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Head of influential Muslim World League seeks India’s backing for an Alliance of Civilizations

Mohammad bin Abdulkarim al-Issa, head of the Muslim World League (Left) was hosted by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval (Right)

The head of the Muslim World League (MWL)—a Saudi based body whose influence reverberates across the world–has called for strengthening an alliance of civilizations, with India as a key partner to spread the message of inter-faith harmony and tolerance worldwide.

Speaking at a nodal event hosted by the Khusro foundation in New Delhi today, Mohammad bin Abdulkarim al-Issa, a close ally of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman raised two main points to explain why India was a natural partner for steeling the alliance of civilizations against intolerance.

First, he said that India is a “great model of co-existence.” While India has a majority Hindu population, it has exemplified peaceful co-existence riding on rule of law based on its secular constitution and patriotism of its citizenry, irrespective of religion. A partnership with India can therefore be a role model for the world.

“We know that here coexistence is very important… we also work on promoting stability and harmony all over the world. We know that the Indian component, with all its diversity, is a great model for coexistence not only in just mere words but also on the ground.”

Al-Issa stressed that Indian Muslims are “proud of their Constitution and proud of their nation and they are proud of the brotherhood that they share with the rest of the components of the Indian society”.

Second, India, with all its unparalleled diversity can make a big contribution to inter-faith dialogue. Al Issa said that he was already in conversation with Hindu spiritual intellectuals include Sri Sri Ravishankar and Sadguru to seek harmonisation of religious beliefs.

Al-Issa’s host, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, in his address amplified the Saudi jurist’s pitch by highlighting India’s unique inclusive and syncretic tradition that would seamlessly dovetail with the global quest for harmony.

“Islam arrived in India in the 7th century CE during the life of Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and gradually found a new home in the subcontinent. Over the centuries, it developed a unique syncretic tradition that is deeply rooted in the ethos of Indian cultural life,” Doval said.

He added: “The deep spiritual contents of Hinduism and Islam brought the people together and helped in bringing about a social and intellectual understanding of each other.  It gave rise to a distinct and vibrant expression of peace and harmony, notwithstanding the vagaries of political ups and downs. While the historians have focused more on the political events, they have failed to capture the societal undercurrents that brought the people together.” Doval backed MWL head’s call for an institutional arrangement to carry forward the positive message that is emerging from the on-going interaction.

Al-Issa stressed that he rejected the theory of an inevitable clash of civilizations—a reference to Samuel Huntington’s book on the same subject. Instead, he signalled that India’s participation in a global initiative led by the United Nations to spread peace and harmony in the world would be a welcome step.

“There is this pessimist theory in the world that says that the clash between civilizations is unavoidable, and thus such a clash depends on two factors. There are religions and civilizations. That is why the United Nations has been aware of such theories, and they have established an organization, an organ within the United Nations called the Alliance of Civilizations,” al-Issa said.
He further spotlighted that the Muslim World League in cooperation with the United Nations and their leadership have launched an initiative titled “Building Bridges between the East and the West”.
“Yes, we can cooperate together, and yes, we can live in peace together,” he said.

Endorsing Al-Issa’s views, NSA Doval highlighted that India was carrying forward the theme of global inclusivity during its presidency of the G-20.

“As G-20 President, we ideated our slogan for the Summit as ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future’. It is only with mutual trust and cooperation among nations, civil societies, religions, and people of the world that security, stability, sustainable development, and a dignified life for all citizens can be ensured.”

Doval said that it was necessary for India and Saudi Arabia to work together in shape a world confronting “complex geopolitical challenge.” Citing leveraging soft power NSA Doval said that “religion has to become a beckoning light for the humanity to usher into an era of peace and harmony.”

In a veiled message countering those who have accused India of ill-treating Muslims, Doval said: “India continues to play its role as a refuge for heterodox ideas with infinite capacity to absorb dissent. No religion is under any threat.  As a proud civilizational state, India believes in promoting tolerance, dialogue, and cooperation to deal with the challenges of our time.”

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