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3.4 What About the Other Religions?

Most other religions –Judaism, Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism, and Confucianism- have followed a historical development altogether rather similar to what happened within Christianity. Islam is a case apart and will be treated as such.

In all these religions there has been orthodox branches that still practise their religions as it was done in the past. They have kept the ancient doctrine, rituals and rules of behaviour –in the largest sense- that was imposed by the founder, or at least, how it was understood in the first years of the faith. Besides this, there are more modern branches that are ready to adapt the doctrine, the rituals, and the rules to the modern world.

Islam is different, or at least seems to follow a different path. The countries where the Muslins are in majority can be subdivided as follow:

  • In the first group we have the countries where the religious leaders are also ruling, or have a strong influence, on the running of the state. This is the case of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan under the Taliban regime, parts of Sudan, Nigeria, … These countries follow, and impose on their people, an orthodox form of Islam. The citizens of these countries have no choice but to follow the rules imposed by their religious leaders in their religions but also in their day-to-day life. These countries restrict, in general, access to non-Muslim visitors and, where they have to accept them, they impose on them some or all of their customs, and try to keep them separated from the local population
  • The second group is formed of the countries where the Muslims are in majority but where there is a separation between the religious leaders and the State. This is the case of Algeria, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, … A certain form of limited religious freedom generally exists there although some forms of discrimination against non-Muslims are very frequent. The religious leaders cannot impose orthodoxy and have to accept a certain modernism in line with the modern ways in which their government do their business. Visitors of other countries and faith are generally well accepted and no severe restrictions are imposed on them
  • In the countries where the Muslims are in minorities the believers are generally free to choose to join orthodox or more modern-oriented communities where they practise their faith in common.