their beliefs freely and is a result of ignorance. It is frequently expressed through discrimination, microaggressions and rivalry between varying faiths. Intolerances such as these are a result of the ignorant mindset that one belief is right and therefore others are wrong. This harmful approach to those of other religions has created a world full of hate and fear.
On July 6, 2020, Philadelphia Eagles’ wide receiver DeSean Jackson posted a series of anti-Semitic tweets. One of Jackson’s tweets featured a highlighted quote that has been attributed to Hitler, though its actual origins appear to be in doubt. The highlighted part included, “…the Jews will blackmail America. [They] will extort America, their plan for world domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they were.” In this same series of tweets, he also endorsed a speech from Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, who routinely blames Jewish people for manipulating of the U.S. government and controlling the powers of the world. In his response to the backlash his tweet created, Jackson stated, “Anyone who feels I have hate towards the Jewish community took my post the wrong way, I have no hatred in my heart towards no one!” [sic]. While Jackson claimed no ill will, his tweets were in poor judgment and entirely unacceptable.
People like DeSean Jackson are just part of the rise of anti-Semitic views. On July 13, 2020, #JewishPrivilege was trending on Twitter. The idea of “Jewish privilege” perpetuates anti-Semitic stereotyping, such as Jewish people controlling media, money and the government. In reality, Jewish people have been the scapegoats for plagues and wars for a great deal of time. These recent attacks on the Jewish community show no remorse or care for others of different faiths. Jewish people and allies alike have retweeted the hashtag with stories recounting the loss of relatives in Nazi concentration camps, targeted attacks on their houses of worship and harassment in their communities. People are sharing these stories in the hope that others will read them and realize their own ignorance of the struggles that the Jewish community has faced.
According to Meredith’s website, our Chaplain hosts a session known as “The Power of Story” every Wednesday at 10 a.m. This event invites people from on and off campus to share their experiences with the Meredith Community. However, it is unclear if this will continue in the Fall 2020 semester, given on-campus restrictions. The Chaplain and the Department of Religious and Ethical Studies have also hosted renowned scholars on campus to address pertinent religious issues.
The Herald also spoke with Chaplain Donna Battle about the work her office and the Meredith community have been doing to encourage religious inclusivity. When discussing the various religious spaces available on Meredith’s campus, Chaplain Battle notes that within Jones Chapel there is a multi-faith prayer and meditation room located across from her offices. It is not just for Christian students, or for Muslim students, but for all students regardless of their religious background. The room is free of religious symbols because the space is meant to be inclusive for all. Chaplain Battle also states that she would like to extend this sentiment to include all chapel spaces: “The chapel does resemble a traditional Protestant Christian church in architecture, which may invoke assumptions by some that it is only a Christian space, but the chapel is a place I desire anyone to be able to come to and feel loved, valued and free to explore spirituality in the way they need to for enlightenment.” When asked about the resources available to students on campus, Chaplain Battle’s office has a resource guide about the area’s faith communities, and she is always willing to meet one-on-one with students to listen as they explore the faith communities. These meetings often create the space for students to begin exploring their faith, or to deepen their exploration, by setting goals or gaining an initial direction.
Religious inclusion and diversity are an important part of any college campus. However, the recognition of intolerance is hard to come by and therefore, education is necessary. The mindset that one religion or belief is superior to another is harmful to all parties and creates a bigger divide amongst different populations. Through necessary conversation and research, people are working to understand the various forms of religious intolerance in order to start a more open and inclusive conversation on Meredith’s campus. Look forward to another piece on Monday regarding Islamophobia, featuring interviews with current and incoming students.
By Rachel Van Horne, News Editor