IMT officer says Islam teaches unity in diversity

“There is diversity among human beings. They have variety of genders, colors and language and multiplicity of races and tribes. These diversities are considered natural and are called God’s signs,” Abubakar told the audience in a Qur’an reading competition here.

“See you not that Allah sends down rain from the sky? With it We then bring out produce of various colors. And in the mountains are tracts white and red, of various shades of color, and black intense in hue. And so amongst men and crawling creatures and cattle, are they of various colors. Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge: for Allah is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving,” he said quoting referring to chapter 35, verses 27 to 28 of the Muslim Holy Scripture.

“It is not only that people in different parts of the world are diverse, but now we have a lot of diversity in our own cities, towns, indeed in our neighborhoods. People who live next door to us are often very diverse in colors, cultures and religions,” he said.

“Other cultures and religions should not be misrepresented. Educational institutions and media outlets should be held responsible not to propagate or perpetuate hate against any group of people and their recognized faiths and values; and tolerance must be practiced on all levels: individual, groups, and states. It should be a political and legal requirement. Tolerance is the responsibility that upholds human rights, pluralism, including cultural pluralism, democracy and the rule of law,” he continued.

Abubakar cited the UNESCO principles on tolerance, which says, “Consistent with respect for human rights, the practice of tolerance does not means toleration of social injustice or the abandonment or weakening of one’s convictions. It means that one is free to adhere to one’s own convictions and accepts that others adhere to theirs. It means accepting the fact that human beings, naturally diverse in their appearance, situation, speech, behavior and values, have the right to live in peace and to be as they are. It also means that one’s views are not to be imposed on others.”

He also explained that while “Islam does not consider all viewpoints correct or of equal value,” it also prohibits coercion in religion.

He argued that “Unity is also the need of human beings. But unity is not the total negation of diversity. Unity in diversity means to explore and to enhance common values that emphasize interdependence, equality, justice, human rights, and the sanctity of each individual’s dignity.”

“The goal should be to further a unified vision and recognition of the principle of unity and diversity and of the fact that we all are fellow citizens of an emerging global village,” he said.

“What is the common denominator between the revival of historical grudges and armed conflict in the Balkans, the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Kosovo and the alarming increase in the number of racial assaults in Western Europe?” he asked.

“What formal relationship, if any, exists between extremist or supremacist groups around the world? What is causing genocide in Chechnya, the daily violence in Israel, constant clashes in Kashmir and troubles in Indonesia and other places? Is there any link between the violence that targets individuals and communities in one country and discrimination against some races, colors and religions in another country?”

“The only immediately available answer is intolerance and the lack of respect for diversity. Intolerance causes economic injustice, political double standards and social oppression. Intolerance is on the increase in the world today and it is killing human beings on a massive scale. Intolerance raises many moral as well as political and economic questions. Intolerance is a major threat to peace and security. This issue is alarming many governments and the public.”

“Intolerance ignited most wars, fueled religious persecutions and violent ideological confrontations,” he said. “But the questions are: Is intolerance inherent in human nature? Is it insurmountable? Can tolerance be learned? How can communities and states deal with intolerance without infringing on individual freedoms? How can they foster individual codes of conduct, without harsh laws and without policing people’s behavior? How can peaceful pluralism, multiculturalism or unity in diversity be achieved?”

“The respect for diversity comes when we recognize four important principles: the dignity of the human beings; the basic equality of all human beings; universal human rights; and fundamental freedom of thought, conscience and belief,” Abubakar said, adding that “Islam recognizes all these principles.”

The IMT official likewise clarified that jihad does not mean “holy war” but struggle on the personal and social levels.

“Qital or military warfare is permissible in Islam, but only when other peaceful means such as dialogue, negotiations and treaties fail. It is a last resort and should be avoided as much as possible,” he said.

“Its purpose is not to convert people by force, or to colonize people or to acquire land or wealth or for self-glory. Its purpose is basically defense of life, property, land, honor and freedom for oneself as well as defense of others from injustice and oppression,” he added.

He cited that the basic rules of ‘qital’ in Islam are: “Do not begin the hostilities, work for peace as much as possible; Fight only those who fight, no collective punishment, non-combatants should not be harmed. Weapons of mass destruction should not be used; Stop hostilities as soon as the other party inclines to peace; and, observe the treaties and agreements as long as the enemy observes them.”

He noted, however, that “Islam teaches zero tolerance for injustice, oppression, and violation of the rights of other human beings. It has no tolerance for genocide.”

“God says in the Qur’an, ‘And why should ye not fight in the cause of Allah and of those who, being weak, are ill-treated (and oppressed)? Men, women, and children, whose cry is: “Our Lord! Rescue us from this town, whose people are oppressors; and raise for us from thee one who will protect; and raise for us from thee one who will help!’” he said, citing chapter 4, verse 75 of the Muslim Book.

Abubakar, 47, is a native of Malacca and has served in the Royal Malaysian Navy for 27 years. He holds a diploma in computer science and a degree in soil engineering. He is formerly a staff officer and computer system manager at the Malaysian Ministry of Defense, and commanding officer of a naval logistics unit.