1. Affirmation of Common Ethics
Session chaired by The Rt. Hon. Malcolm Fraser
Former Prime Minister of Australia
For thousands of years, humanity’s major religions and humanist traditions have urged peoples to apply elementary ethical standards and principles in their life. The InterAction Council has understood clearly that the common ethics running through the world’s major religions provided the best long-term basis for peace, as well as for a more just and humane world.
Session I was to reaffirm these common ethics, led by two introducers: Dr. Stephan Schlensog of Global Ethic Foundation and Dr. Sheikh Muhamad Habash of Abu Dhabi University.
Dr. Schlensog asserted that peoples of different religions and cultures should not focus on what divided them but on what they had in common. It was no coincidence that much of what was proclaimed in the Abrahamic religions was found in the Eastern traditions as well as the focus of secular humanist philosophies for millennia. Defining a global ethic as a fundamental consensus on binding values, irrevocable standards and personal attitudes, it could be shared by religious and non-religious people alike. He wished the group to focus on the fact that every critical problem of our time had a moral dimension and a just, peaceful and sustainable world could only exist if we reflected on the precepts of great religious and humanist traditions.
Professor Habashi’s paper mainly explained an Islamic perspective. He stated that the ethical responsibility of Islamic religious leaders was to enhance the power of moderation and tolerance in the Islamic world, and to achieve effective communication between good forces on earth and tolerant and moderate movements in the Islamic world. He suggested the launching of an international satellite channel “One God”, the compiling of all scriptures in one book, and appealing for a declaration of global ethics to be signed by the world’s religious and political leaders.
The ensuing discussion reaffirmed the understanding of global ethics; pondered what it might mean in practice in various life; and how this could be managed in diversity. Serious concerns were expressed on election processes in the democratic world where negative campaigns and character assassinations that led to the paucity of good leaders. The group emphasised the crucial need to ensure that moral and ethical concepts be disseminated more broadly in the public realm, in politics, business and education.
Affirmation of Common Ethics in the World’s Major
Religions and Spiritual Philosophies
Introducer 1: Dr. Stephan Schlensog
Secretary General, Global Ethic Foundation, Tübingen
The fact that the InterAction Council called this conference “Global Ethics in Decision-making” was a completely logical and right decision. Because the great international reputation of the InterAction Council is based essentially on its moral credibility, and on the authority and wisdom with which the Council again and again stresses the fundamental importance of values in politics, religion, business and society.
There are two reasons why, in this increasingly globalised world, we now talk naturally not just about “global policy” or “global economy” but also about “global ethic”: on one hand, it relates to the need for global ethical standards in the world today, and on the other, it has to do with the Swiss theologian Hans Küng, who acted for many years as adviser to the InterAction Council. I myself have been working with Hans Küng for 30 years and he has asked me to convey his warmest greetings to this audience.
Let me say first a few words about Hans Küng. In the 1980s he had been concerned with the paradigm shift from modernity to post- modernity, and with its consequences for religion, politics and society. In his book “Global Responsibility: In Search of a New World Ethic” (New York 1991), he stated that the increasingly globalised human race will only survive in the long term if “there is no longer any room in this world for spheres of differing, contradictory and even antagonistic ethics”. He said that this world does not need a uniform ideology, or a uniform religion, but given all the differences between races, nations and cultures, it needs a few connective and binding world ethical values, standards and attitudes. Our globalised world needs a global ethic!
Hans Küng’s examination of the ethical similarities between religions and cultures was at the time new and challenging to many people. With his slogan “No Peace Among Nations without Peace Among the Religions”, which he used for the first time in 1984, he opposed those who unilaterally emphasised the potential for conflict represented by religions. The Global Ethic idea is based on the conviction that people of different religions and cultures should not only focus on what divides them, but even more on what they have in common. For this reason we need inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. We especially need to learn that as far as values and ethic are concerned, we share far more than we often believe possible. And these common values are, as we all know, fundamentally important: not only for the life of individuals and families, but for all areas of our modern society.
So then why does it make sense to talk of common values of “global ethic”, given all the differences in the beliefs and philosophies of the religions and humanist traditions? The answer is because in their incarnation, human beings, with their propensity to egoism, self-assertion and violence, have to learn to behave like genuine humans. Evolutionary biologists and psychologists have shown that the secret of the success of the human species lies not so much in the misunderstood so-called Darwinian social principle of “survival of the fittest”, but rather in the capability of human beings to act with empathy and co-operation.
This is why humans developed values and ethical principles, as a basis for successful coexistence. This happened worldwide and in all cultures. And for thousands of years, humanity’s major religious and humanist traditions have been urging people to apply elementary ethical standards and principles: first of all humanity and reciprocity:
- ・humanity in the sense of “humaneness” - every human being has to be treated in a humane way;
- ・reciprocity as expressed by the famous “Golden Rule”: not doing unto others that which you do not wish be done unto yourself.
And these two principles are especially expressed in some elementary ethical values such as non-violence, justice, truth and protection of sexuality.
Ethical norms are always implemented in a particular situation, in a specific place, at a specific time and amongst the people living there. And they are implemented in very different ways. Because they are rooted in their time and depend on the specific constellation, at different times norms will not only be implemented according to changing priorities, they may even disappear, be forgotten, even - often for reasons of power - be consciously ignored. But certain fundamental ethical standards apply (or should apply) in all cultures. Experience has shown that similar life-values emerge again and again, even in very different cultural worlds.
Thus it is no coincidence that much of what is proclaimed in the Hebrew Bible, in the New Testament and in the Qur’an as God’s commandments is also found - albeit with a different rationale - as ethical maxims in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and in Chinese culture, and has remained the focus of secular humanist philosophies for thousands of years. Thus a global ethic can be shared by religious and non-religious people alike, so that secular humanists and agnostics can identify with it in the same way as can religious believers.
A landmark in the history of inter-religious dialogue is the adoption in 1993 of the “Declaration toward a Global Ethic” by the Parliament of the World Religions - a Declaration that expresses these principles and values as the core of a shared ethic for humanity. The signatories of this Declaration - representatives of every conceivable religion in the world - make it clear right from the start exactly what is understood by “global ethic”:
- “By a global ethic we do not mean a global ideology or a single unified religion beyond all existing religions, and certainly not the domination of one religion over all others. By a global ethic we mean a fundamental consensus on binding values, irrevocable standards, and personal attitudes”.
Let me be clear. A global ethic does not want to replace the ethic of individual religions, it wants to support it. It would be folly and an illusion to think of replacing or improving on the Jewish Torah, the Christian Sermon on the Mount, the Muslim Qur’an, the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita, the teachings of the Buddha, or the sayings of Confucius. They remain the foundation and framework for the beliefs and lives, thoughts and actions of hundreds of millions of people. The religions should, nay must, retain what is distinctive to them and emphasise it in their religious doctrines, rites and communities. But at the same time they must also recognise and realise what they have in common with regard to certain elementary ethical directives.
On the other hand a global ethic does not decide on ethical questions that are notoriously contested between or within religions. Those ethical questions about which no consensus between the religions or even within a religion is possible cannot be - at least at this point in time - the subject matter of a global ethic. That is why the Declaration toward a Global Ethic did not include problems, about which there is currently no consensus: for example, contraception, abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia. But, rather than polarising society in these disputed matters as so often occurs, the religions and spiritual philosophies have a duty and responsibility to contribute to a consensus which will help individuals and contribute to social peace through further reflections on these questions and through discussions based on general ethical norms.
And, by the way, the Global Ethics Declaration of the Parliament of World Religions also did not speak in the name of God. If you want to read, for example, scriptures of Buddhists and Confucians, Taoists and secular people, you shouldn’t argue with the authority of God.
It is to the great credit of the InterAction Council that it recognised early on the significance of cross-cultural values for our societies. The Council’s efforts culminated in 1997 in the proposal for a “Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities”, in parallel to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Council was confident: “A better social order both nationally and internationally cannot be achieved by laws, prescriptions and conventions alone, but needs a global ethic. Human aspirations for progress can only be realised by agreed values and standards applying to all people and institutions at all times”. Ten years later in May 2007, at its “High-Level Expert Group Meeting” in Tübingen, Germany, the Council reiterated this concern after its discussions on “World Religions as a Factor in World Politics”.
Values always represent an ideal and a standard to guide the way in which human activity can and should succeed. And we all know how vital and yet how difficult it is to introduce values into politics and society. Every day we hear in the news about crises and scandals in politics, business and society, which are caused, among other factors, by a breakdown in ethics. And religions themselves, that should be role models and agents for values and morals, are often seen to be mired in their own vested interests, shaken by scandal, riven by internal argument and at loggerheads with each other. We will be covering a number of these points, both negative and positive, in the course of our conference.
Our world therefore more than ever needs people and organisations that speak to its conscience. People and organisations that give us direction, that remind us, far beyond the confines of politics, society, religion and culture, of what makes us humans humane: the humanity that is reflected in globally recognised values as the basis for coexistence in respect, freedom and peace.
The InterAction Council, I am convinced, is just such a forum. And I would like to encourage the Council to make some recommendations at the end of our meeting, along the lines of its previous endeavours, and along the lines of what we will be discussing at this conference:
- ・Recommendations that make it quite clear that every one of the critical problems of our time also has a moral dimension.
- ・Recommendations that create an awareness that a just, peaceful and sustainable world can only exist if we reflect on the precepts of the great religious and humanist traditions in questions relating to ethos.
In 2003, the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan gave the third “Global Ethic Lecture” at Tübingen University. At the time, in 2003, the contentious Iraq War had begun, and against the background of those events, Kofi Annan asked the question “Do we still have universal values?” In his conclusion he offered the following response:
- “Yes, we do, but we should not take them for granted.
- They need to be carefully thought through.
They need to be defended.
They need to be strengthened.
And we need to find within ourselves the will to live by the values we proclaim - in our private lives, in our local and national societies, and in the world.”
Global Ethics in Decision-Making
Introducer 2: Dr. Shaikh Muhammad Habash
Professor, Islamic Studies, Abu Dhabi University
Asslam Alaykom Warahmat Allah,
Peace be upon you all
I am delighted to talk to you in this historic meeting with leaders of great spirituality and politics in the world. We are trying together to build a better world of peace, security, and dialogue with morality and ethics in decision makers.
I am also honoured that I am talking from the perspective of Islam, which confirmed what prophets call for a message of love and tolerance. This was preached by the prophets, then celebrated via the message of the Prophet Mohammed PBUH (Peace Be Unto Him), who confirmed the messages in the Torah and the Bible. The message considered contains five pillars, two of which believe in religions of others and their sanctities and beliefs, through the words of the Holy Prophet Muhammad: “Faith had been built on the five pillars”: to believe in God, His angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Day of Judgment.
Accordingly, Islam does not consider anyone as a Muslim unless he has a deep belief in the precedent prophets, God’s prophet Ibrahim, the father of prophets, and God’s prophet Moses, and Jesus son of Mary... and all other prophets. As God said: The Messenger (Muhammad) believes in what has been sent down to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers. Each one believes in Allah, His Angels, His Books, and His Messengers. He has ordered us to believe in all other prophets of God on the ground. Even those who are not mentioned in the Qur’an, Torah, and the Bible, the prophets of the East, the land of spirit and meditation: “And (We sent) messengers We have mentioned to you before, and messengers We have not mentioned to you”.
Today Islam suffers from a great deformation through the phenomenon of Islamophobia that has dreadfully spread throughout the world, as a result of the rise of terror in the Islamic World. I am convinced that the lack of freedom and democracy, the failure of the international community in achieving solidarity among rich and poor nations, and the prevalence of dictatorship over people in the Islamic world led to the emergence of terror as a way of liberation from subjugation and oppression. Therefore, oppression and counter oppression extensively led to the phenomenon of Islamophobia. An unmistakable example is the events that are happening in the tormented Islamic world today.
Our ethical responsibility as religious leaders summarises that we have to enhance the power of moderation and tolerance in the Islamic world, and achieve effective communication between good forces on earth and tolerant and moderate movements in the Islamic world, these movements that do not believe in terror and do not justify crimes under any banner. This achieves what God Almighty said in the Qur’an:“(But Whatever they may say or do,) repel the evil [Which they commit] with something that is better”, and what Jesus said in the New Testament: “Liar is he who said that evil is repelled with evil, let him set two fires and see if one extinguishes the other?” Evil is repelled with good, and darkness is repelled with light. The law of God is like that.
Moreover, the absence of ethics in the decisions of global powers, and the employment of political interests as the only goal in building alliances and putting an end to conflicts led to a great failure. In addition, confidence among people and international institutions has vanished, and many nations refused the United Nations and international alliances that they viewed as the opposite of standards of ethics and justice. This was reflected on the political interests of small and big powers alike. Peace and security became threatened on every place on earth, and people resorted to using weapons and terror!
All things considered, I plea that our conference will release a covenant of human ethics conducted by a special committee composed of us during this conference, and be signed by political and religious leaders. We should allow a year for it to be spread among all political and religious leaders in the world, so that it will be signed by the largest possible number of international and influential personalities. Then we invite to a conference under the umbrella of the United Nations in order to approve it as an international covenant, like the covenant of Human Rights that contributed, to a large extent, in helping miserable nations.
I am talking to you from severely wounded Syria that has experienced all forms of suffering and horrors during the war in the bloody confrontation between the will of the people and their right of freedom against the authoritarian regime, which does not believe in freedom or human dignity or human rights. It is my responsibility to extend my sincere thanks to all who stand with the Syrian people in their distress and anguish. In fact, the best worship is to support the oppressed. As God said: The best worship to help the oppressed.
Civilisation in Syria started six thousand years ago, and religions and prophets were born on this good Earth, which spread wisdom and light in all parts of the world. Since the time of Abraham, Syria became the Holy Land for all believers around the world. The holy destination for all believers in the world to search for spiritual salvation, to serve good, love and come closer to Allah.
These facts represent a solid consensus among the wise in this world. I support here the role of the clergies who gathered today to this noble organisation under the shadow of the Almighty Allah’s saying: O you who believe, enter into peace all, and do not follow the steps of Satan. (Holy Qur’an 2/208).
The approach of our religious speech is in need of a thorough review. For there is a prevalent language of arrogance and exclusion practiced by religious speeches everywhere in the world. In my conviction, this kind of speech is extremely far from the spirit of religions that were brought to yield people, tolerance, and mercy. Far from the religious speech that is blended with politics and rankings, there are holy honest people in all places of worship. These people worship God alone and devote themselves to God’s creatures. They also see religions in their common early origins as a message of love, mercy, and peace.
Moreover, those people live their spiritual brightness in a opulence from God, and they search for human fraternity in all what prophets gave and what ancient wisdom provided, believing that people are brothers, whether they like it or not.
The culture of adaptation from the light of others is a noble origin in Islamic heritage, and the Holy Qur’an pointed 14 times to the fact that prophets complement each other, believing in what they have. This includes precedent prophecy, subsequent wisdom, and contemporary guidance.
The prophet peace be upon him said: “Wisdom is the aim of the believer, wherever he finds it, he has the priority of it”. Twenty years ago, Sheikh Ahmad Kaftaro, the Mufti of Bilad Assham, participated in an initiative that aims to collect the holy texts of religions, through a unified ethical classification that would be inspirational for the people of all religions, and a guidance for them to the straight path. Truly it is a holy message that brought us together from distant places as we deeply believe that man is brother of his fellow man, whether he likes it or not. The commonness between our religions and doctrines is huge and the heritage of the prophets and the wise might be a solid structure for a coherent human life.
