Statement by HRH Prince Hassan bin Talal
President Emeritus
World Conference of Religions for Peace
2 August 2007
It is with great sadness and pain that I follow the ongoing captivity of the Korean hostages held by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The brutal and senseless murder of some of their number has shocked my family and me. The claims to righteousness of their captors has offended our Islamic identities and inspired me to write in appeal and in protest.
Many of us wonder what plea can reach the ears of those who are causing such suffering to innocents. How can we show these misguided men of war that our faith instructs them to put humanitarian considerations above all else? All true Muslims must realize that it is vital to recognize the humanity of the other in order to affirm our own humanity.
It pains me to see the religion of Islam once again being exploited in a way that is wholly at odds with its historic message. Perhaps we can understand how this comes about in certain circumstances. When people are afraid, when they are broken and powerless, they sometimes lash out violently. However, it is both tragic and ironic that in their rage and fear, they destroy the beautiful tradition they claim to defend.
This is indeed a time of great crisis in our world. Violence has overtaken dialogue, and compassion has lost out to hatred and revenge. Now, as anger threatens to escalate out of all control across the world, we must remember that peace is not just the absence of violence; it is the active nurturing of trust, respect and empathy.
As a Muslim, I call for my co-religionists to work together so that our faith may be elevated above politics; so that church, mosque, synagogue and temple may regain their moral authority outside the political realm. We must consider the damage being done to Islam by those who act out of anger and aggression. Religions for Peace, representing the world’s diverse faiths, reaffirms the sanctity of human life and calls for a respect for human dignity and common standards for all.
Our religion of peace commands us to take positive action amid mounting hostility and mistrust and to make a substantial contribution to peace-building in a polarized world. Our communities need an urgent call for responsible religiosity among Muslims. We must move away from the polarities of truth that have come to drive the international agenda.
The violence in Afghanistan, Palestine and Iraq, along with the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment which has developed since 9/11, have caused real pain and suffering to millions of Muslims around the world. Vicious calumnies delivered by a minority of Christian Evangelists and Western politicians have created the impression of a religious “crusade” against Islam. To this, many Muslims around the world have reacted with indignation and anger.
But the actions of a misinformed minority in the West and the objectionable policies of some governments must not lead any Muslim to forget the centrist and humanitarian message of the Qur’an. Muhammad’s life is clearly not being implemented by so-called fundamentalists but perverted into a driving force for their own highly politicized agendas.
Some years ago I was saddened as a Muslim to see the wanton destruction of places of worship sacred to the Buddhist faith in Afghanistan. I am more dismayed that the precious terra media, the middle ground of dialogue, which has existed for centuries between faiths, is being destroyed by politicians and warlords who claim to speak for our faiths.
Once again, I would wish for Muslim delegations to travel to Afghanistan to represent the United Nations and the families of the captives. As a Muslim and a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), I can claim cultural and religious affinity with those who would act in my name and say to them: “What you are doing is unconscionable for Muslims.”
As President Emeritus of Religions for Peace, I call for dialogue to resolve this moral and humanitarian crisis. Religions for Peace is well-placed to mediate any discussions that might hopefully arise in the coming hours and days.