09 January, 2009

A vaccine against terrorism - inter-faith harmony

by M. Rajaque Rahman

One thing for which the world would like to forget 2008 is the rise of fanaticism and religious terrorism. Though the world has lived with terror for years, it became more pronounced in 2008 with acts of terror linked to religion or belief system. The perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage targeted Jews for their faith.

It's a tragedy that religion, which has been the source of superior virtues such as honesty, love, compassion, justice and peace, is being used as a motivation to spread terror and kill innocents.

Though motives and reasons vary from attack to attack, religious terrorism runs on the fuel derived from a misplaced belief that 'my way is the only way' and it's God's ordained duty to take up arms against those who have gone astray.

What can prevent fanaticism and religious terrorism in the New Year? Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel as religious leaders are coming out against terrorism and pushing for inter-faith harmony.

In November, over 6,000 Muslim clerics gathered in Hyderabad to denounce religious terrorism and tell the world that there is no place for extremism in Islam. Earlier, the orthodox Islamic seminary Darul Uloom at Deoband issued a fatwa against terrorism. More importantly, leaders from other religions were roped in for the Hyderabad meeting of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. A positive signal to unitedly fight terrorism is being sent to the larger community.

Taking the call for inter-faith harmony a step further, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living, who was chief guest at the gathering of the most influential body of Muslim clerics in India, offered to work with them to isolate fanatical elements abetting terrorism.

A month later, over 500 imams and rabbis gathered in far away Paris for the 3rd World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace where they searched for ways to resolve differences between Islam and Judaism, the main cause of violence and conflict in the Middle East.

These events may not immediately make religious fanatics desist from doing what they are doing in the name of religion. Yet they represent a serious attempt to find an alternative solution to religious terrorism.

While religion seeks to bring uniformity in a multi-faceted world, the goal of spirituality is to celebrate the diversity. To save the world from this pitfall of religion, the time has come to spiritualise religion.

One of the most notable aspects of contemporary spirituality has been its accent on educating people to a proper understanding of religion.

This is vital as the wrong understanding of the verses of scripture has caused upheaval and is used to justify narrow-mindedness. Religious terror arises when someone reduces his or her identity to a single affiliation based on a religion and a sense of victimisation.

The events of the last few years have shown that stringent laws and rules of society can go only so far in containing fanaticism in a society that loses spiritual values. The approach of offering spirituality as the only sensible response to terrorism addresses the problem at its roots.

Terrorism stems from wrong ideas and the struggle against it should be fought on the level of ideas. It's essential that people's consciences against terror are enlisted as a vital arsenal in the fight against it. For this, a mass spiritual awakening is imperative.

Spirituality nourishes the human values of compassion, love, caring, sharing and acceptance and honours the values found in all religions. This explains why spiritually-evolved people have never been at odds.

The time has come for people of all faiths to unite against terror and educate people against misinterpretation and misuse of religion. This can happen only when people are made to realise that God loves variety and diversity and that many different schools of thought exist in this world. This can happen only when people remember that truth is multi-dimensional.

(M. Rajaque Rahman is a volunteer at the Art of Living Foundation and can be reached at rajaque@gmail.com)

No comments: