Shaikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, with Shaikh Ahmad Al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif, and Shaikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, Chairman of the Forum for Promotion of Peace in Muslim Societies, at the peace summit. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: Islam is a religion of peace and it is the duty of Islamic scholars and thinkers to spread its original teachings in the face of extremists who are using the religion for their own violent goals, experts said at a major peace forum on Tuesday.

Some of Islam’s top scholars gathered in Abu Dhabi for the second annual Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies held under the patronage of Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs. The aim of the three-day forum is to come up with solutions to dispel misconceptions of Islam as well as extremist interpretations of the faith.

Speaking to delegates and audience members, Shaikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, stressed that Islam at its core is a religion of peace and moderation.

“I am afraid that if I talk about peace like last year, people will be saying what peace are you talking about, but mercy and peace are inside Islam, and not outside of it. We are here [at this forum] to show that we are together, and we are united, and we are looking for goals and strategies to get us out of the darkness and into the light. People find it difficult to believe that Islam is a religion of peace, but we have to continue what we’re doing to establish the foundation and the renewal of this discourse.”

According to Bin Bayyah, extremist groups and ideologies have a flawed and uncritical way of dealing with the Islamic faith, resulting in their violent and cruel methods.

“A lot of people think that Islam is the source of problems happening in the Muslim world, the biggest problem we have is identifying what gave birth to these conditions. A central point some people raise is that religion is the problem, however it’s not religion but the craft of religiosity and how it is applied. When it is not understood this can become corrupting, and so it can go from mercy to war.”

Shaikh Ahmad Al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar University, also spoke of how Islam was not a religion of violence, and that it was an important duty of the Muslim world to counter extremists.

“It is certain that the Quran insists against murder, the Quran equalises the injustice on one soul to the whole of humanity. Islam prohibits the intimidation of others, even in a joking manner. A Muslim relationship with others is one of friendship and companionship.”

“Yes, we are in dire need of having an honest and critical look at the concepts in Islam, clarifying them to our students, to avoid the abyss of militant extremist groups. We should agree upon a strategic approach to save our youth from doctrinal and intellectual instability.”

Al Tayyeb stressed that Muslims had no option but to counter the extremist narrative and to put forward Islam’s message of peace, saying the “task of reviving peace in Islam is not a matter of option but is the life jacket for us now. We should collect the books and material of terrorist groups, groups that carry an imminent danger to our youth. These publications should be collected and refuted in detail”.

Bin Bayyah echoed the same sentiments, emphasising that the Muslim world would have to come up with a proper and coherent strategy in dealing with the problem of extremism and violence, saying, “God is challenging us as individuals and pairs of groups to think deeply, we have to think outside the box to come up with some answers.”

Dr Shawqi Abdul Karim Allam, Grand Mufti of Egypt, touched on how Islam is a religion of tolerance and coexistence with other different communities.

“We may ask an important question, when the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) was sent to mankind, was there any means of coexistence and sharing with those who don’t believe in what we believe? The answer is very clear. According to the Quran, yes it is possible. Islam came with a principle of building. We have to build on what is there, and to add more and to share with each other.”

“Peace is the origin in Islam, and war is an exception. You cannot make war as the rule, rather peace is the rule. When the West hears about Islam they get upset, they think of violence, and terrorism. We as Muslims have misconducted ourselves and abused our religion,” he said.