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Interfaith Dialogue ( 17 May 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islam And Religious Dialogue: A Thematic Study - Part One

By Grace Mubashir, New Age Islam

18 May 2022

Pluralistic Aspects Of Religious Traditions Need To Be Cultivated Among Adherents To Enable Them To Contribute To The National Development Through Mutual Collaboration

Main Points:

1.    Strategists and policy makers are no longer able to ignore the role of religion in conflict and peace.

2.    Many scholars of terrorism and national security have widely appreciated the role of religion in guaranteeing peace and harmony.

3.    Religious engagement and dialogues make the social fabric healthy and firm.

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The world is passing through very turbulent times. The global economic crisis continues to manifest in newer and graver dangers almost every week. The similarities to the period just before the Second World War continue to be cited and it seems clear that events are moving the world at an unprecedented pace towards a horrific third world war. Religion has become an important topic on today’s policy agenda and global concern. Strategists and policy makers are no longer able to ignore the role of religion in conflict and peace. New researches have amply proved the critical role of religion in conflict prevention and peace building. Although religion is always blamed for inciting conflict and religious tensions obstructing the smooth growth of nation can also be used to resolve conflict and enhance peace initiatives. In different capacities, faith based actors have successfully contributed to peace building process.

Religious engagement and dialogues make the social fabric healthy and firm. After explaining in detail the ideological structures of religious belief, the second part discusses the Salafism, one of the world’s most radical fundamental religious sects among Muslim community. Ideological motives for violence, textual literalism, various threats posed by Salafi creed and the mechanism to counter the fanatical menace find detailed mention in the work.

Resurging Positive Role Of Religion

 In the modern era, where science holds considerable sway over the conduct of people, religion and spirituality still occupy prominent role in human life. Driven by the philosophical and methodical tradition of Enlightenment religion was viewed as irrational and unquantifiable phenomenon that cannot be studied from the point of view of reason and expected the importance of the religion to recede as modernization and science triumph. In the backdrop of French revolution and the commencement of European modernity religion was identified as a perennial cause of social destabilization and easy tool to demonize ‘the other’.

 In the past when religions were blended with the political ambition of the rulers, religious institutions inadvertently assumed the gory face of retrogression and institutionalized violence against the demonized other. Social reforms of 18th and 19th century advocated the rigid separation of religion from state affairs given that religion was the fountain of conflict and solution is impossible from the same source.

 In contemporary age, tangible nuances are conspicuous in the way people approach religion in various parts of the world, especially Asia and Africa, because spiritual quest of the people is completely unattended by the alternative scientific religion. Religion has double edge function. From time immemorial religion has the inherent potential of mass mobilization on shared collective identity. If this character was channelized into positive construction, religions would possess immense strength for social cohesion and a boon to progress and national development whereas it’s negative summoning would open the Pandora’s Box of violence and conflicts.

Reformist movements persistently eschewed the role of religions and faith based organization in order to preclude spates of ethno religious violence promoted by fanatic clergy and cunning politicians who sought legitimacy for their corrupt practices in their mass religious appeal. Conceptual framework regarding the conflict resolution mechanisms have been largely modified to consider religion and faith groups sine qua non to address the recurring world problems from violence to lumping economic growth.

 Strategies to prevent violence have been generously extended to incorporate religious institutions and appreciated the untapped strengths of religions to maintain social and sustainable development. Kofi Annan, former general secretary of United Nations Organization in a speech made to over a thousand religious leaders who had gathered for the Millennium Peace Summit of World Religious and Spiritual Leaders emphasized the importance of religious agency in allaying specific problems like violence, poverty and environmental concerns.

Dealing With Differences: Process For Dialogue And Active Engagement

According to Diana Eck what motivates religious violence are ardent beliefs in exclusive truth, stern textual reading of scriptures, unflinching missionary zeal for conversion, political ambitions of religions and outdated laws and that consider the matters through the middle age etiquette and taboos. Peaceful religious traditions would turn into worst beasts of destruction and communal hatred when political motivations are fortified with fanatic world view that makes one pitch one against another. Attempts by Hindutva forces to grab political power in India using Hinduism spoilt the religious harmony in the democratic nation by sowing seeds of mistrust and orchestrating communal violence. Likewise, the aspiration to form a Caliphate for Muslims continues to breed problems of religious tension in Iraq and Syria guided by misquoted venomous Salafi ideology of ISIS. Thus problem is not religion itself but radical interpretations and the exclusivist views of adherents are to blame signifying the fact that religion identity could be tapped into far effective peace advocacy tool.

A lion’s shares of conflicts today are identity conflicts in which identity is defined according to ethno-religious lines like Buddhist Sinhala people of Sri Lanka and Yazidi Christians of Iraq. Religious traditions are used to incite and justify violence demonizing the ‘other’. As explained by Johan Galtung, religious, ideological or linguistic symbols that legitimize direct or structural violence contribute to the continuation of the conflicts by systematic traditional teaching and preaching. Religious affiliations along with ethnic bonds often help to create the core of one’s identity. When religion is practiced collectively or in congregation religion becomes the part and parcel of collective identity of society that governs their everyday life. Hence religious feelings embedded in the collective identity of society can mobilize people more powerfully than any other identities of linguistics, nationalism, regionalism and political inclinations. Due to this unique strength to mobilize people easily towards spiritual and political goals, religious traditions have often been abused to legitimize violence, define exclusive identity and perpetuate particular ethnic and national objectives.

To sum up, according to Swindler, religions are moderate, harmonious and peaceful in creed but turn into violent institutions in practice due to the wrong strategies applied to interpret the religion or external influences have corrupted the fundamental concepts of religion heralding great human values. In the aftermath of religions being hijacked by bigot elements, religious traditions were robbed of the civilizational responsibility to accentuate peace through mutual coexistence and inclusive active engagements. Bagdad civilization under the Abbasid rulers of middle age that produced painstaking contribution to various fields of knowledge and scientific innovations and the transmission of Greek knowledge through voluminous translations is the great example for the fact that if religious traditions are brought in harmonious cooperation human resources could be used to the optimal level.

Many scholars of terrorism and national security have widely appreciated the role of religion in guaranteeing peace and harmony. Pluralistic aspects of religious traditions need to be cultivated among adherents to enable them to contribute to the national development through mutual collaboration. Religiously motivated non-violence and pluralism are the real panacea to various problems plaguing the world. Religious emotions and affiliations if exploited to mobilize people into harmonious life and cultural assimilations it would be the best tool conducive to diminish scourges of ethnic violence and bloody militancy.

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Grace Mubashir is a journalism student at IIMC, Delhi


URL:   https://newageislam.com/interfaith-dialogue/religious-dialogue-thematic-study/d/127032


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