We have to struggle against any kind of monopoly of paradise, any kind of monopoly of religion, any kind of monopoly of reality. We have to understand our faith according to faith among faiths, not above all. Religion among religions, not above all; nation among nations, not above all. We can find a lot of proofs in the Holy Qur’an.
I am convinced that the lack of freedom and democracy, the failure of the international community in achieving solidarity among rich and poor nations, and the prevalence of dictatorship over people in the Islamic world led to the emergence of terror as a way of liberation from subjugation and oppression.
This is not the picture of Islam. We have to find the picture of Islam in the Holy Qur’an and in the tradition of Prophet Mohammed PBUH. God said to him, “We sent you for all the mankind”. The Holy Qur’an starts with a famous phrase that says “God is for all the mankind”. He didn’t say, “The Lord of Muslims, the Lord of believers or the Lord of Arabs”. He said “The Lord of Mankind” and in the last phrase of the Holy Qur’an says “God of All Humanity”. And we have to find more in common among us, because we believe that it’s the same target which prophets in the Holy Text calls for.
I have three suggestions for this meeting. First, I appeal to this blessed gathering to collaborate in launching the first international satellite channel, namely “One God”. The descendants of heaven, who believe in holy message of human fraternity, tolerance and love, will assemble at one platform to say to the world that the message of all prophets is one, their guidance is one, and that prophecy and wisdom aim at one noble goal of human happiness and challenging evil on this earth. This fact is evident in the Holy Qur’an as it says: “O mankind, indeed I have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you”.
The second suggestion is to call for a method for all scriptures in one book. All religions call for common values and thorough ethical rules. Moreover, in their worship programme, they direct to one God who captures the hearts of believers, as the Holy Qur’an said: And to Allah belong the east and the west, so whenever you (might) turn, there is the Face of Allah. (Holy Qur’an 2/117).
The third one is to call for a Declaration of Global Ethics to be signed by religious leaders and political leaders all around the world, which can be found at all corners of the world and on the stages of the UN. The draft is ready now.
In conclusion, we are here to do what our religions and our prophet command us, to call for tolerance and rejection of war, and to ask God his mercy and salvation for all. It is our common responsibility to struggle against monopoly of salvation, against monopoly of Paradise, against monopoly of reality and against monopoly of God. There are more in common than we think, more in common in our religious methods and in our understanding methods. Islam is a message of love, message of mercy, and message of peace, and calls on all humanity to find commonality.
- We, believe that:
- God is one, but His names are many;
- Reality is one, but its ways are many;
- Spirituality is one, but religions are many.
President Obasanjo: I come from a country that is almost equally divided between Christians and Muslims. One of the biggest problems we face is that Muslims claim that brotherhood is among Muslims only, not even among blood brothers with the same parents. If I am not a Muslim, then I am not your brother. How can I explain this type of interpretation to people?
Dr. Habash: We now know the tragic situation in Nigeria between Muslims and Christians, especially between Boko Haram and Christians. We have two ways to understand the Islam. The first, see what Al-Qaeda or other extreme movements did and read the Holy Qur’an. I believe you need to read the Holy Qur’an to understand Islam, not to find those radical movements in different countries around the world. That I cannot consider you as a Muslim without good faith and good love with Jesus Christ and those who follow Jesus Christ. Moses and people who follow Moses. This is according to our faith in Islam. But unfortunately, the picture of radical movements corrupted the picture of Islam.
Dr. Al Salem: In the past, there was a conflict between Christianity and Islam, they did have a holy war. Both religions talk about a moral text, but actually this is often influenced by political factors. This applies to the Holy Bible as well as the Holy Qur’an. We cannot take the Jihad statement from the Qur’an without knowledge, the fundamental way to tell people how to understand these verses. Extremists in Islam are fundamentalists and try to follow exact words as the Qur’an says. We actually have a very strong, fundamental argument that can convince any extremists, because most of the extremists are faithful. So, to fight them back, we have to fight with them with their way, not our way, because they would not believe what we are saying about morals.
Prof. Axworthy: Dr. Majali’s paper talks about the essence of tolerance as respect, which forms a common ethic. Then Dr. Badawi’s paper focuses on the political requirement of applying ethics. Nowadays we deny in political campaigns the respect as part of ethics as we have talked about. In election campaigns, we deny opponents the standing in that we rarely attack ideas. Instead we attack character. We try to denigrate opponents so that they cannot have the respect of electorates. In fact, through negative advertising, using character assassination, we turn opponents into enemies. You may tolerate what they say but you don’t pay attention.
We have had a negative damming down of politics, which is preventing good people from going into it, and that leads to the lesser kind of leadership that we have often decried in this Council. We need better leadership, but the current way of waging campaigns almost ensures that we will not get it. We should come out against negative campaign advertising and character assassinations as applied by the modern political party.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Concerning what Professor Habash said, his form of Islam, this way of thinking needs to be brought to the Sub-continent, where people are not familiar with this idea. How can we bring this into different schools of thought in Madras, where Wahhabism is winning out against Sufism? In India, we have a big Sufi school of thought, which has been a more tolerant thought of Islam. In India, in the Hindu tradition, there is no tradition of war and conflict between religions. There is more transparency and people are celebrating together, participating in each other’s cultural festivals. But as more extremism is coming, the division is happening in the land where once it was not found. Is there anything that the Council and all of us can do to bring the torch that you have put together here? How can we reach out to those schools? And what effort could be made?
Prof. Saikal: Over the years in this Council, we have not made much progress in terms of bridging the gap between the various sects and followers of different religions to the extent that it is possible to move towards a set of global ethics, not necessarily a global ethic. I don’t think it is possible for us to achieve a global ethic. We can however, move towards promoting inclusiveness. That is what is really important. So far, we have tried to bring people of different faiths and ideological dispositions together in order to create a common understanding among them. But what we have not really succeeded in, is building the bridge of confidence between these various groups. That is my main concern. I hope this meeting will come up with more practical suggestions in terms of making our intention of creating global ethics operational.
Prime Minister Badawi: I must talk of my country, Malaysia, because there are not only diverse ethnic groups but also diverse religions. And yet we have to live and survive in a country that should be peaceful and at the same time we know that our economy will have do well so as to provide for the people. I want to be practical. We try to succeed by finding ideas and goals that all of us can accept. We talk about principles of faith and piety, a just and trustworthy government, a free and independent people, vigorous pursuit and mastery of knowledge, balance and comprehensive economic development, good quality of life for the people, protecting rights of women and minority groups, authentic cultural and moral integrity, safeguarding natural resources and environment and strong defense capabilities. It is important to create something that all the faiths can accept. “Love the whole, not the part”. Not “the love of power” but “power of love”.
Mr. Muaammar: We are coming together to build bridges to understand each other, for which we need a dialogue. We all agree that all religions have a principle to support peaceful co-existence. In the Middle East and elsewhere, there is such a mixture of religion and politics, and so many people are using religion for their interest that we are obviously failing. Western culture which has much to commend, has succeeded in separating the state and religion, and democracy is expanding all over the world. But in the Middle East, the majority are Muslim countries, which are dominated by religious teachings and governed by religions. What we need to do is to transfer the knowledge and help them. The only way is through the dialogue.
Prof. Saikal: Would Saudi Arabia take the lead on the issue of separating the state and religion?
Mr. Muaammar: I am not saying that I support this separation of state and religion. We should support whatever people choose for themselves. What we saw, like in Egypt, they adopted fake democracy and tried to combine it with religion and failed. So, we need to help others on how to strengthen what they choose.
Chairman Fraser: It’s been suggested that the idea of global ethic is understood. Well, maybe. But there are a lot of people who believe there is a significant difference between the ethical standard of different religions. Therefore, to me, there is much work to be done, to understand more broadly in our communities that there is a global ethic, which is broadly accepted by the world’s major religions. But how do you get people to comply with the global ethic? People know what the ethic should be, but they treat their political opponents with total disrespect. How can you reverse this and try to get people to be political masters? We have had in Australia in the last 20 years, people who have used race and religions for political advantage. And I think that is about the worst thing that a political leader can do. When that happens, it strikes a chord amongst the ignorant people in a society and does enormous damage. I think a redefinition of a global ethic is required, reaffirmation that there are common standards, which different religions support and how these standards apply in different countries and different processes.
Prof. Hanson: I think there were at least three different agendas proposed in the comments this morning. First is the reaffirmation of the understanding of a global ethic and additional dialogue around that, so that we can flash out, explain, explore in greater depth. The second is what the global ethic might mean in practice in various life. There is a third agenda, as the Prime Minister from Malaysia explained how this can be managed in diversity, understanding the virtue that is necessary for life together in a way that the rest of the world have much to learn. The third agenda is to identify the virtues which allow us to live together and pursue the good of all persons; to identify the virtues of citizenship or civility to counteract extremism in any form. This way we can hope to counteract extremism in our own religions, within our own political structures.
Rabbi Dr. Rosen: When I started out in the rabbinate 50 years ago I was full of idealism. I had come from a very Orthodox background and studied in an orthodox seminary in Jerusalem. My career goal was to try to bring a degree of tolerance and understanding to the extreme wings of my religion. Over the 50 years I completely failed, and I have sadly witnessed the rise in the fundamentalism and extremism not only in my religion but in every other one I have encountered.
There is an old debate “Is it the man who makes the hour or the hour that makes the man?” And I believe that there are cycles in the affairs of human beings that are controlled by political movements, by historical and social situations that run on their own course. The narrow hypocrisy of much of Victorian England was a reaction against too much liberty in the preceding Georgian era. The scientific creativity and innovation of Victorian England also spawned the superstitious Rosicrucians who believed in fairies.
Human societies, go in cycles, and cycles generate energies and fashions of their own. A thousand years ago, a great Jewish scholar Maimonides living in Egypt was an enlightened philosopher. In his “Guide to the Perplexed” he talked about tolerance and understanding.
His books were praised by some but rejected by others. And yet over time he has come to be regarded as one of the greatest and most inspiring of Jews. In his voluminous books on law, theology and ethics the most recurrent theme was the idea of balance, the “Golden Mean.” It is this that always inspired me.
We will not, in this forum, solve the problems of the world. We will not solve the internal conflicts of the Middle East, Africa or the Far East. But we certainly won’t gain anything by blaming one side or another, or by seeking scapegoats. Humanity has the capacity to solve its problems. If only it makes the effort in sincerity and good will. The reality is that conflicts will have to resolve themselves in their own terms and in their own ways.
But I am of a strong opinion that the fundamental obligation we have, this body, and the bodies like us, is to assert these universal value of the universal brotherhood and love, and to make sure that they are there in the public arena. So, I was pleased when Professor Axworthy introduced the issue of dialogues, because politics have become so much more crude and brutal than it ever was. There was a time in the English Parliament, when they called each other “the honourable gentleman”. There is no such politeness in most parliamentary or legislative gatherings nowadays.
And, therefore, I do think that establishing a basic, whether we call it an ethic, whether we call it agenda, that wants to bring human beings together, that wants to try to remove hatred and antagonism is a terribly important thing to do, even if we don’t see the results immediately of our actions. For all the scepticisms, and for all the sense that I may have failed, I think we, all of us here, have an obligation to assert the positive, the constructive and to do what we can to make sure that our ideas are in the public realm. Those who want to take them up now will do so. Otherwise we must hope the next generation will succeed. I just know that our generation owes it to make sure that our voices are heard.
Prof. Chang: I completely agree with Rabbi Rosen. He said what I wanted to say.
Prof. Saikal: I have a serious aversion on the use of the term “Islamic world”. “The Muslim domain” should be used.
Prof. Hanson: It’s important in an interfaith dialogue to qualify the attitude of Benedict XVI towards salvation. In the past, the church may have taken the position that there is no salvation outside the church, but fortunately, in the last century or so, it has not been so. Certainly under the current Pope Francis, there is a style of less proselytism. But there is no difference between the two popes in terms of salvation. They believe very much salvation through all religions held in good will.
Dr. Schlensog: We shouldn’t make the same mistakes as done in other interfaith forums. We should not try to reinvent the wheel. We should reaffirm that there are ideas like a global ethic, and we have outlined what it means and doesn’t mean. We have enough documents that have been adopted by religious communities and spheres of secular background. We do not have to reinvent those documents: we have to bring them back to the minds of the people.
What is more important is, we have to develop ideas of how we can relate these ideas to practice, in concrete practice in our societies. I am convinced that we have to address three areas. One is politics, another is business communities, the third is the field of education. If we do not start ethical education - education for ethics, respect for pluralities, etc. - at elementary level, we will not change. Last is, we should not talk in the religious language. We should address the secular world and find the ways to mention these principles.
2. Lessons from the 20th Century
Session chaired by H.E. Dr. Franz Vranitzky
Former Chancellor of Austria
Humankind witnessed during the 20th century two horrific world wars. Over 60 million lives were lost in WWII alone. Nevertheless the world also experienced spectacular technological progress and a previously unimaginable rise in living standards in the developed and developing parts of the world.
Session II examined the implications of all this. The first introducer, Professor Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Graf of Ludwig-Maximilians University, stated that his post WWII German generation had to critically examine the Nazi experience and its inhuman crimes and to ask why so many Germans and both churches accepted or actively supported anti-Semitism. It might be said that it was humanity that failed but clearly religion had failed, too. Whereas religion often had and could create solidarity, this particular failure showed how it could also be a destructive force within societies. There would never be a complete reconciliation between the different elements and ideologies within humanity. There would always be moral conflicts, differences and divisions in this world. Nevertheless, according to Professor Graf, it was reason rather than religious faith, which could lead us towards a global ethic.
The second introducer, H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of The Art of Living argued that Mahatma Gandhi’s inclusiveness of all the religious faiths and the celebration of differences, brought people together to end colonialism in Asia, one of the most difficult challenges of the 20th century. Nevertheless conflict between religions on the Indian Subcontinent remained a major problem. He emphasised that promoting peace through vigorous education and paying greater attention to stress-free inner peace and happiness, nurturing non- violent communication, among others, were essential in order to avoid the mistakes of the past century.
H.E. Dr. Abdel Salam Al-Majali presented a paper in which he discussed the role of leadership in resolving conflicts and bringing about reconciliation and peace by referring to an ancient Arab scholar. Civilisations fail when leaders become dominators. The utmost importance was to respect others different from oneself. He also stressed the importance of “exposing” youths to different values.
The following points emerged from the ensuing discussion. The non- monotheistic East Asians agreed that religious inclusiveness and tolerance in their region could be helpful in avoiding conflicts. Yet for all that, wars between different religious and ethnic groups were sadly as evident in the East as they were in the West. Echoing Prof. Dr. Graf’s point, a Japanese Buddhist priest admitted and regretted that their religious institutions had supported WWII, a tragedy that he hoped would never be repeated.
Questions were raised on the inevitability of the Hobbesian pragmatic reality overtaking the idealistic Kantian view. In the West, this was a challenge that had been and continued to be actively explored and achieved a measure of success through the democratic process. However, there were other parts of the world, most notably under Islam, where the challenge of combining democracy with the sovereignty of God and obedience to religious tradition, had still not been addressed satisfactorily.
Just as significant were the challenges of the co-relations between economic development and the quality of human life. Similarly, the growth of massive immigration, both as a result of economic and political failures, created the anti-immigration sentiment in the West. It posed a major challenge in host countries. An important challenge also came from over-population. The world had to confront the realities of a population of 9 billion and its implications for the future of life on our planet.
It was summed up that while there may be no example of purely secular societies, there were indeed secular states in which the rule of law was accepted. It was this rule of law that ensured the continuity of at least some Kantian elements. But given the different expressions and aspirations of peoples and cultures, one should avoid monolithic solutions and rather speak in terms of multiple modernities. It was important to understand why fundamentalist religions that could create strong societal bonds were still so attractive. Clearly, secular states could benefit from the contributions of a religious dimension in the same way that religious societies could benefit from some of the goals of secular values.
