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INTER-FAITH CONCEPT, DIALOGUE
BY JAVED ZAHEER, FREE EXPRESSION AWARD WINNER
TORONTO: People, communities and countries could only be brought closer and together to love and respect each other and live and work together in the best possible ways through promotion of the concept of interfaith relationship based on sensible dialogue, proper awareness, understanding, tolerance and constructive approach and positive attitude.
Only people of conscience, character and good nature, who respect commitment and promises and remain committed and determined, are capable of taking this important responsibility and performing this great job in the best possible manner.
At the same time, people must remain fully alert against hypocrites or others trying to fool, exploit, mislead, divide and harm people. This is what is harming most the efforts to promote interfaith concept, dialogue and relationship. Such elements must be exposed, avoided and isolated through proper monitoring.
They are mostly planted ones and extremely dangerous for people, communities, system and society. They are the ones who work on a specific agenda to create confusion, differences, division and promote hatred, racism and discrimination in order to achieve their vested interests and nefarious designs. So it is important to keep the eyes and ears fully open to identify them.
United Nations too supports and promotes the interfaith concept. It says: "Interfaith dialogue is absolutely essential, relevant, and necessary. The first week of February, every year, has been declared a UN World Interfaith Harmony Week. The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre released a document which summarises the key events leading up to the UN resolution as well as documenting some Letters of Support and Events held in honour of the week.”
The Pakistani community too is very active in this connection and many Pakistanis worldwide are engaged in promotion of interfaith dialogue, events and activities. The Canadian people and government greatly encourage and support interfaith dialogue and the people promoting the concept.
Allama Inayat Ali Shakir, a distinguished personality and community leader and a highly respected and prominent priest and religious scholar from Pakistan, who moved to Toronto, Canada, in 2010 and has been very active since then, says: “I am dedicated, committed and determined to promote interfaith concept, dialogue and harmony in Canada and getting tremendous support from leaders, community and people of all faith.”
On August 19, 2010, he organized Interfaith Eid Celebration Dinner at Shaheen Restaurant. A large number of prominent leaders and distinguished personalities of various communities and faith were present on the occasion.
Allama Inayat Ali Shakir, in his welcome address, said: “I would like to welcome and thank all of you from different faith and school of thoughts for participation on this occasion of Interfaith Eid Celebration Dinner. Everybody knows that every religion has different kinds of festivals in which they enjoy the beauty of love and happiness.
“Eid-ul-Fitr is also same kind of festival in which we celebrate at the end of the holy month of Ramazan and on the first day of next Islamic month of Shawwal. Eid is an Arabic word derived from Awd, which means something which returns and recur at certain period of time.
“Eid day bonds and helps one another and spreads happiness all over the globe. On this day we thank Allah. Eid teaches us to learn tolerance, peace, interfaith harmony and respect of all humanity.
“Today I thank God (Allah The Almighty) for giving me the opportunity to be with all of you, who are my most honorable friends from different respected faiths. I hope that we all will make collective efforts to spread the message of peace, respect of common ideas and provide guidance to the community regarding our moral duties towards each other since we are all children of Adam and Eve and we love Prophet Abraham.
“With this I thank all of you for sparing your precious time and honouring me by attending this event and making it successful and meaningful. I also offer my sincere thanks to Imran Mehdi Gondal, a real estate agent, for supporting me by sponsoring this event.”
Allama Inayat Ali Shakir said: “I have found Canada as one of the best role models of multi-faith and inter-faith. There is religious tolerance here. Ever since I came to Canada, I met important people of various multi-faith organizations and other distinguished personalities and leaders and was greatly impressed by their approach, attitude and support.”
He said: “In my religious lectures, I focus on inter-faith. I engage myself in research works, read most holy books including Bible, meet religious scholars and leaders and discuss issues including inter-faith with them.”
Allama Inayat said: “There is an urgent need to promote the inter-faith concept. For this we need to create awareness and understanding in Muslim community in general and Pakistani community in particular so that they can join and help. They are interested in the inter-faith concept but need encouragement and support to come forward and act. “
He said: “People of different faiths should respect each other and visit each other places of worship and other centres, attend festivals and greet each to know and understand each other and promote love, respect, peace and understanding. This will help inter-faith concept and dialogue. The Inter-Faith Eid Celebration Dinner too was organized with this very purpose. Festivals of all religions are celebrated to spread such messages.”
The prominent and distinguished personalities of various faiths and communities, who attended the Inter-Faith Eid Celebration Dinner, included Joe Daniel, MP, Rob Oliphant, ex-MP, Imam Dr Abdul Hai Patel, a renowned Muslim religious scholar and leader, Maulana Abid Hussain Naqvi of Madinatul Ilm, Imam Ali Centre, Yosi Behar of the Behar Group and a Jewish Community leader, Zenji Acharya, a Buddhist community leader and scholar, Re. Earl Smith of Church of Scientology, Didar Singh Khokhar, Khalid Mehmood, President of Asian Canadian Association, Syed Muhammad Iqbal, President of Pak Seniors Forum, Mazhar Shafiq, Masood Alam, Masood Haq, Rashid Chatta, Tariq Malik, Muhammad Talha Javed and Akbar Cheema.
