Greater Efforts for Human Codes of Tolerance Needed
Human Codes of Tolerance and Respect exist in all our different religions and cultures, from Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism to Buddhism. The problem today is that we have forgotten our common roots.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was such a living example of tolerance and respect to the older religions of Judaism and Christianity contrary to un-Islamic hate propaganda and the perception in Western media.
As an example of the Prophet's tolerance towards other religions, one should recount the incident when the Christians of Najran came to Medina, not only did the Prophet lodge them in the Mosque, he also permitted them to hold their prayers on one side of the Mosque and the Muslims on the other side. In this Mosque, dialogues between Christians and Muslims were conducted with freedom, respect and tolerance.
Karen Armstrong in her famous book Muhammad: A Prophet of our Time, states that seventeen of the Jewish tribes in Madinah lived with the new Muslim community in peace for many years. Later Jews enjoyed full religious liberty in the Islamic empires until the Palestine-Israel conflict started only 60 years ago.
When in 630, Prophet Muhammad with an army of 10,000 men entered Makkah there was no revenge, no bloodshed and nobody was forced to join Islam. When he had conquered Makkah peacefully, he did not establish a purist Islamic regime as 'God's Kingdom on Earth,' nor did he misuse political power. He promoted reconciliation even with his most hatred enemies and left the status quo intact.
The Holy Quran demands not only tolerance but also a firm belief in the scripts (the Torah, the Bible and the Qur'an) and all the messengers without distinction.
The merciful nature of the Prophet has been forgotten, like that of Jesus Christ for more than 1800 years by Christianity during the long periods of inquisition, crusading and the Thirty Years' War against the Protestants in Europe.
I believe that an Islamic Renaissance is urgently needed to bring back Muhammad's teaching of mercy, respect, and tolerance not only for the West but the Islamic nations themselves and for the clash of Shias and Sunnis, as they are the first victims of totalitarian thinking.
True Muslims should actively reject the new negative forces of jahiliyyah and promote the Prophet's moral world of 'din' and a society of 'ilm'.
We, the Christians should not forget than only in the last maximum 200 years Christianity become tolerant and respectful to other religions and had come back to the true spirit of Jesus after 1800 years.
How can we step by step promote the Human Codes of Tolerance and Respect? These Codes are intended to promote tolerance, respect, and dignity for ethnic minorities and people of different religions, and to support a peaceful coexistence between other religions, races and nationalities of our "global village."
This starts from where you live locally, but reaches up to the national and international policy levels too.
There are thousands of active grassroots projects from which we can choose best practice examples of tolerance and a number of academic and nongovernmental approaches to promote tolerance and peaceful coexistence. There is as yet no precise strategy and a recipe, however, for implementing these best practice examples into political action worldwide. This is especially true for conflict areas.
It is enormously important to implement the Codes of Tolerance especially for solution of conflicts, nation building and as a soft factor of peacemaking in countries like Bosnia Herzegovina, Kosovo, the Baltic States or Russia in Europe, Turkey, Iraq, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine as well as Afghanistan, Pakistan or Sri Lanka in Asia and many more regions in the world with different nationalities and minorities in one state.
The World Security Network Foundation (WSN) is collecting ideas, policy examples, and best practice examples of tolerance and peaceful coexistence in the areas of family, education, and media from all over the world. One example is the "Art Road for Peace" initiative of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to educate Jewish and Arabic children in cooperation through working on art projects.
I also propose some of the following measures that may prove useful in the spread of codes of tolerance and lead to a better understanding of respective religions and their practices. This could include:
- Mutual visits of local committees of religious leaders of Christian, Islamic and Jewish communities
- Reconciliation ceremonies in churches, mosques and synagogues inviting those from other faiths
- A Joint School Book Commission presenting two sides of history, as was done by the Braunschweig School book Institute in Germany for German-Polish and German-French history books successfully since decades
- Declaration in editors committees to cover more stories of reconciliation in TV, print and radio, not only hate and terror
- Extending support to movies covering the aspects of reconciliation, tolerance and respect to reach out to a young audience, as done by local moviemakers in Bosnia-Herzegovina with funding from international organisations
- On the government level, it would be highly useful to establish a governmental position of State Secretary or Special Representative for Dialogue of Cultures and Tolerance, with a budget similar to the environmental and arms control initiatives of the 1970s and 1980s
- There could also be some legislative resolutions requiring governments to publish an annual report on the status of the dialogue of cultures, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence
- Further steps could include establishment of a National Truth and Reconciliation Commission like in South Africa
- Having a worldwide National Day of Tolerance and Minorities
A more peaceful world needs a global and very active promotion of tolerance and respect as a joint effort by various strata of society.
It is time we go back to the common moral roots of our religion that have taught basically the same values and beliefs.
It is time to make an effort and teach our children that a better world is possible.
Comment in Khaleej Times Newspaper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, May 3, 2009.
More information can be found in www.codesoftolerance.com.