Reconciliation Priorities for the Church
- Some German Remarks
Introducer 1: Prof. Dr. Friedrich Wilhelm Graf
Full Professor of Systematic Theology and Ethics
Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich
Every theology reflects the life experiences of its theologian. Theology, religious studies and biography are inextricably entwined and interact with each other in diverse ways. My own work on religion has been formatively shaped by a particular historical constellation. I was born in West Germany in December 1948 and therefore belong to the first generation of German citizens born in the Federal Republic: I grew up with this democratic state.
Politically interested and intellectually sensitive members of my generation saw themselves faced with a specific challenge. They had to critically examine National Socialism and its horrific crimes. They had to find an answer to the question of why Germany’s first democracy, the Weimar Republic founded in 1919, foundered and what made the Nazi experiment of an anti-liberal totalitarian state possible. For this reason, I began, at a relatively early age, to study the classics of Anglo-Saxon political theory, in particular liberal political theory. I was especially interested in the functional conditions of parliamentary democracy and sought, above all, to strengthen the individual’s claims to freedom vis-à-vis state and society.
At the age of nineteen, I took part in a Japanese-German student exchange programme. I spent several weeks travelling through Japan and studied in Tokyo for some time. I became aware of just how particular, how relative my own native culture was. It was this experience that prompted me, relatively early on, to study the relationship between Christianity, particularly Protestantism, and other religions. Here, once again, my chief concern focused on the freedom of the individual. I began to investigate theological traditions which strengthen individual freedom and facilitate a peaceful co- existence between people with very different backgrounds and religious convictions.
As a student, I transferred from the University of Tübingen to the University of Munich. In Munich, I came into contact with professors both in philosophy and theology who introduced me to a new and fascinating world of thought: first and foremost, the traditions of liberal German ‘Culture Protestantism’. I began to study Hegel and Schleiermacher, Troeltsch and Harnack, and not least Immanuel Kant. For me, Kant’s critical philosophy represented the most reflective and important form of a rigorously liberal theory rooted in the German Enlightenment. In a word, I see myself as a Protestant Kantian. From Kant I have endeavoured to learn critical self-demarcation, tolerance, and to continually and sceptically question dogmatic truth claims.
The task of my generation was to examine modern political totalitarianism and its ideological promises, and ask why so many people in Germany, and especially both churches, accepted or actively supported anti-Semitism and the racism of the National Socialism. This is something that became very important for me. I am not going to read my paper but I would like to add two remarks related to discussion we had this morning. My first point is religion. Religion is a highly ambivalent phenomenon and this is a valid fact for all the religious traditions of mankind. Religion can create solidarity among people. It can strengthen our vulnerability and the basic needs of the poor and marginalised. It can lead us to the understanding of each other being brothers and sisters beyond the lines of nationhood, class, ethnicity and so on. It can strengthen a sense of humility.
On the other hand, religions can be an extremely destructive societal force, very violent, leading to hate and exclusion against those who do not share “my pious convictions” or believe in another alien God. Again, this is true of all religious traditions. You can find a lot of violence in the history of Christianity, and you can find a lot of violence in the history of Buddhism, for example. And you can find a lot of violence in the new post-modern East Asian religions; take Aum Shinrikyo in Japan, for example. That means we should talk about religion in a more critical, in a more sceptical ways than some of us
have done this morning.
My second point, the term “global ethic”. The term weltekeke or cosmopolitishe eke was coined in the 18th century in Enlightenment discourses in Germany and Britain. Some called it “Cosmopolitan ethos”, others “ethos in human dignity and basic human rights”. Enlightenment philosophers like John Lock and Emmanuel Kant always stressed one point, a universally first and ethic for all people is a non-particularistic effort founded in reason alone. It’s reason, not religious faith that may lead us to a principle of global ethic.
That means for philosophers and theologians from the Enlightenment, there were very deep tensions between reason and global ethic on one hand, and many diverse but all particularistic religious traditions - in Kant’s language, religiously imbedded forms of particularistic ike forms of ethics, or heteronomy ethics. Religious ethic is based on the dependence of men to God, the almighty creator. Reasonable ethics is based on autonomy and self-determination, in clear contrast with religious heteronomy.
Prime Minister Fraser spoke “A global ethic that is accepted by the world’s major religions” this morning. I am much more sceptical, I have to say. Many elements in old religious traditions are in strong contrast to the human rights ideas that are at the centre of global ethic. Take the German example. The German churches learned to accept the human rights thinking very late, just in the 1950s. They have been strong opponents of any type of human rights discourse since the Enlightenment through the 19th century, in the 1920s and so on. It was a very, very late process. I think that some of us have a too much harmonious view of the relations between religions and a global ethic. We have to take diversity and differences much more serious, differences not only within but between various religions and communities.
Let me come to an end. For Christian theologians, reconciliation, tolerance, global ethic or universal ethic, has always been an entomological concept. The perception of a fundamental difference between now and then, this life and the next, the world of kingdom, prevents the talk of religious reconciliation, tolerance and so on from the ideologised and politically instrumentalised. Here, in this world, there will never be a complete reconciliation, and there will always be a lot of moral conflicts. Here, there will always be differences, division, separation and conflicts. Whoever seeks to form a society so as to realise a global ethic in all embracing sense threatens to negate individual elements of life and of personal liberty to live differently from others. More freedom works hand in hand with more diversity and often with more conflict.
Chairman Vranitzky: I just want to say something. When it comes to tolerance and toleration, Goethe, the most prominent German poet, once wrote that tolerance could only be in an intermediate stage: it does not make much sense if it does not turn into acceptance. We could keep this in mind. Secondly, I very much agree to what Prime Minister Fraser and others said that we must not close our eyes from the perception that religion in history in many cases was not the main cause and main reason for fights, quarrels, wars, etc.
One example is Ireland. The Irish Catholics did not fight the English Protestant because the English were Protestants. They fought because it was imposed on them by London, the developed region, and the Irish Catholics were poor. So, this was a good enough reason not to be good friends. And more than that, political leaders are elected by various groups, if these leaders subscribe to what the groups want to hear and have. And only after the leaders in Northern Ireland became more moderate, there was a chance for peace. Think about Ian Paisley who was very militant and belligerent religious leader. Only after he was no longer in office, they found ways and means to get together.
My third point is rather a question. Perhaps speakers this afternoon could deal with it. When we talk about global faith, trust, etc., I wonder what we have to say in regard of gender equality in the number of religions and countries. I mention this not only because we have an Indian speaker this afternoon, and as we enjoy your presence here, we put this question on you.
Dr. Graf, you said, we were very late in learning process, does this process end up and arrive in atheism?
Prof. Dr. Graf: No, I wouldn’t say so. I can only talk about European societies and maybe I can a couple of sentences in regard to the United States. The religious situation in most European societies is extremely complex. You find tendencies of secularity, you find some aggressive atheism, especially in Great Britain and part of France; you find some very right wing, aggressive, conservative forms of Christianity in parts of European Protestantism and parts of European Catholic churches; you find some pious middle-classes who attend Christmas service, which means they understand themselves to be Christians. I don’t think that Europe is an atheist continent. It’s different in Poland, again. You find a lot of diversity. You find a different situation in Eastern Germany. You cannot compare that with Southern Germany, and so on.
I don’t think you can separate religion and politics. Religion and politics have never been separated in Europe. All European nationalisms of the 19th century have been grounded in theological thinking and religious traditions: the divine nation, the Holy Poland, and so on. It’s always the religious language. But you can separate religious institutions, organisations and states, the separation of churches and state, for example. But that’s something different.
Introducer 2: H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
The Art of Living (India)
Dear ones, I would like to begin by narrating an event that took place in Japan. Once, the United States President Nixon was meeting religious leaders there. To his right sat a Buddhist monk, and to his left was a Shinto priest. Nixon turned to the Shinto priest and asked him, “What is the percentage of Shintoists in Japan?” “80 percent” said the priest. Nixon then asked the Buddhist monk, “So, what is the percentage of Buddhists in Japan?” “80 percent” said the monk. Nixon was baffled, and asked, “How is that even possible?” The priest and the monk looked at each other and smiled. “There is no hard line between our religions. Every Buddhist honours Shinto religion and vice versa”.
While Nixon’s story may seem like a far-fetched reality for many, that perspective is what is largely desirable. Although one may be from a strict Hindu family, no one stopped him or her from visiting churches or mosques. In fact, our parents used to take us to visit other places of worship. Thanks to Mahatma Gandhi and a deeply rooted tradition of peaceful co-existence among religions, even Judaism thrived for centuries in India. In fact, India is the only country in the world where Jews have never been persecuted.
My 117 year-old teacher was a very close associate of Mahatma Gandhi. Mahatma Gandhi would often say, “We should dream and we should start to work right away”. Gandhi’s dream was that of inclusiveness. Every day, he would recite a few ayats from the Qur’an, a few verses from the Bible, a few slokas from the Bhagavad Gita, and a few sutras from the Buddhist Tripiaka. Gandhi’s philosophy inspired a transformational experience for the 20th century, particularly in South Asia. It brought together people from all religions under one movement to end colonialism, one of 20th century’s most difficult challenges.
Today, even traditionally peaceful religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism are experiencing the creeping influence of extremism. Somehow, we are losing our ability to celebrate differences. Following Gandhi’s practice, we should inspire our populations to see harmony in diversity, to celebrate festivities together, and to learn from each other’s religions. If a child is brought up with a little understanding of all religions, he or she does not grow up to believe “only my religion will take me up to heaven” or “everybody else will go to hell”. A broader vision can make all the difference.
The 20th century intensified the arms race and, unfortunately, we continue to spend so much on arms and ammunitions. Every country spends a substantial amount on its defense budget. If governments divert even 0.1 percent of what they are spending on defense toward educating young people on peace and inter-cultural education, the world would be a much happier place to be in. Religious communities can also play an important role in instilling a sense of courage and hope for the future, and encouraging inter-faith celebrations. Peace education must be promoted vigorously.
The past century saw riots, religious strife, and people losing their homes due to conflicts and natural calamities. Efforts were made to create outer peace, but clearly it was not enough. On a human level, stress is a cause of so much that is wrong with our world today. Are we making our society happier? Or, are our societies becoming more depressed? The World Health Organisation has declared that the biggest killer of this century will be depression and mental illnesses. Statistics show that 40 percent of school teachers are depressed. If teachers are depressed, what can they transfer to their pupils? We must, therefore, also talk about inner peace and happiness.
It is becoming increasingly evident that happiness is not proportional to prosperity. An estimated 38 percent of Europe’s population is undergoing depression. This number is not too different in other developed countries. In contrast, the happiness quotient of India’s slum population is much higher than that of many developed countries. The 21st century must look into this strange fact to truly learn from the past century.
In addition to the stress, lack of broad vision about life, and lack of
understanding, it is a lack of communication that leads to violence in society. The 20th century taught us that when communication breaks down, conflicts arise. Therefore, today’s society must commit toward nurturing non-violent communication from a very young age.
At this point, I would like to emphasise an important issue previously raised by the Chairperson - gender inequality. Gender equality is essential for true inclusiveness. In several countries, including India, female feticide is a major concern as brides’ parents are expected to bear increasing marriage expenses, and men expect brides to bring them wealth. However, gender inequality was not always the norm. Women were often given greater priority over men. For example, invitations were written to Mrs & Mr., not vice versa. In India, two states - Kerala and Tripura - host matriarchal societies. There, the groom is sent to the bride’s home and properties are transferred from daughter to daughter. In fact, men and women were equal across ancient India. During the middle ages, however, women’s powers were slowly taken away. The early tradition of equality has to come back.
In India, during the last political cycle, the President, Speaker of Parliament, and the head of the ruling political party, were all women. Many Indian states are governed by women. Having said that, I agree that there still remains a lot to do in this area. Religious and societal organisations must deliberate on a renewed place for women. This is not an easy job. Some may agree and some may not, but gender equality must somehow be brought forward into the 21st century. This is the responsibility of today’s thinkers and philosophers.
In conclusion, we will have to take steps to educate our young people. To reiterate my earlier statement, if every child is educated about the different traditions and customs of the world, he or she will grow up with a broader vision. With this vision comes the capacity to not just tolerate, but appreciate and celebrate our differences. We have moved from the 20th century’s isolationism toward the 21st century’s global society. And this is the time to celebrate our differences.
Ethical Decision-Making: Towards Solidarity
Within a Global Civilisation
Paper presented by H.E. Dr. Abdel Salam Majali
Former Prime Minister of Jordan
We talk about “interfaith dialogue” but I think we must ask: “Dialogue to achieve what?”
Let me suggest an answer from the great Arab scholar and historian Ibn Khaldun, who studied the concept and history of civilisations and explained why they emerged and declined. He also developed the idea of sociology: Umran, well before European scholars. Umran is “human well-being and human development”; a good objective to aim for out of interfaith dialogue.
Ibn Khaldoun proposed the idea of Asabiyah, which means ‘a sense of solidarity.’ In the pursuit of Asabiyah as an ideal, the leader strives to identify psychological, economic, environmental and social factors that contribute to the advancement of human civilisation. Surely, the first purpose of ‘dialogue’ is to build solidarity - solidarity nationally and within our global civilisation. Ibn Khaldun was also the father of leadership studies. He said that leadership exists through a strong dynamic relationship between leader and followers. A basic qualification for a good leader according to Ibn Khaldoun is that he/ she should be willing to respect others. This creates solidarity between leader and led, between head and body.
There is a big distinction between leadership and domination. Civilisations fail when leaders became dominators. That surely provides a message for world leaders, particularly in the most powerful countries of the world. We need to teach young leaders to understand that if they become dominators, they will bring about the downfall of their societies, communities, institutions and, ultimately, the civilisations that they lead; not to mention their own downfall.
Leaders will not learn much by having knowledge imposed on them by lectures. They will learn by being exposed to their seniors and peers - exposed vertically and horizontally. I believe the best education is the interaction of minds, between people of different professions, different religions, different civilisations, and different social sectors. This is a foundation of ethics in decision-making by future leaders.
The United Nations University International Leadership Academy (which I nurtured and supported) was set up some years ago to give the opportunity for young potential leaders from all states and all walks of life, to be “exposed” to the “other”. Young leaders, between the ages of 30-40, who would interact with each other and with selected political leaders from other countries through visiting various countries to meet and interact with its leaders. When the consecutive visits end, all will return to base venue to give group briefing on what they had seen, heard, and their own views, which all go into a major reference book that is then published. This is one sure way to bridge the gap between leaders and led, to bridge the gap between leaders themselves, and plant the seeds of ethical decision-making in the hearts and minds of future leaders.
In the twenty-first century we are living in the so-called “globalised world.” Surely, such a programme is one way to build solidarity for a global civilisation. Such leadership education can help to overcome the ignorance and prejudices which exist towards the ways of life and customs of “the other”. Sadly, the programme was abandoned by the leadership of the United Nations University some years ago. They wanted to opt for conventional leadership training, not the scheme I had proposed.
To “expose” is not selfishly to expose one’s views to others. It means letting others expose their views as well. This starts through listening. Let me quote a former US Democrat Senator from Georgia, Wyche Fowler, who became ambassador to Riyadh some years ago. He said: “I enjoyed spending many hours drinking tea in the desert with the Arabs late into the night. They want to tell you about their family, and want to hear about yours. They would tell me about their father raising camels, and I would tell them about my father raising cows”. This beautifully illustrates how finding common ground creates the path to solidarity.
