x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Muslims in West 'should respect peers'

Sheikh Ali urges believers to treat non-Muslims 'even better than they treat themselves' during Ramadan majlis.

Dr Mohamed Basam al Zaein Mulla al Sayeed Ali al Ameen Judge Sheikh M'arouf Rahal join in the Ramadan majlis at Al Bateen Palace.
Dr Mohamed Basam al Zaein Mulla al Sayeed Ali al Ameen Judge Sheikh M'arouf Rahal join in the Ramadan majlis at Al Bateen Palace.

ABU DHABI // Muslims in the West must abide by the peaceful teachings of Islam and respect their fellow man, the presidential adviser on religious affairs said during a Ramadan majlis this week. Sheikh Ali Al Hashemi told a gathering of religious leaders and intellectuals that Muslims must be mindful of their peers regardless of their religion or background.

"The harmful actions of some Muslims, especially those living and travelling abroad, do not entice other people to admire Islam and want to believe in it," he said. "This especially applies to some Muslims who live in countries that are even better than their own in terms of living standard. These Muslims should be living by the Prophet's Sunnah and never harming others. "They should be treating other people who are not Muslims even better than they treat themselves or each other, instead of calling them infidels, and using that as an excuse to mistreat them and tarnish the reputation of Islam."

Sheikh Ali deplored hate, animosity and violence. "Constant hate between fellow humans only creates war and death and misery; remember that violence breeds violence and enmity encourages more enmity," he said. "God does not want nor asks of us to harm each other; we should not speak ill of each other nor have hate towards one another. The Quran clearly states that to each his own: I have my own religion and I leave you to your own faith. We should treat each other with goodness and respect."

Being pure of heart, respecting and appreciating all individuals regardless of religion or background, and believing in mercy, equality and forgiveness, are all characteristics of the Prophet, which should be embraced by us as people and as Muslims, said Sheikh Ali. Edward Oakden, the British ambassador to the UAE, who attended the majlis on Tuesday as an observer, related Sheikh Ali's comments to the ongoing debate in Britain over the use of Shariah law.

"This is an issue widely discussed in the UK and addressed by the Archbishop of Canterbury," he said. "The key point here is, what are the two laws - Shariah law and British law - trying to govern? British civil law is the same for everybody, but if there is also a customary law which governs how two people behave towards each other, and as long as each of them agree that customary law should apply to them both and it is within the overarching British law, then on the whole, people will generally be content to have two individuals or two families decide on how they wish to solve or deal with their own inter-familial issues."

However, he said the debate "still had a long way to go" in Britain. The Archbishop, Rowan Williams, who is leader of the Church of England, was criticised earlier this year for saying that adopting certain aspects of Shariah in Britain was "unavoidable" and that the UK should "face up to the fact" that some citizens did not relate to its current legal system. Sheikh Nazir Shakhashiro, of Syria, who was attending as a guest, said: "As followers of the Prophet, we should grasp hold of his characteristics and his deeds. If we are to do that, we would be the happiest in the world and in the afterlife. Nothing can harm us more than to ignore and live away from the Sunnah of the Prophet."

Sheikh Ali cited the example of French actress turned animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot's legal convictions for racial hatred as an example of the need to preserve values, preserve a good, human spirit, and treat one another with respect. Bardot, 73, was convicted and fined in June for provoking racial hatred when she claimed that Muslims were destroying France in a 2006 letter to the then-interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, regarding the slaughtering of sheep during Eid al Kebir. She has been convicted four times previously for inciting racial hatred.

"Ms Bardot did not show respect to her fellow human when she chose to slander Islam and Muslims repeatedly," said Sheikh Ali. "It is this type of behaviour that gets us nowhere, and if we were to react with hate and violence, we would just hurt ourselves even further." He added: "The purpose of us getting together to speak in this type of majlis during this holy month is not to lecture or spoon feed a lesson.

"Instead, this is a documentation of the thoughts of the great minds of this country and our equal guests. Having these discussions makes us more aware of the difference between right and wrong, and how to embrace our faith and portray it to the rest of the world during these modern times." @Email:hkhalaf@thenational.ae