CALICUT : Noted American scholar and advisor to the Clinton administration on Islamic affairs, John L Esposito has said that the world should consider the prospect of Islam for the 21st century rather move than as a mere claim. In an interview during his short visit here to attend the Kerala conference of the Jamaat-e-Islami, he said Islam with a billion followers is very strong and is the official religion in atleast 55 nations. Esposito, however said he personally
Prof. John L.Esposite, George
washington University, USA,
addressing the Heranagar conference
thinks that both Christianity and Islam as the two largest religions in the world should co-operate in many fields including that of curbing excessive modernism that poses a big threat to the next century.
Esposito, who started his career as a Christian priest, says he was attracted to the comprehensiveness of Islam and started to study it and later got his PhD from the Temple University in Philadelphia in 1968. Late American Scholar and Professor at the University, Ismail Rajhi al Farooqi was his guide. During this period he came to know that the intolerant attitude of the West towards Islam has deep roots and that it ends at the Crusades. Says he: “I studied Islam like any other westerner. But I am very much frustrated at the way the western world distorted this ideology, hence I try to explain facts about Islam”.
To a question on the claim that Islam will emerge as the ideology of the 21st century, Esposito, who is the founder and Director of the Centre for Muslim Christian understanding in the George Town University, said Islam is being discussed as the alternative ideology and Muslims should implement it practically in the next century. “You should not consider the west as a foe. Instead a mutual understanding and cooperation should be worked out. In the US, Islam is a growing religion and it stands second to Christianity. Islam’s prospects in the coming century is bright. Let us bury the confrontation and intolerance as it would not help any party”, he said.
Esposito said religious extremism prevails in many societies and neither Islam nor Christianity is out of its clutches. Though we know that extremism has no place in these religions, we fail to curb this from the society. However, it is deplorable that Islam and Islamic movements which preach Da’wah are branded as extremists and terrorists.
Reacting to a question on the supremacy of the US over third world countries, Esposito said the US has its interests in the Middle East and other strategic points. It varies from oil to many other things. However, he sees some changes in the relations between the US and Iran under President Khatami. Khatami has a significant role to play in the Muslim world. Esposito, who often teaches Islam to US diplomats who take charge in the Middle East and Africa, said during his visit to Iran in January, he had started ground work for a better understanding between that country and the US. The programme which concentrates on the subject such as Islam and democracy and Islam and world peace will begin next month.
According to him, rulers like Saddam Hussain are exploiting Islam for their personal interests. “Saddam poses a threat to the world. I warned against him some 15 years ago. He has tortured many Islamic scholars. Who was behind the murder of noted thinker and writer Baqir Sadar?”, Esposito asked.