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Multiculturalism, Intercultural Dialogue Global Peaceful Co Existence

Tuesday, 17 January 2012 10:53
Published in News

The International Conference on Global Movement of Moderates in Kuala Lumpur on 17, 18 & 19 January 2012 aims to promote a loose union of independent individuals committed to pursue an enduring and peaceful co-existence. This conference, which has its theme compelled on the notion of enduring peace would enlarge upon and redefine the need for moderation in our daily affairs. The Conference wishes to be an annual setting for the convergence of progressive thoughts and articulate meaningful ideas on moderation of leaders of different states. This inaugural Conference is organised by the Alumni Association of International Islamic University of Malaysia, in collaboration with International Islamic University of Malaysia.

In response to the invitation of the Malaysian prime minister The Hon. Dato' Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, Ayatullah Dr. Sheikh Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani participated in the International Conference today and delivered a speech on "Multiculturalism, Intercultural Dialogue Global Peaceful Co Existence".

The transcript of his speech is as follows:

 In the Name of God

The Compassionate the Merciful

Multiculturalism, Intercultural Dialogue

Global Peaceful Co Existence:

An Islamic approach

Ayatollah Dr. Sheikh Mahdi Hadavi Tehrani

Professor of Islamic Law and Philosophy, I.R.Iran, Islamic seminary of Qom

Founder and president of Porch of Wisdom Cultural Institution

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Diversity or Multiculturalism is a natural phenomenon. This issue demands a natural reaction.

Some of them reject this fact, while this rejection does not change the reality.

Some of them accept this fact neutrally without any effective approach.

Some of them accept this fact with an effective approach.

If we just survey the history, we will find a lot of wars and combats, the bloodiest one was the World War II: Millions of killed and injured. This dark history still exists in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, etc.

But there are some shining moments: the perpetual endeavor for peace and justice. The most important one can be witnessed in the history of divine religions. The prophets are the heroes of this scene. The religions were the source of peaceful co-existence throughout the history.

Unfortunately some false interpretations misused them as a source of wars and conflicts. Extremism was the main obstacle for reaching to the real goal of the religions. And it is still the main problem. Jewish extremism, Christian extremism, Islamic extremism, Secular extremism, Capitalistic extremism, and Liberalistic extremism are the main role players in the most recent issues.

Hence the role of Moderates is very essential and as a Muslim scholar I would like to introduce some features of Islamic Moderate conceptions.

In this connection, many questions arise:

  1. What are the specific features of Muslim civilization?
  2. What could be the role of Muslim civilization in the global community?
  3. What is the relationship between the Islamic concepts and the Multiculturalism?
  4. Is there any capability in Islam for Intercultural Dialogue?




  1. What are the specific features of Muslim civilization?


Islamic History: An overlook

In the course of almost six centuries, from 7 to 13 AD, Muslim civilization displayed its openness in a constant dialogue with other cultures and civilizations. In the last instance, this openness was promoted by the spirit of religious and cultural tolerance prevailing in the Muslim State, which stretched from the Indus to Gibraltar. The Persian wisdom and Greek reason became component parts of the Muslim spiritual culture.

And this is the Quranic notion:

...فَبَشِّرْ عِبادِ الَّذينَ يَسْتَمِعُونَ الْقَوْلَ فَيَتَّبِعُونَ أَحْسَنَهُ أُولئِكَ الَّذينَ هَداهُمُ اللَّهُ وَ أُولئِكَ هُمْ أُولُوا الْأَلْبابِ (18,17-الزمر)


… there is good news for them. So give good news to My servants who listen to the word] of Allah [and follow the best] sense [of it. They are the ones whom Allah has guided, and it is they who possess intellect. (al-Zomar, 17-18)

Persian thought and culture owes an immense debt to Islam as one of its primary springs of efflorescence. Islam embodies a universal wisdom. Each and every human individual living in each and every corner of time and place is potentially included in the purview of Islam. The Islamic emphasis on the essential humane quality, and its disdain for such elements as birth and blood, had conquered the hearts of those yearning for justice and freedom.


In conditions of political-legal and religious pluralism within the framework of Islam, the creators of the classical culture of the Muslim middle ages were not only Arabs, but also representatives of many other peoples.


2. What could be the role of Muslim civilization in the global community?

Despite various conflicts and wars between the Muslim world and Medieval Europe, as well as the various collisions within the Caliphate itself, Baghdad, Cairo, Neisaboor, Rey and Cordoba became the major cultural centers which defined the course of interaction with other civilizations.

This openness to dialogue has, precisely, allowed medieval Europe to consider as a component of its own culture not only the heritage of antiquity received from the Arabs, but also the many achievements of classical Muslim in the fields of philosophy, science and culture.

In the modern dialogue of civilizations a major role is allocated to the countries of the Muslim East. This is understandable. Historically Muslim civilization was a component part of Mediterranean civilization. But the strengthening of the political role of Islam from the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, the growth of Islamic "revivalist" movements after the Islamic Iranian revolution of 1979, and the strengthening of the tendency of international Islamic solidarity has caused in minds of Western nations a sensation of danger and fear. Accordingly, there has arisen aversion and hostility to what in western literature is called "militant Islam or fundamentalism". For Muslims this has generated in response a rebirth of a feeling of the dignity of religious traditions and piety.

It is to be noted that the paradigm of the “clash of civilizations” has emanated from the Western world – and in a particular historical constellation when, after the disappearance of the ideological adversary, a new enemy stereotype was “needed” to justify the claim to global hegemony in the new unipolar environment.



