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A Positive Response to Prejudice

Enormous Opportunities, Enormous Rewards
When Religion Becomes a Fetish
God Wouldn’t Be Pleased, Would He?

Waris Mazhari

The solution to all complaints and hatreds is for people to interact with each other at the interpersonal level, motivated by a genuine concern for each other’s wellbeing.

In large parts of the world today, many people have extremely negative views about Muslims. There are various reasons for this. Muslims must reflect on what needs to be done to address this issue.
The fact of the matter is that Muslims can unilaterally end anti-Muslim prejudices, by reforming their own attitudes towards, and behaviour with others. Wherever they live, Muslims need to try to establish cordial relations with people of other faiths. Unfortunately, not enough attention has been given to this issue by Muslim leaders, ulema, intellectuals and others, because of which the gulf between Muslims and others has kept widening.

Nothing can take the place of each individual doing what they can in their own daily life, through acts of goodness.

The most significant way for Muslims to cultivate good relations with others at the societal level is to share in the joys and sorrows of others, to be of service to others, to be concerned about other peoples’ wellbeing and to have good interpersonal interaction and relations with them.
But, lamentably, about this issue there are several mental obstacles among a significant section of Muslims. That is why while a lot of discussion happens about the need for efforts to promote good relations between Muslims and others, in practical terms, little has happened in this direction. This clearly suggests that as far as harmonious interfaith relations are concerned, the most important thing is practical efforts, not just talk and theory.
Working for cordial relations with others is not something only for some leaders religious or political to do. Rather, every individual, from every social class, can play a major role in this regard in their own sphere, in their interaction with others in their everyday life. Unfortunately, for many Muslims, their everyday life is very narrow and restricted. Undoubtedly, there are reasons for this, but until Muslims come out of their own narrow circles and make efforts to develop cordial relations with others, how can they do anything to improve the image that others have of Islam and Muslims?
Nothing can take the place of everyone doing what they can in their own daily life, through acts of goodness, in helping people from different community backgrounds to come closer and to develop a more appreciative understanding of each other. It is a task in which every person can play a role.
Hours of lectures on interfaith dialogue and books running into hundreds of pages on the subject cannot have the same impact as an act genuine of kindness and goodness for another in transforming their notions and impressions. On this score, Sufis, in every age, were always far more successful than the ulema. Rising above and beyond ideological discussions and debates, Sufis extended their goodwill to all human beings and did not allow anything to be an obstacle in this regard. We need to bring into action this spirit of the great Sufis.
In this regard, an especially important step is for Muslim spiritual leaders to establish good relations with spiritual leaders from other religious traditions. They can organise meetings to promote harmony and peace. They should completely avoid discussing politics. These meetings should focus on various social issues that are of common social concern.
I am greatly confident that if religious leaders from different religious backgrounds are given the opportunity to live together under the same roof for a week, avoiding all talk of politics and focussing only on social and spiritual issues and issues about life in general, they will definitely experience a great appreciation for each other and each other’s spiritual traditions.
The solution to all complaints and hatreds is for people to interact with each other at the interpersonal level, motivated by a genuine concern for each other’s wellbeing.

(Waris Mazhari did a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. Presently, he teaches at the Department of Islamic Studies at Jamia Hamdard, New Delhi. He can be contacted on [email protected])

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