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Understanding Cultural Diversity: Islam as a Way of Life

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Freedom of expression is another area in which Islam has fundamental differences with Christian communities. In countries where Islamic administration prevails, freedom of expression is a distant dream. It should be noted that in Christian dominated or Hindu dominated countries like America or India, freedom of expression is a well-respected topic whereas in Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Bangladesh etc, people cannot speak anything publicly against the administration or religion. It should be noted that an Indian-British novelist and essayist Salman Rushdie has recently faced threats from Islamic fundamentalists for his controversial remarks on Prophet Mohammad in his book satanic verses. Salman Rushdie is a British author who was born in India.

In 1988, he wrote the highly acclaimed book, The Satanic Verses. Shortly after that, India banned the book. In the U. S., the publisher received bomb threats. The book was then banned in South Africa. Soon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia, Bangladesh, Sudan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Qatar banned the book. There were book burnings in England. In Pakistan, six people died and 100 were injured in demonstrations against the book.

Then on Feb. 12, 1989, the Ayatollah Khomeini, leader of Iran, declared that the book was blasphemous, and called for the death of Rushdie. Rushdie went into hiding, with protection by the British government. An Iranian charity offered a million dollars reward (later raised to 2.5 million) for Rushdie's murder (Loy, 2002)Same way a Bangladeshi doctor turned writer, Taslima Nasrin also faced life threats for some of his criticisms against Islam. Both Salman and Taslima are living in exile at present. The above two incidents clearly show the intolerance of Islam towards freedom of expression rights.

At the same time it should be noted that there are many criticisms labeled against Jesus Christ; both by the Christians and the non-Christians. However, no Christian leaders ever issued any instructions to kill such people who oppose Christian beliefs. In other words, Christians are flexible in their beliefs whereas Muslims are adamant in their beliefs.

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