Abu Dhabi: It is not a clash of civilisations between east and west but rather a clash of ignorance, said a scholar during a lecture organised by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

The talk was delivered to an audience of diplomats, academics, and intellectuals by Professor Mustapha Cherif, former minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research in Algeria.

“Our similarities far outweigh the differences we might have with each other, so it is on this common ground that we must all join together, moving towards peace and harmony,” he said.

Dr Cherif warned that it was important for nations to not force their own ideology on to others as a means of achieving progress. “Each culture and society has the right to their own perspectives, and this must be respected. There isn’t one single model for civilisation and advancement, but this should not stop us from coexisting with one another,” he added.

Muslims, Dr Cherif said, are open and willing partners to finding peace with the west, “Unfortunately, some people in the West have a bad opinion of Muslims because of the negative reporting that often happens, and this feeds into Islamophobia. However, the Muslim and Arab world have a will for coexistence.”

“Most conflicts today have more to do with politics rather than religion, but there are groups who obviously try to use religion for their own agenda, and these groups have largely failed,” Dr Cherif added.

Changing public opinion will be crucial in helping different societies reach an understanding. “We in the Arab and Muslim world should promote openness and tolerance, to show the world that we are aware of our problems and we are facing them,” he said.

“Islamic civilisation was made of pluralism and peace, the Quran also promotes the idea of living together in harmony despite differences in our beliefs, and this is the message we should be giving to the world,” he added.

Dr Cherif praised the UAE as an example of an Arab and Muslim country that has successfully moved towards progress and modernisation, while holding firm to its principles and culture.