Freedom of Religions


“The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.”

The above sentiments sound as if they might have been expressed by a Muslim defending the true meaning of jihad in Islam. But they were not. Instead they form part of President Barack Obama’s address this year, to ‘the Muslim world’ as he pledged a new beginning in relations between the US and Islam. President Obama promised to try and remove suspicion between the Muslim world and the United States. He indicated practical measures on the part of the US to encourage greater cooperation on trade and education and guaranteed to protect religious freedoms:

“Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one’s religion.”

How shameful it is that some Muslim countries have failed to offer such a safeguard to their own citizens even though this is enshrined in the teachings of Islam. Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country founded to provide a home for Muslims, but has failed to safeguard the rights of its Christian minorities and has actively persecuted members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia, likewise, have failed to live up to their Islamic ideals. So, Western nations who guarantee religious freedom to all, regardless of their faith, must be applauded.

President Obama’s speech, while eloquent and sincerely delivered, did beg the question as to who are the ‘Muslim world.’ Muslims are not a homogenous group defined by one culture, one language, and one people. Even within Islam there are numerous Shia and Sunni sects at times engaged in bloody conflict with one another.

Until Muslims unite under one leadership, they will not be able to speak as one. And that is something they cannot do until they accept the advent of the Messiah of the age. Only then, under the leadership of the representative of that Messiah, the Khalifa of the day, can they speak with one voice.

In the meantime, then, this will be the challenge for President Obama – to instil the principles of justice in a nation whose leaders have, in recent times, ignored and trampled upon the rights of other peoples. Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Iran, the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, are but a few examples. US actions have been motivated more by self interest than by any consideration of the requirements of justice.

President Obama is cognisant of this. As he said:

“…any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail…All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.”

President Obama has made clear his intentions to seek world peace. It is now up to Muslims to put their own houses in order, and to carefully ponder on the teachings of Islam. If a Christian leader can appreciate the true meaning of jihad, what prevents Muslims from doing so? If a Christian leader can draw the world’s attention to the requirements of absolute justice and religious tolerance, what prevents Muslims from following the clear teachings of the Holy Qur’an on such matters? As President Obama so wisely noted:

“We are shaped by every culture, drawn from every end of the Earth, and dedicated to a simple concept: E pluribus unum – ‘Out of many, one’.”