Bahrainis back up moves to disassociate Muslims from terrorism

September 29, 2010

Bahrainis have backed up efforts by Arab and Muslim leaders to halt blunt oral and physical expressions of suspicion toward Islam and hostility towards Muslims.

“We have regularly encouraged inter-faith dialogue and understanding between all religions,” Shaikh Salah Al Jowder said. “There are a few steps that need to be taken to help foster peaceful co-existence and harmonious living for all people,” said the religious leader who has often called upon all sects and religions to work together.

A better understanding of genuine Islam by non-Muslims is an important first step to help build a common future with no risks of civilization clashes, he said.

“Extremists among Muslims and non-Muslims do not want other people to understand and appreciate Islam as this would foil their dark plans. So, it is important to highlight Islamic values and teachings,” he said.

Another important element is that Muslims should appreciate that their attitudes and behaviour in non-Muslim countries can be a source of mistrust. These countries have their own political issues and Muslims must appreciate that they have a very important responsibility that they should shoulder cautiously, the religious leader and activist said.

Several Muslim leaders this week warned in speeches at the United Nations that the growing onslaught on Islam in the West was turning into a growing threat to international security.

In their speeches, they said that the attribution of terrorism to Islam was historically inaccurate, morally unfair and ominously dangerous.

Western countries should look carefully at the accusations of Islam and Muslims and should take action to avert a worsening of the situation, the leaders said.

However, Jassem Mohammad said that the calls to disassociate Islam from terrorism were not new.

“Muslims have repeatedly said that terrorism had no religion or nationality and that it would be a huge mistake to engage in Muslim-hunting and name-calling,” Jassem, an imam in Zallaq, in the south of the country, said. “Unfortunately, it seems that the West is not ready for diverse reasons, to listen or to take note and seems to be happy to accuse Muslims all the time. This is deepening and widening the divide and does not augur well for the future,” he said.

According to Jassem, Muslim leaders should not expect positive responses because the media in the West and, more importantly, the people would not care about their words.

“It is not kiss and fix. The problem is much deeper and has historical and religious contexts that need to be addressed without euphemism or vain diplomacy. There is a need for confidence building first because the two sides are not looking in the same direction,” he said.

No ready-made solution is available and eloquent words at an international forum are not enough to dispel mistrust, said the former media specialist.

However, not all people are as pessimistic as Jassem.

Last week, several religious figures in Manama called upon the international community to work diligently to enact a law that would ban the burning of sacred books.

The religious figures representing faiths in Bahrain said that violence and the burning of books never brought solutions to situations of controversy and misunderstanding.

They warned that acts of violence and burning were followed by further violence and led to burning humans.

“To enable peaceful coexistence across the world’s faith communities, it is important to establish intellectual and cultural exchange,” said the Christian, Shiite, Sunni and Bohra leaders. “We are explicitly not against the freedom of speech and expression and welcome any form of contestation and critique. Each dialogue expands our various understandings and value systems and enables us to live together in peace,” they said.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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