Openness and tolerance are the key to peace

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

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I recalled this famous saying I heard - while staying with an American Mormon family, to advance my English skills - of former Malaysian President, Mahathir Mohamad “if Sunni apostatize the Shiite, and the Shiite apostatize the Sunni, who is the Muslim then?”

In a comparative question, I have asked the father of the family on how Mormons, a very conservative religious group, deem other Christian sects, his affirmative reply astounded me. He said confidently: “Some are destined to hell, while the rest hang on in the waiting room.”

In a state of shock I asked again “what about me? - I’m a Muslim. Will hell be my destiny as well ?”

He sarcastically replied with a confident tone: “You know you are a nice chap, but yes you will end up in hell as well.”

I expressed my dissatisfaction for being branded “infidel”, when I met the Director of the institute next day, she told me in a cynical way: “Bizarre… you are the one to mark them infidel’. True, they are the infidel... not me, nonetheless, according to the logic of the majority rule, I turned out to be the infidel, and them the believers.

Later, I joined the Mormon family in labeling a Chinese student, who joined the family accommodation later, as an “infidel” following a discussion he showed his unawareness of the basis of the monotheistic religions.

Tolerance is a genuine humanity, because it helps you to observe others as human beings, the way God created them, not as herds of delinquents astray

Mamdouh AlMuhaini

For a while, I felt I was outcast, being the “infidel”. I am, then I adopted a different approach to look into things from a different prospective. I’m the winner from this apostasy… Believers and infidels cocoon, deprive themselves from taking advantage of the universe’s diversity. For example the two infidels, my Chinese friend and I, were open minded to realize and adopt new things, in contrast to this family who were totally secluded inside their blaspheme mindset.

This story is a symbolic of the absurdity of penitence, the importance of tolerance and humanity participates in this new world.

Tolerance is a genuine humanity, because it helps you to observe others as human beings, the way God created them, not as herds of delinquents astray. Morally correct because you are dealing with people equally and with humanity.

It is useful economically and scientifically, in the era of transcontinental companies, airports and international cities and multiple university campus.

European countries, such as Sweden or Denmark are culturally and constitutionally tolerant, they are clear evidence that penances are defiant to humanity progress and economic development.

Westerners passed over the absurd atonement issue (that American family still lives in the past). Nevertheless, this issue continues to play a major role in our lives. It destroyed nations and blew up mosques and markets, and pushed 21st century teenagers to kill their mothers. It’s born satanic characters such as al-Zarqawi and al-Baghdadi, and created terrorist organizations, like ISIS and Al Qaeda.

Failure to address this dangerous ideology and challenge its promoters, will result in suddenly converting the teenager who used to film his funny snap shots in his room, to film in al Raqqa. This idea is deeply rooted in his imagination, it is more dear to him than his collections of iPads and iPhones. Cultural ideals reflect the true identity planted by extremist rhetoric cultivated within him.

However, the history of Muslims has an era full of a culture where motivation, tolerance and political realism prevailed. Since the transfer of the capital of the Islamic caliphate from Damascus to Baghdad, cultural interaction continued with other cultures and religions. According to the late scholar George Tarabichi it “have retained the Byzantine administration system as they are in the hands of local administrators, and maintained Greek as the temporary language of diwans - which is equivalent to ministries today, churches and monasteries in most cases, were intact, the Assyrian intellectuals became clerks in the new Arab nations.”

Cordoba has seen the emergence of notable philosophers, as Ibn Massara, Ibn Hazm, Ibn Baja, Ibn al Tufail, Ibn Rushd and Ibn Arabi. As from Jewish side there were: Maimonides and Ibn Gapiroll, beside some Christian thinkers.

Cordoba has enjoyed religious tolerance and academic and cultural wealth till the death of son of Caliph Abdul Rahman III (Nasser) in 976 AD, fundamentalism emerged and inquisition courts were erected to chase philosophers and scientists, forcing them to flee, such as the well renowned scientist Abdul Rahman, nicknamed “Euclid Spanish”, and the prominent musician Saeed al Hamar who fled to Sicily.

These historical tolerant stories, and understanding of the European Renaissance from the Dark Ages to the enlightenment and modernity, are crucial to overturn the Takfiri terrorist rhetoric we hear about daily. They dominate the imagination and minds of young generations haunted by hatred and sectarianism, as a result we ended up with “Muslim countries empty of Muslims,” as Mahathir said.
Mamdouh AlMuhaini is the Editor-in-Chief of Al Arabiya News Channel’s digital platforms. He can be followed on Twitter @malmhuain


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