Islam and Pluralism
Religious Intolerance in Africa
The North-South religious divide in Africa is the offshoot of the Islamic-Christian antagonism that dates back to the Crusades. Africa was the staging ground for Arab-European rivalry for centuries. The religious map of Africa today is testimony to this fact, with northern Africa being largely “the spoils” of Arab conquest and Africa south of the Sahara populated largely by Christian “converts.” The introduction of Islam and Christianity into Africa has been described as the beginning of the “cultural genocide” of Africa: the best way to conquer a people is to control their “cultural mind.” Thus Africa’s colonization, partition and neo-colonization were accomplished first through religious and cultural enslavement. -- Dr. Charles Quist-Adade
Muslims Believe in All Previous Scriptures, Messengers and Prophets: It is part of articles of faith of a Muslims to believe in all the previous messengers of God and the scriptures; in the form they were revealed upon them. (Qur’an; 2:136, 3:3-4, 57:26, 4:163, 2:79). Although Muslims believe in all the previous messengers and scriptures, the Jews and Christians don’t believe in Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as messenger of God, although he was prophesied in Bible at; Deuteronomy; 18:18 & 19, John; 16:12-14, 14:16, 16:7, 15:26, 16:7 and Song of Solomon; 5:16. All the divine revelations (scriptures) except Qur’an are extinct. The Bible; which besides Torah, Psalm and Gospel also contain other scriptures, books and commentaries by mostly unknown scribes attributing to known messengers and personalities. The Torah, Psalm and Gospel as available in the Bible may contain the original revelations in some form which pass the test of Qur’an; the criterion to distinguish right from wrong: (Qur’an; 25:1, 17:81).
One of the spouses believes in Oneness of the Almighty Allah Kareem, also that all creatures are created by Him only, and one cannot supplicate before anyone except the Almighty Allah Kareem. On the other hand, someone worships idols in the same house. One of the parents teaches Islamic tenets and principles to the children and the other parent forces them to worship idols and visit temples. In such a confusing situation, how can an atmosphere of mutual trust or confidence be built? The life of the children will be miserable, living in severe mental tension affecting their studies. It is seen in the inter-communal marriages, either one party converts to other’s religion or the matrimonial relation is snapped due to domestic tension and intense difference, depriving the children of the father’s affection and the mother’s love. -- Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani
Translated from Urdu by Raihan Nezami
There is no scope for Taliban culture in this age of globalization. This is absolutely unbearable, totally insupportable.
What are the causes of Islamic decline? Most scholars and historians who have studied the tragedy seem to agree that this was caused mainly by the fact that Muslims went away from modern education during the British rule over India. The Muslim tragedy is generally attributed to their lack of modern education under the guidance of ulema. Madrasas under the management of Ulema completely ignored modern education. The important subjects in the syllabus of Deoband were Arabi, Sirf, Naho, Mantique, Riyadhi, Balaghat, Fiqqah, Usool Fiqqah, kalam and Tafseer etc. The religious madrasas had fully deprived their own and the future generations of the benefits of scholarly research, and modern learning. They considered it a grave danger for the Faith and Iman. -- Shaikh Abdul Majeed, Germany, Translated from Urdu by Syed Raihan Ahmad Nezami
MUMBAI: Salman Khan and Govinda on Monday joined several Mumbaikars in biding emotional adieu to Lord Ganesh on first day of Salman Khan 'visarjan' (immersion). Among the prominent personalities who visited Salman's residence at suburban Bandra for the Ganesh puja ahead of immersion were MNS chief Raj Thackeray, cricketer Yuvraj Singh and actress Katrina Kaif. Thousands of Ganpati idols, mostly household ones, were immersed at beaches and lakes like Girgaum Chowpatty, Juhu, Marve, Gorai and Dadar admist chants of `Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudchya Varshi Lavkar Ya' (a popular slogan hailing the elephant-headed God and urging him to come early next year). -- PTI Report
According to estimates, the number of Zoroastrians in Iran has decreased from 60,000 in the late 1970s to 30,000 today. Most adherents now live in the Diaspora. Bombay, above all, has developed into a pivotal hub for the exiled Iranian community. Yet, says Mehraban Firouzgary, there are additional factors responsible for the loss of community members. "Many Zoroastrians have emigrated, but we are also a dwindling community because nowadays the younger generation in Iran marry later and have fewer children," he explains.
"Our resources are extremely limited – even when it comes to disseminating our faith." In addition, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that so many marriages are taking place outside of the Zoroastrian community, says Firouzgary. Today, a number of Zoroastrians have Muslim spouses or have themselves converted to Islam. -- Arian Fariborz
... history reveals that Islam – as preached in the Koran and exemplified by the life of the Prophet Muohammad and his companions – actually accepts, celebrates and even encourages diversity.... According to Islamic principles, everyone who lives in a Muslim state is entitled to enjoy the same rights of citizenship, despite the differences they may have in their religion or population size.
