The newly-elected US President, Donald Trump, during his election campaign had issued a number of controversial statements about Muslims. Moreover, just after taking charge, he issued a notification for the imposition of a ban on the entry of citizens of six Muslim-majority countries. Much has been said on this discriminatory policy which raised the fear of a horrific clash of civilisations between the US and the Muslim world. The real victims of this ‘clash’ will be thousands of innocent people, especially those living in Muslim countries who are already fed up of terrorism.
But the US president selected Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip. This shows that the US has realised the ground realities – that curbing terrorism is not possible without the support of the Muslim world.
The responses to 9/11 – the attack on Afghanistan and later, the Iraq War – had intensified the unrest and instability in the entire region. There is no doubt that despite the passage of 16 years, the US-led ‘war against terror’ has been unable to make our world free from terror and violence. The recent terrorist attack in Manchester, UK shows that terrorism is a global issue and needs collective attention by all countries whether they belong to the developed world or the under-developed world.
Any attempt to justify such horrific acts using religion is highly problematic. I have studied almost all religions and can confidently claim that no religion asks its followers to take the lives of innocent people. Islam is, no doubt, a religion of peace where saving a single human life has been equated with saving the entire humanity. Ahimsa (non-violence) is a key factor of Hinduism. Christianity urges its followers to turn the other cheek instead of taking revenge. Ensuring peace is one of the three key values in Judaism. All religions urge their followers to respect other religions.
The US president, while showing an interest in strengthening cooperation in pursuit of peace, has declared that the US and the West are not the enemies of Islam. He said there is no battle between different faiths or civilisations, but between the forces of good and evil. Trump stated that every time a terrorist murders an innocent person by falsely invoking the name of God, it is actually an insult to every person of faith.
While the promise of the US president that his country will never impose the Western way of life on others could be considered a diplomatic attempt to win the hearts and minds of the Muslim world, I believe that Saudi Arabia has secured a number of achievements on various fronts.
The first is the formation of the Islamic Military Alliance by the Saudi regime. Muslims are not terrorists but victims of terrorism. The warm welcome and hospitality shown by Saudi Arabia to Donald Trump and his family reveals that the country is in fact a tolerant society.
The presence of Pakistani General (r) Raheel Sharif as commander-in-chief of the Islamic Military Alliance shows the entire Muslim world’s commitment to defeating terrorism. This endeavour mimics the actions of the brave armed forces of Pakistan who succeeded in curbing terrorism and militancy from North Waziristan.
Moreover, the visit also initiated debate and dialogue between different segments which are essential for progress and development. This once again highlighted that Islam has nothing to do with terrorism and individual acts by some elements should not be linked with any faith. The participants agreed that religion must never be a reason for conflict, hatred and violence of any kind.
Historically, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are strategically important countries of the Muslim world. During the era of cold war – when the entire Arab world was under the influence of the Soviet Union – both brotherly Muslim countries were strategic allies of the US and the West. Besides being the custodian of the most holy places, the oil-rich Saudi Arabia has the largest economy in the Arab world. In 1973, the Arab world – in response to the West’s support of Israel – initiated the oil embargo which resulted in the worst oil crisis in Western societies. However, as a result of 9/11, misunderstandings between the Muslim world and the West intensified.
The active interaction of 55 Muslim states with the US president has given a message of peace to the West. It has highlighted that citizens of Muslim-majority countries wish to end global terrorism and want to normalise relations with the US and the West. The people of the Muslim world are of the view that it was not military power but soft power that played a pivotal role in the US achieving the status of a superpower.
I hope that the US cooperates and opens more doors for Muslims by increasing enrolment in the universities, offering cultural and academic exchanges, fellowships, scholarships and development aid.
The writer is a member of the National
Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.
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