VIEW: Interfaith harmony for world peace —Mohammad Jamil
It is true that cultural conflicts are increasing and are more dangerous today than at any time in history. Yet the fundamental reason for the turmoil and tension in the world is the absence of a just economic order
Power has its own dynamics, and there are many instances in history when the victor and the vanquished belonged to the same religion. Of course there were military expeditions of European Christian powers during the 11th to 13th centuries to recapture the holy land from Muslim powers, which both sides claimed as their own. At present, the world is in the throes of violence and turmoil and the threat of nuclear war looms large on the horizon. Therefore the need for interfaith harmony has never been as urgent and great as it is today. However, to achieve the laudable objective of creating interfaith harmony, first of all there is a need to rewrite history. The focus should be on achievements in science, art, literature and culture, and ideas that have helped mankind. And all the wars and savagery demonstrated by the Greek and Roman Empires, the British and Ottoman Empires or US imperialist outreach should be condemned. Of course, of equal import is the need to establish a new just economic order instead of the New World Order.
It has to be mentioned that the cause for tension or friction between Islam and Christianity at present is not because of a difference in perception regarding the teachings of Islam or Christianity but because of an unjust world economic order. As a matter of fact all religions gave the message of peace and love. And God assigned all the Prophets with the task of making human beings humane and reasonable with a view to establishing a society where people could live in peace, so that they could achieve intellectual, spiritual and material welfare. However, religious shysters gave a spin and misinterpreted religion to create hatred between the followers of different religions. It is true that some Muslim religious scholars in an effort to prove the supremacy of Islam try to belittle the importance of other prophets and religions. Nevertheless, religious leaders of Christians, Jews and Hindus also demonise Islam for the acts of a few extremists, terrorists and warmongers. It has to be acknowledged that today Muslim countries are backward or underdeveloped, and are on the receiving end.
In the past, many a great writer, philosopher and eminent person like Bernard Shaw, Michael H Hart, Lamartine Edward Gibson and Simon Ocklay, etc, had paid tributes to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and Islam. H G Wells wrote: “The Islamic teachings have left great traditions for equitable and gentle dealings and behaviour, and inspire people with nobility and tolerance…Islam is replete with gentleness, courtesy, and fraternity.” Today, the international media and many writers paint Islam as contrary to the perceptions of the great men mentioned above. A very recent example is an article in Time magazine (August 30, 2010) titled ‘Is America Islamophobic?’ in which author Bobby Ghosh, while dwelling on the subject, tried to denigrate Muslims. To prove his point he relied upon a new Time-Abt SRBI poll, which stated: “Forty-six percent of Americans believe Islam more likely than other faiths to encourage violence against non-believers. Overall 61 percent oppose the Park51 project, while just 26 percent are in favour of it. Another 23 percent say it would be an insult to those who died on 9/11.”
There is no denying that Pakistan and almost all Muslim countries condemn suicide bombings and attacking non-Muslims. All peace loving people of the world including a great majority of Muslims believe in combating the bigotry manifested in Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and condemn hate speech aimed at inciting people against any religion. In July 2008, Saudi King Abdullah, while opening an interfaith conference in Madrid had said: “Most of the dialogue between religions has ended in failure.” The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was candid in acknowledging the eidetic reality when he described Islamophobia as the new term for an old and terrible form of prejudice and called for ensuring human dignity for all. On November 13-14, 2008, an Interfaith Conference was held on the initiative of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia as a follow up of the Madrid Conference in which the king told world leaders at a UN interfaith meeting that terrorism is the enemy of all religions, and called for a united front to combat it and promote tolerance.
It is true that cultural conflicts are increasing and are more dangerous today than at any time in history. Yet the fundamental reason for the turmoil and tension in the world is the absence of a just economic order. Ruthless exploitation by subjecting weak countries to colonialism, neo-colonialism and globalisation has brought the world to the present pass. Despite all scientific achievements, more than one-fourth of humanity is confronted with deprivation, hunger, disease and illiteracy. We find ourselves in a paradoxical situation — the paradox of misery in the midst of plenty. However, the artificial world order is collapsing, and this is the period of history when values undergo a fundamental shift. This happened in the Hellenic period when from the ruins of the classical world the Middle Ages were born. It happened also during the Renaissance, which opened the way to the modern era. The distinguishing features of such traditional periods are a mixing and blending of cultures, and of course in the process consistent value systems collapse.
The development of science with its faith in rationalism as objective reality and empiricism has led to the birth of modern technological civilisation, which spans the entire globe, firmly binding all societies, and subjecting them to a common global destiny. But simultaneously enemies of peace are at work in Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Jewish societies, and it is here that the role of leaders assumes great importance. Unless leaders are endowed with vision, wisdom and courage, they cannot see the intense conflict between dynamic reality and static forms. Hegel describes the fate of those leaders who were chosen by history to become the executors of its ‘will’ and who have fulfilled the task that was their destiny. “When their object is attained, they fall off like empty shells from the kernel. They die early like Alexander. They are murdered like Caesar. They are transported to St Helena like Napoleon. The leaders today must possess the vision that enables them to remain at the crest of the movement that brought them to power; otherwise they are bound to become the flotsam and jetsam of history.”
The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org