Faith In Oman [world Service]

Episodes

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01Heart and Soul20140405

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In the Islamically conservative Gulf region, Oman stands out for its religious tolerance.

Members of other faiths – Christians, and Hindus, Buddhists and others – enjoy freedom of worship. Interfaith dialogue is a government priority.

All this puts the country in sharp contrast to its neighbour Saudi Arabia, where the public practice of any religion other than Islam is banned.

And while the Arab Spring brought a deterioration of relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in countries like Egypt, Oman appears almost untouched by either political upheaval or inter-religious tension.

In the first of this two-part series Mounira Chaieb, a journalist from Tunisia, examines what is at the root of Oman’s unusual attitude to other faiths, and questions whether the country’s tolerant attitude to religious minorities a matter of true religious conviction, or merely a way of keeping powerful allies like the United States on side?

The Gulf state of Oman grants faiths other than Islam a surprising amount of freedom. C...

The Gulf state of Oman grants faiths other than Islam a surprising amount of freedom. Could the Omani model catch on elsewhere?

02 LASTHeart and Soul20140412

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Ask members of any faith in Oman what it’s like to live there, and almost everyone will extol the virtues of the country’s absolute monarch, Sultan Qaboos.

Oman’s short-lived version of the Arab uprisings appears to bear this out: protests over unemployment quickly subsided after the Sultan promised jobs and benefits.

In the second part of her series, Mounira Chaieb examines what Sultan Qaboos’ “benevolent dictatorship” has done for the country’s climate of exceptional religious tolerance.

We hear how Oman’s dominant branch of Islam - the Ibadis - relates to the country’s Sunnis and Shias, who – uniquely in the Muslim world – are both in the minority here.

But does the country’s lack of democracy diminish the value of its policy of religious tolerance? And what does the future hold for Oman when the Sultan’s rule comes to an end?

Picture: Oman's Sultan Qaboos bin Said, Credit: Mohammed Mahjoub/AFP/Getty Images

The Gulf state of Oman grants faiths other than Islam a surprising amount of freedom. C...

The Gulf state of Oman grants faiths other than Islam a surprising amount of freedom. Could the Omani model catch on elsewhere?