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Interfaith Dialogue ( 23 May 2022, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Islam and Religious Dialogue: A Thematic Study - Part Two

By Grace Mubashir, New Age Islam

 May 2022

Intra and Inter Faith Dialogues and Engagements Cashing On Convergent Commonalities Could Somewhat Ease the Process of National Integrity and Peace Building

Main Points:

1.    Most effective tool for religious peace building is interreligious dialogues.

2.    Hatred of a faithful to other religious people stems from the virtual ignorance of the other.

3.    Interreligious dialogues tap the spiritual resources of the religious traditions creating avenues for connecting participants at deeper spiritual level.

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Intra and Interfaith Dialogues

Intra and inter faith dialogues and engagements cashing on convergent commonalities could somewhat ease the process of national integrity and peace building. Interfaith dialogues are defined as whole host of activities and strategies of intervention designed to bring about a state of peaceful relations by conflicting parties, peace building is a complex and dynamic process of changing relationships, perceptions and underlying elements that perpetuate violence. It also implies to strategies that can prevent conflict, terminate it, transform or resolve. Changing behaviours and perceptions of religious conduct is a critical part of peace building.

David Little and Scot Appleby explained peace building through religious advocacy in terms of myriad of activities performed by religious actors for the purpose of mitigating and transforming of trust deficit and violence falsely sponsored by religious beliefs and supplanting xenophobic and chauvinistic religious conduct with harmonious pluralistic way of life enabling to bridge the yawning communal gap. Religious peace building entails faith based actors and religious resources such as myths, values and texts to abate violence and promote harmonious life.

Most effective tool for religious peace building is interreligious dialogues and constant engagement maintaining the differences. Rampant increase in the ethno-religious conflicts could be instantly checked through inter religious dialogues and gathering which will provide the people the opportunity to know each other and crush the fear caused by ignorance. Hatred of a faithful to other religious people stems from the virtual ignorance of the other. Clash of civilization, maliciously propounded by Samuel Huntington to predict the nature of violence in the post-soviet era, brings the religions, especially Islam, into the dock and wanted the Western hegemony to be imposed upon the world people altogether to ensure the peace dreamt by neo colonial forces. Objecting the arguments of Huntington, Edward Said cited the clash of ignorance as the prime reason for the violence and wanted the civilizational dialogues to clear the mud of fear and ignorance while appreciating the vital role of religions in speeding up the developmental process. To dismantle the apartheid of fear and distrust and to start understanding each other is the first step for active interreligious engagement for the world peace and national development.

Interestingly, interreligious dialogues tap the spiritual resources of the religious traditions creating avenues for connecting participants at deeper spiritual level. Using spirituality and moderate religious interpretations as salient sources of commitment to social changes is what distinguishes the interreligious dialogues from other forms of engagements. Religions as a tool with mass appeal among people which supersedes the emotional bonds of nationality and ethnicity makes the revolutionary transformation conducive because religions tracks the deepest rapport between the self and the other.

This opinion is backed by Stalov who observes: “When religions engage in deep positive interaction with others people overcome the prejudices and fears and replaces them with mutual understanding, respect and bonhomie. It is high time for religious leaders and statesmen to carve a common platform of cooperation and harmony before religions lead to fatal collision.”

Religious harmony is closely associated with nurturing the pluralistic concepts of world religions; in contrast to the hegomonical views of cultural uniformity and religious homogenization. Innovative mechanisms to be formulated by religious leaders will render the religions to be flexible towards the new challenges of violence and enable cultural and social pluralism even though all religious teachings unambiguously reiterate the concept of exclusive truth and success in eschatological life. By fostering the pluralistic reinterpretation of religions, social cohesion, national integration and cultural assimilation are possible. Unification of people owing different affiliations is possible through asserting the universal human values along with maintaining theological and jurisprudential of religious beliefs and practices.

Religious harmony and national development through integration and assimilation process

The invincibility of the jingoistic political thought that places the nation as the effective binding factor of the citizens, like in Kamalian Turkey and Hitler’s Germany, has failed miserably and instead the concept of multiple identities have been identified as forces behind the mass mobilization. Among all, religious identity occupies central importance. Reports show that conflict-ridden countries lag far behind the stable countries in terms of economic growth and national development because conflicts consume precious sources of nation and hinder the optimal use of human skills. Political stability, national safety and civilian security are the prime concerns of business world when they intend massive investments. Due to this reason hardly turbulent countries get the foreign investment and logistical support to develop.

Colonial era witnessed people opposing the concept of ‘nation’ which led to the religious universal movements like Pan Islamic movement of south Asia and Irish liberation movement. Important reason behind this attitude was it delineated the boundaries based on the cunning craftsmanship of imperial forces to perpetuate the oppressive rule. Besides, all religions perceive an imagined global community of believers sans borders and nations. Nevertheless, in the contemporary era this riddle of religious nationalism has been solved as religious leaders and statesmen adopted more realistic approach to limit religions to regional entities. Muslim scholars adopted a more realistic approach rather than idealism. The debates over the nature of religious politics regarding the administration often instigate the radical elements to wage war against the governments only to culminate in the regional disintegration and violence. Recent terror wave unleashed by ISIS to establish an Islamic caliphate is the fitting example.

