Interfaith Harmony week is so important. Sadly so often in the past religious exclusivism and contempt for the other has been a contributory factor in the genocidal killings that scar human history. It is time for people of faith to make deep apology to members of other faiths whom they have hurt and offended as Pope John Paul II did at the Western Wall in Jerusalem It is also vital that as people of faith we work together for a more just and peaceful world.
A talk prepared for UPF meeting on Monday 6 February 2012 at House of Lords.
Bismillah Hir Rahma Nir Rahim (I begin with name of God the Most Kind the Most Merciful). I greet you with the greetings of Islam (Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakathu (May God’s blessing and peace be with us all.) .
I am honoured to be asked to speak to you on the important issue of “Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Islam”. From the outset I must say I am very grateful to Dr Rev’d Marcus Braybrooke for guiding me on many issues of Interfaith. I have only praise for Universal Peace Federation (UPF) for its good work over the years.Part of our being human is that we make mistakes, no body is perfect. Sometime we make mistakes without deliberation and intention. But sometime we deliberately sin and do wrong to others. It is said “to err is human and to forgive is divine”. Both parts of this statement are very true. As human beings we are responsible, but we do also make mistakes and we are constantly in need of forgiveness.
Bismillah Hir Rahma Nir Rahim (I begin with name of God the Most Kind the Most Merciful). I greet you with the greetings of Islam (Assalamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakathu (May God’s blessing and peace be with us all.)
I am honoured, and deeply humbled, to the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) for inviting me on this historic occasion of Human Rights Day 2011. From the very outset I wish to give my personal and, on behalf of the Muslim Council of Britain, congratulations to your organization for the very valuable work you have done which has been very much recognised by international agencies. I have privileged to work closely on previous years and found Rights and Humanity work with faith communities very useful. 10th December date is also a very special date in the international calendar. This is another anniversary of the United Nation's Declaration of Human Rights when in 1948 the world community endorsed a remarkable document.
Let me say a few words about Human Rights and Islam before I turn to the topic of religious extremism and fanaticism. I must make it clear that to the best of my knowledge, the modern world had no concept of human rights before the seventh century and it was not until the 18th century that the concept took any practical meaning in the constitutions of a number of countries. From the Islamic point of view God granted rights to all humans, which cannot be taken away by any human institutions. Islam gave to mankind two types ideal code of rights fifteen hundred years ago: 1. Haqooq Allah which means rights and obligations towards the creator and 2. Haqooq an-Nas or Haqooq al-Ibad which means human rights. The first constitutes recognition of duties by human beings to be righteous and act with purity of mind and body in worship and obedience to the will of creator. The second is based upon social contract to do good deeds for common good with dignity and respect for all human beings while appreciating diversity and valuing the difference. This is the obligation of the society for the best relationship between man to man. Every right have some duties and responsibilities, which must be strictly observed, in letter and in spirit.
With long experience of these issues, Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke, President of the World Congress of Faiths, was an excellent Chair for this Session on 'Religious Freedom - Global Issues'. He commented that, “It is appropriate today that we are having this discussion and the House of Lords are having (the Archbishop of Canterbury) debate on the rights of religious minorities in the Middle East, affirming that religious freedom is a basic human right. Faith communities themselves have much yet to learn about tolerance of other communities. They should move away from the historic exclusivism."
A speech entitled 'Religious Persecution in Pakistan' (full speech link) by Shiekh Rahman gave a personal and moving account of the persecution experienced in Pakistan by religious minorities. Particularly pressing upon the exclusion and violence experienced by his own religious community, the Ahmadiyya Muslims. Peter Zoehrer gave an account of religious persecution currently occurring in Japan. He described it as a “hidden human rights crime” of forced conversions and kidnappings of more than 4300 believers – predominantly Unification Church members, but also more than 100 Jehovah Witnesses leaving those who go through such ordeals are left psychologically traumatised and in some cases, physically decimated. Jura Nanuk, Deputy President, Croatian Religious Liberty Association, reported on the anti-religious legislation passed in the Hungarian parliament on 14/07/2011, that grants the government the right to determine whether a religious community could enjoy religious status. This legislation has led to the persecution of smaller religions.
Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid examines the vision of the UN Inter-religious Council as an advisory body to guide the world political leadership on moral and spiritual issues for creating better world. The formation of the UN Inter-Religious Council is the founding vision of the Universal Peace Federation. It will be considered in the UPF Peace Council in London on Saturday 4th December. (For more info)