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Fight against toxic literature, idea of ‘clash of civilizations’ is now imperative: Muslim World League chief

Dr. al-Issa said that his experiences of meeting with Indian leadership have made him vow to the guiding principles of the country

Dr Muhammad Abdulkarim al-Issa, the Secretary General of the powerful Muslim World League (MWL), said that the clash of civilizations witnessed in the world has been the result of literature that promoted negative ideas about other civilizations. He added that the remedy lies in countering such thoughts with vigorous dialogue among religious leaders rather than just customary meetings of political leadership.

“The irony of our times has been that religious figures feel that their duty ends with sermons within the confines of their rooms. We will have to shun this lethargy if we have to bring the change that we aspire to see in the world. Religious leaders will have to learn to see the viewpoints of other religions,” he said.

Dr Issa was addressing the ‘Dialogue for Harmony among Religions’ an event organised in collaboration with Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony (India) on Wednesday.

Elaborating his ideas on toxicity of certain extremist literature, he said that some books were written with specific purpose to generate hatred and ill will for people of other faiths and civilizations. “Young generation sadly picked up these negative thoughts because of unfiltered upbringing. We have to ensure that our future generations are inculcated right and inclusive thoughts right from the childhood,” he said.

He also added that “bad books with negative thoughts” unfortunately became popular while books talking about ideas like coexistence, mutual understanding and harmony remained hidden from people. “One prime challenge before us is to change this scenario. We have to stop the flow of negative thoughts of earlier era to our present generation,” he said.

He also hinted the thoughts communicated by books with “toxic content” found recipients in schools, colleges, madrasas and universities.

He also took a dig at organisations that promote terrorism saying, “Misconceptions, hate theories and wrong perceptions have expedited the road from radicalisation to terrorism. To entrench power, many leaders have used hate narratives to ensure their own control and relevance.”

He also mentioned that “certain organisations” have been active in disseminating “wrong messages”.

He said that the world (he perhaps referred to the Islamic world) erred and failed to prevent the spread of radical thoughts right in the beginning. “Now, we have to take clinical action to stop the march of such dangerous thoughts and the best medicine is to usher in a mission to establish interfaith dialogue,” he said.

He also emphatically made it clear that any dialogue among faith leaders of the world should be premised solely o principles. “Only then such dialogues will bear fruits otherwise they would remain lip service,” he said.

Recounting his two days in India, he said that he was highly impressed by seeing the outlook of Indian leadership – both religious and political. “We have often heard people say that we have been conquerors and have ruled over this part of the world and that part of the world. I haven’t heard Indian leadership breaking into such bragging spree… Rather, I heard them talking of other civilizations with respect,” he said.

He warned nations who claim or desire to attain civilizational superiority over other nations that it is never endowed to those who use force. “The best lessons for us the case of colonizers. They failed to subdue the colonized cultures and civilizations. If any superiority can be achieved, it could only be through love and cooperation,” he said.

Dr. al-Issa exhorted Indian leadership to come forward and make the process of inter-religious bridge-building a success. He said that his experiences of meeting with Indian leadership have made him vow to the guiding principles of the country. “I salute the democracy of India and its Constitution from the core of my heart. I am sure the Indian wisdom of tolerance and harmony will prove its utility and we will see its fruits in future,” he said.

As Dr al-Issa finished his deliberation, S. Gurumurthy, the chairman of VIF, lauded his address as the best he has ever heard in life. “Dr al-Issa spoke of wrong literature produced to misguide our children and that the world failed to take preventive action on this front… he also read accurately that Indians don’t speak of conquests and this country has been the birthplace of harmony. I am sure the confluence of Indian and Arab civilizations and their joint quest for peace will be key in combating disharmony in the world,” said Gurumurthy.

Impact of Dr al-Issa’s visit

While interacting with representatives of some Muslim outfits, which have been major beneficiaries of the funds allocated by the World Muslim League for the propagation of Islam in India, this correspondent found that all these outfits will now face “sharper scrutiny” for their applications for grants to get final nod. “For some years, most of Muslim organizations are facing diminished flow of Saudi cash. We have to submit details of all our projects like the whole official map the mosque or madrasa being constructed, the curriculum to be taught, the sects of the imams, and similar things. Now, as we have interacted with people close to Dr al-Issa, it seems evident that more scrutiny will be exercised,” a senior cleric said on condition of strict anonymity.

Muslim outfits and institutions like Ahl e Hadith, Jamiat Ulema e Hind, Darul Uloom Deoband, Nadwatul Ulema and Jamaat e Islami are said to be recipients of MWL funds. However, India Narrative doesn’t confirm this.

Shias and followers of Barelvi school of thought do not receive any funding from Saudi, except from those who privately send them some money.

But followers of all these sects were present to listen to Dr al-Issa.