For interfaith harmony - Rizwan Asghar - Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We live in interesting times. To respond to a mad act with an equally insane measure is progressively becoming an acceptable fashion across the globe. The recent shameful act of burning the Holy Quran, performed by a Christian fundamentalist pastor in the US and the subsequent response in parts of the Muslim world highlight the urgent need for promoting interfaith harmony and peaceful coexistence.

More than 10 people were killed in Afghanistan as a result of violent incidents staged to protest the reprehensible act committed by Terry Jones. Indubitably, the desecration of the Holy Quran is an unbearable crime and an affront to the idea of mutual tolerance among all religions, which is an irrefutable need in this volatile, globalised world. But attacking and killing innocent people in the name of condemning an outrageous act committed by someone else, is not the solution. And Muslims must bear in mind that, at present, the biggest challenge facing them across the world is the negative and distorted image of their religion. So, the only reasonable response could be to ignore the publicity-seeking Terry Jones or condemn his behaviour in a very peaceful manner.

In view of the present state of frayed relations between the two major civilisations, Islamic and Western, it is of the utmost importance that a solution be worked out to reconcile inter-religious differences. Interfaith dialogue can help combat evil forces and rein in fundamentalist elements among various religious communities. In addition, it is the only natural method of relating to people of other faiths and understanding their thinking patterns.

All the religious communities should reaffirm their faith in the values of pluralism and actively participate in undertaking trust-building efforts. Interfaith harmony must be built on the foundations and concerns that all religions have in common.

The sad fact remains that all religions of the world intending to spread the message of compassion and tolerance are invariably used by a bigoted minority with vested interests to fan inter-civilisational discord and tensions. In the post-9/11 era, this pernicious trend has assumed enormous proportions as in certain cases mighty political governments are also adopting this policy. We claim to live in a well-informed world today but, in fact, we are fed a distorted view by sensationalist media of how alien other religions and ways of life are.

The teachings of all religions are based on peace, love and harmony and a true follower of any religion can never think of provoking hatred against other faiths. We have to keep on searching for ‘common ground,’ keep looking for our essence, and continue talking to each other instead of talking about each other, which in turn will cultivate mutual trust. Civilisations and religions need to forge unity in their ranks and promote dialogue to defeat the likes of Terry Jones, on either side of the fence.

Through dialogue and effective communication, each side will be able to understand the other dispassionately and curb those prejudices that give rise to hatred and conflict.

The era of crusades should be over now and Samuel Huntington’s thesis, the ‘clash of civilizations,’ needs to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

The bonds of friendship cultivated in the spirit of mutual understanding and religious tolerance can enable us all to focus on our shared values: love, peace and an unwavering commitment to building a better future. We are all one, created by the same God, regardless of our religious differences and our social status. May our common God, the Compassionate and Merciful, bless us all.

Email: rizwanasghar7@yahoo. com

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