Views of CCJR Members
Muslims and Jews must combine to champion tolerance and stop the Isil-inspired hatred across the Middle East
- Created: August 23, 2016
- Written by Prince Hassan and Edward Kessler
[From The Telegraph (London)]
This central role in our region and civilisation is why it is abhorrent to us, as a Muslim and a Jew, to see Christianity and Christians under such savage assault across our region.
We are appalled not only by the sickening attacks on our fellow human beings. We also know that to lose Christianity from its birthplace would be to destroy the richness of the tapestry of the Middle East and a hammer blow to our shared heritage. The reality is that we are all one community, united by shared beliefs and history. But this is increasingly denied, with Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or Daesh as it is known in our region, taking the lead both in justifying and carrying out these attacks. The most recent issue of its publication Dabiq, headlined “Break the Cross”, explicitly rejects the fundamental belief that we are all People of the Book.
Daesh peddle an apocalyptic vision that harks back to a mythic Golden Age which is solely the creation of the warped minds of today’s jihadists. They are in the same mould as those whose misguided zeal turned Christian Europe in the Middle Ages into a byword for fanaticism and oppression. Daesh want to take us to a new Dark Age, an age made even darker by the dangers that the gifts of science and technology pose in their hands.
It is not just Christians, of course, who they have made targets for their hate. The search for religious purity poses a universal threat. As we have seen all too often, fundamentalists display a particular loathing for co-religionists whose views do not conform to their own. Daesh has shown itself as prepared to slaughter indiscriminately other Muslims as it has Jews, Christians and others, whatever their nationality: Jordanian or Egyptian, American, British or European.
Helping to end this dangerous slide towards hatred, self-destruction and fratricidal conflict is the main challenge for all of us involved in interfaith dialogue. This requires us to step up our efforts to increase understanding that what unites the three great faiths of our region is far greater than any differences. We must stress, too, that respect for the past and learning from it does not require us to live there.
But this must be coupled with an honest recognition that all the Abrahamic scriptures – the Christian Bible, the Jewish Tanach and the Koran – contain texts which are divisive and include attacks on other groups. Throughout history, they have been used to justify the most appalling actions in the name of God.
These texts, which carry weight and authority, cannot be deleted or ignored.
So how do we counter their divisive message which, in the wrong hands, can be read as a license for bigotry and violence?
These words must be seen in context. It is vital, for example, to juxtapose texts from the same Scripture that offer a contrasting approach. Here, too, a better understanding of the sacred writings of other faiths may help us see the paradoxes and conflicts that we can fail to acknowledge in our own.
Above all, we must emphasise the importance of interpretation, which is central and common to all the Abrahamic faiths. This provides us with the ability to deal with texts that run contrary to what we regard as the fundamental values of our tradition.
Islam teaches haq el hurriya and haq el karama, the right to freedom and the right to human dignity. In Judaism, Pikuach Nefesh is the command that the preservation of human life takes precedence over all other commandments.
It is time to call a halt to the hate and atrocities that are causing convulsions throughout our immediate region and beyond. Peace and humanity itself hang upon the success of this interfaith exercise. It is that important.
- HRH Prince Hassan of Jordan, is the founder and president of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies
- Dr Ed Kessler is director of the Woolf Institute