Religion offers similar instances. Mohammed says: “Treat others in the same way you like them to treat you.” Jesus says: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. Two different religions, which teach the same attitude towards others. Treat other leaders, governments, companies, people, etc., as you wish to be treated. The same argument applies, I feel, to ethics. Ethics are common to all religions. When we talk of interreligious or interfaith dialogue, we surely talk of dialogue among the followers of the various religions. But, what does that actually mean? Some have defined faith as “the belief in certain doctrines based on spiritual conviction”. To me, faith is essentially made up of rituals, laws and values.
A dialogue between the followers of different faith should not be about rituals or how each of us interacts with God, or prays, or whether he/she goes to a mosque or a church or a synagogue. Nor should it be about laws or teachings for those are universal and universally accepted. It should be about “values”, values of justice, equality, respect for human rights and freedom. This is the core of the matter.
By focussing on values we set out to search for the common ground that helps to humanise rather than demonise “the other”. The question therefore arises as to how to resolve the contradiction between being a national and an international leader when the national interest comes up against global interests. Personally, I do not think there is any contradiction. I believe it is just in the person. By putting public interest before personal interest, one can survive as a national leader and build a lasting legacy. The same thing happens at a global level. In the end, the national interest and the global interest are the same thing, and leaders who recognise that will survive best.
Taking a leaf from the book of human rights, I can say that we need a universal declaration of ethics. Such an effort could bring politicians and religious leaders together, for the sake of humanity. To lay an “ethics” foundation for all in decision-making.
Let me conclude by talking about one of the most prominent leaders of the 20th century, a dear friend, one of the founders of the InterAction Council, H.E. Helmut Schmidt on the occasion of his 95th birthday. The man who said ‘Whoever wants to reach a distant goal must take small steps.’
I will talk about the virtues of growing old and I will rely in this on what Rabbi Haberman, rabbi emeritus of Washington Hebrew Congregation in Washington, D.C., said, recently.
- ・Firstly, he said, old age brings tranquillity:
- ・You have achieved in old age what you wanted to, if you are fortunate. The important battles have been waged, the decisions made. You no longer have to do the pushing, the striving, the struggle.
I think I would beg to differ with Haberman when describing Helmut Schmidt, for he is as passionate today about his principles, at 95 years young, as when he was leading Germany some four decades ago. Helmut, you still command our love and respect and that of many around the world. I wish you, and yours, a tranquil birthday and God Bless.
Dr. Schlensog: The question of gender equality is not only a question of different religions and societies. It’s also a question of this conference here. So, there is a lot of work to do in this direction. Another remark is on the speech of Professor Graf. I don’t want to be misunderstood. If people like me and other scholars in the world are talking about a global ethic, we do not talk about heaven and earth. We talk about the ethical potentials of the spiritual and philosophical traditions of the world. Documents, like the “Declaration toward World Ethics”, by the Parliament of Religions is a document which addresses specific challenges of our time, and says that we have the potential to solve the problems, if we remind ourselves on our ethical traditions and our ethical commandments. It’s not a naive document that says we can create a heaven on earth. But it says we have an obligation. If we believe, we have the obligation to remind ourselves within the potentials of our tradition, and we invite all the people, believers and non-believers to do the same.
Prof. Chang: On attitude towards religion, I would say the general mode of beliefs in China is like Japan: 80 percent are Buddhists, 80 percent are Confucianists, and 80 percent are Taoists, because in the heart of every Chinese, educated or uneducated, men or women, all three are combined in the same heart. In the same household, very often the children become Christian and the parents remain Buddhists or Taoists.
The second point is the Chairman’s quote of Goethe, “First is tolerance, but the next step is acceptance.” I believe the next step is respect - not only accept but respect. I would not go so far to say “celebrate the differences.” But if differences are there, let it be there, and accept and respect the differences in religions.
My third point is we’ve seen personal, tribal, clannish, national interests, economic interests find themselves in disguise of religious differences. I will tell you my own example. The Province I was born would have been ceded permanently to Japan had the British and French not intervened in the 1894 war between China and Japan. But Britain, a protestant country, and France, a Catholic country, forced Japan, a Shintoist country, to take only Taiwan. Now, everybody is looking at Crimea, which in the 19th century was an Orthodox country trying to take a Muslim country. And France and Britain intervened and Russian troops withdrew. All these tell me that we must not pay too much attention to the forms of religious belief and think that there are deep down differences in human beings.
We are all human beings first, and then depending on social customs and cultures we are brought up, we are divided into different groups. I respect and hope that we can include all these differences. But somehow we must find dialogues like this, but we must not forget that these religions are not inborn to be at conflicts. People talk about peaceful religions. During Ashoka’s time in India, Ashoka conquered a large chunk of land and turned everybody into Buddhists.
Chairman Vranitzky: My mother was a Protestant and father a Catholic. When they got married, they did not merge but kept their religions. So, when I was born, they decided I should be baptised as a Protestant. Then WWII came and my father had to go to the German war machine. In 1942, we did not hear anything from our father for 9 months. My mother blamed herself, thinking that my father was dead and she was to blame, because she did not allow children to be baptised in the Catholic faith. Fortunately enough, my father survived and came back in 1945. She told him “I promised to God that when you return from the war, I would re-baptise my children according to the Catholic faith”. So, I am one of the few Austrians who are at the same time both Catholic and Protestant. To make the long story short, my father said “It’s all nonsense” and left the church!
The Venerable Ohtani: As a Japanese, I would like to comment on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who spoke about the Japanese attitude towards religion. He said that 80 percent of the Japanese are Buddhists and 80 percent belong to Shinto, which is generally true. This is a fact of life in Japan, though this may be incomprehensible to the monotheists. But my denomination (Pure Land) is a little different from other mainstream Japanese Buddhism sects. Our denomination stresses faith in only one single transcendental being, Amitah Buddha. We thus do not go to Shinto shrines, although we do not quarrel or stand against Shintoism. Among the Japanese traditions, we are more a peaceful religion.
Having said this, though, I would like to refer to a point related to Professor Graf’s presentation. It pertains to the stance of the religious sector towards evils of World War II. Regrettably, I must admit that almost all the Japanese religions supported the Japanese government policy, some even if passively, and supported the war against the neighbouring countries and the Allies. After WWII, most of the Japanese religions, including us, realised our unacceptable mistakes, though it took some 40-50 years, and we are repenting this deeply. We are determined never to make a similar mistake and now we are committed to study how we can contribute to world peace.
Chairman Vranitzky: This is no surprise that as the curves of globalisation and integration go up, the curve for solidarity goes down. In most European countries, solidarity descends when it comes to migrants, asylum seekers, what have you. I think it’s also necessary to say that most political leaders, when it comes to their own chances in campaigns, sadly say “Farewell to solidarity with the poor, those who come from abroad”.
Prof. Saikal: One of the images emerging in the Arab world is one of disunity and not solidarity, which is very disturbing. I would like to return to “Lessons of the 20th Century to the Present Time”. My question to Dr. Graf is that we have seen the 20th century as a mixture of religions and politics, and yet we see a very close interactive relationship between the two. Even in societies which claim to be secular, including the US and some of the European countries, do you think that this has given rise to serious tensions between the sovereignty of God and sovereignty of people? What we have is the sanctity of the sovereignty of the people. That is extremely important.
But if you bring religion into it, that’s when the sovereignty of God becomes important, because we do have the Islamic Republic of Iran, where you have the sovereignty of God represented by the Supreme Leader and the sovereignty of people as represented by the elected President and parliament on a universal basis. As long as there is organic relationship between the two, then it can work, as in the case of Iran. Is that one of the lessons of the 20th century that, whenever there is a mixture of religion and politics, we have found a clash between the concept of sovereignty of God and sovereignty of people, and that is something that we have to address?
The second lesson we need to focus is, do you really want to promote a Kantian view of the world, a global village? Whenever we tried to promote the Kantian view, we have failed, and face the Hobbesian reality, which continues to dominate not only world politics but also national politics across the globe. That is another important lessons we have to learn from the 20th century. What are the chances of really moving from the Hobbesian to the Kantian world order whereby we actually can promote the concept of solidarity and the concept of global ethic?
Dr. Koshroo: I would like to comment on the notion of the sovereignty of God and sovereignty of man, and if we put this philosophical discourse in the context of social and political developments in the Islamic world, we can see that Islam is a growing religion and is playing a much greater role in society now, compared to 50 years ago. Islam is an emerging power that impacts social and political life. But it is necessary to consider that religions should be somehow conditioned by the will of the people. It is a challenge to find a balancing point between these two sources of legitimacy of sovereignty. Inasmuch as Islam is moving forward, the will of the people will come in, and this is how to combine the two.
This brings up the broader issue of democracy and religion. If religion is moving forward and is expanding its scope, it should be conditioned with democratic ruling. Democracy brings the will of the people, and Islam brings the sovereignty of God. And the combination of the two is a challenging issue in today’s Islamic world. One way it could lead to religious despotism, if it is only the sovereignty of God with no regard to human will. And it becomes a secular society, if the rulers wish to push Islam out of the society. We have seen that happen in Islamic countries and backfired in a more violent way. How to make this sovereignty of man and of God work is still a challenge.
Prof. Hanson: I would just like to mention that two items that were covered in the past InterAction Council interfaith dialogues have come up again. One is, are there limits to the number of items we can include in global ethic and as Dr. Schlensog says, some of the things were deliberately left out of human responsibilities, issues such as abortions and contraception. As mentioned earlier by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on gender equality, led me to write a list of questions that may be difficult to include: gender equality, contraception and abortion, homosexuality rights, scientific reproduction, death penalty. There are certain things we can’t sweep under rugs. We need to respect the others’ views or we should have dialogues to try to resolve.
The second is education for ethics. There is a lot of discussions in the US around character formation, and whereas it was traditionally a concern of religion, it is increasingly discussed in a secular context as a responsibility of society. There is a rising call for character formation in classes in public secular schools and a growing recognition for the need of moral education.
President Vassiliou: The title of the session is the “Lessons from the 20th Century to the Present Time”. The one lesson that we can never forget is the co-relation between the economic development and crises and respect for ethics, solidarity and so on. We must not forget, for example, that because of the economic crisis during the 1930s, we had this tremendous increase of anti-Semitism, Nazism, and so on, because they wanted to find excuses for the problems that were there.
Now we have anti-immigration, whether it is black, white or yellow, depending on the country we live in. It is because for politicians the easiest way out is to blame somebody. And the easiest way to address this is to say “the problem is the foreigners, the immigrants”, instead of looking at the positive aspects of immigration. So, I don’t know if we can fix it someway, but it is extremely important to point out the relations between economic development and ethics. When problems start, they tend to blame somebody. You do not solve the problem by blaming others; fight against immigrants and Jews, fight against fanatic Muslims or Christians will not solve the problem of the country.
Prime Minister Chrétien: Perhaps I can speak about it, because a religion in Canada is not really an issue. Nobody knows the politics or religions of everybody. It’s not an issue. It used to be very important. The parties were divided along the religion. Today we have no problem and we don’t have any problem either with immigration, because there is no political party in Canada on this issue. I don’t know of any politician who speaks against immigration. It’s probably because our country has been built by immigration. Today, 50 percent of Canadians are first, second and third generations of immigrants. So all newcomers of the last 50-60 years are all immigrants.
And politically, I was committed to have one percent of population increase by immigrants, and I was criticised if we did not reach this 1 percent. The philosophy is based on the positive element of immigration rather than the negative element. We need population. We don’t reproduce as much as we used to, and we need immigration to keep growing. An immigrant coming to Canada is a consumer from the first day. Sometimes, they are well educated, to start the professions right away. Today we have a society that encourages multiple cultures. We tell immigrants to be proud of what they are and we started to give part of their education in their native language.
So, it is the experience of a society that recognises that tolerance is the key. And acceptance is absolutely important. For me, I have always had problems, because I am French speaking and I never learned to speak English properly. I used to say as a joke that I was the only Francophone that tried to keep the French accent in English. I could not speak a word of English when I became a member of Parliament, and despite of that, people accepted the difference and I became the Prime Minister. So, tolerance is very important but tolerance needs knowledge: we have to know what the other person is and acceptance comes after that. So, dialogue is always important and education is important.
Today, we live in a different society. The communication of today is not the same as in the past. All the kids in the world don’t talk anymore. They only look at the little machine, and that might offer a great opportunity to make the people understand each other better. Today, students communicate with students of other countries through the new technology, which I am not able to do. We can educate everyone in the world that religions or colours make no difference. We are all human beings and we have to accept this fact. And some day I hope we are able to say that “God, She is a good person”. We always use a masculine name, but she might be a lady. Someday we’ll find out but I am not ready to go there yet!
Prime Minister Fraser: All the stories you told us about Canada would have been an accurate description of Australia until about 1990. We were an open society and Australia was built by immigrants, and after the Vietnam War, we have taken tens of thousands and thousands, together with Canada, asylums from Indochina. But Australia is a very unhappy lesson of how things can change.
We had a government that was going to be beaten. They searched around for an issue, and a Norwegian vessel had picked up some 200 asylum seekers on a boat that was sinking, and not allowed to land in Australia. The government that was going to be beaten sent a special guard ship fully armed to make sure that the captain of the boat did not come to Australia. And the photographs of that went around the world. A policeman would have done the job, didn’t need to employ the elite soldiers of army to see that Norwegian freighter was not going to come to Australia. Because of that, that government won the election.
I wrote afterwards that the government had appealed the worst of our natures; and I received a number of letters which said “How dare you say that the Government had the worst of our natures, when we for the first time had a government that represented me”. And the “me” was somebody who was bigoted, narrow-minded, and believed that people who were somewhat different were bad people, and the difference could be colour or religion. The opposition at the time could have fought the issue, but they did not have the courage to fight. They thought they could compete for votes by going to the bottom of the barrel. Since then, both major parties in Australia have gone deeper and deeper into that barrel. There are hundreds of thousands of Australians who are totally ashamed of what the government has done in its name, in their name and what the opposition supports in their name. So, we were like you, open, receptive.
I can remember back in 1980 I made a speech. In retrospect I foolishly said that the battle against prejudice and bigotry had been won. Well, later I learned that you only need politicians who will take the wrong view to change things around. And if your own society does not understand people from Sri Lanka or Afghanistan or Iraq, then it is very easy for the Government ministers to say things which make too many people in the public mind to believe that these are wretched people and do not deserve to be treated like people. That’s what happened. That’s an accurate description, which probably understates the damages that have been done. So, how do you get politicians to behave better? It’s not only respect between politicians but respect for people as such, and in my country I cannot point to a leader who tries to embrace that task.
I originally wanted to intervene, because Professor Hanson said earlier that certain elements were left out of the draft Declaration very deliberately, but I think we believed at the time and I still believe that there is enough in that draft Declaration. There is sufficient exposition of ethical values which certainly we hoped at the time and hope still that all religions could accept to enable people to understand that there can be peace between religions, that there is enough commonalities within these religions for people of one not to fear people of another; without fundamentalists who are present in all religions, without the enemy to peace and progress.
In times past, it’s religions that caused problems and today it’s in the minds of many that it’s Islam that is causing most problems. But that will pass and there will be somebody else in the future. But the issues that were excluded were social issues which really do not impinge upon relations between religions as a whole, or between countries, so long as you do not try to make the people of their religions to behave as you behave, or people of another country to behave as people in your country behave. The point is to emphasise “What is the essential value that will enables religions and countries to live and co-exist in peace, harmony and cooperation?” That’s why some values, which many people regard as important, were excluded. I am sure there was enough in it to point the way to a more peaceful and more prosperous world than the one which we now have.