  1. What is the relationship between the Islamic concepts and the Multiculturalism?

Islamic concepts: an overview

For Global Community in a multicultural world, we need Common principles which are capable to be materialized in different situations. These common principles should be based on human’s nature.

Islam has introduced these principles and the Islamic civilization is a good sample for different manifestations of these common principles.

These principles can be categorized in some special sets which are related in a system to each other.

I have introduced this notion in “systematic thought theory in Islam”.  In this theory you may find the Islamic philosophy, doctrine, and system in different fields of human life such as economy, politics, etc.



  1. Is there any capability in Islam for Intercultural Dialogue?


Intercultural Dialogue: the Cotemporary Situation

Today there are more than one billion Muslims in the world, and they comprise the majority of the population of almost 50 countries. In Europe and America the number of Muslim minorities is rapidly growing.

The result of Gallup's largest study of Muslim populations worldwide is Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think, based on six years of research and more than 9,000 interviews in nine Muslim Countries.[1]

Conclusions of this study are:


  • Muslims and Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally unjustifiable.
  • Large majorities of Muslims would guarantee free speech if it were up to them to write a new constitution.
  • Muslims around the world say that what they LEAST admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values -- the same answers that Americans themselves give when asked this question.
  • When asked about their dreams for the future, Muslims say they want better jobs and security, not conflict and violence.
  • Muslims say the most important thing Westerners can do to improve relations with their societies is to change their negative views toward Muslims and respect Islam.

The research suggests that conflict between Muslims and the West is NOT inevitable and, in fact, is more about policy than principles.


As far as the Western world is concerned, we have, in a concrete manner, to deal with the recent and drastic increase of negative perceptions of Islam (as a religion as well as a civilization). Disrespectful and contemptuous value statements about Islam, its moral teachings and the related social system, have increasingly become acceptable even for the political mainstream in the West. 


In order to call governments and peoples of the world to follow the new paradigm of dialogue among cultures and civilizations, we ought to learn from the world's past experience, especially from the tremendous human catastrophes that took place in the 20th CenturyFrom an ethical perspective, the paradigm of dialogue among civilizations requires that we give up the will-to-power; and [without] the will-to-empathy, compassion, and understanding, there would be no hope for the prevalence of order in our world. We ought to gallantly combat this dearth of compassion and empathy in our world. The ultimate goal of dialogue among civilizations is not dialogue in and of itself, but attaining empathy and compassion.


Intercultural Dialogue: the future steps


In the context of this increasingly more complex controversy, we must not overlook a basic inconsistency in the antagonizing of Islam by the Western mainstream that more and more appears to accept anti-Islamic attitudes as “politically correct.” On the one hand, (a) the West insists on the “secularization” of Muslim civilization, referring to its own experience with “Enlightenment” (which, it dogmatically states, has never taken hold among Muslims); on the other, (b) the West insists on the distinctly Christian origin of its civilization and reasserts it as main source of Western identity.

It overlooks the undisputed fact that what today exists as “Western civilization” was shaped and influenced, to a considerable extent, by the flourishing Islamic civilization of the Middle Ages – long before the era of European “Enlightenment.”

Dialogue is not easy. Even more difficult is to prepare and open up vistas upon one's inner existence to others. Believing in dialogue paves the way for vivacious hope: the hope to live in a world permeated by virtue, humility, and love, and not merely by the reign of economic indices and destructive weapons. Should the spirit of dialogue prevail, humanity, culture, and civilization should prevail. We should all have faith in this triumph, and we should all hope that all citizens of the world would be prepared to listen to the divine call: "So Announce the Good News To My Servants—Those Who Listen To the Word, and Follow the Best [meaning] In It" (Holy Qoran, 39: parts of 17, 18).


Without pretending to offer an exhaustive list, we may consider here a few concrete possibilities of productive interaction, at different levels, between Islam and the West that could pave the ground for sincere – and lasting – dialogue:

  • As regards the religious heritage, both sides may enter into a dialogue on the nature of monotheism   as common denominator between the world views of Islam and Christianity.
  • At the level of society, both sides could initially agree on a limited set of meta-values as smallest common denominator for peaceful co-existence. Among those will definitely be the principle of mutuality (implying the mutual acceptance of each other’s inalienable right to realize its distinct cultural identity) and, resulting from it, what we call the “principle of civilizational non-interference.” Only acceptance of this norm will enable co-operation in good faith, something which is indispensable for a genuine “alliance.”
  • If those normative conditions are met, the Western and Muslim worlds will be in a position to engage in a dialogue on common threats to both civilizations in today’s globalized environment. Those may include, inter alia, the issue of environmental protection, particularly as regards the negative (and politically destabilizing) effects of global warming; the threats to the long-term stability, even survival, of polities due to the illicit trafficking in and use of narcotic drugs (something which undermines the very fabric of the state); the threat to the survival of mankind as a whole resulting from the existence (real, not imagined!) of arms of mass destruction which are overwhelmingly in the possession of Western powers; etc.


The Concept of Messiah

The concept of Messiah has been introduced in all divine religions, the one who comes to full up the world of Justice.

بَقِيَّتُ اللَّهِ خَيْرٌ لَكُمْ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنينَ وَ ما أَنَا عَلَيْكُمْ بِحَفيظٍ (86هود)

" What remains of Allah's provision is better for you, should you be faithful, and I am not a keeper over you." (68,Hood)


[1] John L. Esposito is professor of religion and international affairs and founding director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. Dalia Mogahed is executive director of Muslim studies for the Gallup Organization.