Tolerance of other faiths
Tariq A. Al-Maeena
In response to a recent column I wrote on the impending crisis in Sri Lanka as a result of the demand by Buddhist nationals to demolish or relocate a mosque in Dambulla, a reader wanted to know whether I had focused on this issue because I am a Muslim and by inference the matter is of concern to me.
He wondered if I was so quick to react if other faiths were being attacked, citing the Christmas Eve bombings of churches in Alexandra, Egypt almost a year and a half ago. It happened during a midnight Mass on New Year's Eve by a church in Alexandria, Egypt. A powerful bomb was set off killing 21 people in the blast mostly followers of the Coptic faith. The powerful explosion was reportedly set off by a suicide bomber who had prepared his grim New Year package with nails and ball bearings which tore through a crowd of churchgoers as they left the church. In addition to the dead, the blast wounded 79 others and set havoc to the neighborhood under siege.
Another reader demanded to know my views on the destruction of two ancient, giant Buddha statues almost a dozen years ago by the Taliban government. The statues had been carved into a hillside in the central Afghan province of Bamiyan some 230 kilometers from the capital of Kabul. These carvings reflected more of a historical and archeological timepiece than anything else. The two 6th century monuments were blasted through a variety of means: anti-aircraft guns and artillery were initially used but were not fully effective. Then anti-tank mines were placed at the footholds of the statues, but succeeding only in fragmenting rather than tearing the statues down. Finally the Taliban placed explosives in the various shelled holes and launched rockets to help bring them down.
To the first reader, I will say that I did respond to the incident in a column for a regional newspaper in which I condemned the actions of the perpetrators behind the bombings. My words at the time went as follows: ‘Who allowed these bands of misfits to hijack Islam, a religion of peace, to spread their brand of terror on people of other faiths or beliefs? Muslims must wrest their religion back from these wretched terrorists.
At the risk of being branded an apostate or a heretic by some crazed cleric, I have to say it loud enough: Enough is enough! Quit promoting your distorted interpretations of Islam … Stop invoking the name of Islam in the execution of your evil or barbaric agendas.’
As for the Bamiyan incident, I was not writing at the time and thus had no platform to express my sentiments. But today in response I can say that I strongly believe in inter-faith harmony, and the destruction of symbols of one’s faith, be they a mosque, a church, a synagogue or anything similar is a despicable act by disgraceful mindsets.
Islam has not taught us to react violently to those of other faiths. Nor does it condone the murder of the innocent or the destruction of property. Such actions are used by individuals or groups on a power high and only to further their sinister agendas. And these actions can come from any faith. It doesn’t only have to be Muslims. We have seen and heard enough examples of Quran burning, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship being attacked and the like to understand that there is evil around that is not so easy to label.
Such wicked people with their deviate ideologies are a living threat to peace and harmony among all faiths. For they use the authority of faith together with the bullet and the bomb to promote their ominous message.