Indians Value Much Religious Tolerance

A growing number profess no religion, yet many maintain ties to religious traditions for cultural or familial reasons. According to a recent survey, 40% of Asian Americans feel a close connection to religious traditions for reasons beyond religious beliefs. For instance, although just 11% of Asian American adults identify as Buddhists, 21% feel an affinity with Buddhism, driven by family background or cultural influences, according to the survey by Pew Research Centre.

Indians, though continue with religiously segregated lives, value religious tolerance, respect other religions, according to a new report from PEW Research Centre.

In the survey of 29,999 Indian adults between late 2019 and early 2020 – before the Covid 19 pandemic, PEW states that 84 per cent of the participants say that it is very important to respect all religions to be “truly Indian”. It said that 😯 per cent of the Indians also noted that respecting other religions is very important part of what it means to be a member of their own religious community.

The report looks at religious identity, nationalism and tolerance in Indian society. Local interviewers held the survey in 17 languages and covered almost all the states and Union Territories.


Despite the commitment to tolerance, Indians have a strong preference for keeping religious communities segregated. The PEW Centre says that members of a religious group do not have much in common with members of other religious groups. And mostly, members in a particular religious community choose friends mainly or entirely from their own community. This is quite evident with two-thirds of Hindus saying it is important to stop Hindu women (67 per cent) or Hindu men (65 per cent) from marrying into other religious communities. Even Muslims oppose inter-religious marriage. Eighty per cent of Muslims want to stop Muslim women from marrying outside their religion, and 76 per cent want to stop Muslim men from doing so.


Hindus view cows as sacred. The survey shows that 72 per cent of the participants say a person cannot be a Hindu if they eat beef. This is much larger than the shares of Hindus who say a person cannot be Hindu if they do not believe in God (49 per cent) or never go to a temple (48 per cent). Moreover, 77 per cent of Muslims in India say a person cannot be a Muslim if they eat pork. This is similarly greater than the share who say a person cannot be Mus if they do not believe in God (60 per cent) or never attend mosque (61 per cent).


Since 1937, Muslims in India have their own Islamic courts, known as dar-ul-qaza. The PEW Centre says that 74 per cent of the Indian Muslims supported Islamic courts.


More Muslims opined that the 1947 partition that separated India and Pakistan harmed Hindu-Muslim relations. About48 per cent of the participants in the survey said that partition strained the relation. Only three in ten Muslims say it was a good thing. However, 43 per cent of the Hindus say that partition was beneficial for Hindu-Muslim relations. The survey says that 37 per cent of the participants said it was harmful. Sikhs, whose historical homeland of Punjab was split by Partition, are even more likely than Muslims to say the event was bad for Hindu-Muslim relations: Two-thirds of Sikhs (66 per cent) take this position.


The PEW Centre in the report says that India’s Caste system continues to fracture society. Indians universally identify with a caste, regardless of whether they are Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddhist or Jain. About 7O percent of the participants say that most or all of their close friends share their caste. It also says that 64 per cent of the Indians want to stop women in their community from marrying into other castes. About 62 per cent do not want men in their community from marrying into other castes.


Hindus gain as many people as they lose through religious switching. Among Hindus, for instance, any conversion out of the group is matched by conversion into the group. 0.7 per cent of respondents say they were raised Hindu but now identify as something else, and roughly the same share (0.8 per cent) say they were not raised Hindu but now identify as Hindu. For Christians, however, there are some net gains from conversion: 0.4% of survey respondents are former Hindus who now identify as Christian, while 0.1% were raised Christian but have since left Christianity,” the repoint said.


Majority of the Hindus pointed out that there is one God with many manifestations. Muslims and Christians also had the same opinion. One third of Indian Buddhists do not believe in God.


The minority groups in India engage in practices or hold beliefs that are more closely associated with Hindu traditions than with their own. About 29 per cent of the Sikh, 22 per cent of the Christian and 18 per cent of the Muslim women say they wear a bindi (forehead marking worn by married women) even though it has Hindu origin. Meanwhile, Muslims are just as likely as Hindus to say they believe in karma (77% each), as do 54% of Christians. Some members of the majority Hindu community celebrate Muslim and Christian festivals.  Seven per cent of Hindus say they celebrate Eid, and 17 per cent say they celebrate Christmas.

The Indian subcontinent is birthplace of four of the world’s major religions; Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. According to the 2011 census, 79.8% of the population of India practices Hinduism, 14.2% adheres to Islam, 2.3% adheres to Christianity, 1.7% adheres to Sikhism, 0.7% adheres to Buddhism and 0.4% adheres to Jainism. Zoroastrianism, Sanamahism and Judaism also have an ancient history in India, and each has several thousands of Indian adherents.


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