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1 Islam in a Pluralistic World. Islam, Individual and Society, How to Organize Coexistence: Muslims in the Western World: Christians in the Muslim World Nasira Iqbal My grandchild, who lives in the house adjoining ours, is two years old. He comes over every morning and greets me, "Assalam-o-Alaikum Dadijaan!" (peace be with you, Grandma!). I kiss him and reply "Wa-Alaikum-Assalam" (and peace be with you too). This is the routine of the children and grandchildren all over the world of Islam. The first words that an individual learns as a child in a Muslim family are universally related to peace and harmony. No child is born with feelings of hatred, prejudice or violence. Muslims are a pious and peace loving people and distributed all over the world. The majority of Muslims practice their religion as a peaceful way of life and not as zealots or extremists. Muslims believes that the purpose of creation is to worship God and serve the cause of truth, justice, love, mercy, brotherhood and morality. The Quran tells us that every human being is a member of the universal family established by Adam and Eve, thus we share our feelings, beliefs, emotions, impressions and passions instinctively. We are all brothers and sisters, and our differences in languages and colors are but a mercy that we might know one another. Language and race should never be a reason for discriminating against people Relations between the individual and society are based on this unity of origin and the ultimate goal and role of the individual is complementary to that of society. Between the two the cementing forces are social solidarity and mutual responsibility. The individual is responsible for the common welfare and prosperity of his society. This responsibility for a Muslim is not only to the society but also to God. The social life of a Muslim is characterized by cooperation in goodness and piety. It is marked with full recognition of the individual and his sacred rights to life, property and honor. It is also marked with an effective role played by the individual Muslim in the domain of social morals and ethics wherever he lives. The structure of social life in Islam is very comprehensive. The substantial elements of this structure are sincere love for one's fellow human beings, mercy for the young, respect for the elders, comfort and solace for the distressed, visiting the sick, consoling the grieved, genuine feelings of brotherhood and social solidarity; respect for the rights of other people to life, property, and honor. Mutual responsibility between the individual and society is the norm. Following these principles, Muslims have tried to be integrated and useful members of any society to which they have moved, without losing their own identity. A Muslim is enjoined to be fair and just in dealing with others no matter what their religious beliefs are. The Holy Prophet says: "Whoever relieves a human being from grief in this world, God will relieve him from grief on the Day of Judgment," "None of you is a true believer in Islam until and unless he loves for his fellow man what he loves for his own self," "One who murders an individual, murders the whole humanity." The Quran deals with the concept of peaceful coexistence at several levels: Peace with oneself, peace with the family, peace with society, peace with the world community and peace with the rest of the created world. Peace in a pluralistic society depends to a large extent on tolerance. Islam enjoins tolerance of ideas, tolerance towards other religions, tolerance in politics and tolerance in private and social life. If peace has to be attained at every level starting from the family, social, national, regional and international, level, it is essential that justice and fairness are allowed to prevail in the settlement of all disputes and in dealing with all sections of mankind. Also the double standard that we see at political levels in various regions must be avoided at all costs. Justice and fair play have been highlighted time and again in the Holy Quran and Hadith (vide verses 5:45, 49:9, 60:8 wherein it is said, "Allah loves those who judge in equity", see also 11:85, "And O my people! Give Just measure and weight, nor withhold from the people the things that are their due: Commit not evil in the land with intent to do mischief". The first state established by the Holy Prophet in 635 AD in Medina, was regulated by a written constitution "The Misaaq-e-Medina" which was a social contract among different communities the Christians, Jews, Pagans and Muslims. It was an attempt on the part of the Holy Prophet to establish a pluralistic society based on a federation of tribes who were free to govern themselves in accordance with their own laws. (The Misaaq-e-Medina called the upholders of this constitution, al-Ummat-ul-Wahida i.e. "a single community"). This community shared common responsibilities and common benefits. In other words it established the principle that people who unite in their social behaviour also unite in nature by the bond of common parentage. The Quran teaches that for realizing common good, common action is necessary. It lays down: "And argue not with the People of the Book (Jews and Christians) unless it be in a way that is fair, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our Allah and your Allah is One, and unto Him we surrender." (29: verse 46) "To each of you We have prescribed a law and an open way. Had Allah willed He would have made you one community. But (His plan is) that He may test you by that which He hath given you. Vie then with one another in good works. Unto Allah shall you all return and He will then inform you the truth of that wherein you differ." (5: verse 48)

