During the recent Arab summit, that was held in Jordan next to the holy land in Palestine, one of the scenes that caught everybody’s attention was the speech of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Portuguese politician Antonio Guterres, in front of Arab leaders.
Guterres talked about the ugliness of war, the benefits of peace and the tragedy of the refugees due to the wars in our countries. This was expected of him. However, he surprised the audience by quoting the sixth verse of the Surah at-Tawbah (The repentance) in Arabic and then he explained or interpreted the meaning of the verse according to the dictionary of ancient scholars and their Sheikh Ibn Jarir al-Tabari.
The text of the verse: “And if any one of the polytheists seeks your protection, then grant him protection so that he may hear the words of Allah. Then deliver him to his place of safety. That is because they are a people who do not know.”
Addressing the divide
The new Secretary-General of the United Nations quoted this verse knowing that the Arab-Muslim region is currently witnessing a major sectarian and social divide.
He said: “here we come to you with the holy book, because you claim to abide by the teachings of the Quran.” Of course he was addressing terrorist groups and perhaps when he talked about Syrian and Iraqi refugees, he addressed those who are reluctant to welcome them.
Portuguese Guterres seems accomplished in this as he also quoted from this verse in February at the Cairo University, thanking Egypt for its efforts in the refugee crisis that is ravaging the region.
“The utmost that can be said about refugees is what we read in the surah on repentance, when God says in the Quran that the protection of refugees should be provided to believers and non-believers. This is the most expressive thing I have read about protecting the refugees,” he said.
It is a good gesture from an international official, who happens to be Christian, to appreciate the Islamic faith, but the mission of the United Nations is not limited to such gesturesMashari Althayidi
It is a good gesture from an international official, who happens to be Christian, to appreciate the Islamic faith, but the mission of the United Nations is not limited to such gestures. The UN should rather take serious action to restore peace and justice because wherever there is justice and mercy, the religion of God will prevail, without the need to dive in the sea of interpretation; that is difficult and need skillful handling.
At the level of courtesies, the gesture of the Portuguese statesman and the gesture of the Italian representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy within the European Union, Federica Mogherini who started her speech in Arabic, indicate the extent to which the world and namely the west, got involved in the Islamic intellectual culture.
As it has been said, the issue of cultural resistance from within the Muslim communities to extremism and terrorism is global just like global warming, which is a worldwide concern. We fight with terrorists every day on the “interpretation” of the Quran, as our predecessors did with the Kharijites.
The article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.
Saudi journalist Mashari Althaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Althaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists. He tweets under @MAlthaydy.