In 622, when the Prophet Mohammad migrated from Mecca to Medina in the Arabian Peninsula and started to build the first Muslim state, he ensured that its Muslim and non-Muslim inhabitants could coexist in harmony. There was a substantial Jewish community in Medina, and the Prophet proposed an agreement of cooperation – between Muslims and the 11 Jewish tribes – called the Constitution of Medina, which Muslim historians and scholars generally accept as the first written state constitution. -- Maher Y. Abu-Munshar
The discourse on religious pluralism and its political ramifications has roots in Islamic political and intellectual history and continues to be interpreted and re-evaluated today. For some, the core of this discourse lies in the definition of the "People of the Book", a Qur'anic term that refers to those to whom Muslims must extend full religious tolerance. Many Muslims assume it covers Christians and Jews only, as those were the People of the Book during the Prophet Muhammad's life in 7th century Arabia. However, as well-known South African Muslim scholar, Farid Esack, points out in his article, "Muslims Engaging the Other and the Humanum", throughout Islamic history the term was not defined in terms of who was considered a Person of the Book; rather, it defined how religious groups treated those in need. -- Asma T. Uddin
In a plural society, where people of different religions, ethnicities, language groups and cultures live together, every group must be given equal rights and the same opportunities to progress. This can only be ensured and sustained through continuous inter-community dialogue. In my view, the only way to prevent inter-cultural or inter-religious conflict, as well as to promote harmonious inter-community relations in a plural society and at the global level, is serious dialogue that aims at improving relations between different communities so that they jointly work for establishing peace. I believe that the first stage in inter-cultural dialogue is for members of different cultural communities to identify issues of common concern as well as common interest, particularly those problems that are a hurdle to better relations between various communities. The second step is to evolve means to address these issues through peaceful and sustained dialogue. But this must be carried out in a spirit of mutual respect, for no dialogue can succeed if it involves abusing or debasing the religious feelings and beliefs of other communities. -- Maulvi Syed Nikhat Husain Nadwi (Translated by Yoginder Sikand)
For the first time in 95 years, Armenians were permitted to celebrate a religious ceremony in the region – and they were not received by the Turks of Van with hostility, but rather with open arms. This event, however, does not mean that complete freedom of religion has been established over night in this country seeking membership in the EU. Yet, many are of the opinion that the religious service marks a break with the past and that there is no going back for Turkey. -- Susanne Güsten
Early on cracks developed between Black America and Muslim America, because of the attitudes of some people among us. This has now become a gap, which is widening. Soon it will be unbridgeable. This is now being followed by the disillusionment of Muslims, who happen to be black. This is the biggest tragedy of our time. We are leaving a terrible legacy for the future generations. They will read the verse that we discussed before, then look out and see the reality in stark contrast to the fiction in their hands. For non-Muslims it will be a bonanza. With clear proof they will be able to point out the “the Grand Islamic Hypocrisy” which is unveiling in America. If we want to avoid this catastrophe, we have to act now. If we are able to stop this slide into ignominy and build the only real multiracial Islamic community in the world, we will have perfected the practice of the Message. We are standing at a crossroads. One road leads to disaster and the other to glory. Now, which one do we take? -- Waheeduddin Ahmed
This distrust of contemporary learning on the part of the madrasa community was sustained in the post1947 period when the predominant destination for Afghan students of religion switched from India to Pakistan. Travel to India became too complicated, with visa requirements and two borders to be negotiated. It was also comparatively expensive for Afghan religious students to travel to far-flung centres of Islamic learning in Deoband, Delhi and Lucknow. As relations between India and Pakistan deteriorated, travel to Deoband from Afghanistan became a distant dream. Religious students from Afghanistan had to do with the centres of learning in Pakistan: Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Akora Khattak, Multan.
But the politicisation of religion implicit in the establishment of a State in the name of Islam turned to radicalisation in the 80s when it suited various governments to promote jihadist ideologies among the border Pashtun tribes -aimed as this jihad was against the Soviet Union. Religious madrasas were not able to remain immune from this politicisation, followed by radicalisation. The world is still living with the consequences of this promotion of militancy and radicalism. -- John Butt
Photo: Beyond the scriptures: A madrasa in Jammu
Let us Focus on the Future
The Liberhan report may explain certain things but in the end it would not serve any purpose, as the wounds that have been healed, would freshen up. It is therefore advisable for the Muslim community not to make a big issue of it and disturb the hard earned unity and solidarity of the country.
There is no point in revisiting the past. The demolition of Babri Masjid, carnage of Gujarat, bomb blasts and other extremists activities are the things of the past. Muslims have to put all these events behind to look forward for future. The people of India have given a fresh mandate to the UPA govt rejecting altogether the communal elements, as they valued secularism as a cherished goal of the country.
Let all of us, belonging to Muslim community, join the rest of the population in extending our support for the govt to concentrate on development activities that would lead to economic recovery which is of greater importance in the life of our country men than holding who is guilty or not of the already demolished Babri Masjid. It would not help Muslims to resurrect the past. Let us bury it deep into history.
Let us all remember that we may not be saintly enough to forgive and forget our enemies, but for the sake of our own health, the betterment of our own lives, let us forgive and forget them. Muslims better remember this and march forward. -- A.M. Jamsheed Basha
Montreal: Buddhism and Islam are two religions we do not hear mentioned in one breath very often. So it was with great excitement that I went to attend the conference, Buddhism & Islam – Encounters, Histories, Dialogue and Representation held at McGill University, May 29 and 30, 2009. The conference indeed turned out to be eye-opening. …
This conference gave a much needed comparative religious perspective. More such efforts are needed to bring out the fact that most religious people when left to themselves are able to live together in a collaborative and cooperative way, enriching all the cultures and religions involved. This ‘cultural translation’ is an ongoing process, in spite of the hoopla surrounding fundamentalisms of all sorts today. - Juhi Shahin
There will always be theological differences between various faiths; differences that external players will always attempt to manipulate for broader purposes. However, in a politically volatile region such as the Middle East, it is essential to build better relations between two of the world's largest religious groups. It is also important that Muslim-Christian unity should not be at the expense of alienating other faith communities; their collective relations as people of faith should transcend the minutiae of theological differences.
Pope Benedict's symbolic gesture of visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the positive reception he received there from the imam of the site must be reinforced with a specific renunciation of negative narratives on both sides. Both faith traditions share the blame for abusing historical incidents as a means of propagating a sense of alienation from each other. In an increasingly globalized world, we must strive to learn from history but not let the past hamper our progress toward mutually advantageous human relations. -- Saleem H. Ali and Hiba Zeino