Harmonious atmosphere and mutual coexistence foster national development. As all nations are home to various religions it is important to strike balance among these faiths. Unlike other identities, religious identity is highly vulnerable to exploitation and may even pose threats of separatism and militancy. Commenting on the nature of religious, communal violence in India, K.N Panicker explains the fatal impacts of religious violence in the economic growth of the nation and the severity of jolt to religious fabric that will smoulder for decades.

Nowadays conflict resolution ignoring the religious role in social harmonization and reconciliation absolutely deemed unviable. Invoking religious humanism that emphatically brings the religions closer to shared common values of human kind could be used efficiently to address the violence. Scuttling process of integration and assimilation could be easily expedited if the drives in this regard are supported by reinterpretation of religious texts. Analysing the exemplary cultural assimilation of Kerala Muslims Filippo Osella and Caroline Osella reaches the conclusion that contextual and local interpretation of religious texts as to include within the religious framework strong sense of integration was the factor behind the popularization of secular values in Kerala Muslim experiences.

Religious insurgency and terrorism are the inevitable outcome of lack of integration and growing sense of alienation and social insecurity. Resurging terrorist attacks in Europe by radicalized Muslims are natural fallout of the indifference both by governments and religious leaders to drive home the crucial demand of integrating the migrated Muslims from the so called Darul Islam (abode of Islam) to the Darul Harb (abode of disbelief). Flexibility of religions to assume various positions from moderation to extremism has attracted less attention by scholars. In case of Islam, it has both extremist position of political hegemony only after the wilful acceptance of people and moderate position while living in a pluralistic society. Problem lies in projecting the only face of extremism totally incompatible with the modernity and overlooking the pluralistic way of religion.

Religions nurture national integration and inclusivism in social life, key elements for the national development, given that they share many commonalities pertinent to universal human values. Quran commands people to work for development and prosperity setting aside the minor theological differences because diversity is the essential part of god’s creation. “O People of the Book let us come to a common statement/word (Kalimatin Sawa’in) between us and you. The concept of Hinduism the universe being the single family (Vasudhaiva Kudumbakam) supposed to give and take each other also signifies this point. Common values like peace, love harmony, coexistence and so offer wider platforms for religions to converge at liberal cooperation. The onus lies upon governments and scholars along with civil societies to break the handcuffs of religion and liberate from the narrow perceptions.

Appreciating the positive role between religious harmony and national development, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, chairman Centre for Peace and Spirituality, says that it gives immense opportunity for all people to take part in the economic growth pace of every nations: “Scholars generally define peace as the absence of war. This is a negative definition. The positive definition would be that it is a state in which there are a great many opportunities. The most important role of religious peace is that it opens up the door of opportunities, giving each individual the chance to avail of these opportunities and reach his or her goal.

Through violence you can cut down a tree, but violence cannot help you to grow a tree. This is true in the case of human life. In the human world, war only leads to destruction. Peace, however, has a positive role. No constructive work can be done if there is violence, whereas peace facilitates constructive work on its own. Peace paves the way for nation building along the healthy lines.”

References

Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah, Bin Baz, “The Beautiful and Lofty Attributes,” Al-Ibaanah 2 (August 1995). Little, David (ed.). Peacemakers in Action: Profiles of Religion and Conflict Resolution. New York: Cambridge University Press , 2007 .

Mohammed Nasir al-Din al-Albani, The Knowledge of Current Affairs, trans. by Abu Talhah Dawud Ibn Ronald Burbank (Birmingham, UK: Jam’iat Ihyaa’ Minhaaj Al Sunnah, 1994).

Olivier Roy, Globalised Islam: The Search for a New Ummah (London: Hurst Publishers, 2004). Shaikh Ahmad Fareed, On the Issue of Takfeer (Ipswich, UK: Jam’iat Ihyaa’ Minhaaj Al-Sunnah, 1997).

Stéphane Lacroix, Awakening Islam: The Politics of Religious Dissent in Contemporary Saudi Arabia, trans. George Holoch (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011),

Swidler , Leonard (ed.). Muslims in Dialogue: The Evolution of a Dialogue over a Generation. Lewiston, NY : Edwin Mellen Press , 1992 .

Little, David and Scott Appleby . “A Moment of Opportunity? The Promise of Religious Peace building in an Era of Religious and Ethnic Conflict,” in Religion and Peace building, eds. H. Coward and G.S. Smith . Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2004.

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Part One of the Article:   Islam And Religious Dialogue: A Thematic Study - Part One

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Grace Mubashir is a journalism student at IIMC, Delhi


URL:    https://newageislam.com/interfaith-dialogue/religious-dialogue-thematic-part-two/d/127078


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