2 We must accept diversity as part of God's plan. The different communities are challenged to use their gifts to strive to outdo or to compete with each other in good works with God as the Judge. Instead of sniping at each other from fixed positions as human beings had done in the past; we must face a shared world side by side and plan a joint venture. Islam is the universal religion which accepts the truthfulness of other religions, respects their founders and also absorbs their religious communities. It specifically states: "If Allah had not raised a group (Muslims) to ward off the others from aggression, churches, synagogues, oratories and mosques where Allah is worshipped most, would have been destroyed." (22: verse 40). A large number of Muslims all over the world who stand for peaceful co-existence with the West and other civilisations, have either accepted modern ideas or have reconciled them with Islam. Liberal Muslim thinkers differentiate between "modernisation" and "westernisation". According to them, modernisation is the acknowledgment of "change" as a normal process in the life of a society. But westernisation is the adoption of an alien culture. It is indeed possible to remain faithful to one's own cultural traditions and simultaneously welcome change or modernity. Wilfred Cantwell Smith pointed out in his brilliant work Islam in Modern History: "The Islam that was given by God is not the elaboration of practice and doctrines and forms that outsiders call Islam, but rather the vivid and personal summons to individuals to live their lives always in His presence and to treat their fellow men always under His judgment." How to organize peaceful coexistence? This challenge is a universal one and should be undertaken by all responsible citizens of the world. The majority of 1.5 billion Muslims are involved in earning their bread through hard toil, and yet, never forget to express their thanks to the Lord for the bounties that they receive from this planet. They treat religion as a unifier of mankind, rather than a divider. The citizens of the West, indeed we ourselves too, have to understand Islam as a religion promoting peace and progress. The scientific and technological research which has been responsible for the material progress of the modern world has been highly encouraged in the Quran and the Hadith. About 750 verses in the Holy Quran point to facts of science in the created world around us. Verse 10:101 of the Quran asks the Prophet (PBUH) of Islam to say, "Behold all that is in the Heavens and on Earth." It is a great pity that today the Muslims who had laid the foundations of much of modern day science and technology, have lagged behind in knowledge. The scientists of the west can share their knowledge with the Muslims, and give them a sense of cooperation and justice, rather than one of deprivation. Such collaboration would bring Islam into a wonderful relation with the west, and go a long way in suppressing terrorists who would find no support from people suffering from poverty and deprivation. There are general misconceptions amongst Christians about the Muslim World. These misconceptions are particularly intensified in Western countries due to the Gulf War, hostage crises, and terrorist attacks. The media promotes popular imagery suggesting Muslims to be "enemies". Part of this image is caused by Western media attention to anti-Muslim issues without due consideration being given to the other side of the same issues. Christians nurse many prejudices regarding the historical treatment of Christians by Muslims. There are misconceptions that the Muslims persecuted Christians and compelled them to convert to Islam. There may have been some isolated instances where such practices may have taken place but the history of Islam reflects that Muslims treated Christians and Jews with special indulgence despite the persecution that Muslims had to face at the hands of Christians during the Crusades and after the Christian conquest of Spain. Muslims can marry Christian and Jewish women who even when they have become part of a Muslim family can adhere to their own faith. Numerous such instances are found in Pakistan where the Christian community lives in peace with the Muslim majority save for isolated cases of persecution which usually occur when media report persecution of Muslims in the West. In the wake of the London bombings of July 7, the Muslim community faced charges that it had not properly integrated into Britain and thus left young Muslims trapped between two cultures. Tariq Ramadan, the most popular preacher among European Muslims, was appointed Professor of Religions, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame. The U.S. Government revoked his visa, without explanation. It reveals the obstacles that advocates of reform and reconciliation have to surmount in the West. Ramadan advised Muslims who face similar injustices not to become defensive or isolate themselves. They must speak out even at the risk of being misunderstood. "Western Muslims must be explicit if they want to be understood both by their own society and by their fellow Muslims. My view is that a true citizen speaks his mind constructively in a free society. At the same time, Western Muslims must spread the message that `we live in democracy, we respect the state of law, we respect open political dialogue and we want this for all Muslims'. We are not betraying our Muslim principles by embracing an open society. We embrace secularism because it enables us all to live together. It is the condition of religious freedom - ours and others'... The very moment you understand that being a Muslim and being American or European are not mutually exclusive, you enrich your society". Christians are commanded by the Scripture to love all people, including Muslims. They should ensure that their view of the Muslims demonstrates the same love Jesus Christ displayed for all humanity.

