At this point in time when the whole Christian world celebrates the renewal of hope and forgiveness over Easter, we are hit with yet another massacre of unimaginable horror in Sri Lanka. It brought back painful memories of the Christchurch massacre.
I was deeply touched by the outpouring of support from the Christian to the Muslim community when the Christchurch massacre happened. To a large extent, the response was led by the prime minister who immediately came out to show that this was not purely an attack on Muslims, but an affront to all human beings of all faiths.
As I watched the Colombo attack on television I prayed for the dead and wounded. I also prayed that the crazy people who did that are not Muslims. Sadly enough, the first article in the New York Times yesterday, written by a Sri Lankan professor attributes this attack to Islamic Fundamentalists even before the evidence is out. Presumed guilty without trial. I and many Muslims that I have spoken to are deeply saddened that men, women and children have been killed and wounded in prayer during one of the holiest periods in the Christian calender. They are our brothers and sisters and our children. Our prayers go out to them.
Easter is a special time. For the Christians, it reminds them of the redemptive promise of Christ. Of his death and rising from the dead. It is an eternal message of hope for them. For the Muslims, Christ remains one of the most revered Prophets of God whose message is part of the Islamic doctrine.
You cannot be a Muslim if you do not accept the message of Christ. The message of Christ (Resala) is part of the ethos of Islam. We differ on a few points but the overall message is constant and is part of our religion. Barack Obama in his Cairo speech put it so succinctly when he said ‘’we have 98 per cent in common and 2 per cent in differences. Why don’t we focus on the 98 per cent we agree on rather than on the 2 per cent that we disagree on?’’
Islam respects the right to differences in religion. The Holy Quran clearly states that "there is no compulsion in religion’’ and also says that "you have your religion and we have ours’’. In the early days of Islam, Muslims found refuge in Christian Ethiopia. They emigrated to Ethiopia on the direct instructions of the Prophet Mohamed. His regard for the Christian Ethiopian king (Negus John) was so high that he personally led the prayers for the dead in his mosque when he heard that the king had died.
In Medina, the Prophet had a meeting with a Christian tribe and when they asked for time to pray, he offered them his mosque. Actions speak louder than words, and as Muslims, we are asked to follow the example of the Prophet and not the interpretations of the lunatic extremists.
The lunatic extremist fringes have always been the most vocal and visible. Hitler ordered the largest massacre of the Jews, but Hitler does not represent the Christians. In the early 1990’s Serbs massacred Muslims in Bosnia and Croatia, but these Serbs do not represent the Catholic faith.
Catholics and Protestants killed each other in Ireland but they are not representative of the great religion of Christianity – with all its different sectarian differences. In Myanmar we have seen Buddhist regime massacre Ruhinga Muslims. Buddhism is the most gentle of all religions and look how they use the message of Buddha to kill others. Likewise, Muslim extremists have killed more Muslims in Muslim countries than they have killed from other faiths.
The bloodbaths that we have seen between Shia and Sunni in Iraq, the terrible war in Yemen is sectarian and all waged in God’s name. To put it more bluntly, more people have been killed in the name of God by men who want to decide for others what the correct interpretation of God is. They believe theirs is the only correct interpretation and they have arrogated themselves the right to kill anyone who disagrees with them. That is neither Islamic, Christian nor Buddhist. It is satanic.
In Islam, God has 99 names attributed to him. All these names are love, forgiveness, mercy, patience, justice and hope. Of the 99 names there is, but one name of the ‘Avenger’ but even this has a deeper meaning. It does not imply that God takes revenge. It implies that God will avenge with Justice all those who have been wronged. It implies that you should not seek revenge but leave that to God who will do the right thing for you. Nowhere does God require that man should act on his behalf and kill others in his name.
Let us take this period of Easter to discover and renew our bonds of commonality and humanity and unite together to spread the message of peace to all. Let us pray for the victims in Sri Lanka and let us teach our children that religion is peace and love for all mankind. Let us teach them that Christ and Prophet Mohamed had the same message of love, peace and support for each other. Let us all pray for the people of Sri Lanka.
Mr Shahbal is Chairman of Gulf Group of [email protected]
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