The pilgrimage draws millions of Muslims to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and concluded this week with the holiday of Eid al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice. Muslims honor the faithfulness of the prophet Abraham on this day and distribute food to those in need.
Al-Issa spoke recently about the importance of interfaith work and dialogue during the Global Faith Forum, an event sponsored by the Multi-Faith Neighbors Network that drew Muslims, Jews and Christians to the Dallas area last March. (For more on that event, read this reflection in Interfaith America Magazine by the Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush.)
Al-Issa’s remarks at the interfaith forum are reprinted below with permission.
In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful,
My fellow religious leaders, distinguished guests, your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen:
I would like to begin by thanking members of the Global Faith Forum for inviting me to speak alongside such accomplished leaders. Each of you truly embody the ideals we seek to promote every day at the Muslim World League, and your dedication to interfaith cooperation should be commended.
I would also like to express my thanks for bringing us together for this very timely and important conversation.
What an amazing honor to be with you, especially as we continue to forge a new path forward in interfaith dialogue and cooperation.
Real progress only happens when action and courage are combined with an unwavering resolve for creating a better world for all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, faith, gender, nationality or creed.
The pursuit of change is certainly not easy. It doesn’t occur overnight, and could take more than a lifetime.
It takes constant, consistent, cohesive and intentional effort, not mere good fortune or happenstance.
It comes as a result of gatherings and conversations like today…
Bringing together people from different faiths, different communities, different walks of life, different experiences…
To provide them with a safe space to better understand, love and respect those who might look different or sound different, but have intrinsic commonalities that bind us together as human beings.
This is what I hope to achieve here today, at this historic gathering of Muslims and Evangelicals…
To begin to show you that we have more in common than divides us…Inherent values that connect us…Guiding principles that help bridge our societies…And a shared history that allows us to empathize with each other.
And hope that these seeds blossom into core values to guide the future generations.
Only through contact, can we start to re-plant the seeds of mutual respect, communal empathy and authentic coexistence…
From Dr. Martin Luther King’s belief that only light can drive out darkness to the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s faith in the power of compassion and empathy, these are the values many of our greatest religious peacemakers have preached throughout history.
Since taking over the Muslim World League, I have made it my mission to do just that by expanding our outreach to other religions, cultivating new relations with faith communities, establishing partnerships with leading religious groups, and implementing global education programs.
And our efforts at the Muslim World League have yielded the most important return – new and lasting friendships, greater understanding and respect, and a sense of solidarity in our common fight against hatred.
Over the past few years, we have established partnerships with global Jewish organizations to combat racism and extremism in all its forms.
I led the most senior Muslim delegation to visit the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz to show solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters.
We have established close cooperation with the Vatican, all the Orthodox Churches and several Protestant churches.
After the terrorist attacks on Easter Sunday, I traveled to Sri Lanka to implement a faith-based healing process for Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and Hindus.
We have built deep bonds with the Church of Latter-day Saints.
And we have hosted Evangelical delegations in the United States and Saudi Arabia in hopes of cultivating lasting friendships and better understanding.
All of these efforts are in pursuit of one common objective…
To usher in a new chapter of coexistence that embraces diversity as an essential part of life.
Despite the good work being performed at the Muslim World League, and by many of you in attendance today, the global community is as divided as it has ever been.
From increasing political and ideological divides to the collapse of constructive public discourse, we see how a lack of unity poses a grave threat to all our communities.
And as the world becomes more interconnected, we see how online hatred and discrimination, or stigmatization about one’s religious beliefs can result in acts of terrorism.
We have witnessed how misconceptions spread by sick individuals on social media can lead to increased fear of the “other.”
And we are living in a time where attacks against religious sites and houses of worship are increasing.
Look no further than the recent, abominable attack against Congregation Beth Israel. Or the alarming number of hate crimes committed against Muslim and Christian communities around the world.
These acts were committed by warped individuals that fear the unknown.
Or utterly distorted the true interpretation of scripture.
Or falsely claimed allegiance to a twisted idea of national or ethnic pride.
Our only hope in defeating these pervasive, sick ideals is by working together – among all faiths and within faiths.
Intrareligious dialogue and understanding are just as important as interfaith cooperation.
This is why in 2019 the Muslim World League gathered more than 1,200 prominent Muftis and Muslim scholars and over 4,500 Islamic thinkers from more than 139 countries and 27 different Islamic sects in the Holy City of Makkah for a historic four-day conference.
