- Our meeting today is held in these difficult conditions our world experiences
- The entire humanity undergoes a moral crisis
- Meanings of love and peace are viewed as an exception to the main rule of selfishness, hatred and dispute governing the world today
- There is no one country in the world but longs for permanent peace and life void from violence and terrorism.
- Unfortunately, people today view religion as the main reason behind the existence of this awful crime of terrorism
- Religions were sent down to spread peace among people and to firmly warn people against the unlawful shedding of the human blood
- Terrorism does not differentiate between the religious and the atheists nor does it differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims.
- Peace cannot prevail and people cannot peacefully live together unless the religious institutions and leaders cooperatively work for building peace.
- Peace should be built among the religious leaders at first and then between them and the men of letters, intellectuals and decision makers before we all work on spreading it among the common people.
- Statements of condemnation issued by people of religions against acts of terrorism, violence and hate rhetoric became insufficient
- We need to cooperate together to carry out a joint work to combat violence through a world project that has its relation with the real world.
In the Name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Mercy-Giving
Ladies and gentlemen!
Peace be with you all,
At the outset, let me express my deep gratitude for inviting me to attend this meeting being held in these difficult conditions our world experiences today. It goes without saying that the entire humanity undergoes a moral crisis, to the extent that the meanings of love and peace are viewed as an exception to the main rule of selfishness, hatred and dispute governing the world today. Frankly, I am telling the truth when I say that there is no one country in the world but longs for permanent peace and life void from violence and terrorism.
Unfortunately, people today view religion as the main reason behind the existence of this awful crime of terrorism.
In reality, those people, who accuse religion of creating terrorism, are not aware of two important facts in this regard; firstly: religions were sent down to spread peace among people, to eradicate injustice and to firmly warn people against the unlawful shedding of the human blood. In this connection, I think it is sufficient to tell you that the name of the religion I embrace is “Islam”- a name derived from the word “peace.” As well, As-Salaam (The Giver of Peace), as you know, is one of the Most Beautiful Names of Allah, the Almighty. Furthermore, He, the Exalted, is named the All-Merciful, the Most Compassionate, the Most-Kind, the All-Loving One, and the Ever-Cognizant. Likewise, the Messenger of Islam (PBUH) defines the true Muslim as “the one from whose tongue and hand the people are safe,” that is, from the harm of his tongue and hands people are safe.
As for the second fact, terrorism – which religions in general and Islam in particular, are accused of- does not differentiate between the religious and the atheists nor does it set distinction between Muslims and non-Muslims.
A quick look into the victims of terrorism ensures that Muslims themselves are the most people to endure the consequences of the terrorist acts as their blood is shed and their bodies are torn into pieces. This does not occur only in the East where terrorism strikes many countries such as Iraq, Pakistan, Lebanon, Egypt, Libya and the torn-apart Syria - in which more than one thousand mosques have been destroyed and more than 400,000 people were killed, but also in Europe where Muslims’ blood is shed along with Europeans’ blood in terrorist acts. Nevertheless, I believe that the great loss to Muslims in this regard is that Islam and Muslims alone were accused of terrorism. This accusation has been frequently leveled against them and thus led some extremist rightists to adopt a hate discourse. Accordingly, they offend religions and call for separating religion from lives of people as well as expelling the followers of religions from their countries. Moreover, they attacked houses of worship. All such actions leaves the innocent people caught between the devil and the deep blue sea; the devil of terrorism and the deep blue sea of the Islamophobia
Ladies and Gentlemen!
It is not my concern here to elaborate on in defense of religions against this false accusation as you surely know that it is completely false. However, I want to affirm that the first mission of religions is to foster and promote peace in all corners of the earth. Furthermore, this is the universal objective for which all religions are revealed. All religions, with no exception, prohibit shedding peoples’ blood, seizing their property and violating their honor. There is not a religion, to the best of my knowledge, which allows shedding blood, violating rights and terrorizing the innocent people.
Moreover, I believe that peace cannot prevail and people cannot peacefully live together unless the religious institutions and leaders cooperatively work for building peace.
Here, before you, I repeat what Al-Azhar has called for since more than seventy years here in some European capitals that peace should be built among the religious leaders at first and then between them and the men of letters, intellectuals and decision makers before we all work on spreading it among the common people.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
In fact, statements of condemnation issued by people of religions against acts of terrorism, violence and hate rhetoric became insufficient. It seems that we are working in an isolated island. Such work produces weak outcomes that lack effective impact in the real world. Therefore, we need to cooperate together to carry out a joint work to combat violence through a world project that has its relation with the real world. This project is to be supervised by religious leaders through holding a number of meetings that study the origins of this phenomenon in depth to reach best solutions to effectively face it on intellectual, scholarly, social and educational levels.
It is worth mentioning that Al-Azhar has developed a new subject in its curricula to educate students on dangers of terrorism and violence and to immunize them from falling prey to violent ideologies or joining terrorist groups that use Islamic mottos.
Meanwhile, there is no way but religions should assume their roles in educating youth on the importance of the values of mercy and tolerance through holding major international youth forums. These forums should focus on clarifying religious concepts especially fostering the concept of citizenship, as on the basis of citizenship we do not discriminate against citizens on the basis of their faiths or races. This is the basis of diversity, freedom, equality and the acceptance of the other. The Prophet of Islam (PBUH) has applied these concepts, before the modern world constitutions when he (PBUH) established these concepts among the people of Medina upon his migration, when he stated "the believers and Muslims of Quraysh and Yathrib are one nation (Ummah); and that The Jews of the Banu ‘Auf are one community with the believers (the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs)."
In this way, the Prophet (PBUH) has established the principle of equality among Muslim and non-Muslim citizens in the state and this has been recorded in the well-known "Constitution of Medina".
In this context, we reaffirm that belief in this principle will solve countless religious and social problems in both of the Eastern and Western states.
The Islamic Shariah has always emphasized that the Muslims in the East must treat the followers of other faiths as fellow citizens who take part in establishing and defending the state, as stated by the well-known Shariah maxim that goes as follows: "They [non-Muslim fellow citizens] equally share our rights and duties."
Al-Azhar has always called on the Muslims of the West to truly consider themselves as a part of their societies where they should integrate and react positively in order to achieve social peace.
Undoubtedly, in this context, the religious leaders have a role that they should not ignore to break down the psychological barriers that have been erected by propagandists of violence, isolation and hatred among the followers of different faiths. This role entails highlighting multiple facts, on top of which is that such diversity is a God-dictated norm that must never give rise to a relationship of conflict, seclusion or war. Otherwise, the situation is considered to entail a contradiction between the freedom of diversity and forfeit of this right.
In the end of my speech, I voice my hopes that we together step up our efforts to confront all manifestations and practices that stand in the way of promoting peace, mercy and justice among people in the East and the West. I also hope that we formulate an integrated humanitarian draft agreement that leads us to bring about a positive effect on the current affairs so that we may have enough good deeds whereby we may escape God's blame on the Day of Judgment.
May Allah bestow His Peace, Mercy and Blessings upon you!
Prof. Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayyeb
The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar