Renowned Scholar and Journalist
Mr Zahid Malik
Editor-in-Chief Daily Pakistan Observer
Speech at Leadership Conference on "Dialogue for Peaceful Co-Existence organized by
INSTITUTE OF PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT
I am grateful to the institute of peace and Development for inviting me at this conference to express my views on a subject which is very crucial and of paramount importance. This indeed needs to be thoroughly discussed and properly understood in its right perspective. First of all, I would like to congratulate the office –bearers, particularly to the Executive Director of INSPAD, Mr. Muhammad Tahir Tabassum, for their timely initiative to convene this conference on ‘’ Dialogue for Peaceful Co-Existence’’.
I happen to know Mr. Muhammad Tahir Tabassum for the last many years and I must say that he is a man with vision and commitment. He suffered at various stages of his life but stood firm like a rock on principles. I am glad to know that he is contributing a lot towards promoting the cause of peace and harmony amongst various segments of society in Europe. Mr. president! The subject of extremism and terrorism has assumed such an importance and significance that it has emerged as Issue No. 1 the world over. This burning subject is being debated everywhere. Other issues of global importance and, in fact, more important than this human-engineered issue, like global warming, degrading environment and rising poverty and the need for stemming the tide of killing diseases like AIDS etc have gone on back burner.
Ladies and gentlemen! In this regard what is note-worthy and worrisome is that, unfortunately, the menace of extremism and terrorism is being equated, by design or by default, with Muslims and Islam. That is why the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, being the abode of two holiest mosques, and which enjoys a position of respectability and a vast influence in the Muslim world, realizing its supreme responsibility came forward and very appropriately thought host a conference in Makkah Mukarma, in June this year. The conference was convened to discuss ways and means to promote inter-faith harmony. The Makkah Declaration called upon all the people, irrespective of their race, religion, culture or country to come together and promote the culture of peace and tolerance. The Makkah moot was followed by the three-day Madrid dialogue which was opened on July 16, where King Abdullah, the vibrant leader of Saudi Arabia, exhorted the followers of the world’s leading faiths to turn away from extremism and embrace a spirit of reconciliation. Saudi Arabia-sponsored Madrid dialogue was an important event and milestone in inter-faith interactions which we are witnessing for the last few years. I say so because King Abdullah took the trouble of going all the way to Madrid and he delivered a heart-warming address to the august gathering. It was an historic event and a milestone because of another reason i.e. a number of Jewish religious figures, including David Rosen, a prominent Irish-Israeli rabbi, participated in the Dialogue. Above all, King Abdullah’s handshake with a Jewish participant at the Inter-faith Conference on July 17 was a big event.
It was a turning point in the ongoing inter-faith dialogue. It was a bold message to the followers of Judaism and Christianity that Muslims are ready to go an extra mile to forget the past, embrace the followers of Judaism and Christianity and move ahead with hands-in-hands. I would say that king Abdullah’s handshake with the Jewish participant was a clear and loud message and goodwill gesture on behalf of the Islamic Ummah i-e. over one billion Muslims of the world.it was Muslim world's handshake with the Jewish world. I would describe this historic handshake as a Second Meesaq-i-Madina.