The Christian Missionaries confess that: They have failed to understand the significance of the many emotional issues of Muslim peoples, especially in regard to the nation of Israel;

3 They have allowed their false perceptions and lack of understanding to result in wrong attitudes and a lack of compassion for Muslim peoples and, therefore, not sought to alleviate suffering among them; They are guilty of believing and perpetuating misconceptions, prejudice and, in some instances, hostility and outright hatred toward Muslim peoples. (Source: Declaration of Christian Attitudes towards Muslims, Published by the Association of International Mission Services [AIMS] in cooperation with AIMS member agencies focusing on the Islamic world.) Today we are all concerned about the importance of discovering a new message of peace in our religions by elaborating a common history which carries some heavy burdens but also shows a common desire of friendship and several mutual exchanges in this behalf. We have a common faith in the God of Heaven and Earth who created us and to Whom we all return to render account for what we have or have not done in our life time and what we have suffered. This can be the solid and unshakable basis of our joint efforts to shape the world in peace and justice and in a spirit of reconciliation. We should commit ourselves to establish religious peace in our communities and to make all efforts towards this target. The first problem to be addressed appears to be the present dominant inequality, sense of poverty and deprivation and conflict. To resolve these problems we have to create awareness and education to pave the way towards living in this world in dignity by reducing inequality. The diverse nations should adopt in their educational syllabi elements which concern and address shared problems and those elements which can resolve these difference by clarifying what is the common linkage of all followers of religions with each other. The focus should be on the elements of tolerance and friendship and promoting goodwill. School syllabi should consciously remove any material which manifests historical prejudices which have developed into current myths. Without forgetting history one should look at the positive things that happened in the past including the centuries of peaceful living between Muslims and Christians. With this emphasis on positive history, the school books also need to take positive steps towards developing this foundation into a structure of common progress through cooperation. All school children should be allowed to practice their own religions; their religious and cultural practices should be shared in extra curricular activities in schools in order to foster respect for diversity. The special achievements of different cultures can be highlighted in order to demonstrate that each group has made a positive contribution toward progress. The responsibility to take decisions aimed at fostering dialogues between religious, spiritual and secular traditions has to be accepted at the individual, family, and community level. Governments of different countries should also be made aware that fostering tolerance and good will can engender good governance. To have a real dialogue, each of us must recognise the full humanity of the other. In a world divided into "us" and "them" people are not treated or valued equally. The life of an Afghan peasant is not worth the same as the life of American banker. Yet God has endowed us all with the same emotions of joy and sorrow, hope and despair. Only when we regard the other as a person, not an object, can a `you" speak to a "you". Most importantly, we must stress our common beliefs. In times of crisis in the West it is customary to appeal to the Judaeo ­ Christian heritage, a term that leaves Islam out. Yet we all believe in One God who is the same God from whom we have received the same moral law. The Bible and the Holy Quran contain the same commandments to worship God, Honour our parents, and the same injunctions against killing, theft, adultery and false witness. We should begin to speak of the Judaeo ­ Christian ­ Islamic Tradition, the solid ground on which we all stand. A new vision needs to be developed in which terrorism as a means of challenging asymmetries of power may become increasingly marginal. To begin with, the West should learn to get away from its confrontational rhetoric, recognising only civil and political rights as valid and legitimate human rights as mere ideological claims. Human rights of all kinds are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Comprehensive strategies are required for promoting the complete package of rights. Without economic justice there cannot be genuine and lasting peace in the world. Recently, more than 20 countries have been admitted to the European Union who consider themselves a Christian Club, but Turkey's application for entry has not been accepted, possibly because it is the only Muslim country in Europe other than Bosnia, who anxiously awaits the outcome of Turkey's application for admission. Also, the European Union must use its influence to bring about fair solutions to the Israel-Palestine conflict and India- Pakistan conflict over Kashmir. Emphasis should be on further exploring practical solutions to develop a pluralist society that accommodates religious, racial, cultural and ethnic diversity in the Third Millennium, with an emphasis on supporting leaderships that promote unity through respecting and managing diversity. The choice is between acquiescing to a world which has become an arena of conflicts, or opening our minds to a new and humane vision of a peaceful, progressive and enlightened World Order. We must give a call to choose the latter path, not only as a means for survival, but also as a collective approach towards a new horizon of unlimited beautiful possibilities of a better world. At the national level, treatment of Muslims minorities in Austria can be a model for other countries. 300,000 Muslims form the second largest religious community in Austria. 50,000 are Austrian citizens among whom 8,000 are Austrian converts. Austria is the only European country where Islam is officially recognized as a religious community since 1979. Under the 1912 "Islam-Law," the "Islamische Glaubensgemeinschaft" in Vienna is the official body representing Muslims in Austria. These Muslims do not constitute a uniform community. They belong to ethnic groups such as Turkish, Bosnian, Arab, Iranian and Albanian. Inspite of the diversity of their