Rabbi Dr. Rosen: We live in a turbulent world, in which because of the media we are more aware of what’s going on everywhere, and precisely because there is such an overload of information and of opinions increasingly. We are actually excluding other opinions, because we only log into those blogs and channels that reflect our pre-conceived ideas. And there is a fascinating process that’s going on within the world in which we live. America was always regarded as a home for immigrants, an immigrant society. And yet the interesting feature of American society is that before World War II and subsequently, there were very strict limitations placed on who could immigrate into the United States of America. Originally, an immigrant who came into America had simply to adjust to American life. He had to learn English, because there was no other option. What has happened in recent years is there has been a massive problem of what’s called “illegal immigration”. The illegal immigration is primarily Latin, Catholic immigration from Central and South America. But whereas originally any immigrant had to learn English, now if you look at American television, there are 50 Spanish channels, so one does not have to learn English, to be a part of American society, anymore. The European model was that immigrants were essentially regarded as second class citizens. When massive Jewish immigration came from Eastern Europe in the 19th century, they were not only unwelcomed by most English citizens but they were unwelcomed by most Jewish English citizens, who did not want these poor new immigrants to threaten their comfortable position. In a society, you were expected, as I was even in the 1950s when I was growing up, to hide your identity. It took generations before Jews could begin to feel comfortable as a Jew in a European society (sadly it is now reversing but that is another issue).
I remember discussions 30 years ago, in which I was discussing with Muslim immigrants into England in the first wave, and I was saying to them “Don’t follow the Jewish way, don’t hide your identify. Be proud of your identity. Assert your identity”. And yet, on the Continent, France, Belgium as well as England, the waves of immigration that came were relegated to the fringes, to the old declining industrial towns or the less salubrious suburbs where finding a job was not easy.
And suddenly one is faced with a problem created by two factors, the economic issues and how to deal with multi-culturalism. What is the solution? Does one try to force immigrants to adapt to your new country? Or do you allow them to stay the way they are? And if anything, make demands that may change the character of the host country itself?
These are the issues that, at this moment, we are struggling with. How can one feel at home in a society if one can’t earn enough, if one feels degraded, unwanted, unvalued? And at the same time, we have seen within our societies the materialism and consumerism beyond anything we imagined in the past, where one is only valued if one earns money, has a job, and a car. So the people - and it’s not just the question of immigrants but also the question of the older generation of people who don’t have what they should have - feel dislocated.
It’s a problem of not just religion, but it’s a problem of economics and a problem of politics. We have to start changing the attitudes of those who govern the societies, because as we heard all day long the current mood within politics is game, power, corruption, and frankly the dehumanisation of whoever it is, who is our opponent. And until we can begin to address these issues, we can’t progress.
So, the two issues, are essentially issues of leadership training, which I think we have to consider very, very seriously, and practical possibilities of setting up leadership training departments as well as seminars for the peoples who will be the leaders of the next generation. I am reminded of what is happening in business ethics. Business ethics was not a subject anybody discussed at a university when I was growing up. None of the major universities had a department and certainly they were not discussing these issues. And yet now, business ethics is something that has to be dealt with. So, it is with leadership, and it is once again asserting the values that this institution was set up to promote, that is the core of our debate.
Prime Minister Badawi: I will be very brief. I would like to emphasise on the importance of creating a stable international world order where human security and peace building may become a norm. What is important is that you have a country and principles for all the people in that particular country and that others can also follow. Americans, Europeans, Chinese and Japanese all have different ideas, but you cannot tell each other to follow us. Human security and peace building may become the norm. “You have to do my way” is wrong.
Chancellor Schmidt: I just wanted to make a side remark, not to the centre of the discussion of today. But the question was “What are the subject we had to learn from the 20th century?” One subject has not been mentioned, as yet, which is central to the outcome of the 20th century. A 115 years ago, in the year 1900, 14 years before WWI started, there lived 1.6 billion human beings on this globe. Now 115 years later, we are more than 7 billion people. I remember a time when Nigeria was 120 million. Olu Obasanjo tells me nowadays more than 180 million, and in a short while, it will be more than 200 million. Demographers tell us that in 35 years, we’ll stand over 9 billion human beings on this globe.
So far, only two countries have taken steps to limit the number of newly born children. One was China, the other was India. The Indian attempt totally failed and was given up. The Chinese attempt had a partial result. The one-child policy never covered the whole country, but nevertheless it dampened the growth of the Chinese people. The question which the audience of this group should deal with is the question, “Is it thinkable that we can live under normal conditions with more than 9 billion human beings on the globe that only 100 years ago was only about one-sixth of 9 billion?” Or do we have to learn something from the Chinese? I do know that the Chinese leadership today is contemplating whether they should dampen the one-child policy. They do know that China will not grow much longer than the middle of the 21st century. But whatever the Chinese are doing, what is the rest of the world doing?
Or what has been said in this group of today about immigration. Are we really trying to inhibit further immigration? And who is the one that is growing. By the middle of the 21st century, the American electorate, as Herr Rosen has been pointing out, the Spanish speaking element inside the USA and their children and their unborn grand- children, together with Afro-Americans and their children and their unborn grand-children, will together make up the majority of the American electorate. And they have other things in mind and other goals in front of their thinking than to govern the world, to organise peace in the world. They will ask for social security, they will ask for social state or a welfare state. And, by the way in 35 years, the Chinese also will be creating a welfare state in China. This, both, together, will change the world. But the real question is can we really afford 9 billion human beings on this globe? And what religion can we legitimise, or does any religion forbid anything to interfere? It’s a much more, deeper, steeper question in my view, and I don’t have the answer. I just wanted to make this as a side remark.
Dr. Al Salem: Religion has been used in Afghanistan and we saw the result. Religion is a very dangerous tool. Why is it a good idea for religious leaders to sit down with politicians? We want to keep them in the mosque and church and don’t want them to come to the public life, and any government using religion is very dangerous as we saw in Afghanistan. We are different from Christians and find another tool to reach the goal, which is to find fundamental way, fundamental understanding.
Dr. Mettanando: Bangkok was hit by a major flood, but there was a district in Bangkok which suffered less, which had three communities;
Catholic, Muslim and Buddhists. They stayed together and have a common traditions for over 200 years to visit and help each other and overcome troubles quickly. This is one example of differences of religions can create strength in society and bring harmony in times of troubles and give us more energy and hope that we are members of one single human race. In Thailand we are training younger generations to make more moral decisions. So we use a social ID card which is linked to computers, and we give scores to all the social services and give social credits. Doing various services in addition to studies, they get credits that will qualify for scholarships, etc. Growing up with this notion, the younger generation can have morality.
Prof. Dr. Graf: There had been so many points on the table that it is difficult to come to any conclusion. I would like to start with the question raised by Professor Saikal, who spoke of secular societies. I don’t think that there is anything like a secular society. Most societies are a very complicated mixture of religious people and less religious people, and some aggressive atheists and so on. But, of course, we have the model of a secular state. And I would like to differentiate. Most European or most Western societies keep to the idea of a secular state. That means the state must be neutral in religious and moral affairs. People may have very different moral understandings, some are pro-abortions, others are against gay marriages and we can live with that, as long as one principle is accepted, the rule of law. That is important that all members of society really agree to the rule of law.
My second point, you spoke of the Kantian model and the Hobbesian model. In a certain way, we all follow the Hobbesian model. See global capitalism. There’s a lot of competition. It’s not only competing entrepreneurs, but also competing societies, and so on. There is a lot of competition and fight in the economy. On the other hand, the moment we keep to the idea of secular state, there is some Kantian elements in the game, especially the difference between legal norms and moral norms. We can have different norms, as long as we accept the rule of law.
The third point that was on the table, Islam cannot confront modernity. I think that’s totally wrong. I would prefer to speak with Shmuel Noah Eisenstadt, Israeli sociologist, about multiple modernities. Japan is a modern society, USA is a modern society. But these are different societies. You go to the Middle East, and you find modern societies; see their architecture and fly their airlines. But of course, in certain arenas, they are very, very different from the model of the secular state, which became important in Europe after 1945.
I don’t think that you can govern pluralistic societies by the idea of the sovereignty of God as the basic principle of your political constitution. But I do want to say that this is not just a topic within the Islamic or Muslim discourse, but you find it in the US, for example, as well. There are enormous numbers of young American scholars who buy Leo Straus’ idea of political theology. So, there is a new fascination by some people about integrating modern societies not by the liberal model but by some theocratic religious alternative.
My last point, lessons from the 20th century. If you want to draw lessons from the 20th century, each of us, I think, has our particular experiences. I told you that my own experience was that of a young German being born on the shade of the Second World War of National Socialism. My lesson from the 20th century is, I want to understand better certain developments. So, I invested a lot of time as a historian in understanding the rise of fascism. Go to the centre, go to the middle of the 1920s. Go to European universities. You would not find many prominent intellectuals who believed in parliamentary democracy. There were a few in British universities, but most European intellectuals believed in alternative models. They believed in fascism, or they believed in hard core Communism. You would not find many intellectuals that supported liberal democracy.
Again, I don’t see the religious fundamentalism in the same light as political totalitarianism as we have seen in the 20th century. But again we have to understand why fundamentalist ideas are so extremely attractive to people in all religions. Hard core religions are much more important on the American market than soft, liberal protestant main-line churches. It’s the others that grow, not those whom most of us would prefer. You can see the same development in certain Muslim societies, and I think an important task is to really understand why this type of religion, which has strong binding forces, which has ability to create strong societal bonds, is so attractive. And of course, that has a lot to do with power structures, with economy. Well, look at young, poor people in North African societies: I do understand why they have a tendency to believe that the only solution for their problems lies in certain types of religion.
3. Virtue of Tolerance
Session chaired by H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo
Former President of Nigeria
Can we teach the virtue of tolerance - where tolerance means positive respect rather than begrudging condescension? Can we meet the challenges of heeding our own religious, cultural and civilisational identity and at the same time respect that of other peoples and nations?
Session III, which had three introducers, addressed these questions. Rabbi Dr. Jeremy Rosen first introduced the session. Paying homage to great Viennese thinkers, he pointed out that words had multiple meanings and nuances and changed their usages over time. What was meant by the word “tolerance” was a good example. Too often it had been a gift granted by the powerful to those less so. To argue that one respected a different religion but granted it only inferior status could mean what we understood nowadays as tolerance. Sadly in too many parts of the world one religion claimed such superior status. Not only but active persecution of other religions and sects even within religious traditions themselves was one of the most serious problems of our age. If the word “tolerance” were to mean anything more than tokenism, then it must amount to equal status and genuine respect for other ideologies or religious traditions. The lack of tolerance we saw both religiously and politically was the cause of so much hatred and conflict in the world today.
The second introducer, Dr.Arif Zamhari, presented an Islam perception of tolerance: it was a basic principle that was a religiously enjoined moral obligation. The Qur’an expressed that belief in any particular faith was a person’s own concern and condemned any form of humiliation or insult to others’ faith. Noting that the virtue of tolerance was taught by all the religions, he argued that it must be used as an ethical basis for respecting other peoples and nations. Unfortunately, many human problems originated from people with religions due to misunderstanding of their faiths, which impacted not only followers but the society as a whole, and could slide into conflicts among states. Often non-religious interests were made to seem religious.
The third introducer, Professor Dr. Paul M. Zulehner, made an ad lib presentation in addition to the paper he had presented. In the oral presentation, he analysed why some members of religions were prone to violence, although most religions stood for peace, justice, compassion and mercy. It was the personality of individuals, not the faith, which caused some religions prone to violence and others to peace. Through his examination of authoritarianism in Europe, Dr. Zulehner concluded that it was rooted in anxiousness. The real aim of ethics was to prevent the further suffering of others and that the major religions, on the basis of compassion, could cooperate for a just and peaceful universe. His paper described peace agreements of the 15-16th centuries Europe and historical evolutions thereafter. He concluded that the contemporary Europe was not secularised but pluralised.
Former Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda’s paper discussed that polytheistic societies of Asia and their pluralistic value systems might be more tolerant to other value systems and different beliefs. He offered compassion, cultural sensitivity to others and confidence building as common denominators of ethics.
Prof. Thomas Axworthy discussed in his paper entitled, “Tolerance: An Underappreciated Virtue in Our Sectarian Age”, that tolerance was an individual attitude or virtue rooted in humility and toleration was a set of practices or arrangement that enabled choices not to interfere with the culture of others.
Everyone agreed that tolerance was not enough to make the world more just and peaceful. Acceptance, reciprocity and mutual respect of those different from us were equally essential. Some added that pluralism, interaction and understanding were also called for, while still others called for democracy, freedom, dignity and trust. An Orthodox Christian holistically said why not emphasise and propagate love, as it stood for acceptance, solidarity, dignity, freedom and mutual accommodation. Sadly, one rarely saw these values being practiced.
Have religions failed? Religion without spiritualisation could not bring about tolerance, and the least humanity might aspire for was to inculcate the value of tolerance in our individual attitudes. But all depended on moral and exemplary leadership, be it political, religious or community.
The Changing Meaning of Words
Introducer 1: Rabbi Dr. Jeremy Rosen
Rabbi of the Persian Jewish Community of Manhattan
Former Principal of Carmel College, Oxford
It’s a great honour to be here, in the city where Ludwig Wittgenstein was born, one of my intellectual mentors. Wittgenstein was the philosopher who made us think of the meaning of words. He illustrated how we learn to use words rather than specific meanings. The meaning of a word is its use. We may not always be able to find an all-embracing definition of how we use the term “games”. Is chess a game, or boxing or rowing? Is a puzzle a game? Yet we learn how to use the term through experience and trial and error. In fact, we use words in different ways and we need to ensure we are using the word in the same way, if we are to communicate effectively. Tolerance is a perfect example. The grantor often thinks he is doing a favour. The grantee often resents the condescension.
Another important Viennese in origin, by the name of Richard Koebner, lectured and wrote about imperialism; how the term “imperialism” changed from a word that was noble, representing the rule of law and order of a great empire, to become slowly over time a word we despise. Now it implies insensitive, exploitive rulers imposing themselves on unwilling victims.
Similarly, humanism was originally applied to a denial of God. Then it became the idea that humans could control their own destiny. We like to think that it means caring, humanity, concern for other human beings. But now there are two different approaches and a dichotomy between caring in a secular social way and caring through whatever we mean by God. As Daniel C. Dennet has shown in writing about “The Idea of God”, if you were to ask any group of people to define their God, or whatever name they use, you would find an incredible variety of alternative explanations and definitions.
Yet what these two positions, the humanist and the God-position, have in common is that on paper they both agree that the greatest good requires us to be the most caring and considerate humans we can be to other humans; that the desire to pursue the ultimate, whether it’s God or Buddha or a totally secular idea, demands of us that if we are all either God’s creation. And even if we think we are simply the product of evolution, we still all share this common humanity. To behave in a way that rejects this humanity is the biggest crime that we can commit as human beings.
There was a famous German-Jewish philosopher, Martin Buber. In his book “I and Thou” he distinguishes between the personal “first person “Thou” and the impersonal “Thee”. A distinction you find in most European languages, although in English it has fallen into disuse and we use “you” all the time. Buber describes the ideal relationship with God as being an “I Thou” relationship rather than the impersonal “I Thee”. Similarly inter-human relationships can be to “thou” or “ye”, a personal interaction as opposed to an impersonal one. In other words, it’s developing relationship that is the core of humanity and ultimately a core of a religion, whether that relationship is with God, with Allah, with Buddha or with another human being.
We are privileged and yet we are burdened to live in a dramatically changing society. There have always been cycles, and these cycles have taken time. A process of the French Revolution took 100 years, until it was played out and stabilised (some say it still has not!). You could argue that the American Revolution is still evolving today from its original intent. Britain’s unwritten constitution is being superseded by European Law. We are witnessing events happening so rapidly and so dramatically. And we are not certain how to go forward.
