Extremism in the name of God : ‘Neutralization, crying need of the hour’ | Sunday Observer

Extremism in the name of God : ‘Neutralization, crying need of the hour’

Culture has always been the most appropriate media and most effective strategy for interaction and dialogue among the nations and for exploring proper grounds and solutions for proximity of viewpoints and mutual understanding among the world nations. The emergence and development of sciences and civilizations are chiefly a result of cultural relations and interactions among the human communities.

Cultural dialogues prepare the grounds for free and respectful exchange of views among individuals as well as reference groups and institutions, and thus prove to be highly influential in the path toward peaceful coexistence and sustainable security among nations. Today, under various tensions and challenges that dominate international relations, cultural dialogues can prove to be an inevitable necessity and an effective strategy – more than ever – in establishing relations with and creating sustainable cooperation among the elite for collaboration in exploring appropriate cultural solutions for changing the status quo.

Cultural cooperation among different nations of Asia will pave the way for peace, stability and progress in the years to come, as well as promote the culture of peace and friendship among the nations of the great Continent. The continuous efforts for cultural dialogue among elites and intellectuals is undoubtedly instrumental in achieving common understanding and in finding appropriate mechanism to address the current challenges in regional relations.

It is in this backdrop, that I appreciate the opportunity I received to participate in the Asian Cultural Dialogues Conference held in the Islamic Republic of Iran from January 13-15, 2018.

The main theme of the Conference was confined to “Cultural Dialogues between Iran and the Sub-Continent nations.” The Islamic Republic of Iran, being a country with a great tradition of inter cultural relations has been able to take the initiative in this great event. Following the Conference on “Dialogue among Religions and Cultures in Asia” which took place in September, 2011 in Tehran, a number of meetings has been held in various parts of Asia, including the preparatory meetings on cultural dialogues held in Malaysia, India, Kazakhstan, China and Turkey. To finalize and materialize the decisions of the above meetings, the Conference on Asia Cultural Dialogue: Cultural Diversity and Converging Aspirations in Asia was held from January 13 to 15, 2018 in Iran. The event was organized by the Permanent Secretariat of International Cultural Dialogues in collaboration with host universities in Iran.

The Conference on Cultural Dialogue between Iran and the Sub-continent on “Common Cultural and Historical Heritage: Potentials and Opportunities” was held at the Ferdowsi University of Mashad from January 14 to 15, 2018.

A large number of scholars and researchers from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Iran participated in the meeting and discussed important aspects of the theme of the Conference. The participants confirmed the following pivotal points:

l Establishing the forum of cultural dialogues among Iran and countries of the sub-Continent as a sub-entity of Permanent Secretariat of International Cultural Dialogues

l Development and approval of executive regulation of the forum at the next meeting

l Developing the plan of joint short-term and long-term scientific and cultural cooperation and delivering the plan to the Permanent Secretariat of Cultural Dialogue for further approval

l Holding periodical meetings of the forum in member universities

l Use of potentials of non-governmental organizations and scientific-cultural centers for increasing the number of forum members

l Developing a website for the forum for reinforcing a persistent relationship and information exchange among members

l Publication of a special journal on cultural dialogues between Iran and the subcontinent to produce scientific literature and provide the conditions for persistent interaction among the elite. Representing Sri Lanka, I participated at the above mentioned first Conference where potentials of inter cultural relations were extensively discussed on how the present day world could be liberated from various kinds of extremism. The venue of this Conference was the beautiful Ferdowsi University, named after the greatest of Persian national poets, Ferdowsi. Incidentally, after the conclusion of the Conference, we were able to visit the massive mausoleum of the great poet situated a few kilometers away from the city of Mashad. Without going into minute details of the valuable contribution made by many intellectuals who participated at the Conference with a common goal of cultural understanding among the sub Continent nations of Asia, with special reference to irradiation of religious animosity and extremism, I wish to quota a few lines of the speech delivered by Dr. Hojjatollah Javani, Associate Prof of Religions and Mysticism at Al-Zahra University.

“The modern era has been the battlefield of intellectual conflicts and encounters between the followers of different creeds and religions.

In our time, there are many groups that in the name of religion or out of the so-called religious devoutness clash with followers of other schools of thoughts and religions. Extreme groups have been formed all across the world, each undertaking the most heinous acts and violent behaviors towards followers of other religions and sects in an attempt to defend and celebrate their own faith. They mask violence with a holy disguise and cover their narrow-mindedness and fundamentalism under the pretext of preserving religion, trying to pass it off as a gift to the land of thoughts and hearts of simple minded people. “They have packed their tricky shop with the goods of dogma, aggression, ambition, animosity and obduracy and all sorts of vile acts, while drawing a curtain of religion and the service of God along with the concern about the prosperity and glory of the people to make it difficult to perceive the truth and therefore deceive their ignorant customers. “The simple-minded and naïve clients of the religion market fall prey to these hunters and purchase the fake commodity of religious violence instead of the beautiful product of spirituality.

When these people open the bundle of these purchased tricks, they find that their sufferings have been futile and their achievements chimerical.

Sometimes, there are gullible people who sit at the table of these spoiled and corrupt intellectual foods, and their hearts and souls are poisoned, followed by more catastrophic consequences. “What is the solution and how can people in all religions be steered away from this sham market towards the true destination and purpose of religion? “To all of the above-said, one can add the brilliant records of mysticism in Iran and India, which have historically demonstrated their ability to curb violence, with the emphasis on mysticism succeeding in changing the fate of aggressive tribes, creating a civilization that favour peace and philanthropy and eschew violence.”

The writer is the Chairman, National Library and Documentation Services Board