By Mohammad Uz-Zaman
The idea of interfaith cooperation seems wonderful, with two or more communities with different sets of beliefs coming together to learn a little more about one another. In 21st Century Britain, we have witnessed different races, beliefs and creeds living together in multiple melting pots around the country; although they may know little about each other.
In an age where foreign policy provokes the sentiments of Muslims all over the world, there exists the media which seeks to sell their tales to evoke the same sentiments, but in opposition to Muslims. Muslims have it tough in countering distortions, misconceptions and blatant lies about their faith and themselves, as common citizens who reside on these shores. Thankfully, Muslims are resilient.
It is therefore ever more important for Muslims and Non-Muslims to know one another; but what exactly is the best way? It is students that give a real voice to issues that are of interest and affecting them whether they are religious, political or social issues. It is important that students are not only equipped to make the positive changes within their community, but also given a platform to show their vibrant intellects, attitudes and beliefs; thereby countering distortions about themselves and their faith.
At Campusalam, the philosophy centers on living and learning through peace and justice, supported by knowledge, skills, and advice. We have held training sessions with small groups of students around the country to develop their communication skills, and have also advised students during the planning stages of their events; one particular group decided against hosting a controversial non-Muslim speaker after we highlighted the controls necessary for risk management. This is essentially our contribution to ‘interfaith’, though not focusing solely on faith as such, but more on the contemporary cultural dimension with all its challenges.
It is also important to note that Muslims themselves are in need of more awareness regarding their own cultural and religious divisions, in an environment where Muslims have come together in a majority non-Muslim society. This is also something that Campusalam seeks to encourage and, at the very least, we can all hope to come together on common grounds rather than remaining divided through our differences.
Over the next decade more investment needs to go into religious education, along with educating our children with strong moral values from both a religious and humanistic perspective. This will enable us to combat the numerous social vices affecting us all. We cannot ignore bringing together the religious and the growing non-religious sections of society any longer, if we are to secure a safe space for both sections of our society. Additionally, more work needs to be done in helping religious institutions reach out to all sections of their local communities, who are often ignored and easily marginalised.
As human beings we are made in diversity; different colours, nations and tribes.
“O Mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” [Quran 49:13]
Look closely – the Qur’an did not say “O Muslims”; on this small Earth we need to live together for the short time we have, and each of us are a test to the best qualities that reside within all of us. For the theist, working together is to achieve divine grace. Conversely, for the humanist, the need to live in a functional society requires the implementation of truth and justice, for the protection and progress of humanity.
Humanity needs to know one another to coexist. As the famous Medinan constitution was established for the sake of a community, that spirit for the common good needs to be instilled in all of us. And hopefully, through the values that unite humanity can we begin to see the light out of the darkness, and provide a better future for our children in the coming years.
Mohammad Uz-Zaman is a project Coordinator for Campusalam and a student of Islamic Studies. His academic background includes a Bsc (Hon) in Psychology and Sociology and a pending MA in Islamic Studies from The Muslim College.
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