(By Dr Shahid Qureshi in Astana – Kazakhstan) “We Saved Our (Muslim) Identity in Soviet Period” said President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev in his opening speech at world congress of traditional religions on 10th June 2015 in capital Astana. The president said: “Today, the ancient Kazakh land is honoured to invite the leaders and high representatives of the world and traditional religions for dialogue between civilizations and religions. Obviously the intention to hold that event is to start dialogue between the religions and hope for the peace and sanity to prevail.
The challenge for the world leaders is also to understand that victims of individual terrorism and state terrorism suffer the same. It is time for the United Nations to define terrorism and condemn where states perpetrate terrorism on the other states. Surely we cannot call legitimate resistance against the occupation as terrorism in Kashmir under Indian occupation since 1947 and Palestine under Israeli occupation. I did ask the panel of religious leaders chaired by the Spanish Foreign Minister: “When the people in Muslim world see that UN and international community pro actively got independence to the Christians of East Timor and South Sudan but Muslims of Indian occupied Kashmir and Palestine are suffering brutal state terrorism since 1948 from India and Israel. How would you justify criticism of Muslims”? Millions of Muslims are displaced within there countries and neighbouring countries since 1947 at various times if we just look at the UNHCR map of refugees from Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Syria. It is not a mere coincident but a designed adopted policy? There is no doubt that UN has lost its credibility as a body representing and protecting the life, limbs and interests of the people. The sole super power USA and its allies has committed heinous crimes against humanity in Iraq, Afghanistan by illegal occupation and by drones in Pakistan. This just to keep it’s military industrial complexes running to keep the ‘war economy’ traditions since its own independence. The speakers at the 5th Congress stressed the importance of coexistence, tolerance and dialogue for world peace and calls for educating youth in religious values away from extremism and narrow-mindedness. However it is important that youth must be taught about the history and culture of various parts of the countries. Youth of Muslim world must approached in a ‘sensitive and educating’ manner to convince them that – “your ignorance is their power’. Therefore educate yourself in science, technology, art and culture. They must also be careful of the provocateurs and agents of the ‘war economy’ runners and warmongers. The Director General of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), Dr Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, chaired a working session on “the impact of religion on the youth: education, science, culture and the media,” Mr Altwaijri said: that today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders who are required to shoulder the responsibility of addressing humanity’s present-time tough problems and crises.
As part of this duty, he explained, they would also have as mission to advance universal dialogue in its various facets, and to play an active role in building world peace and accordingly delivering humanity of the torments and woes of wars and conflicts. In the same vein, he said that the impact of religion on young people, when properly delivered through education institutions, cultural forums and the media, plays a decisive role in eliminating the causes of tension, handling conflicts, building trust among nations and peoples and promoting dialogue among religions, cultures and civilizations. Indeed, he argued, a young generation having a strong sense of belonging to their religion, making it their guiding compass in their private and public lives, while being tolerant and forgiving, are a vital prerequisite for spiritual peace, which in turn is the groundwork for peace in its broadest sense. Dr Altwaijri said the tolerant religious values that have a strong impact on the lives of individuals and groups are a prerequisite for a prosperous human life.
A religious education delivered through good curricula and teaching methods since the first stages of school life is therefore the key to a balanced, strong and creative personality, he said. Individuals educated in this way not only excel in science and all other fields of knowledge, but also contribute effectively to the development of their communities, while maintaining good relations with others in an atmosphere of tolerance and harmony, thus rejecting hatred and racism, which only lead to evil, conflict and confrontation, and undermine world peace, he argued. He was of the view that: “Our collective responsibility to foster dialogue between the followers of religions, cultures and civilizations requires, first and foremost, a review of the school curricula in such a way as to make tolerant religious values at the core of education. This requires particularly that priority be given to dispensing a religious education that is open and based on rationales consistent with scientific facts and religious principles. Peace actually begins in people’s minds. The more positive impact religion has on the mind and conscience of individuals, the more influential it will be on their behaviour in public life. Religion accordingly lies at the core of life as the primeval ingredient of the human personality.
There could therefore be no just and comprehensive peace unless religious values have an impact on its making, in one way or another. For religion is peace both in the soul and on earth.” Against this backdrop, he stressed the need to educate young people in tolerant religious values, away from extremism and narrow-mindedness, as the first step towards assimilating them into a culture of peace favouring rapprochement and peaceful coexistence among peoples. For, as he explained, infusing the contents of education curricula, science, culture and the media with the inherent tolerance of religious values is the right approach to building peace and promoting dialogue between the followers of religions, cultures and civilizations. Lastly, he underscored the crucial importance of such an approach, deeming it “the groundwork for dialogue between religious and political leaders; and such is the right start of the long stage we have embarked on in the long path of religious, cultural and civilizational dialogue, in pursuit of a culture of justice, peace, tolerance and coexistence. Such is the overarching goal of the members of this congress, which neatly showcases the wise policy of this prosperous country [Kazakhstan], which supports all advocates of harmony, peace and religious values.”
It is important to understand that terrorism is not exclusive to Islam only as we have seen terrorism against Muslims in various parts of the world Kashmir by Hindus, Palestine by Jews, Iraq by Christians, and Burma (Mayanmar) Buddhist terrorists. The Astana congress invited Hindus, Jews, Christians and Buddhists. It is important for religious leaders to influence their political and military leaders in their respective countries. Surely the religious leaders don’t have armies but ‘word of God’. The recent rise of Hindu extremism and brutal terrorism against Muslims of India alarmed the world. So much so Indian Prime minister Narander Modi introduced a new god in the Indian Hindu mythology by worshiping arms and ammunitions. In the end participants of the 5th Congress appreciated the purpose of the congress because – It strengthens interfaith dialogue by bringing religious leaders together. The Fifth Congress is also important because it brings together religious and political leaders for a meaningful dialogue on ways to combine efforts to promote better understanding among communities. It provides opportunities for improved dialogue between representatives of different cultures and religions including those from the mass media, youth associations, academia and the arts. It deepens and strengthens mutual understanding and respect among different religious communities. It develops tolerance and mutual respect in contrast to the ideology of hatred and extremism.
Youth of all over the world especially Muslim youth must be approached in a ‘sensitive and educating’ manner to convince them that “Your ignorance is their power”. Therefore educate yourself.
(Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior analyst with BBC and editor of The London Post. He writes on security, terrorism and foreign policy. He also appears as analyst on Al-Jazeera, Press TV, MBC, Kazak TV (Kazakhstan), LBC Radio London. He was also international election observer for Kazakhstan 2015 and Pakistan 2002. He has written a famous book “War on Terror and Siege of Pakistan” published in 2009. He is a PhD in Political Psychology and also studied Law at a British University)
( Dr Shahid Qureshi is Senior Analyst of BBC )