Heeding Islam’s calls for tolerance

PRIME Minister Najib Razak has rightly condemned the brazen attacks on a number of Malaysian churches during the last few days. It is also heartening to note that Malaysian politician, civil society and Muslim organisations have unanimously denounced these un-Islamic acts by some miscreants.
Some Muslim groups have gone even further by announcing they will guard Christian worship places. The Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia is one of 130 Muslim NGOs that vowed to become the “eyes and ears” of the government to shield churches against attacks.
The attacks came amid a row over a court ruling allowing Christians to use the word “Allah” as a translation for God in their publications.
Former Prime Ministers Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Dr Mahathir Mohamad and a number of other prominent Muslim figures have come forward to promote religious tolerance in the multiethnic Muslim majority country. These initiatives by Malaysian leaders are in conformity with Islam’s message of respect for other’s beliefs.
In fact, the religious tolerance is one of the hallmarks of Islamic teachings. Allah (SWT) says in glorious Al-Quran: (Al-Baqarah 2:256) “Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth stands out clear from error: Whoever rejects Satan and believes in Allah (SWT) hath grasped the most trustworthy handle, that never breaks, and Allah (SWT) heareth and knoweth all things.”
Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon him) lived side by side with Jews and polytheists. He signed treaties with both of them guaranteeing their freedom of religion in the Islamic state of Madinah.
It was not that they were Jews or polytheists that made the Muslims eventually fight them, but because they broke the terms of the treaty and sided with the enemy which was attacking the city.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) went on to say: “He who unfairly treats a non-Muslim who keeps a peace treaty with Muslims, or undermines his rights or burdens him beyond his capacity, or takes something from him without his consent; then I am his opponent on the Day of Judgment”. (Abu Dawud)
When the second Caliph of Islam, Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RA), triumphantly entered Jerusalem in 638 AD, he entered the city on foot, out of respect for the holiness of the place.His first action was to clear the rubble and the debris from the area of Al-Aqsa Mosque and to cleanse the whole sight with rose water. He also allowed Christians to perform their religious obligations in their places of worships. This precedent was followed by almost all Muslim rulers throughout the Islamic history.
Thus the religious intolerance only depicts the lack of awareness about Islam and its true spirit. That is why it is important for Muslim leaders to condemn the attacks on churches and other places of worships.
The best way to defuse any problem is dialogue.


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