H.E Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah concluded the fourth annual Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, which was held in Abu Dhabi between 11-13 December, 2017, with the participation of more than 700 scholars, intellectuals and religious dignitaries from around the world.
His Excellency thanked the participants who submitted valuable contributions, designed to promote peace and instill the culture of tolerance as a way of life for the benefit of all mankind.
Dr. Ahmed Sennouni, coordinator of the forum’s Scientific Committee, delivered the final statement, which included a set of recommendations, notably the need to establish an international monitoring center to address and study Islamophobia, as well as the need to organize international forums for intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, to evaluate achievements, share experiences and unify efforts.
The forum included open discussions to examine the symptoms, phenomena and differences in tackling the fundamental issues raised by the forum, and the mutual challenges to the humanitarian community.
In its final statement, the forum indicated that fear of Islam causes major damage to the fabric of complex societies and to the social contract model, based on the principles of equal citizenship.
The phenomenon of Islamophobia is also senseless and unethical, because it fuels hatred and discrimination in the West, which ultimately gives way to extremism; and with the prevalence of nuclear weapons and no assurance that such weapons will not be used in the future, this gives great cause for concern.
However, this should not cause us to ignore the balanced voices in the West, which represent a decisive segment within the different parties and civil society organizations and confronted the violence and hate speech against Muslims with legal initiatives and awareness campaigns and solidarity.
The statement added that fear of Islam is a complex phenomenon, with diverse causes, most importantly lack of communication between intellectuals and scholars on both sides, to prevent hate speech and extremism and protect individuals and communities from both physical and moral terrorism.
It also noted that fear of Islam serves two types of extremists, one that distorts religious concepts, to fight the world and undermine coexistence among people and another one that resorts to the same distorted concepts to accuse Islam and Muslims of violence, and of being incompatible with the values of the times. To claim that Islam is linked to terrorism
will lead to unending wars.
The forum explained that fear of Islam can be addressed by looking with a new eye to the concepts of the Sharia, in light of the four governing values; notably mercy, wisdom, justice and interest which may promote tolerance and coexistence and disclaim extremists.
This is a necessary measure to be undertaken within the Islamic world, to defeat extremist ideologies that distort the real image of Islam; which is exactly why the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies has chosen the theme ‘World Peace and Fear of Islam: Countering the Spread of Extremism’ as a theme for its fourth annual meeting.
Another approach to dealing with fear of Islam would be to encourage dialogue with others and agree on constructive forms of cooperation. Different is not bad; especially if dialogue is based on recognizing all religions and advocating common moral values.
The right to disagree, the freedom of religion, the right to argue, and adopting peaceful relations with others, are values and principles that promote dialogue and rapprochement between Muslims and non-Muslims, and foster alliances between other faiths.
The statement said that the forum looks forward to a new approach to relations between Muslims and non-Muslims; and between the different cultures and religions in general – by being more accepting instead of exchanging criticism and mutual accusations, and building alliances for the service of mankind.
When reconciled and united, Abrahamic religions can promote peace, justice and good in the world, and address grievances and injustice. Today’s world is experiencing a horrific moral deterioration that cannot be averted despite the scientific progress and technological development.
Values should include the universal elements of tolerance, true acceptance of diversity, pluralism, dialogue and communication. To achieve constructive dialogue, the forum stressed the need to review education curricula in Muslim societies to include the authentic values of Islam, which encourage tolerance and respect for other religions.
International curricula also need to be re-examined to ascertain the extent to which they respond to the requirements of coexistence and promote respect for differences, rapprochement, tolerance and solidarity.
To this end, the forum called for a ‘global media charter of honor’ to include all those who support this vision, and endeavor to overcome the differences with their opponents in the interest of coexistence and peace among humans.
The forum concluded with the following recommendations:
1. Establishing an international monitoring center to study fear of Islam, which will serve as a platform to study its causes and manifestations, and propose preventive methods to address it and raise awareness about its dangers
2. Organizing international forums to promote communication and dialogue between religions and cultures; to evaluate achievements, share experiences and unify efforts
3. Launching academic programs and scholarships to encourage rapprochement and exchange experiences between Islamic studies departments across universities in the Islamic world and universities that teach religious studies in the West
4. Encouraging scientific research in Islamic, humanitarian and social studies that tackle the topics of coexistence and rapprochement; and allocating an annual prize that recognize the best studies in this field
Participants congratulated the Forum for Promoting Peace on hosting the American Peace Caravan, based on the Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Religious Minorities in Muslim Societies, as evidence on the need for a positive partnership to achieve happy coexistence.
They expressed their hope to see the Peace Caravan develop into a global peaceful movement, similar to the pre-Islamic alliance ‘Hilf al-Fudul’, to embody the common values of peace, love and harmony between Abrahamic faiths and then include all religions and cultures for the sake of humanity and mankind.
Participants expressed their delight with the forum’s decision to award the ‘Egyptian Family House’ with the Imam Al Hassan bin Ali Award for Promoting Peace due to their lasting example of coexistence and partnership between Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and the Coptic Church to strengthen national unity.