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Islamic Heritage of Peace, Tolerance Celebrated

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By: Raziuddin Aquil

The India Islamic Cultural Centre, New Delhi, organised this week a special address on “Islamic Heritage: Promoting Understanding and Moderation”, by His Majesty King Abdullah II ibn Al Hussein of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Emphasising on the role of faith in the future of the world, the king said that much of what was spoken or seen about religion refers to it separating people, which is a distortion spread by extremist and terror groups. According to him, the ideologies of hate distort the word of God to stir conflicts and justify crime and terror, whereas the truth is that faith inspires different sets of people to coexist with all their diversity.

The king further pointed out that 1.8 billion Muslims, or a quarter of humanity worldwide, live their lives dedicated to the love of God, following the virtuous path of Prophet Muhammad, with principles of justice and kindness as part of a long heritage, as in the Jordanian case of Islamic and Christian traditions peacefully coexisting as shared humanity. Traditional Islamic values of protecting strangers and respect for people, he added, will go a long way in global dialogue for peace and mutual understanding of the kind spoken in the Indian tradition of world as one inclusive family. In the shared responsibility to build a peaceful future, the global fight against terror is between moderates and extremists of different hues, he remarked.

The king also referred to interfaith dialogue and understanding in India for thousands of years, mentioning how Muslim scholars studied and wrote in Sanskrit and Hindu intelligentsia mastered a whole world of scholarship. Invocation to such historical experience can help develop a strong defence against violence; Muslims and non-Muslims can help out each other for a better future in an atmosphere that ensures security and peace for all. Especially, young people cannot be allowed to be misled by extremist groups and left without hope.

Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pointed out that the participation of a large and enthusiastic audience, in New Delhi’s capacity-packed Vigyan Bhavan was an indication of firm commitment for global peace and responsible awakening to show the way for peaceful coexistence. PM Modi mentioned that India’s calendar of festivals, marked by Holi festivities this week and other celebrations lined up in the coming months, indicated a rich heritage of diversity—linguistic or religious. Historically, ancient Indian philosophers and medieval Sufis preached the essential unity of mankind for a shared tradition of love and humanity, which is a distinguishing feature of India in the world with its reputed philosophy of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (world is one family), he said, adding that 2,500 years ago Lord Buddha and in the last century Mahatma Gandhi spread the fragrance of love and peace as an essential product of the country’s soil nurturing diverse faiths.

PM Modi also pointed out that the fight against terror was not about any particular religion. He, however, reiterated his call for inclusive all-round growth of the kind in which he would like to see Muslim youth carrying a copy of the Quran in one hand and computer in another. This, he asserted, was not impossible in Indian democracy, which is not merely a political system, but a celebration of age old plurality firmly based on principles of equality, diversity and harmony—a matter of pride for all Indians.

Professor Akhtarul Wasey, Vice-Chancellor of Maulana Azad University, Jodhpur, Rajasthan, welcomed the guests speaking in Urdu as an excellent product of the shared tradition of India—an ancient holy land celebrated in classical Islamic tradition. Professor Wasey commended the Prime Minister for his declaration last year of Sufism as the language of Islam recognised for its love for God, service to humanity and peaceful coexistence. He also highlighted the wide appreciation of India’s strong pronouncements for combating terrorism.

An Urdu translation of a book, A Thinking Person’s Guide to Islam, written by Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, a cousin of the king of Jordan, was also introduced by Maulana Mahmood Madani, general secretary of Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind. Highlighting the value of love and tolerance, Maulana Madani remarked that India’s unity of existence is not merely a political strategy, but it is a cultural practice embedded in the historic soil of Hindustan. Referring to Islam as a religion of peace and as a weapon to fight against terrorism, Madani invoked the teachings of Sufi saints, Sant Kabir, Guru Nanak and Ram-Bhakt Tulsidas who sang songs of love. Quoting a Prophetic tradition, he said that the Muslim is identified as a person who is never a threat to anyone’s life. An interesting aspect of the programme was coming together on the dais of a number of Muslim religious leaders of different and conflicting sects and groups as a happy augury.

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