Rejecting hatred and embracing tolerance is the true heart of Islam

Rejecting hatred and embracing tolerance is the true heart of Islam

Dr Mohammad Abdulkarim Al-Issa (L) lays a candle at the memorial monument in the former German Nazi death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. (File/AFP)
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Tolerance. It is both a religious and a moral duty, a sacred tenet of Islam. Without tolerance, we would face only endless misunderstanding, disharmony and strife. And at the Muslim World League (MWL), it is something we offer unconditional commitment toward.

It is distressing and tragic that today we are mocked and ridiculed by fringe elements among those who claim to be Muslims, merely for honoring our sacred responsibility to respect and reach out to the leaders and adherents of the world’s other noble religions.

But no ridicule can deter us from our obligation. Even as the extremists pursue tactics of hatred and divisiveness, we at the MWL will be guided by the true ideals of moderate Islam, which remain consistent and unchanging.

We must learn to accept one another. We must accept our differences, and embrace and emphasize our commonalities. We must strive to defeat our common enemies — the extremists and terrorists who seek to undermine the sacred Islamic principles of mercy, empathy and love. And we must work together to spread goodness in this world.

This is the moderate Islam that guides the words and actions of my life. It is the same set of beliefs that guide the thousands of Muslim scholars and thinkers, and hundreds of millions of Muslims who seek direction from the Muslim World League and the Organization of Muslim Scholars.

Holding to these values is a constant test for all of us, particularly in the absence of a document outlining the Islamic moral code, backed by Muslim scholars and applicable to any circumstances. In the past it has been too easy for Muslims to be dragged by the tides of politics when faced with unjust outcomes or acts of extremism carried out by those harboring hate toward Muslims.

Thus, I saw it as my duty to gather all scholars of the Muslim world in a place that they deem holiest, in a month they deem grandest, in the days of that month they deem most blessed. So in Makkah they congregated, in the last 10 days of Ramadan in May 2019, more than 1,200 muftis and scholars, as well as 4,500 Islamic thinkers. And they issued the most important document for scholars and thinkers in the modern history of Islam.

The Charter of Makkah translate our values into clear rules for the Muslim world, while conveying a sincere message to non-Muslims. To benefit everyone, the charter has been made accessible to all online, in several languages. Friends, followers of different faiths, and even politicians and thinkers who do not adhere to any specific faith have congratulated us for issuing such a document.

For it is a testament to the true nature of Islam, endorsed by the muftis, scholars and thinkers of the Muslim world — and to the greatness of our faith.

The charter speaks of tolerance for all people, and an acceptance of the diversity that is divine will. It is important to proclaim these things, but even more important to act upon them.

And so we have aggressively reached out to all faiths with our message of tolerance and understanding.

We will stand steadfast with our brothers from the Jewish, Christian and other faiths to defend our shared values, cooperate in serving humanity, spread peace and harmony among all, and fight all forms of hatred.

Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa

Only a week ago, I spoke at two Jewish conferences in the United States, reaffirming my commitment to stand in solidarity against anti-Semitism and reiterating the statement I made when I visited the death camp in Auschwitz earlier this year: Never again to the atrocities that took place there. Not for Jews. Not for Muslims. Not for Christians. Not for anyone else, Allah willing.

I was inspired to see the values and positions we expressed so strongly welcomed across the Muslim world. But I was not surprised, for these represent my moral and spiritual obligations as a religious leader, and emanate from the true values of Islam. My outreach has been consistent with the Charter of Makkah, and is backed by the rich and diverse membership of the Muslim World League.

I have received messages of solidarity from thousands of muftis, scholars and Muslim thinkers. It was heartwarming to be reminded of the global network of advocates representing the true values of our religion, and matching the words of the Charter of Makkah with deeds. And it is a testament to our efforts to spread awareness and the true tenets of Islam.

Unfortunately, there will always be outliers in our community, isolated groups with little influence or weight, but determined to shout loudest from their fortresses of isolation or social media channels of cynicism. They would have it that tolerance is a transgression, and violence a virtue.

We know whose these individuals are, and what ideology guides them. It is one counter to the true meaning of Islam. And we know who backs them with huge political and financial backing, determined not just to promote anti-Semitism but even to corrupt the very understanding of Islam.

I won’t mention them by name, because they take sick credit in espousing hatred.

Just take a look at their Twitter and Facebook contributions in response to my recent outreach to Jews, Christians and our other brothers and sisters. Posts glorifying Hitler? Tweets praising the burning of Jews?

Seeing this level of hatred and hostility gives my heart pain — especially from people falsely claiming some sort of Islamic mandate. These disturbed individuals should ask themselves: Why would anyone publish such material? Who does it benefit? Does it help their children?

These voices represent a tiny majority of the Muslim world, but their news outlets insist on disseminating video clips with the ugliest images of hate and hostility, and spreading them through social media via verified accounts, indoctrinating children with backward views. And somehow their accounts remain active, with Twitter and Facebook providing them with an international platform from which to spread hatred and incitement toward the Jewish people.

This radical fringe has attacked me for defending Semitism, for visiting Auschwitz and calling Jews “my brothers.” They have tried to sell their lies to ordinary people in the Muslim world.

Thankfully, they have failed miserably and repeatedly. The Muslim World League carries far greater weight than the barking of extremists, and we have the backing of the thousands of scholars and muftis across the Ummah, who congregated last year to adopt the Charter of Makkah. They represented all Islamic schools of thought. They came from every sect, including Sunni, Shiite, Druze and others. They traveled from every Muslim country, as well as those with Muslim minorities.

I am focused on these true carriers of Islam’s light, not the devious machinations of the heretics. The heretics have no influence with the vast majority of the world’s Muslims, who believe in the divine principles of tolerance and coexistence. And the Muslim World League stands with communities of Muslims everywhere, determined to spread the true message of Islam, peace, tolerance, and love.

We will stand steadfast with our brothers from the Jewish, Christian and other faiths to defend our shared values, cooperate in serving humanity, spread peace and harmony among all, and fight all forms of hatred, including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.

These are our unwavering principles, and we will hold true to them with pride.

  • Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa is secretary-general of the Muslim World League and president of the Organization of Muslim Scholars
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