We are relinquishing our humanity to politicians. It’s true there are some wonderful politicians, we see them sitting in this room. So I must be very careful not to smear all the politicians. But when we look, as we heard today, at the process of politics around the world, we are full of dismay. I am so full of dismay, when I look, say, at the Middle East, and I see what a mess politicians of all kinds of all fronts are making wherever we look and it is getting more complex and unpredictable by the day. It is emblematic of our current confusion.
In the 19th century, in Eastern Europe, where most Jews lived, there was a feeling on the part of one man called Rabbi Israel Salanter that people were being religious but not thinking about it. They were doing what was required of them ritually, but living in a cocoon of a religious life. They weren’t connecting, they weren’t thinking about how they should be behaving towards other people. And I have to say that to this day is the biggest challenge to my religious belief. It is not theology. It is essentially the behaviour of religious leadership and their preoccupation with set positions, instead of the human condition.
Israel Salanter decided to launch a movement called “Musar” which literally means “moral instruction” but implies moral self-discipline. Its aim was to bring an awareness of humanity and greater responsibility back into religious life. As his primary text he chose was the book written by an 18th century mystic living in Italy called Moses Luzatto, a gifted man who actually was almost excommunicated by the religious establishment, because he was too much of a mystic. He wrote this small little book, called “The Paths of the Righteous” about how to be a good person. In his introduction he said, “I’m not saying anything new. I’m not saying anything you do not already know. But I tell you, everyday you must start the day by reading one chapter, by repeating those simple lessons that we all know of what we should be doing but most of us have so much difficulty actually doing”.
This session is about tolerance. And we’ve already talked about what that really means, how the word can be misused. The tolerance I desire is not the way it has come to be used. “I, who have the power and authority, I grant you the right to live in my country as a second class citizen”, or “I grant you the right to be an immigrant and do all the dirty work, but don’t expect equality”. It is rather the appreciation of and respect for differences, of all kinds. It is the appreciation of and love for humanity in all its varieties. It is “live and let live”.
We need to analyse and think about the words that we say, and the way we use them, and ask ourselves if we really mean them, and what do we mean by them. And that is the basis on which we can build the future. And so to our deliberations.
A Statement of Aims and Intent
Paper presented by Rabbi Dr. Jeremy Rosen
New York, January 2014
It is often said that it is easier to love mankind than to love one’s neighbour. All the great religions and humanitarian movements of the past three thousand years have preached love and understanding. However, the practice has, too often, fallen far short of the ideal. Perhaps having too broad a goal dilutes the passion for it. Attitudes towards other external “competing” ideologies have failed to reflect the grand ideals of humanity. Even internally, schisms and denominations have shed as much, if not more bloodshed than external conflicts. What is it that seems to prevent most of us from avoiding prejudice and committing violence against those with whom we disagree? Is it a fatal flaw in our make up? Is it the result of cultural conditioning?
After the humanitarian catastrophes of the Second World War, we came together and decided this will not happen, “Never Again”. Yet the crimes we commit against each other continue; Cambodia, Yugoslavia, Rwanda. Internecine battles currently cause human tragedy in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan, Kashmir and Central Africa to name only a few. In many conflicts World Powers take sides in prolonging the agonies. The United Nations was founded with such high hopes. It has failed to live up to its promise. It is ridden with political interests rather than ethical ones. Is there anything we can do to change the situation? This is the most important moral issue that faces us today. We are so good at clichés, at writing grand moral statements. Yet we are so poor at executing them. This gathering wants to face these issues.
My own tradition was the first to formulate the principle “Love your God” (Deuteronomy 6.5). What greater universal aim can there be other than that we should strive for “Imitatio Dei”, to imitate God; that we should make that loving relationship the very summit of our human goals. But loving God seems to be easier than loving other humans. Ask any wronged spouse how hard it is to forgive. Judaism was also the first to command “Love your neighbour” (Leviticus 19.18) approximately 2500 years ago. And although most of world religions have adopted these ideas, we seem as far away from achieving these goals as we were then. Are we to say that only some Divine intervention can bring them about? Or can we say too that we have an obligation to go on trying?
In the debates that have taken place since the original statements, questions arose as to where one should prioritise; God or man? These were the sorts of issues the Talmudic rabbis grappled with two thousand years ago. In principle it was obvious that God was greater than man. But in practice the Bible taught that Abraham could keep God waiting while he attended to the immediate needs of travellers (Genesis 18.3).
During the Roman era there was a debate recorded in the Midrash (Rabbah Gen.24.7) as to what took priority, one’s immediate community or mankind. Rabbi Akivah declared that loving your neighbour was the fundamental basis of all biblical law and it should take priority. Ben Azai on the other hand argued that all of humanity was the child of God and descended from one common source and therefore the general should be given greater importance than the specific. The debate went further. “The poor of your city take priority” (TB BM 21a). But “You must feed the poor of all nations so as to increase peace in the world”. (TB Gttin 61a). The struggle to meet the wider needs of humanity overruled the natural protectionist tendencies of one’s own community. One would have thought the conclusion was so obvious as to obviate any question.
I have been working unobtrusively in the field of interfaith and inter- communal relations for nearly fifty years starting in Southern Rhodesia as it was in 1966. And two things stand out in my mind after all this time. I have more in common with the sensitive universal ecumenical voices of other religions than I do with the fanatics in my own. But I have not yet discovered a way of harnessing those relationships to actually achieve the ends we all desire. Partly this is because I believe most of us have failed internally to dissuade our own extremes that there is another way. Similarly, speaking for myself, I have failed to reach down to the masses to persuade them that neither violence nor prejudice are the solutions to their problems or the world’s.
If only we could harness the energies we use on attacking the other (within and without) to trying to love and heal. But how? And I am reminded of a famous nineteenth century Jewish mystic, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov who said “When I began my life as a teacher I wanted to change the world. But I discovered I could not change the world and so I tried to change my town. It soon became obvious I could not change my town and so I tried to change my family. But I failed at that too. And then I realised the only person I really could change was myself”.
That is both comforting and sad. Is that all we can achieve? Yet if one considers that during the course of humanity how much good has come from those individuals who have taken it upon themselves to set an example of goodness and humanity even if their message did not have the global results they hoped.
We, who are privileged to participate in this convention can do no more than try to love a little more and try to make our world a better place, even if our conclusions are simply expressions of hope. Even if we see no tangible or immediate results, as the great Hillel said two thousand years ago “It is not for you to complete the work but neither can you free yourself from the obligation to go on trying” (Mishna Avot 2.16).
What are the means we should be employing to improve the world? Are they ecclesiastical, political, social, or cultural? All of them have their limitations. Yet these are the existing frameworks for human interaction and action. We cannot ignore or pass over any of them, otherwise whole swathes of human opinion will be left out of the endeavour.
Perhaps we need two agendas; an intellectually valid moral programme, however limited, that we can all subscribe to, that should be presented in all of the different media of communication. Equally important is a simple popular but persuasive message we can all adopt. “Love your Neighbour” has been the slogan of choice for the past three thousand years. In my youth we tried to replace it with “Make love not war”. Perhaps our energies should be directed towards seeing if we can come up with a more appropriate one for our times as a rallying call for the peaceful future of mankind.
The Virtue of Tolerance: Challenges from Religions
and Respect for Other Peoples and Nations
Introducer 2: Dr. Arif Zamhari
Nahadlatul Ulama, Indonesia
Today I am going to talk about the features of tolerance, challenges from religions and respects for other people. The reason for the presence of every religion on this earth is to strengthen the values and dignity of humanity, and to foster world peace and progress. Religions are meant to enlighten humanity, and not the opposite.
However, the reality is that many human problems on this planet originate from people with religions. Nonetheless, the problems these people of religions cause do not mean that the problems originate from religion itself. They occur simply because true religions with their holistic teachings are not understood and implemented holistically by their followers. A lack of holistic understanding of the teachings of religions occurs not only because followers of religion possess a partial understanding, but also because they lack full comprehension of the proper relations amongst religions. Mistakes in religious comprehension no doubt led to misapplications of religion itself.
Misapprehension of a religious heritage can occur in different ways, with different impacts. If members of a religious community are mistaken in understanding their religious ritual and theology, those misunderstandings will only impact its religion’s followers. However, when they are mistaken in understanding the social aspect of their religion, those mistakes will impact not only the followers themselves, but also the society as a whole, creating social tensions and even conflict. Such conflict within a society may also slide into other forms of conflict between states across the world.
The world’s religions differ greatly in their doctrines, but nonetheless, among the world’s religions there are many similarities. Similarities in religions in terms of their ethics and the social behaviour they encourage are the hope for the creation of human harmony, justice, prosperity and improved standards of living regardless of the religion. For that reason, so as to attain lasting harmony and co-existence amongst religions, what is similar should not, and must not, be distorted to appear opposing, and views that are not shared should not be imposed. Respecting this will assure the ongoing peaceful coexistence amongst religions with the members of each religious community living in accordance with their religious faith.
Apart from the factor of faulty comprehension of religions, there are also other factors that contribute to social conflict amongst people of different religions. Non-religious interests may piggy-back on religious teachings and use religion as a means to non-religious objectives.
Interest other than, and lurking under, apparently religious goals may be political, economic and cultural. Such non-religious interests are simply made to seem religious. They may originate from specific groups that declare their motives in the name of religion and even refer to religious themes. Our duty as members of a religious community is to bring freedom to all believers to truly comprehend their faith and reduce misunderstandings of religions that lead to social conflict amongst the peoples of the world.
Furthermore, we must be wise in differentiating problems that may be categorised as religious and those problems that are distorted to appear to be a religious problem. Many times political authority’s interests are labelled as religious issues, whereas in fact their essence is far different. To meet this challenge, we must identify what is truly religious and place that above all other interests. Should religion be placed above such interests, then it will serve as a beacon of hope from the forefathers of the tradition.
On the other hand, if true religious concerns are relegated below such interests, then the religious community will be perpetually in disharmony and conflict. For that reason, harmony among and between religious followers must begin within each of the religiousus communities, framing religion as an instrument of peace and aiming to reduce conflict in this world. Thus, the virtue of tolerance, taught by all the religions, must be used as an ethical basis for respecting other people and nations.
Tolerance as a Prerequisite
How Islam perceives other religions is an interesting topic to discuss especially in relation to interfaith dialogue. The question here is how Islam perceives other religious beliefs. Before we discuss this, it is important to elaborate Islamic principles of tolerance toward the followers of other religions. The principle of tolerance, of course, includes the issue of the freedom of religion.
‘Tolerance’ in Arabic is known as tasamuh, which is a basic principle of Islam along with other principles such as blessing (rahmat), wisdom (hikmat), public virtue (maslahat al-ammah), and justice (adl). Such Islamic principles are considered universal and matters of certainty (qath’iyyat), meaning that those principles must be practiced by Muslims whenever and wherever they live, regardless of their cultural backgrounds. In other words, those principles are religiously enjoined moral obligations. Therefore, if these principles are properly understood as religiously-founded moral obligations, it means that Muslims are strongly urged not only to practice those principles but also to spread them among their fellow Muslims and, where appropriate, to followers of other religions. With these principles Muslims should be able to coexist peacefully with people of other religions. Differences of religious belief, properly understood, do not prevent Muslims from living peacefully with followers of other religions. The teaching of tolerance is strongly emphasised in Qur’an, especially tolerance toward other religions. For instance, the Qur’an condemns any forms of humiliation or insult to other people’s Gods or faiths, as we see in the following verse:
- “And do not insult those they invoke other than Allah, lest they insult Allah in enmity without knowledge. Thus We have made pleasing to every community their deeds. Then to their Lord is their return, and He will inform them about what they used to do” (Chapter 6, verse 108).
The verse cited above also suggests that Muslims should protect other religious beliefs from being insulted.
Another form of tolerance mentioned in the Qur’an is the freedoom to follow one’s own faith (even if it is not Islam). Muslims should not force other people to embrace Islam, because faith should be based on conscious choice and that choice should not be compelled. In line with this, if someone is forced to embrace Islam, then his or her faith of Islam is actually considered not acceptable. In other words, Islam fully recognises the freedom of religion and belief for every human being; this has been a basic principle of Islam. We find many statements in the Qur’an expressing the idea that belief in any particular faith is a person’s own concern. People are given the choice of adopting even a misguided faith. If they choose the truth then it is for their good, whereas if they choose in error, they will receive the consequences. We see these ideas expressed in the following verses:
- “There is no compulsion in religion - the right way is indeed clearly distinct from error.”- 2:256
- “The Truth is from your Lord; so let him who please believe and let him who please disbelieve.” - 18:29
- “We have truly shown him the way; he may be thankful or unthankful.” - 76:3
- “And if your Lord had pleased, all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them. Will you then force people till they are believers?” - 10:99
Islam maintains that all followers of religion have the right to enjoy freedom of religion and worship. All religious places of worship (whether Jewish, Christian or Islamic) are considered sacred by Islam. Therefore, Islam asks Muslims to defend the right of liberty of worship for all. Islam strongly urges the establishment of a universal, liberal society in which all can live enjoying religious freedom in safety and equality. Thus in the Qur’an Allah says: “Did not Allah check one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of God is commemorated in abundant measure.” (Sura 22, The Pilgrimage. Verse 40).
In sum, it is evident that what Al-Qur’an urges us to understand is that people’s religiosity should be based on their sincerity and awareness, and be free of any compulsion. The principle of freedom of religion has nothing to do with the truth of one particular religion. Despite the fact that Al-Qur’an considers Islam as the right religion, it does not prevent Muslims from respecting other religions. Because people are allowed freely to embrace their choice of a particular religion, as a consequence of this guarantee they are called to respect the choice of religion that others make.
The views of Islam toward Ahli Kitab
It is important to note that the Qur’an speaks specifically about other religions known as Ahl Kitab (the people of the book). The Qur’an also uses similar meaning for the same term such as Utul Kitab (Those who were given previous Books) and Nasiban minal Kitab. The word ahl kitab is mentioned in the Qur’an 31 times, appearing in 7 different chapters. The term Ahl kitabin the Qur’an refers to the followers of monotheistic Abraham religions, which have received a revealed holy scripture. The concept shows that Islam considers previous religions (Christians and Jews) and their scriptures to be true, and believing in those previous scriptures is included in the Islamic pillars of faith.
Furthermore, the Qur’an asks Muslims to believe in Jesus and Moses as well as other Biblical prophets because they are the messengers of God sent to humankind as expressions of God’s mercy. For instance, the Qur’an positively declares that it contains not only all of the essential teachings of the Torah of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus but also the advice and life stories of numerous Biblical prophets. Thus Allah says of the Holy Qur’an:
- To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety. (Sura 5, The Table Spread, verse 48.)
- There was certainly in their stories a lesson those who understanding. Never was the Qur’an a narration invented, but a confirmation of what was before it and a detailed explanation of all things and guidance and mercy for a people who believe. (Sura 12, Joseph, verse 111).
Although each follower of those scriptures (Qur’an, Torah, and Gospel) affirms his or her differences, the Qur’an emphasises that the followers of those scriptures have more similarities than differences. It affirms a special bond between Muslims, Jews and Christians. Therefore, it orders Muslims to seek a kalimatun sawa (a common platform) among People of the Book, because they are viewed as kindred-people whose faiths are all based on divinely-revealed scriptures and who share in a common prophetic tradition. See Qur’an chapter 3:64:
- ‘Say: O People of the Book, come to common terms as between us and you: That we worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partner unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords besides Allah and if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are Muslim (bowing to Allah’s will).
