Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Who Threatens the Mecca Interfaith Conference? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The serious situation in Islamic groups and sects within the Islamic body and the looming clashes between some of the followers of Islam and the followers of other religions do not require a lot of explaining. The caricatures [of Prophet Muhammad] were only a small drill for a much bigger crisis. This exercise has shown how an unrenowned newspaper and an unknown caricaturist in a country like Denmark, which is far from crises, were able to create a large clash. The other crisis drill was manifest in Al-Qaeda’s release of several video recordings that showed horrifying details of beheadings of non-Muslims and in which Al-Qaeda called for fighting the followers of other religions. These recordings have caused popular tension, thus putting the blame on all 1 billion Muslims.

As among Muslims themselves, we see how the relationship between Shiites and Sunnis has never been worse in contemporary history and portend collective wars. The exchange of verbal attacks between Islam and Christianity has not stopped since the emergence of Al-Qaeda, which has relied on the anti-Crusader discourse in an effort to instigate the public against Western regimes, despite the fact that Al-Qaeda’s primary enmity is against Arab regimes, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Modern technology has played a role in spreading the disease of hatred between both sides. In the past, there was no major means for conveying rhetoric without going through official channels. Today, Al-Qaeda — this renegade and internationally wanted organization — has hundreds of empathetic online websites that ensure that Al-Qaeda’s video and audio messages reach the entire world and are viewed by millions of people on both sides of this world. Moreover, satellite television channels have become open platforms for Muslim, Christian, and Hindu extremists, who are fomenting resentment among their supporters and inciting them to take revenge.

Accordingly, we are facing an urgent problem that differs immensely from all the old religious clashes that involved battles between all parties. Today’s wars are spontaneous. An unknown caricaturist draws some defaming cartoons and others publish them for their followers to see. One party foments resentment and the other views this act as sacred freedom, the objectors to which must be punished. Hence, how could a caricaturist ignite a war if it was not for the new technological situation, the continued tension, and the officials’ avoidance of dealing with this problem? Although some people have called this problem “the clash between the ignorant” or “the clash between extremists,” the problem is a general rather than a specific problem. This means that the victims of such clashes are the billions of people who belong to the nations that are facing division because of their extremist minority.

Therefore, the Mecca [interfaith] dialogue conference, for which King Abdullah, the custodian of the two holy mosques, has called, is being held at its usual time and place. This conference has brought together Islamic figures from all over the world, each of whom has his own status, influence, and experience. Also, it is the first step toward identifying the 21stcentury crisis. Regardless of how hard non-Muslims try to insult Islam, it is Muslim extremists who are threatening Islam today and not the followers of other religions. The same holds true for the followers of other religions, who are forced into the cycle of tension and confrontation by their extremists. Unless each party curbs extremism from it own position and within its own circle of influence, the crisis will continue to grow and will be difficult to contain. It is extremists who jeopardize the Mecca conference and who should be the goal of our study, follow up, and encirclement too.