SHAFAQNA – It is shocking that pluralism is a dirty word in Malaysia, according to Nader Hashemi, the Director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver.
Nader explained that pluralism was always a huge part of Islamic teachings so it was “disappointing” that it was viewed negatively in a Muslim majority nation.
“Historically speaking, Muslims were always pluralists and in fact, it is very difficult to see a situation where you see the opposite,” he said at a round-table discussion entitled “Human rights and diversity: challenges for a Muslim society” at Nottingham University Malaysia today.
“The Oman Empire was overwhelmingly multicultural and so too was the situation during the Andalusian period.”
He said that Islam was full of instances both in the life of Prophet Muhammad as well as in the Quran where the respect for diversity and common human dignity was an obligation accorded to its followers.
“During a time of war between the Muslims in Medina and non-Mulims in Mekkah, Mekkah suffered an economic recession. Despite the conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims, the Prophet decided to send 500 dinar to the poorer non-Muslims in Mekkah and this was done even though Mekkah was the site where Muslims were forced to flee.”
He also quoted the Quran stating that “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed,the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (Chapter 49, Verse 13).
“It is reasonable to assume that Quran commands people to know one another not destroy one another.”
He speculated that rather than a problem of religion, it was a problem of politics.
“Many Muslim countries have these self-serving leaders who advance an argument that acceptance of human rights and pluralism is un-Islamic and put forth a narrative that is purportedly authentic but in truth is a bastardisation of Islamic teachings.”
He claims that this problem derives from the Wahabbi interpretation of Islam which was widely spread from Saudi Arabia.