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The misconception around the ease of practicing one’s religion in India

The digital space (the most dominant form of information distribution) is filled with messages of rising intolerance against minority communities in India. In most of the cases, these messages are aimed at gaining political advantage. Unaware of this aspect, many innocent Indians fall for the tolerance-intolerance debate. A recent study by Pew Research Center on ‘Religion in India’ reveals some surprising facts which out rightly punctures into the theory of rising intolerance in India. A look at the ease of practicing one’s religion (read minorities) with data to substantiate it, would help in understanding the true beautiful composite culture of India.

91% of Muslims in India say that religion is very important in their lives, two-thirds (66%) say they pray at least once a day, and seven-in-ten say they attend mosque at least once a week – with even higher attendance among Muslim men (93%). Muslims in India are somewhat more likely than those elsewhere in South Asia including Muslim majority nations like Pakistan and Bangladesh to say that they regularly worship at a mosque (70% in India vs. 59% in Pakistan and 53% in Bangladesh), with the difference mainly driven by the share of women who attend. This data clearly shows that Muslims in India have no problem in going to mosques which on the other hand shows that barring a few, majority of the Muslims face no hurdles in practicing their faith.

Based on the same Pew research a similar fact (backed by data) has been revealed about Sikhs: another major religious minority in India. Sikhs do not see evidence of widespread discrimination against their community – just 14% say Sikhs face discrimination in India. This means that more than 85% of the Sikhs are free to practice their faith and live freely in India. Sikhs also are overwhelmingly proud of their Indian identity. A near-universal share of Sikhs say they are very proud to be Indian (95%), and the vast majority (70%) say a person who disrespects India cannot be a Sikh.

Any opinion backed by facts can easily counter popular myths. Data provided by Pew Research centre and a casual look at day to day affairs in our surroundings tells us that Indians generally see high levels of religious freedom in their country. Overwhelming majorities of people in each major religious group, as well as in the overall public, say they are “very free” to practice their religion. This shows that putting too much faith in unverified news (especially forwarded over social media) may do more harm than good to the noble citizens of this country. It is high time to put the ball in the right place.

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