13 June | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

Top Islamic, Christian scholars, other faith leaders to join interfaith moot in Islamabad

PM’s Special Representative Hafiz Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi says World Interfaith Conference will focus on inclusive dialogue and global legislation against blasphemy or desecration of any religion or sacred scripture

Top Islamic scholars, including Grand Imams from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and faith leaders from different religions will join the World Interfaith Conference, scheduled to take place in Islamabad during the last week of November.

Prime Minister’s Special Representative on Interfaith Harmony and Middle East Hafiz Muhammad Tahir Mahmood Ashrafi told Jarida Daily that Pope Francis or his representative likely to join the upcoming conference that will focus on interfaith dialogue and global legislation against blasphemy or desecration of any religion or sacred scripture.

On June 28, a 37-year-old refugee from Iraq desecrated the Holy Qur’an and set fire to its pages, prompting widespread outrage and condemnation across the Muslim world. Besides the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the 27-member European Union also condemned the incident of desecration of the holy book in Sweden.

Shehbaz Sharif asks OIC to chalk out a comprehensive strategy against rising anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif asked OIC secretary-general to chalk out a coordinated and comprehensive strategy, aimed at raising awareness about its perspective and building legal and political deterrence against rising incidents of anti-Muslim hatred and Islamophobia. He said that vilification of religion, revered personalities, holy scriptures, and symbols could not be condoned on the self-serving pretext of freedom of expression and protest.

In Islamabad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemns despicable act in Stockholm. “Such willful incitement to discrimination, hatred and violence cannot be justified.” Under international law, states are duty bound to prohibit any advocacy of religious hatred, leading to incitement of violence. “We reiterate that right to freedom of expression and opinion does not provide a license to stoke hatred and sabotage interfaith harmony.”

In an interview to Al Ittihad newspaper, Pope Francis condemned Quran burning in Sweden, saying he felt angry and disgusted to see the holy book desecrated. “Any book considered holy should be respected to respect those who believe in it.” He rejected the free speech rationale. “Freedom of speech should never be used as a means to despise others, and allowing that is rejected and condemned,” he said.

Pope Francis feels angry and disgusted to see a holy book desecrated in Sweden, rejects free speech rationale

Addressing a conference in Lahore, Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi strongly condemned desecration of the holy book in Sweden, and stated that the Islamic teachings promote interfaith dialogue. He expressed gratitude towards Christian leaders, especially Pope Francis, and leaders of other faith and religions for their condemnation of the Stockholm incidents.

Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) Chairman Dr Qibla Ayaz said that Muslim countries need to generate awareness that the ‘freedom of expression’ does not allow anyone to hurt feelings of followers of other religions. He suggested that there must be a diplomatic boycott with the countries involved in supporting the incidents of Islamophobia.

He said that the way the holy book was being disrespected in some Western countries cannot be considered as ‘expression of freedom.’ He pointed out that repeated incidences of blasphemy or blasphemous content in the West was a violation of religious freedom. “It is responsibility of the countries to take stern action against culprits involved in heinous crime,” he said.

After an extraordinary meeting in Saudi Arabia, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation said collective measures were needed to prevent acts of desecration to the holy book and international law should be used to stop religious hatred. “We must send constant reminders to the world community regarding urgent application of international law, which clearly prohibits any advocacy of religious hatred,” OIC Secretary-General Hissein Brahim Taha said.

In a statement, European Union spokesperson Nabila Massrali strongly condemned Sweden incident, and described the act as offensive, disrespectful, and a clear act of provocation. The 27-member grouping expressed its strong rejection of the holy book burning, emphasizing that it does not reflect the opinions of the European Union. She affirmed that manifestations of racism, xenophobia, and related intolerance have no place in Europe.

Dr Qibla Ayaz suggests a diplomatic boycott with countries involved in supporting incidents of Islamophobia

In Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning denounced the Holy Quran desecration act in Sweden and said China opposes any form of Islamophobia and acknowledges important contribution made by the Islamic civilization for the world. She said that faith and religious feelings of Muslims should be respected and ‘freedom of speech’ should not be used as a reason to incite civilization clash and create a confrontation.

She said that China has always advocated mutual respect, inclusiveness and understanding among different civilizations, and resolutely opposed extremist acts. China-proposed Global Civilization Initiative called for the principles of equality, mutual learning, dialogue and inclusiveness among civilizations, and let cultural exchanges transcend estrangement, mutual learning transcends clashes, and inclusiveness transcends any sense of superiority, she noted.

Former Ruet-e-Hilal Committee chairman Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman said that the blasphemous acts were part of continuous efforts to provoke sentiments of Muslims. “It is high time for Muslim leaders to devise policies in order to counter increasing trend of Islamophobia,” he said, adding that Muslim countries must boycott products of countries involved in supporting and patronizing the blasphemous acts. He suggested that Muslim scholars must initiate an awareness campaign about teachings of Islam.

China says faith and religious feelings of Muslims should be respected and ‘freedom of speech’ should not be used as a ‘reason’ to incite civilization clash and confrontation

Islamic scholar Dr Muhammad Tufail said that series of Islamophobic incidents must be a matter of concern for the civilized world. “Islam is being targeted by extremists in the West.” He said that disrespectful approach towards other religions may lead to a war-like situation in the world. He said that world organizations must come forward in order to chalk out ways to counter increasing trend of anti-Islam campaigns.

Islamic scholar Dr Dost Muhammad said that the world needs to understand that disrespecting other religions can never be a freedom of expression. It is need of the hour that 57 Islamic countries in the world sit together and chalk out a comprehensive plan to counter blasphemous incidents. “It is unfortunate that some people are not respecting other religions despite the fact that we are living in a global village,” he said.