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Interfaith Dialogue ( 19 Jun 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Why Is Inter-Faith, Inter-Sectarian Dialogue Necessary?



By Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi

June 14, 2014

The incidents of extremism, terrorism and confrontation between different sects are becoming prevalent in our beloved country Pakistan. Under these circumstances, the Pakistan Ulema Council [PUC] brought together central leaders of different religions and sects in Lahore, Khanewal, Karachi and Islamabad over the last few months, in an attempt to convey the message of mutual forbearance and mitigate the growing rifts.

In recent days, a national conference was held in Islamabad on the topic of “Why is dialogue necessary between all political and religious parties of the country and leaders of different religions?” During the conference, not only were views exchanged on inter-faith and inter-sectarian harmony, but a detailed Fatwa [edict] was also issued on the mistreatment of women in current times, particularly incidents of declaring newborn girls as ill-fated, killing of girls in the name of honour, and marrying sisters or daughters to trees, graves or Holy Quran in order to deny them the share of inheritance. Likewise, the representatives of all sects and religions also agreed on a code of conduct during the conference. The most important clause of this code of conduct is about respecting the holy figures of other religions and sects, and protecting each Muslim sect from being declared a disbeliever.

Attempts were also made during the conference to address the grievances of Hindus about abductions and forced conversions of their women to Islam. Islamic scholars, belonging to all sects, unanimously agreed that using force to convert an individual to Islam is not permitted. If such incidents are taking place, then they should be fully investigated, and the Hindu community should be provided protection. Similarly, the Sikh community’s concerns over burning of its holy books in different Hindu temples were also conveyed to Hindu leaders. Both Hindu and Sikh representatives agreed that they would resolve the issue on their own and avoid any kind of confrontation.

The issue of Qadyanis was also discussed in detail during the conference. It was clearly stated that no Islamic scholar in Pakistan has ever issued fatwa to murder Qadyanis nor do religious leaders allow the killing of Qadyanis. There are some obvious religious differences between the Muslims and Qadyanis, but the rights of Qadyanis as citizens of the country that are guaranteed in Pakistan’s law and Constitution should be respected. Qadyanis should also comply with the law and Constitution and Muslims should also respect that.

At the moment, Pakistan is suffering due to terrorism and both Muslims and non-Muslims are being targeted. The notion that only non-Muslims are being targeted is not correct. In some places, different Muslim sects are confronting each other. Under these circumstances, dialogue is the only way to tackle the growing religious extremism. When leaders of different religions sit together, many issues are resolved.

Considering the views expressed by the ambassador of the European Union, Australian high commissioner and ambassadors of Norway, Poland, Argentina, Tajikistan and Palestine during the national conference, it can be said that inter-faith and inter-sectarian dialogue is not only needed in Pakistan but also the entire world. The need for dialogue is greater in Pakistan given the fact that this country was founded in the name of Islam.

According to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad [PBUH], it is the responsibility of Muslims to protect the lives, properties, dignity, honour and worship places of non-Muslims living in a Muslim country.

We believe that the national conference and other events like these play a role in providing guidance to ordinary people. Dialogue helps in mitigating disputes and divisions, an example of which we have seen in recent times in Interior Sindh where confrontation between Hindu and Sikh communities was averted. Also, there is no denying the fact that all such agreements and measures taken at public level or by leaders of different religions can only achieve the desired results if the government of the time plays a role in this regard. During a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif a few days ago, he promised the PUC’s delegation that he was ready to take all possible measures to promote inter-faith and inter-sectarian forbearance with the aim of restoring peace and stability in the country. During the national conference, Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Sardar Muhammad Yousaf and Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rasheed also reiterated the commitment to follow the recommendations of the PUC and the national conference regarding the code of conduct and other matters.

This conference was not meant for famous personalities to sit together, deliver pleasant speeches and leave. The national reconciliation council formed in Karachi on April 16th also came under discussion during the conference. By the will of Allah, the national reconciliation council will be mobilised at federal and provincial level by the end of Ramazan. By the will of Allah, the scope of its operations will be extended to cities and villages so that people belonging to different religions and sects can resolve their issues at local level rather than confronting each other.

The PUC believes that dialogue and supremacy of law are the only way to put an end to the growing extremism, terrorism and religious tensions. If the doors of dialogue are closed and the law is taken hostage by extremists, then the outcome is the same problems that we are encountering today. But hopelessness has been declared a sin by Allah. We should follow the Quranic commandment of “Your religion for you and our religion for us” and close the doors of conflict through dialogue and supremacy of law. This path is filled with dangers, but with courage and dedication, we can achieve the destiny of peace, forbearance, love and inter-faith and inter-sectarian harmony.