Press Release: Dialogue between Dr. Mohammad Bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa and Hindu Religious leaders

On July 12, 2023, His Excellency, Dr. Mohammad Bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, had intense dialogue on the subject of harmony of religions with several prominent Hindu religious leaders at the Vivekananda International Foundation [VIF].

Dr. Al-Issa, a well-known Islamic scholar and Secretary General of the most influential global forum, Muslim World League is on a week-long visit to India at the initiative of the Government of India since July 10 for promoting harmony among religions.

The Muslim World League, the organization he heads, has organised several inter-faith dialogues in Riyadh and New York, and involved the UN Secretary General in its activities.

Dr. Al-Issa has met different Islamic leaders privately, addressed a meeting of Islamic clergy, opinion-makers and intellectuals.

His dialogue with the Hindu religious leaders at the VIF was part of his endeavour to promote harmony among religions. This is Dr. Al – Issa’s first visit to India.

The VIF had invited Dr. Al-Issa and the Hindu religious leaders for the dialogue. It had also invited National Security Advisor NSA Ajit Doval, one of the founders of the VIF, to accompany Dr. Al-Issa.

Mr. Doval introduced Dr. Al-Issa as the authentic global voice of Islam and stated that the world is going through a rough patch driven by narrow and vested interests because several leaders are using religion as a political tool to fan them.

He thanked Dr. Al-Issa for his contribution in promoting inter-faith dialogue for peace and harmony.

After the Chairman of the VIF, Mr. S.Gurumurthy introduced the Hindu religious leaders, he invited Dr. Al-Issa to share his views.

Dr Al Issa started by expressing his gratitude for India, one of the world's oldest civilisations and Indian political leaders. Earlier in the day, he was received by Indian PM Narendra Modi and expressed his appreciation for his vision and openness. He praised the Indian philosophy as the driving force for global harmony. “Indian philosophy has the potential to resolve some of the critical challenges faced by the world today,” he said.

Referring to the Islamic world, Dr Al-Issa said multiple interpretations of the Holy Quran by different leaders to suit their political agendas has created misunderstanding, mistrust and hatred for others.

He said that while the Quran advocates mutual respect, its current "interpretation" doesn't promote diversity.

“Recognition of diversity ensures good relationships between cultures. Therefore, establishing communication between cultures is the need of the hour,“ he said.

Dr. Issa said that Indian philosophy has the potential to resolve some of the critical challenges faced by the world today. He has learned much about peace and harmony from reading Hindu religious texts such as the Srimad Bhagwad Gita and having discussions with various Hindu leaders. He said he wanted to also study the Vedas and the Upanishads, but had found no Arabic version of them available.

He said that the Islamic world should try to understand and benefit from Indian ethos and philosophies and added that the need of the hour is dialogue between religious leaders who currently are only thinking about their own respective religions.

Emphasizing that it was not possible for Islamic leaders alone to face or deal with the challenges confronting the world, Dr. Al-Issa sought the cooperation of the Hindu religious leaders.

The Hindu religious leaders explained the paramount Hindu philosophy which recognised that God pervades everything and each soul is potentially divine. It is not just belief. It is practised even in folding one’s hand to say namaste which means I worship the divine in you.

They explained that Hinduism is not idol worship but the Hindus recognised that as the beginning of the pursuit of spiritual growth.

They explained that all religions are equal and true, and that Hindus accept, not just tolerate other religions. This has made them more diverse and tolerant internally as well as externally.

They said Hinduism regards everyone’s faith and practices as sacred.

Swami Vivekananda proudly declared before the World Parliament of Religions in 1893 that, “We kept in our bosom the purest remnants of the Parsis who came to India as refugees and the Israelites who were driven out of their homeland by Roman tyranny.”

The Hindu religious leaders said that at that time there was no modern Constitution to protect the minorities, or international conventions for protecting refugees from unfair treatment.

They said the DNA of Hinduism protected the faiths and practices of all and different people. In Hinduism, there is no Them Vs Us approach, as that is expressly condemned as small mindedness in the Rig Veda. Large-hearted people will see the whole world as one family, they added.

They also emphasized the importance of diversity.

“As biodiversity is important for nature, similarly, religious diversity is important for a peaceful society. Acceptance of this diversity is true dharma. That is what Hinduism teaches,” the Hindu religious leaders said.

They evoked the Rig Veda, one of the world's most ancient scriptures, to draw lessons about universal tolerance and acceptance.

“Sanatan Dharma teaches us love and compassion for everyone and true selfless service for nature. Tolerance needs to become a part of our lives. Interfaith dialogue is the only path for the future. However, it is just the beginning, and there is a need for such regular discussion,” they said.

The scientific community keeps gathering together to share their work and discuss research findings and something similar needed to be done by religious leaders too. Therefore, they expressed the need for a platform where all religious leaders could meet and interact regularly.

In his concluding remarks, Mr. S. Gurumurthy, Chairman of the VIF, described India as the world's largest democracy and the mother of democracies.
“It (India) is also a land of incredible diversity,” he added.

He explained how despite this diversity of religion, Indians have been living peacefully and in harmony for centuries. He blamed colonial rule for misguiding Muslims.

He also expressed his optimism about Saudi Arabia assuming a leadership role in spreading this message of tolerance among Muslim youth across the world and guides them towards living in harmony with other religions.

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