US-Muslim World relations: a candid talk

During an interactive session with Ms. Farah Pandit, US Special Representative to Muslim Communities, held at India Islamic Culture Centre on 17.2.2010, Prof. Akhtarul Wasey of the Jamia Millia made the following remarks:
I am very pleased to welcome to you at India Islamic Cultural Centre, which in many ways embodies aspirations of Indian Muslims and under the able leadership of Mr. Sirajuddin Qureshi and his team is fast becoming an important nerve centre for Muslims of this country. In you, I welcome a person who was born in the largest democracy of the world and who now represents the oldest democracy of the world.  

Madam, you represent an administration that carries the dreams of great American people and was brought to power on the twin agenda of 'Hope' and 'Change.' President Obama in his speeches in Turkey and Egypt and prior to that in his Inaugural address outlined his administration's positive approach towards the Muslims world and promised to change the policies of the previous administration. Such a declaration raised expectations of  Muslims around the world. And that is why, the Muslim world is eagerly awaiting the day when the people of Iraq and Afghanistan become truly free of all foreign occupation and are able to take control of their own destiny. You will agree with me that basically people of any country in the world are competent to decide what the best course is for them to take and where their welfare lies. The freedom to decide what system of governance suits them and how they go about it is in itself a fundamental tenet of democracy.  

Madam, I am sure that you are aware of the fact that not only the Muslims of the subcontinent but also the majority of the people around the world believe that a true and stable peace in the world is not possible until there is peace in the Middle East. And the peace in the Middle East is not possible until the Palestinians get justice; get their occupied territories as well as Jerusalem back. Millions like me believe that the genocide against the Jews was committed by the Nazis in Europe but we fail to understand why the Palestinian women and children should continue to pay the price and why should they be dispossessed of their land to compensate for what the Nazis did?  

Madam, I am a humble student of Islamic Studies and have been associated with teaching and research in this field for four decades. Like you I firmly believe that Islam, the Prophet of Islam and the Quran are basically about welfare and peace of mankind and there is no connection of Islam with terrorism and mindless violence we see around us. The Islamic world has not once but several times raised its voice against groups and forces of destruction that try to justify violence in the name of religion. Likewise, we are also against those who talk of 'clash of civilisation'. We believe that religious pluralism is a part of God's design otherwise He could have created just one kind of people and one religion. We believe in tolerant Islamic tenets of

“La ikraaha fiddeen” ("there is no compulsion in the matter of religion"), “

lakum deenukum wa liya deen” ("your religion is for you and mine for me" and “al-khalqu ‘iyaalullah” (all creatures are family of God.) 

This world can become a heaven on earth if we all practice what the Prophet of Islam said: "Do unto others what you want done unto you."

Madam, finally, as an Indian and a Muslim I thank you for listening to me so patiently. In this global village both India and America owing to their religious, cultural, linguistic and racial pluralism can become role models for the whole world as both of our peoples believe in God and also we have with us dreams of Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King that we can realise for the benefit of mankind.

I was fortunate to be in America during the last election as a Fulbright Fellow and witnessed the historic occasion of President Obama's victory. I was immensely moved by the positive energy of young generation of Americans who truly believed in slogans of Hope and Change. I too hope that positive change is just around the corner, the question is only of political will and moral courage. 

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 March 2010 on page no. 14

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