Muslim scholars have different views on the meaning of kalimatun sawa. Some argue that the word kalimatun sawa encompasses teachings of egalitarianism and justice, peaceful conflict resolution, and a rejection of faith-justified murder. In a multicultural society, Islam therefore rightly emphasises the importance of seeking the common platform and consensus at the social level.
In addition to emphasizing commonalities amongst the revealed religions, Al-Qur’an also acknowledges that the various Peoples of the Book have different natures. Some of them are unkind to Muslims and force them to embrace their faith, mislead Muslims and turning Muslims back to disbelief:
- “And never will the Jews and the Christians approve of you until you follow their religion. Say, “Indeed the guidance of Allah is the only guidance. ‘If you were to follow their desire after what has come to you of knowledge, you would have against Allah no protector or helper” (Chapter 2:120-121).
- “A faction of the People of the Book wish they could mislead you . But they do not mislead except themselves. But they do not perceive (Chapter 3 :69).
- “Many of the People of the Book wish they turn you back to disbelief after you have believed, out of envy from themselves (even) after the truth has become clear to them. So pardon and overlook until Allah delivers His command. Indeed, Allah is able
- to do all things (Chapter 2:109).
However, Al-Qur’an also mentions that not all People of the Book are like that. There is a group of People of the Book who study the verses of God and perform good deeds, enjoining good and forbidding evil. Thus God says in the Qur’an:
- “They are not all the same, among the People of the Book is a community who recite the revelations of Allah in the night season, and prostrating in prayer. They believe in Allah and the Last Day, they enjoin what is right and forbid what is wrong and hasten to good deeds, and those are among the righteous. And whatever good they do, never will it be removed from them, and Allah is Knowing of the righteous (Qur’an Chapter 3:113-115).
Since the People of the Book are not the same, particularly in their attitude toward Muslims, Al-Qur’an teaches Muslims and gives different guidance on how to deal with People of the Book according to their attitudes to Muslims. Therefore, Al-Qur’an asks Muslim not only to respect those People of the Book who do not fight and drive Muslims out of their home, but also who deal kindly and justly with them. In addition, Qur’an orders Muslim to deal peacefully with the People of the Book in their social interactions. If debates take place with the People of the Book, Muslims must argue with them in the best way. However, if the People of the Book drive Muslims out of their homeland and put them in jeopardy, Muslims are forbidden to maintain friendships with the People of the Book.
- Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes - from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them, indeed, Allah loves who act justly” (Chapter 60 Al Mumtahanah: 8)
Enabling People and Leaders to be More Tolerant
Introducer 3: Prof. Dr. Paul M. Zulehner
Chair of Pastoral Theology in Vienna, Austria
Since 1992 I have taken part in the European Value System Study. We have found out that most Europeans appreciate tolerance very highly. However, if we ask whether people live and act tolerantly, the value data are very low. The question therefor arises “Why can people in Europe not be as tolerant as they would wish?”
This should be a primary question of this conference, “How can you enable populations and even more leaders to be more tolerant?” I think this has been the most political question of the conference.
I would like to explain my position in regard to this very briefly. If one studies the Holy Books of all religions, which are represented here, then you will find many texts showing that most religions stand for peace, justice, compassion and mercy. I think these are the main positive features of all religions.
Important representatives of religions do not promote war. They stand for peace. For example, Francis of Assisi, or Gandhi, the Sufis, or many from the Buddhist traditions, and of course Jesus through the Sermon on the Mount. So, the question is, why are some members of religions prone to violence and others to peace? The answer is rooted in the personality of individuals, not in their faith.
I have conducted a survey, analysing “authoritarianism” in Europe. The concept comes from a famous German sociologist, Theodor W. Adorno. He questioned why so many people supported the totalitarian systems in Europe in the last century. He found that they subjected themselves willingly to authority with the simple idea that he “who is above must be right”. When they were put on a trial, for example Eichmann, Hess or Höss, they defended themselves by saying “We were only doing our duty”.
The authoritarian personality, according to my own surveys, is weak and anxious. Furthermore, because it is weak, it is very violent towards others. This inner weakness is the real reason for violence against others. And an authoritarian personality cannot accept plurality. They have no ability, as we say in German, for “tolerance for plurality” (“Pluralitätstoleranz”). “The Others” may be Jews, or Muslims, or even women, or Roma or foreigners. The Others are always seen as a threat. The Others are seen as an enemy. Therefore, an authoritarian person tries to extinguish Others through various forms of violence, for example at the stake in the Middle Ages, today by “Media stakes”, by terrorism or by war. Therefore, anyone who is interested in getting rid of religious violence and to open a real, peaceful, constructive dialogue, has to reduce this tendency towards authoritarianism, to change his personality.
Now, you have to ask what are the means? Some of you have said education, information or global ethics. I mistrust the ethical imperative. Because ethics is not enough for people who are anxious, and authoritarianism is itself a kind of anxiousness. You can’t say to an anxious person “Don’t be anxious”.
What other means do you have? I think you have to heal such people. But what are the means for the healing? In my Catholic tradition for many years the message has changed from the mystical to the moral. How can religions heal anxious people? When people are healed, they are tolerant and prone to solidarity. I am not telling you what my opinion of healing is, but I am leaving you with this main question, because in speeches before me, nobody has said one word about anxiety. We are always speaking of power and ethics but you have to consider the consequences of anxiety within people and modern society.
Let me make a brief remark on the important speech by our colleague, Dr. Schlensog. Hans Küng has promoted the idea of a World Ethic based on the Golden Rule. But I am not sure if another approach couldn’t be more helpful. I learned this alternative approach from my teacher Johann Baptist Metz. He remembers a sentence from Jassir Arafat and Yizak Rabin in 1994, when they made their famous peace agreement. They promised that, “In future, we will always remember the suffering of the others, the opposite party.” To remember the sufferings of others. The source for Metz for World Ethos is therefore not a Golden Rule, but the authority of those who suffer. The real aim of every ethic is to prevent the further suffering of others.
The pre-condition for this attitude can be found at the heart of all of the world’s major religions. It is compassion or mercy. Compassion is a characteristic of Allah, the most, most merciful. Every Sure begins with name of Allah, compassion is at the heart of Yahweh in the Jewish tradition. And the God of Jesus Christ is a compassionate God. Finally, among the three Buddhas, one is for protection, the second is for wisdom and the third is for compassion. The Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion.
On the basis of compassion, the world’s major religions would be able to cooperate intensively for a just and peaceful universe. This, I would propose, because I think religion is very capable of healing. This is the mission of all religions.
Formulas of Peace
Paper by Prof. Dr. Paul M. Zulehner
Chair of Pastoral Theology in Vienna
The Peace Agreement from Augsburg of 1555 was not the first one. Already in 1485 there was such an agreement in Kuttenberg/Bohemia between the Hussite Utraquists (Calixtins) and the Catholic Rulers. Then, three years before Augsburg in 1552, the Habsburg Emperor Ferdinand I made a peace agreement with the Protestants in Passau (Patavia in Bavaria).
Most important for the transformation of the socio-political dimension of Europe was the “Reichstag” of Augsburg in the year 1555. These are the key points regarding the situation. We start with the united Holy Roman Empire. This was the result of more than a thousand year long history of relations between Western Christianity and political power, namely between the State and the Pope. The main principle was that only one religion can serve as a basis for unity of the Empire.
The situation inside the church was very turbulent. People demanded reforms. The leadership of the church was corrupt. The gap between the gospel and the actions (reality) of the Church was deep. Beliefs were misused for fundraising. For instance, Cardinal Albrecht tried to buy the principality of Mainz by selling indulgence.
There were serious attempts to reform the church “an Haupt und Gliedern” (root and branch). An outstanding attempt was the Reform made by the monastery of Cluny in France. Then, there was the poverty-movement of the Cathars (that means “Church-cleaners”) and then of Francis of Assisi. Some attempts were successful, others were suppressed. The religious and political powers acted closely together inspired by the common interest to survive by supporting the religious and, therefore, the political unity of the Empire.
The instruments for this policies were the imperial ban (“Reichsacht”) and the stakes. Jan Hus was burned at the stake in 1415. Even the bones of Wycliffe were exhumed and burned in Lincoln in 1428. When Martin Luther protested against the selling of indulgences through the Prince and Archbishop of Mainz, it was a problem for the Empire. In 1521 he was banned on the “Reichtstag zu Worms”. He had to withdraw his 95 theses published in Wittenberg in 1517. But he refused to withdraw.
Luther survived only because the Princes of the Empire wanted to be more independent from the Emperor. So the Prince of Wolfenbüttel of Saxony saved Luther by bringing him not to jail, but to the Wartburg (in Eisenach). With this “night and fog-action” he offended not only the Emperor and the Pope, but also the principle of “one political power and one religion” in the “Holy Roman Empire”. Other Princes followed the example of the Prince of Saxony. In order to resist the Emperor, they founded the Smalcaldic League. The Emperor tried to substitute the Lutheran Prince with a Catholic one. This was reason for the Smalcaldic War between the Emperor, who tried to defend the religious unity against the political dissidents and some of the powerful “Reichsfürsten” (imperial princes).
But the historical constellation was very complex at this time.
The Emperor had wars in Italy and at the same time the Empire was besieged from the East by the Muslims. In 1529 Vienna was besieged by Sultan Mustafa Süleyman I. This was not only a danger for the Empire, but also for Christianity and therefore for the Protestants. To get support from the Protestant Princes the Emperor had to make Peace with them. This was the goal of the meeting of the “Reichsstände” (imperial estates), the so-called “Reichstag” in Augsburg in 1555. The Emperor had to publish the famous “Reichsabschied” (imperial recess).
It was a professor of law, who fifty years after the agreement of Augsburg coined the two “ius” (laws) with the famous ius reformandi and ius emigrandi.
- ・The ius reformandi was an attempt to hold religion and political power together. The principle of unity was not changed. It was only regionalised. The ius reformandi allowed the political rulers (the Emperor, the Princes) to impose their own religion on their subjects.
- ・To execute that socio-political unity the ius emigrandi was enacted. From the first look it was the permission to every citizen to live according to one’s own religious convictions. But in order to do so, he had to leave the country. He/she could take with him/her their possessions. But he/she had to go. In the following decades that ius of religious freedom was transformed as an instrument of violent confessional cleansing.
The Peace Agreement from Augsburg was the beginning of nearly fifty years of peace. But there remained too many unsolved problems. The Peace-Formula forbade a Catholic prince from converting to the “new belief” and to convert his subjects. Otherwise he would have to resign. But that was not easy to implement, because there were protestant minorities within the Catholic heartlands of the Empire.
The Habsburg rulers tried to suppress the Hussites in Bohemia who fought not only for their beliefs, but also for their independence: it was a national movement to separate Bohemia from the Habsburg Empire. After the Defenestration of Prague, when in 1618 the Vienna delegates were thrown out through the first floor window, the bloody Thirty-Year-War began. In some regions of Europe up to 70 percent of the population lost their lives. This war ended with the Westphalian Peace Agreement in 1648.
Some main consequences
What are now the main consequences of the Peace Agreement?
- 1. First of all, the search for peace was detached from the struggle for religious truth. I call this separation an expression of a “benign secularisation”. It was an important step forward to a modern “secular” legal state (Rechtsstaat = state under the rule of law) in which morality and legality were set apart but not totally separated.
- 2. This benign secularisation was established on the level of the Empire but not in its principalities. The ius reformandi is based on the idea that local peace can be established more successfully when on one territory (in one region) there is only one confession. The Orthodox Church has the ancient tradition (principle) of “canonical territory”. This means primarily that one diocese can have only one bishop. Practically it insinuates that all citizens in that territory belong to the Orthodox Church, or, to be more concrete, to the respective Patriarchate. After the Peace Agreements of Augsburg and Westphalia the instrument to reach local confessional peace was the “confessional cleansing”. This violent instrument was used again in the Balkan War (1991-1995). While reconquering the region of Krajina, Catholic Croatia expelled (or killed) the non- Catholic ethnic groups of the Orthodox Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims.
- In the decades after Augsburg/Westphalia there was separation of religious and political powers on the level of the whole Empire, but not on the lower level of the Principalities. The Alliance between State and Church was stronger than before in the Empire. There was a modern situation in the Empire and a pre-modern one in the Principalities. This has functioned successfully for many years.
- From the perspective of the Church/the religion that means, that the social basis of Christianity/confession in Europe shrank step by step: from the Empire to the national territories, from there to Christian political parties and finally to the individual person. The right to religious freedom has a long history. It is the way from fate to choice (Peter L. Berger). To cleanse a territory ideologically does not guarantee peace, but is a necessary intermediary step toward peace.
- 3. In the religious field the separation from (political) peace (“Landfrieden”) and (religious) truth opened up the way toward confessionalisation of the Western Christianity. The key events on this way were the “Confessio Augustana” (1530) as the basic document of the Lutheran Church and the “Council of Trient” or the Catholic Church. Many other Protestant Confessions followed. Within the new confessionalised territories (regions) arose rich confessional cultures: The Catholic Culture in the Habsburg Empire, the Protestant Culture in the north of Europe.
- 4. The Peace Agreement of Augsburg accepted [or: encompassed; included in itself] some confessionaly mixed territories - the so called “Freien Reichsstädte” (free imperial cities) like Augsburg itself or Nurnberg. Within the same territory, Catholics and Protestants lived together peacefully. Some churches were used by both confessions for services. This was the very beginning of the ecumenical movement within Christianity: but not yet (a unity) between the major world religions. Jews were persecuted even by Luther. The war between Christianity and Islam lasted for many centuries. In the year 1683 Vienna was again besieged by the Ottoman Empire.
- 5. One of the main lessons of that time was that the intertwining of religion and violence has many disadvantages for both politics and religion. For religion the best condition to develop is freedom, not violence. This is also true for atheism. In the Eastern European countries the experiment to violently impose atheisms failed. A similar situation can be observed in some parts of the Habsburgs Empire: In Bohemia the Catholic variation of religion was imposed by political power. Is this perhaps a reason that nowadays the Czech Republic is one of the atheistic cultures within the traditional Christian continent? The coalescence of religion with violence as well as Church with political power damaged religion and churches. The reputation of all Christian confessions after the Thirty-Years-War was deeply damaged. That was the very reason for an aggressive anticlericalism to emerge in Europe. As a consequence, philosophers of the Enlightenment separated religion from the Church. Religion for them was, on the one hand, universal and, on the other hand, private religion without Church began to spread. Churches fell into a deep crisis. As a consequence, not only the Churches, but also religion itself lost confidence and authority. While Voltaire attacked the Church and defended religion, Feuerbach, Marx, Engels and Freud declared religion as dangerous for individuals and for the society as a whole.
- 6. It is not easy to explain, why the other atheistic cultures, such as Eastern Germany or Estonia, previously were protestant cultures. Is it possible that the highly individualised Protestantism is more prone to secularisation than Catholicism with its ability for networking between its adherents?
Modernisation – Secularisation - Verbuntung (pluralisation)
The religious situation of Europe today can be better understood if we
look at the historical evolution after the Peace Agreements.
- 7. Usually, secularisation is seen as a result of a modernisation in which Churches become deprived of power and a religious worldview is replaced with a scientific one. The core-formula in that theoretical context is: “the more modern - the more secularised”. But if we look at solid empirical data, Europe is not secularised at all, but it is pluralised. The theory of secularisation through modernisation seems to be itself pre-modern. It works only in the context of pre- modern intertwining of religion/ideology with violence.
- 8. If there is a modern state with a high degree of freedom, with disjunction of morality and legality, then the result of modernisation is not secularisation, but pluralisation.
