Are There Any Peacemakers?
By: Roy Hanu Hart, M.D.
My organization, InfoFaith Communications (IFC), was founded with the idea of trying to do something to improve Jewish-Christian relations.
Once when asked why IFC limits itself only to two of the world’s great religions, I had replied, “Two octogenarians, my brother and I, with evidence of considerable age-related wear and tear, operate InfoFaith. Were we a few decades younger, we would be including Islam in addition, no doubt, to Buddhism, Hinduism, and other faiths in our efforts.”
I should hasten to add that Islam isn’t entirely ignored at IFC as we go about our labors.
For instance, in writing Faith in a Hurting World last year, I reached into the subject of cosmology and, by an odd stroke, my research brought me into contact with Creation and Evolution of the Universe, written by Shaykh-ul-Islam Dr. Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Pakistani, who now lives in Canada. (Westerners are more familiar with the variant spelling “sheik” for “shaykh.”)
Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri has been described as a “mega-Imam” and “a loud voice of the hitherto silent [Muslim] majority” by Dr. Muqtadar Khan, Director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware. The “mega-Inman” has emerged as the most acclaimed voice of the Ummah, the worldwide Muslim community of believers.
The West first heard of him early in 2006 following the publication of a dozen editorial cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands Posten (The Jutland Post) caricaturizing Muhammad. These cartoons, viewed throughout the Muslim world as blasphemous and Islamophobic, led to widespread mayhem.
Qadri jumped into the fray with a sober-minded article for Media Monitors Network titled “A Call to Prevent a Clash of Civilizations.” In it he stated, “I expect that common sense will prevail and responsible leaders will rise to the occasion and repair the damage that has been done to inter-civilization relations.”
At a recent three-day retreat for young Muslims he organized in England, he was quoted as saying, “I feel it is my duty to save the younger generation from radicalization.” Women especially appreciate Qadri’s emphasis on female equality, an issue most other Islamic scholars tend to shy away from.
He has faith that reason will eventually overcome extremism.
Qadri, critical of the religious fanaticism of the Saudi Arabian Wahhabists (founded by Abdul Wahhab in the 18th century), was the first widely known Muslim leader to condemn Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.
This March, Qadri issued a 600-page fatwa (religious judgement based on Islamic law) condemning terrorism outright and denouncing terrorists and suicide bombers as “unbelievers,” destined not for Paradise, but for hell.
In Creation and Evolution of the Universe, Qadri quotes a familiar hadith (one of the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad). Muhammad is asked what was the first creation. He answered, “Allah Almighty made light…before he made anything else, from the reflection of his own light.” How reminiscent of Genesis 1:3: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”
Dr. Qadri, however, isn’t all sweetness and light. There is a dark side to this story — if you’re Jewish or a friend of Israel.
Although his work in general is admirable, I cannot, as a Jew, overlook the fact that the organization he founded, Minhaj-ul-Quran International, MQI for short, despite its avowed mission to “spread the message of peace,” is extremely and actively pro-Palestinian.
True, MQI has initiated interfaith dialogues with religious minorities in Pakistan, but not with Jews. No surprise!
At a January 2009 conference in Gaza organized by MQI and one of its branches, the Minhaj Welfare Foundation, its literature noted that this “was the first rare occasion when 170 million people of Pakistan expressed their solidarity with their Palestinian brethren.”
Qadri, who was not in attendance, but was piped in from Canada, accused “Israel of engaging in state terrorism on the hapless Palestinians.” There’s more, but this is enough.
Peace remains a will-o’-the-wisp, which in its original usage referred to a ghostly light sometimes caught sight of at night or twilight in the swampland of the mind, but always recedes when approached.
This article was published at www.infofaithblog.com/2010/04/27/are-there-any-peacemakers