By Ebrahim Omar in Doha - Al-Shorfa
Experts, scholars and leading religious figures from 50 countries gathered in Qatar ahead of the 11th Doha Interfaith Dialogue Conference this week, to call for the rejection of intolerance and incitement to violence on the basis of religion or belief.
Participants at the "Doha Meeting for Advancing Religious Freedom Through Interfaith Collaboration", held March 24th and 25th, focused on the need for all people to have the freedom to practice their religion and build places of worship in all communities.
The meeting was part of the "Istanbul Process", spearheaded by the Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) to advance the implementation of UN Resolution 16/18, which protects the right to freedom of religion or belief and expression.
Meeting participants said a clear line needed to be drawn between freedom of expression and hate-inciting speeches, and that defamatory, disparaging and provocative phrases that fuel religious intolerance and lead to violence must be avoided in order to protect religions.
"The meeting considered the best experiences of countries in relation to the protection of religious freedoms and reviewed the positions and experiences of institutions involved in religious dialogue in environments that present the severest challenges to religious freedom," said Ibrahim al-Nuaimi, chairman of the Doha International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue. Participants condemned religion-based genocide in all instances, noting that the principle of tolerance is advocated by all monotheistic religions.
A global challenge
Religious intolerance is one of the biggest global challenges, said OIC secretary-general Iyad Madani.
"The OIC has worked in past years to stop the persecution of minorities through the issuance of a resolution criminalizing religious discrimination," Madani told Al-Shorfa.
Participants discussed the rights of minorities, rejection of intolerance, promotion of tolerance, and the role of the OIC in the fight against religious discrimination and hatred, and adopted an action plan which calls for incidents of intolerance and persecution of minorities to be reported to the UN Human Rights Council.
This will facilitate the implementation of UN Resolution 16/18, which "recognizes that open and constructive discussion and interfaith co-operation at the national level will play a role in the fight against incitement and intolerance based on religion", said US special envoy to the OIC Rashad Hussain.
International Union of Muslim Scholars secretary general Ali Mohiuddin Qara Daghi called for a mechanism to renounce fanaticism and uphold the values of co-existence and tolerance.
"Young people who are the fuel of conflict and religious sectarianism, which was created by those with extremist ideas who marketed it to them, are the victim," he said.
States and governments must adopt educational and awareness programmes to keep Muslims, especially youth, away from fanaticism and conflict, and guide them towards moderation and moderate thought, he said.
The Doha Interfaith Dialogue Conference, which this year sought to encourage young people to engage in interfaith dialogue, concluded Thursday (March 27th).