Mr. President! In this encouraging perspective I propose that it is now incumbent upon the Christian and Jewish leadership and Christian Jewish states to come forward with a positive mindset and similar bold initiatives. If the decisive step forward taken by the visionary King Abdullah is duly and appropriately matched by similar steps forward from other revealed religions, I am sure, the world will heave a sigh of relief and the mankind will have a new lease of life. I may mention here that in 2002 as Crown Prince, King Abdullah also floated his Middle East Peace Plan ‘’Land for Peace’’ meaning Israeli withdrawal from all territories occupied since 1967, the return of refugees and normalization of Arab ties with Israel. This too was a bold initiative but nothing came out of it due to lack of reciprocity from the other side. Mr.President! after having said that, I may sound a bit pessimistic but I have reasons to believe that the other side will not respond to the initiative taken by the Muslim world in Madrid. I wish I am wrong. May be the Administration which will come in USA in early next year give a second thought to America’s disastrous ongoing policy on extremism and terrorism. But so far as the present Administration of the USA is concerned and even during Clinton’s era it was a declared agenda of the United States to ‘’restructure the Middle East.’’ And with a view to rooting out the threat of extremism it has plans to change the whole fabric of the Muslim society. It means US-tailored syllabi of the educational institutions etc and transformation of the Muslim societies from top to toe. That is why HIJAB is not allowed in certain institutions of France. HIJAB is also a subject of ridicule in many other Western countries. It was only last week that a Muslim man by the name of A. Zaidi, sued Police Department in Washington because the Department terminated his services for his refusal to shave off his beard. Mr. Zaidi told the Sheriff that beard was an expression of his Muslim practice and belief. But the Sheriff did not accept the valid explanation. The major problems being faced by American Muslims are prejudice and being viewed as terrorists. Therefore, dear guests, without going into boring details and taxing your patience. I would remind you an old proverb ‘’it takes two hands to clap’’ I would, therefore, urge upon the leadership of Christianity and Judaism to please respond positively to King Abdullah’s historic handshake.
Therefore, dear guests, without going into boring details and taxing your patience I would remind you an old proverb ‘’it takes tow hands to clap’’ I would, therefore, urge upon the leadership of Christianity and Judaism to please respond positively to king Abdullah’s historic handshake.
Mr. President! At this stage I would very briefly like to touch upon the initiatives taken by Pakistan to encourage interfaith dialogue and peaceful co-existence. Pakistan took a lot of initiatives but the address of President Pervaiz Musharraf to the American Jewish Council, the organization that supports Israel, on September 17,2005 was very critical. It was a bold message to the world that Pakistan is a responsible member of the international community and is ready to contribute towards global harmony and peace. It was in this perspective that President Bush called upon President Musharraf to deal with international issues such as the plan for creation of a Palestinian State. Ladies and gentlemen! Pakistan is an important Muslim State. After the nuclear tests in 1988 the Israeli media referred to Pakistan as an ‘’Islamic Superpower.’’ I need not go into details how Pakistan is genuinely engaged in addressing the issue of extremism and terrorism and how Pakistan is striving hard for building bridges of understanding with the West. The present uncertainties are a temporary phenomenon and Pakistan has a lot of inherent strength to overcome the day-to-day trivial problems and swim against the current. Why I have touched upon the initiative of President Pervaiz Musharraf with regard to co-existence of various civilizations is that, from my point of view, King Abdullah and President Pervaiz Musharraf have the vision and courage to build bridges of understanding with other civilizations through bold initiatives which many other leaders even fear to talk about in private.
Mr. President! Before I conclude I must warn that the way the menace of terrorism is being handled at present in the world, according to my analysis, is giving birth to more extremism and more terrorism. Extremism is a very serious, complex and sensitive issue. Nowhere in the world the text books taught in any religious institution and particularly in Pakistan sanctify or allow suicide bombing against any fellow being. But the fact remains that we are witnessing cases of suicide bombings. Who they are? Why they are doing this and how to stop it? It is very important to know. It is absolutely MUST to have an answer to these questions. Why they are sacrificing their supreme asset i.e. their life. One has to get an answer to all these questions. Based on our assessment we fear that there may be more incidents of extremism and terrorism not only in the Muslim countries but in the European Union as well. We have reasons to believe that extremism is going to be a source of great concern in Europe in the days to come.
At the end I want to assure you, Mr. President and the audience as well that we as a newspaper, are dedicated to the realization of the vision of our founding fathers i.e. Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah of a tolerant society and a moderate and democratic Muslim state. Pakistan Observer has always pursued a policy of disseminating objective news and balanced opinion, rejecting extremism and resort to intimidation and violence as a means for imposition of retrograde interpretations of religion. I assure the INSPAD that we will continue to contribute our bit to promote peace and harmony in the world.
I congratulate the organizers for this event once again.