The leaders including Joe Daniel, MP, Rob Oliphant, ex-MP, Imam Dr Abdul Hai Patel, Zenji Acharya and Maulana Abid Hussain Naqvi also spoke on the occasion and highly praised Inayat Ali Shakir for organizing the event and promoting the inter-faith concept and dialogue. They assured full support to him in this connection.
Allama Inayat Ali Shakir is also Founder/Chairman of Tehreek-e-Akhuwat Islami and Inter-Faith Dialogue Committee in Pakistan. He has a VIP status and impressive following in Pakistan. The purpose of formation of both was to bring leaders and people of all parties, religions, sects and sectors closer and promote peace, love, harmony and solidarity in the interest of humanity.
He strongly discouraged and condemned all sorts of terrorist and criminal activities and boldly spoke against the suicide bombings and attacks on places of worships of minorities including Christians. Because of this he started receiving serious threats to his life and finally had to move to Canada.
In Canada, he is highly respected because here too he engaged himself in promotion of inter-faith dialogue and activities and found the environment best suited for him. Allama Inayat Ali Shakir encourages people to contact him as he needs their support for this purpose. He could be contacted in Toronto, Canada, at Cell: (647)710-2076. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org..
Zenji Acharya, the Buddhist leader, is an acclaimed self-help expert who uniquely combines Eastern philosophy with Western motivational speaking. Reverend Zenji Acharya has been described by media pundits as "the foremost Buddhist expert in the world from the oldest and highest lineage in history".
Reverend Zenji has also given more inspirational lectures on Buddhism than any other scholar in Canada and he has been praised by many national and international leaders as well as a United Nations report. Reverend Zenji also serves as the Chair of Media for the RCMP Commanding Officer's Diversity Council and Head of the World Buddhist Council.
ISLAM: Islam has long encouraged dialogue to reach truth. Dialogue is particularly encouraged amongst the People of the Book (Jews, Christians and Muslims) as Qur'an states, "Say, "O People of the Scripture, come to a word that is equitable between us and you - that we will not worship except Allah and not associate anything with Him and not take one another as lords instead of Allah ." But if they turn away, then say, "Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him]."[3:64]".
Islam also stressed that the supreme law of the land should be Islam and that Islam regulates all life affairs and therefore regulates how non-Muslim and Muslims live under an Islamic state, with historical examples coming from Muslim Spain, Mughal India, and even starting as far back as Muhammad's time, where people of the Abrahamic Faiths lived in harmony.
Many traditional and religious texts and customs of the faith have encouraged this, including specific verses in the Quran, such as: "O people! Behold, we have created you from a male and a female and have made you into nations and tribes so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware." [Qur'an 49:13]
In recent times, Muslim theologians have advocated inter-faith dialogue on a large scale, something which is new in a political sense. The declaration A Common Word of 2007 was a public first in Christian-Islam relations, trying to work out a moral common ground on many social issues.
Relations between Muslims and Jews remain quite difficult, exacerbated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There are inter-Muslim issues in between Sunnis and Shiites that are very much unresolved in the Middle East. Also, relations between Muslims and Hindus in India and Pakistan could theoretically be much better if interfaith efforts were more successful.
MUSLIM THEOLOGIANS: According to Council of Muslim Theologians of Jamiatul Ulama, KwaZulu-Natal-South Africa, on the subject “What Exactly Is The Inter-Faith Dialogue?” (http://jamiat.org.za/blog/what-exactly-is-the-inter-faith-dialogue/):
“(O Muhammad!) Follow what has been revealed to you from your Rabb. There is no God but “He (Allah), and ignore the Mushrikeen.” (Qur’aan)
“What is ‘Inter-Faith Dialogue’? A grave misconception exists regarding this concept. The shallow-minded Muslim merely looks at the words and concludes that inter-faith dialogue is a friendly discussion of different religious groups which provides an opportunity for propagating Islam. This is a fundamental error which Shaitaan has adorned and by means of which he ensnares Muslims to initially ‘tolerate’ shirk and kufr, and ultimately to subscribe to the supreme kufr of the unity of religions which is the fundamental goal to which the Inter-Faith movement aspires.
