The history of wars between Muslims, Christians and Jews fills volumes of books. Does this history of wars and conflicts fix history on the 13th century when these wars peaked and each party committed crimes against the other?
Or do mutual human values, the language of wisdom, dialogue and pillars of tolerance erase this heavy legacy, especially since people coming together has become a reality, friendships between individuals from different religions have been enhanced by economic formulas and job markets and generations that did not drown in bitter memories have emerged?
Students studying abroad visit Christians’ homes and Christians envelop cities and monuments. There is no language of hate between individuals like the case is between leaders and between entities. Hence came the UAE’s announcement that it will receive Pope Francis in February, which is unique visit in the history of the Gulf.
Few days ago, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, visited Egypt to hand over Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb an invitation from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE's Armed Forces, to visit the UAE and contribute to the conference dubbed The International Interfaith Meeting on Human Fraternity and which the Pope will attend.
Tayeb spoke about the model of Emirati tolerance as a model that must be followed in the region. Meanwhile, in Abu Dhabi, and in parallel with announcing the visit, the Forum for Promoting Peace proposed a different rhetoric under the slogan “Alliance of Virtues – An Opportunity for Global Peace.” It was inaugurated by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and attended by more than 800 figures representing religions, humanitarian organizations and international human rights institutions.
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Muslim World League Secretary General Mohammed al-Issa spoke during the conference and emphasized that Islamic values have maintained everyone’s legitimate rights and freedoms and these values were not bestowed by humans to humans but from God.
Issa said Islam does not accept harming the standard of fairness towards everyone and he separated between the practices of some people and their religious affiliations because Islam has included religious minorities in the early society by maintaining the rights of religions via a constitution known as the Charter of Medina
Islam understands the presence of all religious as a universal inevitable norm that must be believed in as differences and diversity are part of humans’ nature, and the Quran has explicitly mentioned Christianity and Judaism.
Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah also delivered a unique and renewed rhetoric that combines jurisprudential etymology and awareness in the era and its requirements. This reflected on the final statement which called for establishing a new “alliance of virtues” that includes creating a front of scholars and clerics to call for peace, reject exploiting religion in conflicts and wars, strengthen social contracts, root positive citizenship, respect all religious sanctities and strengthen international treaties.
Choosing the name “Alliance of Virtues” which was the name of the charter reached between the people of Quraysh following fierce wars has its significance because dialogue between religions and enhancing tolerance among people serves the entire world and protects it from massacres, civil wars and absurd conflicts. There is no meaning for worries or sensing conspiracies during dialogue.
A dialogue cannot succeed if it’s plagued with seeking dominance and hegemony or with fearing the other and being worried of himTurki Aldakhil
Christians in the Arab world
For example, in his book “We and Christians in the Arab World,” researcher Ezzeddine Inaya offers rich historical information but the conspiratorial analysis of dialogue between Muslims and Christians had content in a way that does not serve the project of enhancing peace among societies.
In a paragraph where he is talking about the stumbling dialogue between the Western Church and Islam, he wrote: “The Church’s dialogue with Islam kicked off in an intensified manner in the 60s of the past century at a time when the Islamic world was busy solidifying its feet on the ground after obnoxious colonization. At the time, the Islamic world’s capabilities in terms of knowledge was very humble and did not allow it to efficiently participate in formulating the philosophy of dialogue which the Catholic Church initiated after it was left free to act after the famous Vatican Council (1962-1965). Hence dialogue in the Islamic perspective is still in its beginnings in terms of its definition and the forms of its practice and tools. This (prevented) activating it in terms of its purposes and made the Church superior in reaping its fruit as for it, it is a pragmatic act that falls within the context of a (missionary plan).”
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The Christians can talk about pragmatism brought up in conferences sponsored by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to hold dialogues between religions and promote tolerance and view this as measures to spread dawa and exploit these events to appeal to the sentiment of the Christians so they abandon their faith. These concerns do not suit efficient elite in the public sphere and who are expected to make theoretical efforts to mitigate the populist resistance against others who believe in a different religion!
Dialogue must remain neutral and outside the hegemony of any party. Interlocutors do not have the right to use facts against one another. This does not produce understandings. Meeting at mutual points on the path between all parties is an essential goal of dialogue between parties that are different.
This is why the UAE has sought to balance the names of the participants and include figures from all religions and sects. The language of dialogue transcends history and takes away conspiratorial plans from the self. A dialogue cannot succeed if it’s plagued with seeking dominance and hegemony or with fearing the other and being worried of him. The survival of the elite from these two plagues are the introduction to any thoughtful understanding and solid dialogue!
In his book “The Spirt of the Laws,” Montesquieu wrote: “When the legislator has believed it a duty to permit the exercise of many religions, it is necessary that he should enforce also a toleration among these religions themselves. It is necessary, then, that the laws require from the several religions, not only that they shall not embroil the state, but that they shall not raise disturbances among themselves.”
This article is also available in Arabic.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.