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Interfaith Dialogue ( 11 Jul 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Religious Unity Can Tackle Terror

By JS Rajput

11 July 2016

The greater challenge before the global community is not only to determine ‘who is wrong’ but to establish a consensus on ‘what is wrong’. The enlightened of every religion must ensure that fringe elements are not allowed to hold sway over the young ones and mislead them

Even before the shock of brutal massacre of innocents in Dhaka could be painfully absorbed, reports from Baghdad informed the world of a much bigger onslaught by the Islamic State, killing over 200 people. Next was the Great Mosque in Jeddah. In India, a Pampore was already there. Terrorist killings in the name of religion have now become a daily affair. The spread extends to every corner of the globe and they can strike unsuspecting citizens — children, women and elderly included — everywhere. How tragic, they shout slogans, and they do all this in the name of ‘the most merciful, benevolent and kind’!

Sadly enough, majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims are put to serious embarrassment by such dastardly attacks.  Many of them do not wish to take shelter under the well-intended but fictitious cliché that terrorism has no religion.  Though unfortunate, these days, a terror act anywhere invariably generates apprehensions about its links to Islam and in majority of the cases; this suspicion turns out to be correct.

It is now being realised that in the longer run, the whole world shall have to call a spade a spade as only when the problem is fully visualised and stated in unequivocal terms in all its dimensions, tangible solutions can indeed be attempted. Two of the recent statements; one by Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and the other by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, clearly state the query that the entire world would like to ask each other: Can these persons be followers of Islam, the religion of peace?

Those responsible for the heinous and inhuman crimes have to be booked and awarded suitable punishment as ordained under judicial systems of the concerned nation. Everyone understands that though necessary, this is no solution that can offer even symbolic solace. For the greater challenge before the global community is not only to determine ‘who is wrong’ but to analytically establish a consensus on ‘what is wrong’.

If former was the way, elimination of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi would have brought peace to the region and beyond. It did not happen! Instead, the world is now besieged with far greater measure of violence and hatred. The worst is the increasing distrust amongst various religious communities. In clear terms, rogue elements are responsible for creating global apprehensions about Islam; and the followers of Islam. 

Such apprehensions lead to lack of trust and a hidden urge to ‘keep distance’. Fringe elements will always be there in practically most of the communities to fuel the fire and take advantage of the situation to nurture vested interests. However, it enjoins upon the enlightened of every religion and community to ensure that they are not allowed to hold unhindered sway over the young and mislead them to practices like becoming fidayeen! It is the inbuilt dynamism and a sharp eye on the ‘pace of change’ that alone keeps a balance between the followers of the right and wrong paths.

Apart from urgent and short-term solutions that must be attempted, considerable attention must be given to arrive at long-term strategies to prepare generations ahead that will realise the futility of their elders in wasting time and energy on hatred, violence and wars on humanity. Clearly, the first priority has to be the nature, content and process of education right from the initial stages to its highest levels. It is the process of education, of teaching and learning, of transferring the accumulated knowledge and wisdom to generations ahead that makes the difference.

In a globalised world, the pace and intensity of intermixing of cultures, languages, traditions, attire, cuisine just cannot be stopped. These can only be rationalised. It indicates how necessary it is to learn from the past and let everyone realise that in these times of ever-increasing mobility and inter-cultural interactivity, how important it is to respect ‘otherness’; be it of region, language, religion or socio-cultural practices.

If Pakistan is the most despised nation for its role in hobnobbing with the spread of terrorism and fundamentalism, it is only reaping what it has sown for all these years in its schools. Even a cursory glance on the content of its textbooks will reveal the extent to which these preach hatred against Hindus!

As the children grow, they find it all around: All the troubles of Pakistan are because of India! These lessons in hatred have boomeranged on it. The manner innocent school children were assaulted in a Rawalpindi school brought tears to one’s eye. Even after several such tragic incidents on its own soil resulting in the massacre of its own citizens, it continues to hobnob with terrorists, supports them, denies their presence and expects suffering world to believe it!

By preaching hatred against Hindus and India, by perpetuating violent interpretations of jihad and kafir, it has ingrained hatred in the minds of its innocent young ones. Hatred once internalised never differentiates!

The march towards global peace, erosion of backwardness and elimination of religious fanaticism can be organised by learning from the history, yes, the history of India. Indian philosophers and thinkers had not only conceptualised the essential unity of all human beings, but had also put it to practice: All paths are equally relevant to lead to the search for truth; search for god.

It is this practice that extended a welcome to Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews and Muslims as the followers of these religions came to India. This was secularism in real practice. It generated respect, shunned any hatred for diversity. While politicians of the day have tried to mutilate it, it has sustained itself as the roots are indeed very strong. It provided the right climate tothe intermingling of cultures and it is the Indian model that has the potential to show the path to the emerging new world.

In India, respect for each other’s religion amongst Hindus and Muslims is mutual. If Pakistan understands the meaning of real Islam, it will come out of its enigma. The real Islam was presented before the world by two young friends of Tarishi Jain, brutally killed by the fundamentalists attack on the Holey Artisan Bakery Restaurant in Dhaka.  The butchers were sparing all those who could recite Aayat from Quran and Abinta Kabir and Faraaz Ayaaz Hossain could have saved their lives by reciting verses from Quran with which they were well familiar with. But they refused to leave Tarishi behind!

This is supreme sacrifice, this reflects “the essential unity of all humankind” it shall remain a shining example of the acceptance of the diversity, yet equality of religions and of real friendship! Let everyone salute these three young persons. The Dhaka tragedy has shown the right path. Let that spirit be internalised in education, let education nurture brotherhood, love and equal respect for all religions. That would be the real secularism.