Grand Imam of Al Azhar mosque Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb
Grand Imam of Al Azhar mosque Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb delivers his speech during the closing session of the "Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and west for Human Coexistence", at the Al Fida square at the Sakhir Royal palace, Bahrain, on Friday, November 4, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

In the name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

It is such a historic forum for it brings together highly respected scholars, wise leaders, intellectuals, politicians, and media figures from the East and the West. Therefore, it deserves to go down in history and have its remarks and recommendations proudly recorded in gold letters.

For place-related considerations, the forum is being hosted in the Kingdom of Bahrain, whose history is proudly defined by its noble people who have always cherished diversity and acceptance of the other, no matter the differences in race, belief, thought or culture. This time-honoured legacy has provided the people of Bahrain with a distinctive ability to accommodate civilisations and cultures in a spirit of dialogue and encounter. They have transformed the best aspects of these civilisations into a source of creative energy that fosters societal stability and constructive social development.

I call for hoisting the flag of peace, not of victory, and to sit down for dialogue and negotiation.

- Ahmed Al-Tayeb

The accounts of our pains and sufferings are so many that one can easily give in to pessimism, disappointment, and a lack of hope for a world where peace and coexistence should prevail; a world where cooperation and goodwill should be the most prominent features; a world where war should be an exception. How can such a hope be fulfilled on our planet where only one per cent of the population possess half the world’s wealth, with only 100 people possessing more wealth than 4 billion of their fellow human beings?

What makes it even worse is the fact that these tragedies and calamities are supported by philosophical theories that have become a reality in Western society, absorbed by Western consciousness. These theories have controlled the perceptions of politicians and affected their decisions about their relations with developing and poor peoples. The majority of the fears of Easterners today about the West are equally shared by distinguished, elite Western thinkers, rulers and prominent leaders. Some realise that Western policy has become ineffective in dealing with international crises. This is because displays of military might are a threat to genuine politics. I advocate for replacing politics with culture in the sphere of international relations. The latter has the capacity for human understanding and encompassing its different aspects, whether physical, spiritual, intellectual or emotional.

Let us together chase away any talk of hate, provocation and excommunication and set aside ancient and modern conflict in all its forms and with all its negative offshoots.

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I address, with a loving heart for all, this special call to our Shia Muslim brothers. I reiterate that the senior scholars at Al Azhar and the Muslim Council of Elders and I are ready to host a similar meeting with open hearts and extended hands, so we can sit down together on one round-table to put aside our differences and strengthen our Islamic unity on positions which are known to be pragmatic and serve the goals of Islam and its law, which prohibits Muslims from giving in to calls for division and fragmentation.

We must beware of falling into the trap of compromising homelands’ stability and exploiting religion to stoke the fires of nationalistic and ideological sentiments, not to mention interference with countries and their sovereignty or stealing their lands. I have every faith that, if we have goodwill and determination, we can create a civil model showcasing Islam and Muslims in the rightful way this religion deserves, a religion that requires its followers, before others, to treat it fairly.

On this important occasion for hosting dialogue between East and West for the sake of human coexistence, I lend my voice to all those seeking peace and good. I also call for the end of the Russian-Ukrainian war to spare the lives of innocents who have no hand in this violent tragedy. I call for hoisting the flag of peace, not of victory, and to sit down for dialogue and negotiation. In fact, I call for an end to all ongoing fighting on Earth or at the least for an extended truce, to rebuild bridges of dialogue, understanding and trust, and to establish peace in a world full of wounds.

Thank you for your attention and may God’s peace and blessings be upon you all!