4 home countries, Austrian Muslims have made efforts to strengthen unity in diversity, which is conceived as an enrichment. Cultural events and religious feasts are organized collectively across language barriers. As a recognised minority Muslim children are given religious education in public schools and about 150 Muslims are contractual teachers employed by the Austrian Ministry of Education, one-third of them being women. An Islamic Teachers Training Academy was opened in Vienna in 1999, who are trained by Professors of Al-Azhar University. The aim of the academy is to improve the standard of Islamic teaching in public schools. Efforts have been made to enhance dialogue between Muslims and Christians. The initiative came from the Christians, since Muslims are in a defensive position, as the image of Islam is coined by a host of prejudices. Muslims are often blamed for a lack of will to integrate into Western Society. However, research has shown that Muslims, no matter where they come from, wish to be integrated in the Austrian society and make efforts in this direction--However, they don't want to assimilated because Muslims lay great emphasis on their cultural identity. Muslim women started an initiative to provide education to their Muslim sisters and at the same time provide information on Islam to Austrian society. Muslim men are conducting similar activities. Media work and public relations have won them public recognition and support. (Lise Jamila Zahra Abid, Muslims in Austria- a Multifaceted Minority. Research Paper, Vienna 2000). This model of mutual open mindedness demonstrates that it is possible to develop a pluralist society which respects diversity. This example can be emulated by other countries in order to generate a better understanding among the majority and religious minorities. At the international level, those nations who have benefited from their geo -politically advantageous positions, should be ready and willing to share these benefits with those less privileged. The United Nations Organisation (UNO) is eminently placed to draw up a Universal Declaration of Human Duties or Obligations. These obligations would cover the realms of international trade, investment and finance, and would also apply to the international institutions that regulate these areas. The Universal Declaration of Duties can be made enforceable through the organs and agencies of the UNO. However, it needs the will and support of citizens of all member nations to ensure its implementation. We need to work relentlessly towards achieving that end. Sustained commitment and effort can make it possible to realise the dream of a future world where mutual sharing and caring can bring about a lasting peace. In a world where competitiveness reigns, a coordinated, strategic approach to the multifaceted challenges and opportunities of the global information and knowledge society and economy is indispensable. The ultimate objective is to build a global society endowed with the ability and capacity to generate and capture new knowledge, and the grace to use it effectively to reduce ethnic conflicts, economic disparities, and religious bigotry. At the domestic level, to put an end to the social discrimination rampant in most societies, affirmative steps should be taken towards religious homogeneity and harmony. Every religion should be accepted and respected without any favoritism or advantage towards one religion as this causes religious hatred and conflict in society. And that can only be achieved by ensuring the participation of religious minorities in all spheres of national life. Religious freedom should be respected not only in theory but practically as well. If these steps are not taken to build a just humane, and peaceful society, unrest and insecurity among the minorities will grow even more. To pre-empt this situation, we need to admit and redress the wrongs, which are impeding the evolution of a peaceful humane society. Liberal Muslim thinkers and governments have always been involved in negotiations and dialogue with the West, in order to resolve controversial economic and political issues. Leaders and thinkers in the West should try to remove the real cause of Muslim rage. It is a reasonable assumption that if the problems perceived by Muslims to have been created by the West (such as Israel, Kosovo, Chechnya, Bosnia and Kashmir) are justly and equitably settled, there would hardly be anything left to be angry about. Such a breakthrough may lead to the establishment of a pluralistic world where justice can be obtained through peaceful negotiations and agreements. Numerous conventions which deal with weapons of mass destruction, international terrorism, poverty and famine, the threat of disease and racial strife, all call for collaboration between Islam and the West. As for the ultimate aim of Islam, it has been beautifully described in the following words of the Muslim poet, Iqbal:

"In view of the basic idea of Islam that there can be no further revelation binding on man, we (Muslims) ought to be spiritually one of the most emancipated peoples on earth. Early Muslims emerging out of the spiritual slavery of pre-Islamic Asia were not in a position to realize the true significance of this basic idea. Let the Muslim of today appreciate his position, reconstruct his social life in the light of ultimate principles, and evolve, out of the hitherto partially revealed purpose of Islam, that spiritual democracy which is the ultimate aim of Islam". (Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam)

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Islam as a Religion of Peace and Harmony

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