India and Indonesia Ulemas and other Religious Leaders  Hold Dialogue Agree to Develop a Joint Narrative  on De-Radicalization

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India and Indonesia Ulemas and other Religious Leaders Hold Dialogue Agree to Develop a Joint Narrative on De-Radicalization

The Tale of Two Temples: Contrasting Realities in UAE and India
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ABU DHABI:The recent inauguration of the BAPS temple in Abu Dhabi by Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlights an interesting irony. This grand temple stands in the Muslim-majority UAE, where secularization is on the rise. This event comes shortly after the inauguration of the Ayodhya Ram Mandir in India. While Modi’s government in India blurs the lines between the state and Hindu faith and undermines minority rights, the UAE moves in the opposite direction. The UAE’s secularization, influencing Saudi Arabia as well, is a significant development in the Islamic world. This shift challenges India’s secular values. The UAE has attracted people of various religions and backgrounds to live and work there. Despite Islam being the official religion, the government allows diverse religious practices. Non-Muslims, forming a quarter of the population, have space to worship freely, with many churches, a synagogue, and a gurdwara present. Hindu gatherings and celebrations are also welcomed. The UAE’s tolerance extends beyond religion. Alcohol and pork are available, and Ramadan fasting rules are relaxed. Women have freedom in dress, and discrimination based on religion is rare. These progressive attitudes influence neighboring Saudi Arabia, where Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is spearheading modernization efforts by reducing Islamic influence and cutting support for radical groups worldwide. This trend towards secularization in the UAE and potentially Saudi Arabia marks a significant shift in the Islamic world. For India, reduced Saudi funding for conservative mosques could lead to a return to moderate religious guidance for Indian Muslims. The UAE’s example challenges the Hindu nationalist dream of a Hindu majoritarian state, often compared to Saudi Arabia’s treatment of non-Muslims. Modi, at the temple inauguration, praised the UAE’s diversity, contrasting India’s fading secularism. As Hindu residents in UAE face this contrast, it prompts reflection on India’s trajectory. The writer, a private equity investor, emphasizes the importance of embracing diversity and secular values in both countries.

New Delhi: In the first kind of dialogue, the Ulemas and other religious leaders from India and Indonesia concurred that it is essential to collaborate in order to create shared narratives on de-radicalization. They held a dialogue on ‘The Role of Ulema in Fostering a Culture of Interfaith Peace and Social Harmony in India and Indonesia’ at the India Islamic Cultural Centre on November 29.

After the day-long deliberations, they issued a joint statement to highlight this point and commended Ulema’s role in spreading education, and fostering peace in the respective societies.

“Contemporary challenges of religious radicalization and extremism in India and Indonesia were discussed along with the need to counter disinformation and propaganda that can impede peaceful coexistence among the followers of different faiths,” the statement said.

They further stated that it was important to work together to create shared narratives about de-radicalization after recognizing the crucial role that ulemas and other religious leaders, as well as education, play in preventing radicalization and extremism.

“The religious leaders agreed that a better understanding among different faiths is a constructive element in the efforts to build harmonious societies. The participants denounced all hate speech, prejudice, propaganda, demonization, violence, and conflict and condemned the misuse of religions for these ends,” the statement said.

It said that in order to create safe, peaceful, and prosperous societies, religious leaders from both countries with sizable Muslim populations Indonesia, which has the largest Muslim population in the world, and India, which has the third largest stressed the importance of making every effort to foster mutual understanding, trust, and respect.

“The ulemas also shared views on the experience and practice of Islam in multi-religious societies like India and Indonesia. They appreciated the prevalence of religious freedom, pluralism, and equality before the law in both societies,” it said.

The ulemas have a key role in educating the public about the original tolerant and moderate values of Islam and fending against radicalization and extremism with forward-thinking ideas and thought, according to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, who stated this earlier in his opening remarks.

Underlining the threat posed by radicalization, he said opposition to extremists and terrorists should not be painted as a confrontation with any religion.

“None of the ends for which extremism, radicalization, and the misuse of religion are employed are justifiable on any ground. This is a distortion of religion against which all of us need to raise our voices. Extremism and terrorism are against the very meaning of Islam because Islam means peace and well-being (Salamati/Asalaam). Opposition to such forces should not be painted as a confrontation with any religion. That is a ruse”, he said.

“Instead, we should focus on the real message of our religions, which stands for the values of humanism, peace, and understanding. Indeed, as the Holy Quran itself teaches, killing one person is like killing all humanity, and saving one is akin to saving humanity. Islam ordains that the most excellent form of Jihad is ‘Jihad Afzal’ – that is, Jihad against one’s senses or ego- and not against innocent civilians,” Doval further said.

He stressed the significance of ulemas in Islamic society and stated that the discussion’s goal was to bring Indian and Indonesian ulemas and scholars together to foster tolerance, harmony, and peaceful coexistence, which would help in the fight against violent extremism, terrorism, and radicalization.

Doval urged the need to create a shared narrative on de-radicalization and stated that hate speech, bigotry, propaganda, demonization, violence, conflict, and the exploitation of religion for personal gain had no place in a democracy.

The dialogue was a novel idea because Mohammad Mahfud MD, the coordinating minister for political, legal, and security matters, was visiting India at Doval’s invitation together with a delegation of ulemas and other religious figures from Indonesia.

Mahfud had been invited by Doval to attend the second India-Indonesia Security Dialogue on March 17 in Jakarta while he was in Indonesia.

Mahfud, the Indonesian counterpart of NSA Doval, accepted the invitation to visit India and stated his desire to bring a delegation of Indonesian ulemas and other religious leaders there so they can connect with their Indian counterparts in a more “formal context,” according to the Indian officials.

The Delhi-based India Islamic Cultural Centre organized the event. The event in total had three sessions. The first session was on ‘Islam: Continuity and Change’ while the second and third sessions were on ‘Harmonising Interfaith Society: Practices and Experience’ and ‘Countering Radicalisation and Extremism in India and Indonesia’, respectively.

Ajit Doval and Prof. Dr. Mohammad Mahfud were the chief guests who delivered the opening address and the keynote address. Former Union minister M J Akbar and Lt. Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain (Retired) and Akhtarul Wasey, Chairman of Khusro Foundation, addressed the gathering from the Indian side. Indonesian Ulema Masykuri Abdillah, M. Cholil Nafis, and Abdul Moqsith Ghazali besides Abdul Mu’ti and M Zaitun Rasmin addressed their respective sessions.