Bigotry stands in the way of peace
The Jakarta Post
No matter whom you ask out there on the streets, they will say that the odds of building peace in the global sense are very remote. Wherever we look, we see conflict, civil war or serious tensions.
Yet it can actually be very easy to establish peace and tranquility.
In order to establish peace, the first thing we must do is to identify the real reasons behind conflicts and wars throughout the world.
Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, the Middle East demands our attention with unprecedented intensity. Whether it is suicide bombers wreaking havoc in Israel, Iraq, or Pakistan, sectarian clashes in Iraq, a prolonged war in Afghanistan or the bloody Syrian civil war, we are constantly reminded of the volatile political and spiritual crisis that is deepening with growing intensity throughout the region.
This situation affects not only the region, but also the rest of the world. One of the main reasons for the unrest in the Islamic countries in particular is radicalism, or in other words, bigotry.
However, bigotry should not be confused with true Islam. A person who happens to have a Muslim background or identity, who incites wars in the name of religion and who encourages killing and bloodshed misleads some non-Muslims into confusing true Islam with bigotry. Yet this bloodthirsty system has nothing to do with the real Islam and is in fact an ideology diametrically opposed to it.
Bigots place restrictions on people's freedoms through prohibitions that appear absolutely nowhere in the Koran. In their eyes, laughter, listening to music, eating at a table and using knives and forks are all sinful activities.
They demand that people who do not pray should be killed, that those who do not give alms should be beaten on the back of the neck and that those who do not fast should be imprisoned.
It's a fact that there are still some Muslim countries in which leaving Islam and converting to another faith is punished with death. Bigotry is a religion of savagery. In such an environment, no one can express his opinions freely.
Everyone must go along with the ideas of the bigots; otherwise, he or she must be persecuted. Yet in the Koran we are told quite clearly 'There is no compulsion where the religion is concerned' (2:256)
Islam is a religion that guarantees freedom of thought, worship and expression, and rights of all kinds, and ' most important of all ' brings with it true liberty.
In a society led by Muslims, not only Muslims (or one Islamic sect) but everyone, including Christians, Jews, Buddhists and atheists, must all live in justice, love and peace.
One of the main reasons behind the suicide attacks and bombings we hear of with distressing frequency is a bigoted mindset, which regards the People of the Book as enemies; and yet there is no hatred toward the People of the Book, Christians and Jews, in the Koran.
On the contrary, it stresses love, affection and protection toward them. Allah makes it lawful for Muslims to eat food prepared by Christians or Jews and also permits a Muslim to marry a woman from them. (5:5)
The Malaysian court's ban on the use of the word 'Allah' by non-Muslims is another form of bigotry. The decision is based on illogical and theologically unacceptable reasoning. It is completely against Islam and it must be reversed.
Another important difference between true Islam and bigotry is that bigots regard art and beauty in any walk of life as a sin, whereas art and beauty are frequently praised in the Koran.
Muslims are commanded to attend assemblies in their finest clothes and adornments. Paradise represents the peak of art, beauty and splendor. The concept of quality and beauty in the Koran and that which Allah describes in Paradise also need to prevail in the Islamic world.
It is a fact that bigots regard women as semi-human, which is in total contradiction of the Koran. The quality and modernity of any society is directly proportional to the importance attached and behavior toward women in that society.
Men and women are equal in all respects in the Koran. Men and women were involved together in all spheres of life in the time of our Prophet.
The fact that Khadija, the wife of Prophet Muhammad was one of the most important business figures of the region shows how women can indeed be highly active in social life.
At that time, male and female companions had equal responsibilities in terms of teaching those newly acquainted with Islam and in establishing social peace.
Once people adopt the conception of love in the Koran, there will be no more issues like Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Members of the three divine faiths will be able to live in love, unity, solidarity and peace in Jerusalem, as they did in the past.
Opposing radical groups with weapons, coups or military force simply strengthens such groups still further. If people are instead properly informed about Islam and the Koran, then the support given to such terror groups will come to an end, the nonsense that the radicals rely on will disappear, and the radicals' supply lines will be severed.
Non-Muslims, especially in the West, should support the intellectual struggle waged by educated Muslim groups against bigotry. Muslim organizations combating radicalism need to be supported and more strongly emphasized.
Once Muslims live by true Koranic moral values by eliminating bigotry, this will bring joy, peace and tranquility to all humanity.
The writer has authored more than 300 books on political, faith-related and scientific topics.
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