WHAT HAS PROMPTED ME TO FLOAT INTER FAITH HARMONY FOUNDATION?
Discontent in different societies for want of political, economic and social justice, Prolonged delays in finding amicable and just settlement of outstanding disputes in different parts of the world, Acceptance (in real sense) of the right of all nations, (irrespective of their size, economic strength and population), to sovereign equity and equality and lack of uniform implementation of international law and all international Human Rights Instruments with a recurring sense of injustice, alienation and isolation in different social and religious segments of the humanity are some of the problems that the civilized society is facing today.
Some parts of the world are badly gripped by unabated acts of violence, militancy and terrorism and the most unfortunate part of this violence is that all acts of omissions and commissions are being acted upon in the garb of religion and the dictates of the self proclaimed saviours of faith. Innocent lives of men, women and children have been targeted and the gulf between different sections of world societies is constantly increasing. Unfortunately in this scenario Islam and Muslims have somehow come under attack.
It is also a fact that to attain ultimate peace in the world the yawning gulf between Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and the other faiths must be bridged and this can be done only through dialogue.
“In the Bible it finds mention in the expression ' Love thy neighbor as yourself '; in the Koran it is, no one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself; in Talmud ' regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss', in Buddhism it finds expression in terms such as ' hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful' .”
“Islam and Muslims are passing through a period of turmoil. Islam, as it is projected today, is a religion which preaches intolerance, hatred, enmity and violence and Muslims, being its followers are the practitioners of these evil virtues of life. Terms like fundamentalism, fanaticism, extremism and terrorism have unfortunately become synonymous with Islam and Muslims. As a community, it is being perceived as a group of terrorists, extremists, militants and fanatics.
As a religious philosophy and ideology, it is argued that Islam believes in using coercive methods including the use of force to further its ends. It negates pluralism, disapproves the right of a human being to think, act and perform independently. In essence, it discourages the very concept of inter faith and inter civilization dialogue and is opposed to harmony in society and discards the social theory of peaceful co-existence. It is widely believed in Europe and the west that most of the problems that the world of today is facing have their origin in Muslims and their stereotype mindset.
As a society, Muslims believe that after death it is they who will go to heaven and others may not follow the same route. It may appear averse to modern education, scientific temperament, rational thinking and secular outlook. It is a society in which democracy, secularism and modern thought can not flourish. In essence, Islam and its followers are a great challenge to the civilized society.”
In fact I and many of my colleagues and friends have been watching quite closely the political, social, economic, cultural, ethnic, religious and other developments in the world as a whole. Unfortunately violence is overtaking peace and resolution of disputes through peaceful means which is necessary for survival of human kind is becoming more and more difficult and cries for amity, harmony, peace, conciliation and re-conciliation are falling on deaf ears.
The amount of bloodshed that we have seen in the last few decades in Afghanistan, Algeria, Sudan, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Bosnia, Chechenya, Somalia, Indonesia, Philippines, Pakistan, Thailand, China (Xinkiang), communal violence in various parts of India and ongoing militancy and violence in Jammu and Kashmir and north east have pushed us to devise a program and evolve the necessary mechanism to work for peace in our country, India and if possible, at the world level, too.
The most alarming phenomenon in this whole push is that willingly or unwillingly, advertently or inadvertently violence and subsequent bloodshed in most of the aforesaid cases have their connectivity with Islam and Muslims or are attributed to them.
Islam like any other faith is a religion of peace and brotherhood. It addresses the whole of humanity as a family, believes in equal respect for all religions, accepts the right of each individual to choose faith of its own choice and restricts the conversion of non Muslims to Islam by force or allurement. Its mantra of life is that killing of an innocent human being is equal to the killing of whole of humanity. It is a faith which disallows its believer to have food without ensuring that his neighbour had it or not. It does not allow any celebration till the due of the poorest of the poor is given its due. It is a faith which approves the right to attack or go to war only for self defence and call upon the believers to treat the prisoners of war with dignity and humility.
Allah that we believe in is Rabbul-Alameen (CREATOR AND PROTECTOR OF ALL WORLDS) and not Rabbul-Muslemeen (NOT OF AND FOR MUSLIMS ALONE) and our Prophet is not the Prophet of Muslims but he is Rehmat-al-lil-Alameen (BLESSING FOR ALL WORLDS, CREATIONS AND BEINGS) and not for Muslims alone.
In this scenario, it becomes the religious and moral duty of every Muslim to present Islam, Muslims and the Muslim society in its true perspective and complexion before all those quarters and circles who are subscribing to the militant face of Islam. On the contrary, while talking of peace and about peace, it would also be a grave mistake on our part to confine the parameters of this effort to Muslims and Islam alone. It requires a larger canvass which accommodates all shades of opinion. It is in this background that a forum for inter faith and inter civilization dialogue needs to be formed.
If we are to proceed further in our resolve to work for peace, it is mandatory to condemn violence and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, as it is preached, practiced, perpetrated, committed and funded by a handful of vested interests in any society, state and country. Equally important is to understand genuine route causes of the issues, problems and disputes which are confronting and agitating the minds of youth and pushing them to take this course of aggressive violence and commit heinous crimes against humanity. And most important is to take everybody together by giving each soul a sense of belonging, affinity, care, compassion and sharing.
To create and foster spirit of generous consideration amongst the people professing and practicing different religious faiths it is necessary to engage prominent religious heads, spiritual masters and the intellectual leadership in multi-dimensional inter faith and inter civilization dialogues and exchanges, having in mind the sole aim of uniting and unifying the whole of humanity in the bonds of eternal human relations, friendship, good fellowship, co-operation, harmony and mutual understanding. This mission will be fulfilled by creating ideal conditions on ground which includes the raising of material and non material resources and also the facilitation of relevant actions at the end of people, communities, societies and comity of nations both at the government and non government level.
The foundation shall help and facilitate in building a strong base for a just moral and social world order, an order in which socially, economically and educationally backward sections in every society and also physically challenged persons including blind receive their due in an atmosphere of goodwill, dignity and honor. We shall also promote the encouragement of conducive environment in which there is equal respect of all faiths, ideologies and shades of opinions.
In the Indian context there are quite a few groups from all religious faiths who are doing a good job in the field of creating inter faith harmony in Indian society as a whole. So far the Muslim society has not contributed much to it. Inter faith harmony foundation of India is perhaps the first solid and substantive initiative of its kind taken by the Indian Muslims. It will engage religious heads, spiritual masters, various missions, organizations and institutions in sustained dialogue to build permanent bridges of understanding between peoples and communities practicing different religious faiths.
Inter Faith harmony Foundation has been floated by a team of moderate intellectuals, youth leaders, social activists, educators, academicians and retired civil servants. It also enjoys the support of prominent religious scholars of India and abroad. The foundation has decided to closely coordinate with all other groups; organizations and institutions who are working for inter faith harmony at the national and international level.
The foundation will also work to ensure that human dignity and sense of self esteem of every individual are protected and preserved. The social philosophy of peaceful co-existence guides and governs all individual, group and institutional actions and deeds. There is general respect for human and moral values like amity, brotherhood, conciliation, moderation, tolerance, rationality, logical thinking and scientific temperament. The general attitude of people and societies must reflect a sense of sharing and caring particularly when we are required to resolve various disputes. In essence a humane approach is always desirable in responses and reactions.
The foundation in order to achieve these ends will establish or facilitate the establishment of Tolerance compounds in every part of the world and the first of its kind may come up in India. The composition of a Tolerance compound shall be such that it reflects inter faith and inter civilization harmony, universal belief in the theory of peaceful co-existence and eternal bonds of human relations in whole of humanity. The world of today is dying for peace and the establishment of Tolerance compounds in every part of the world shall immensely contribute to it.
The Foundation also plans to institute Peace and Tolerance Awards at the State, Regional, National and International level. High powered committees consisting of prominent personalities are in the process of being constituted to devise the necessary mechanism. Soon a Website of the Foundation will also be launched to enhance its operational network.
We as a foundation strongly believe in,
“amity is better than enmity, conciliation is better than confrontation, dialogue is better than deadlock, harmony is better than discord, love is better than hatred, Peace is better than war, tolerance is better than impatience, Understanding is better than conflict, unity is better than division or dissidence and Sacrifice is better than demand.”
It is this background which has prompted me and my collegues to undertake the noble task of working for peace, tolerance and brotherhood in society. And to achieve these ends promotion of inter faith and inter civilization dialogue between people, organizations and institutions, who are worthy of any contribution is indispensable.
By the grace of Almighty Allah I could find good companions to join this JEHAD of peace and tolerance. May good sense always prevail and may all our future actions govern by logic, rationality and moderation.
The foundation stands for a peaceful, progressive,
Dr. Khwaja Iftikhar Ahmed