Are old animosities to blame for the recent rise of religious and ethnic violence around the world? To believe that they are, we would have to believe that rivalries between Christians and Muslims, Hindus and Muslims, and Muslims and Jews characterized earlier times. Moreover, we would have to assume that ancient enmities have an enormous influence on today’s world.
Both assumptions are flawed. Most contemporary rivalries do not have ancient roots, and most ancient ones were not all that fierce. Most religious communities have lived rather comfortably alongside each other for much of the world’s history. Islamic regimes have been particularly tolerant toward other faiths in their midst, especially Christianity and Judaism. In the court of India’s Mogul emperor Akbar the Great, Hindus and Buddhists were welcomed for sessions of animated theological debate.