“It is this fundamental doctrine of the Inter-Faith ideology which is the very antithesis and death-knell of Islam. But Shaitaan operates in subtle ways, adorning kufr and shirk with even ‘Islamic’ hues to beguile unsuspecting and unwary Muslims whose short-sightedness blurs their mental vision due to the lack of Roohaaniyyat (spirituality on the basis of Tauheed), and Firaasat (spiritual wisdom and insight) which are wholly dependent on Wara’ and Taqwa.
“If the question is asked: “What is Islam? Its answer is not obtained from the literal meaning of the word in the dictionary. The literal meaning, viz., ‘submission’, does not expound the doctrines, practices and the entire system of life which the ideology of Islam connotes. To understand Islam, a study of its belief and practice system is necessary. Similarly, to understand ‘Inter-Faith Dialogue’, the literal meanings of the words are inadequate.
Inter-Faith is an ideology. It is a new concept and belief system which has fundamentals, just as all other religious concepts and ideologies have cardinal articles of faith.
What are the fundamentals of the Inter-Faith ideology? The Institute of Interfaith Dialog (IID) outlining the fundamental basis of the Inter-Faith ideology states:
“The premise of interfaith dialogue is that all religions are equally legitimate.”
“No religion possesses absolute truth.”
“Both these doctrines of kufr are violently in conflict with the Qur’aan’s concept of Tauheed and Islam. Islam can never condone the propagation of Tauheed from the premises of ideologists of this ilk. Islam simply does not tolerate shirk, kufr and baatil.”
CHRISTIANITY: Pope John Paul II was a major advocate of interfaith dialogue, promoting meetings in Assisi in the 1980s. Pope Benedict XVI took a more moderate and cautious approach, stressing the need for intercultural dialogue, but reasserting Christian theological identity in the revelation of Jesus of Nazareth in a book published with Marcello Pera in 2004. In 2013, Pope Francis became the first Catholic leader to call for "sincere and rigorous" inter-belief dialogue with atheists, both to counter the assertion that Christianity is necessarily an "expression of darkness of superstition that is opposed to the light of reason," and to assert that "dialogue is not a secondary accessory of the existence of the believer" but instead is a "profound and indispensable expression ... [of] faith [that] is not intransigent, but grows in coexistence that respects the other."
JUDAISM: Modern Orthodox movement allows narrow exchanges on social issues, while warning to be cautious in discussion of doctrine. Reform Judaism, Reconstructionist Judaism and Conservative Judaism encourage interfaith dialogue.
BUDDHISM: Buddhism has historically been open to other religions as Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda has stated:
“Buddhism is a religion which teaches people to 'live and let live'. In the history of the world, there is no evidence to show that Buddhists have interfered or done any damage to any other religion in any part of the world for the purpose of introducing their religion. Buddhists do not regard the existence of other religions as a hindrance to worldly progress and peace.”
HISTORY: The history of interfaith dialogue is as ancient as the religions since men and women when not at war with their neighbours have always made an effort to understand them (not least because understanding is a strategy for defence, but also because for as long as there is dialogue wars are delayed). History records many examples of interfaith initiatives and dialogue throughout the ages.
Since no good religions or people of the world encourage, support and promote hatred, racism and discrimination and focus only on love, respect, peace, solidarity, harmony and humanity therefore it is in the best interest of humanity, communities and world to learn to live and work together peacefully and respectfully. An environment be created for proper awareness and understanding. Our enemies are common---The enemies of humanity and mankind. We must remain alert against all such evil people, forces and plans.
JZ’S PROFILE: Declared by Judges as one of 75 Finalist Best Canadian Immigrants, an Honour for the Pakistani Community. Joined Journalism Profession in 1974 (Daily `SUN’, Karachi) and still serving as a professional journalist (2014). Javed Zaheer, Free Expression Award Winner (Awarded by National Ethnic Press & Media Council of Canada—NEPMCC. Award presented by Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, Canada), Desi Idol Recognition Award Winner (Presented by North American Desi Idol), Member/Honorary Director of NEPMCC, Veteran Active Member (VAM) of Toronto Press Club, Ex-Member of The National Club and The Ontario Club, Honorary Editor of English Weekly `Pakistan Abroad’, Canada, ex-Chief Editor (Honorary) of English Weekly `The Ambassador’, Canada, ex-Chief Editor (Honorary) of English Weekly `DAWN', Canada, ex-Senior Sub-Editor of English Daily DAWN, Pakistan (From 1986-1999), Chairman, CANOPI, Director of Children Dignity Foundation (CDF---Canada & Pakistan) and Honorary Director, Canpak, Chamber of Commerce, and Honorary Director Information, Pak Seniors Forum (PSF), is contributing purely on Voluntary and Honorary Basis in order to serve all people and communities. Contact: (416)email@example.com To read more JZ’s exclusive articles, please visit: www. nepmcc.ca and nationalethnicpress.com (Editorial Sections. Scan years from 2004). Visit www.javedzaheernews.blogspot.com for latest exclusive articles.
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