The conference focused on how we could best combat the global rise in hatred and divisiveness affecting so many of our communities today.
Our solution was the groundbreaking Charter of Makkah – a document unanimously endorsed by leaders, scholars and academics in attendance.
The Charter is widely recognized as the most important document in modern Islamic history.
The document outlines 29 defined points on how we must put our differences aside, embrace religious, social and cultural diversity, promote inclusivity and equality among all people, and endeavor to advance peace, coexistence and love.
It provides a blueprint for how the Muslim world should:
Engage with different faith and religious groups…
Combat extremism, terrorism and hatred in all its forms…
Protect the fundamental human rights of all people and empower women, minorities and marginalized groups to achieve their dreams and aspirations.
The Charter demonstrates our unwavering dedication to confronting racism and discrimination…
Shows our commitment to common causes such as the threat posed by climate change…
Emphasizes the need to build bridges of respect and harmony…
And instructs us to have a values-based approach to educating the next generation of leaders, and places an importance on teaching them how to engage in constructive dialogue.
These ideals represent the true, moderate principles of Islam.
Islam instructs us to build coexistence among all faiths, cultures, ethnicities, and sects. And confront extremist rhetoric and expose its flaws.
The Charter of Makkah sets a new course for the future of humanity, and will help ensure lasting peace and prosperity for all.
The Islamic world, and all other faith communities have a critical role to play in ensuring the values outlined in the Charter are implemented.
We have mapped the Charter to three widely accepted principles to expand its universality and understandability in all communities.
First, we mapped the Charter to the Islamic doctrine of life preservation, known as “daruriyyah.” This focuses on the five necessities of life, intellect, religion, progeny and property.
Second, we integrated the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which has a number of complementary goals and objectives.
Lastly, we mapped the Charter to the principle of Domains of Human Concern to help address the collective concerns of the global community, including poverty, hunger, homelessness, disease, illiteracy and inequality.
And we have begun to implement the Charter across four main programmatic areas:
Over the past two years, we have worked closely with community leaders, religious groups and governments around the world to advance the Charter’s principles.
The Charter was approved by all 56 Islamic countries at the annual meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers in 2020. We are working with these countries to implement training programs and integrate the Charter into educational institutions.
We have implemented comprehensive, multi-pronged educational courses and awareness building programs all around the world, from the United States and France to Indonesia and Malaysia.
And in practice, the Charter has already proven invaluable in our efforts to promote intrareligious peace and harmony.
Just this past year, the Muslim World League organized a peace conference, where Afghan and Pakistani scholars discussed a common vision for peace and harmony in Afghanistan.
And shortly after that, we gathered 80 prominent Iraqi Sunni and Shiite religious leaders and scholars in Makkah to promote unity and reconciliation around the threads that connect all Muslims.
The Muslim community, and all other adherents of faith have an important role to play in building the world we want to live in, raise our children in and leave behind for future generations.
The Charter of Makkah is the lodestar that will help guide us on our journey.
This is a journey we must all take together.
Yes, the road will be long and hard.
Yes, we will be confronted with difficult and arduous situations.
Yes, there will be setbacks.
And yes, there will be trials and tribulations.
But together, we will overcome any obstacle.
Together, we will defeat those who only seek to divide us.
Together, we will triumph over evil and the ideology that drives it.
Together, we will prevail.
From the great people I’ve had the honor of meeting during my short visit in Texas to lifelong friends I’ve made along the way (many of which are here today), the last years of rebuilding interfaith relations have provided me with great hope for the future.
Around the world, we are building partnerships with Evangelicals, Jews and other people of faith, based on mutual respect and common values.
And I’ve learned throughout my travels that whether I am meeting an Evangelical leader in Texas or a Buddhist in Sri Lanka, we share many of the same values.
We have all witnessed the discrimination many in our communities’ face or the stigmatisms that come along with being ardent in our beliefs.
But we also share a commitment to building a world where intolerance, discrimination and injustice has no place in our society. We are striving to foster a more inclusive, equal world where no form of prejudice or bias exists.
We share an undying perseverance that will stand the time against evil, hatred or any form of fanaticism.
The Muslim World League will continue working every day to promote the true, moderate values of Islam that emphasizes peace, love, coexistence and empathy.
And we will continue to work with our partners in the Evangelical community, who share in our mission to promote these fundamental values and principles.
I want to thank the Global Faith Forum again for inviting me to speak here today. I look forward to working with all of you to promulgate understanding, lasting peace and coexistence.
American Civic Life
American Civic Life