Tolerance and Understanding
Paper presented by H.E. Yasuo Fukuda
Former Prime Minister of Japan
This special meeting was convened to realise the long-standing wish of Chancellor Helmut Schmidt. He was one of the most precious friends of my late father. Germany and Japan shared much commonality in those years; both were the defeated nations in World War II, and both rose miraculously out of the ashes of the war. This may be the bond that tied my father so closely to the Chancellor.
Like many of you here, I have learned so much from Chancellor Schmidt. And we must admit that his call for this kind of meeting once again attests to his visionary wisdom. We all know that this meeting is so timely.
One of the most important lessons I learned from Chancellor Schmidt is the following Kantian message: The maintenance of peace is not realised by the innate human instinct, but peace has to be worked at not only once but perpetually with human will and sincerity.
A 19th Century German politician, Otto Bismarck, said “Fools learn from experience and the wise from history”. I believe it is essential for us, living in the 21st century, to renew our effort to contemplate what we can learn from history.
There is an increasingly diminishing number of people, like me, who have actually experienced WWII and its era. Most of the humanity today was born after the war. Reflecting the events that took place in the post-World War II era, there were two major events that perhaps triggered us to contemplate on universal ethics, which is the theme of this meeting. One was the end of the Cold War in 1989, and the other was the 9.11 catastrophe.
In 1989, Francis Fukuyama, an American historian, wrote the famous “The End of History”. He argued that the end of the Cold War was the terminal point of human ideology, and that the Western liberalism and democracy would become universal as the ultimate form of politics.
In 1993, a counter-argument was made to this thesis by Professor Samuel Huntington in his “Clash of Civilisations”. He argued that although nation states would likely continue to be the strongest actors in international politics, the major conflicts on global scale would likely occur between different civilisations and groups; that the clash of civilisations would dominate the global-scale politics and that the fault lines between civilisations would become the future war front lines.
These discussions led President Khatami of Iran to propose at the UN General Assembly in 1998 “Dialogue among Civilisations” to prevent the “Clash of Civilisations”. A resolution was passed in the UN General Assembly to make the year 2001 the “Year of Dialogue”.
It is so ironic that in that very year of dialogue the 9.11 took place. The moment airplanes hijacked by terrorists dived into the World Trade Centre in New York, the “Year of Civilisational Dialogue” was blown away. Most of you agree with me, though, that the importance of civilisational dialogue is gaining further today.
In this new century so many international conflicts and tensions prevail, and peace and stability of the world remain precarious. With the advancement of economic globalisation, prosperity seems to be gaining, but ones benefitting from it is only a handful. The gap, inequality, poverty and unhappiness in the world only expand.
It is clear that the international community is not fusing under the flag of liberal democracy, as Francis Fukuyama predicted. But neither the “fault lines of civilisations”, as argued by Samuel Huntington, are so evident. Nation states continue to play crucial roles in uniting the people. But, the groups, such as NGOs, which share culture, ethnicity, religion, local community or ideology and purpose are more dynamic and active and are playing a greater role internationally. Furthermore, individual connections transcending national boundaries are rapidly expanding with the leaping progress in information technology. In short, the world is becoming far more complex and changeable than what Francis Fukushima or Samuel Huntington predicted.
Unfortunately, however, since the “Year of Civilisational Dialogue” of 2001, international debates on this important issue have not deepened. Recently, in particular, many of the world leaders seem to be concentrating their intelligence and energy on such issues as how to cope with ongoing conflicts, or how to override the immediate economic crisis, or how to enlarge their national influence. Furthermore, with the public having excessive information due to the rapid progress in information technology, the present leaders are trapped by worries over how to maintain public support by pleasing them. Against such backdrop, political and intellectual leaders are increasingly unable to give sufficient weight to the needs for global ethics and dialogues among civilisations.
Several leaders and thinkers of the world’s major religions are participating in this meeting. The international community is in chaos, and the world value systems are diversifying, changing and dispersing. Given this situation, what can religions offer? This is one of the main themes of this meeting.
The 9.11 catastrophe brought forward the question of religion and international politics. The multiple attacks by the Al-Qaeda raised the world’s blind criticism against the Islam itself. Amidst such quagmires, some even argue that the world of monotheism, not only the Islam but also Christianity and Judaism, or the monotheistic value system prevailing in the world is the remote cause of the “clash of civilisations” or the “divide of civilisations”. What I would like to question here is, is there a truth in such arguments, or are they completely off the point? Another way of putting this question is, can polytheistic societies of Asia and their pluralistic value systems and ethical standards give some specific indications to the monotheistic world?
- My own answer to this question is half “Yes” and half “No”.
I would like to focus briefly on polytheistic thinking, as Japan is a polytheistic nation. Many Japanese believe in Buddhism but the indigenous Shintoism and its animistic tendency are also deeply rooted in the very same people. They consider that spirit and life exist not only in all the living beings but also in non-living beings, even in stones and water falls. These different beliefs - Buddhism, Shintoism and animism - are blended harmoniously in the spirit of individual Japanese. Many go to a Shinto shrine on January 1, celebrate the Christmas, wed in a Christian church, and have funerals in a Buddhist temple. They do this without feeling any contradiction.
But, Japanese are not void of deep religious feelings. Many of us feel strongly that there is a transcendental being over and beyond the human intelligence and experience. Whatever one might call this transcendental being, be it God, Buddha or Heaven, we feel that many ways are open for believing in that being.
For the monotheists, such ambiguity is neither understandable nor acceptable. But there is a positive feature in society with such a religious attitude. That is, we can accept without much resistance other value systems and different beliefs. We also share a set of common ethical standards with others.
The key word here is the “sense of tolerance” towards the others. Tolerance may be the entrance for what we are trying to define here in this meeting. However, genuine tolerance can only grow with understanding the others with different backgrounds and beliefs.
“Global Ethics in Decision-Making” requires us to seriously consider how best to apply at the global level the maximum common denominator of ethics. I would like to recommend my own suggestions.
First, it is “compassion”. My late father announced in 1977 what is called the “Fukuda Doctrine” during his visit to Southeast Asia. Central to the Doctrine was the commitment to build the mutually trusting relations of “heart to heart”. In the mid-1970s, there were frequent hostile antagonism and riots against Japan in Southeast Asian countries, because of the very aggressive Japanese economic entries into the region. The “heart to heart” concept was so easy to understand for everyone and almost instantly captured the heart of the Southeast Asian people. “Heart to heart” means compassion, or the wish to genuinely serve others’ benefits.
The second is “cultural sensitivity” to others. We are a product of our respective cultures. When we deal with people coming from different backgrounds, we simply look at them with glasses tinted by our values and cultural background. We must recognise that when we abhor or criticise people different from us, it is the ugly self that is reflected in the mirror who is the very person we abhor. Trying to understand with sensitivity those different from us is a critically important quality in what we are trying to accomplish here.
The third is “confidence building” with partners. Political leaders here all know that they had to take risks in international negotiations. The extent to which risk can be taken in negotiations depends on to what extent they can build confidence with the negotiating partners. The basic premise of our discussions here is also confidence building among all of us. I am certain that this meeting in that sense could offer a very important message to the international community of the 21st century.
Japan was a defeated nation in World War II. We were allowed to return to the international community in 1951. Japanese nationals then were still suffering from the war destruction, but the eyes of the international community were very harsh and cold to the former invader and defeated nation. They felt that Japan should be so severely punished that it could never regain any strength again. Against such harshness, the then Minister of Finance of Sri Lanka, who later became the President of the country, changed their attitude by quoting the Buddha’s teaching:
- “Hatred cannot be healed by hatred. Not hating back can restore
- peace in our heart. This is the eternal truth.”
Tolerance: An Underappreciated Virtue
in Our Sectarian Age
Prof. Thomas S. Axworthy
Secretary-General, InterAction Council
We live in a sectarian age. Excessive devotion to the doctrines of a religion, sect, or group is a phenomenon of our time and as such, threatens peace and order both within and between states. Even a cursory reading of recent headlines makes the point: in Myanmar, Buddhist mobs armed with machetes chased Muslims, killing over 40 and driving nearly 13,000 Muslims from their homes and businesses.
Boko Haram (translates to “western education is forbidden”), an Islamic sect in northern Nigeria, plants bombs almost weekly in Christian churches, resulting in 900 deaths in 2012 alone. In Libya, memorial crosses are so offensive to extremist mobs that commonwealth military cemeteries have been desecrated.
In Iraq, prominent analyst Kanan Makiya, who favoured the U.S. invasion to depose Saddam Hussein, declares that the “Arab Spring is now turning into an Arab winter”. Mr. Hussein used sectarianism and nationalism as tools against his internal enemies when he was weak. Today’s Iraqi Shiite parties are doing worse: they are legitimizing their rule on a sectarian basis”. And it is not just Muslim versus Christian, or Shia versus Sunni: divisions within Islamist movements are also large and evident. In Egypt, for example, after the fall of the Mubarak regime, the Salafist Movement designated their fellow Sunni Muslims on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces as apostates, members of the Salafist al-Nour Party resigned from President Mohamed Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood government and supported his ouster in July 2013. In Egypt, there is obviously a major cleavage between Egyptians of a more secular outlook and Islamists; but within the Islamist movement, there is little consensus as well.
All of the current facets of sectarianism have their antecedents in European history. As in Nigeria or Myanmar today, in pre- Enlightenment Spain, mobs attacked people of other faiths frequently (in 1391 there was a particularly vicious pogrom where approximately one-third of the Jews were massacred). Like Syria today, rulers in the 15th and 16th centuries were happy to play the sectarian card: King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain, for example, practiced ethnic cleansing on a mass scale with forced conversions and the expulsion of 70,000 to 100,000 Jews in 1492, and up to 300,000 Moriscos (Spanish Muslims) in 1609.
Desecration of grave sites may be occurring in Libya today, but far more mindless destruction took place during the Reformation. Simon Schama, for example, asks “What ever happened to Catholic England?” in his TV series History of Britain, as he describes how Protestant zealots destroyed stain-glass windows, altar rails, statues, and even communion tables. A Puritan parliament event went so far as to outlaw celebrating Christmas in 1647.
Violence between Shia and Sunnis? In the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre of 1572, 5,000 Huguenots were killed, mutilated and degraded by Catholic mobs in what Benjamin Kaplan described as the “most notorious episode of the early modern age”. Sunni Salafist versus the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood? The English wars of religion pitted followers of the Church of England versus Puritan dissenters. Protestant sects were as bigoted about other Protestants as they were against Roman Catholics:
In 1648, an English Parliament with a Presbyterian majority promulgated an “ordinance for the punishing of blasphemous heresies” and as late as 1662, 4,000 Quakers were still in prison. Writing about these episodes, historian C.V. Wedgwood tartly notes about the persecution of Quakers that, “the creed of non-violence always exasperated the violent”.
But if Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries exhibited religious discrimination, intolerance, and violence on a scale far surpassing anything today, yet always there were individual acts of bravery, understanding, and love, and slowly - ever so slowly - the notion of tolerance grew. Europe’s sectarian age was succeeded by the Age of Enlightenment, and one pillar of the Enlightenment was the once- despised virtue of tolerance. The eventual acceptance of religious tolerance, according to Jurgen Habermas, became “the pacemaker for cultural rights” in general.
Tolerance is defined by Andrew Murphy as an attitude or “a willingness to admit the possible validity of seemingly contradictory viewpoints”. It is a virtue based on the recognition, as Voltaire writes in his Philosophical Dictionary, that “discord is the great ill of mankind, and tolerance is the only remedy for it”. For Jay Newman, “tolerance is manifested when one is tolerant; toleration is manifest when one tolerates”. Toleration is a set of practices: it denotes “forbearance from imposing punitive sanctions for dissent from prevailing norms”.
Toleration is a set of practices or arrangement that enables peaceful coexistence, a concept analytically distinct from the attitude or motivation of those involved in the arrangement. The distinction is important: tolerance is an individual attitude rooted in humility (we all make errors). Its opposite is fanaticism, described by John Morley as irritating prejudices that make no allowances and allow no compromise. There are therefore many obstacles to individual tolerance - ignorance, superstition, misunderstanding, indolence, and superiority.
Intolerance can be displayed in jokes, name-calling, verbal abuse, discrimination, and violence. Scotland, for example, recently created a sectarian advisory group to address the Catholic-Protestant antagonism so evident at events such as football matches.
If tolerance is an individual attitude or virtue, subject to education, personal persuasion, and mutual learning, toleration is a set of practices that deliberately chooses not to interfere with the conduct of others. As Europe moved from the era of religious wars to the Enlightenment, a variety of practices and accommodations allowed dissent from legally established churches or socially dominant faiths. But slowly evolving regimes of toleration did not necessarily mean large advances in personal tolerance.
Wedgwood writes that even as European leaders in the seventeenth century were forced to accommodate to the realities of different strains of Christianity, the goal for all was still a universal church (their own, of course) and toleration was still “regarded with dismay even by moderate men”. Toleration regimes, therefore, are practical accommodations to achieve peaceful co-existence, which may or may not have much to do with the advance of tolerance. In combating sectarianism, one needs both a program to change individual attitudes and another to make institutional accommodation work.
Chairman Obasanjo: The changing meaning of words, and words that are honourable today may not be honourable tomorrow. And one that is not so honourable today may become honourable tomorrow. And each of us, no matter our situation or no matter our religion, we are privileged, and by that privilege, we are burdened. These are some of the points that Jeremy Rosen put across to us. And he ended on the note that common humanity enjoins us to be tolerant. Now, the point is what are the influences or factors that can make these common humanity to enjoin us to be tolerant? We talked about political and economical factors, and we really have to mend those influences on our common humanity.
In my own country, we talk about Boko Haram, as if Muslims and Christians are waging war against each other. But that is not really true. Some three years ago, I went to the centre of Boko Haram in the Northeast of my country, and I wanted to find out if there was an organisation called Boko Haram. If there is, who are they? Do they have leaders? And if they have leaders, who are the leaders? Are they ready to talk? What are their objectives? What are their grievances? Is there any external involvement? If there is, to what extent? What I found out was that they are not basically bad people. The underlining factor is poverty and unemployment, and a lot of other things have built on that; drug trafficking, gun trafficking, revenge, a bit of fundamentalism. It was because of these social problems that when I asked for their objective, they said “Sharia”. They understand common humanity. But there are a number of other factors that have affected their understanding of common humanity to be able to be tolerant.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: I just would like to complement what Paul Zhulener has said. It’s the anxiety and unhappiness in a person that creates conflicts. A happy person does not create any conflict with anybody. When people are unhappy and frustrated, stressed, religion becomes one of the excuses for the conflict, for them to start fighting. An unacceptable behaviour, I think, is the stress factor, the anxiety factor, the lack of inclusiveness, or the lack of interaction or the understanding of all the other persons, that are the main causes of many conflicts in various groups and societies. This is strongly seen in society’s day-to-day life. Places where people are happy, they all live happily. And religion, caste, community or race does not come in way.
Dr. Mukti: I think in this complex and dynamic world, tolerance is not enough, and we need to go beyond tolerance, because sometimes tolerance might involve abundance of some real problems and sometimes also ignorant of others. So, what we need now is actually pluralism. In my understanding, pluralism may consist of first, the worldview on the others and also the expression of religion in public spheres. And to some extent, we would rather see people who are intolerant mainly from the observable behaviour rather than seeing this observable behaviour from the inner world that is related to the worldview of someone that we might call the “belief of the people”. And second, of course, when we speak about pluralism, then of course dialogue is important. But when we see dialogue only as the stage or step in order that we could do tolerance and also pluralism, because within dialogue, it involves mutual listening, mutual understanding and mutual respect. But what is actually also important is acceptance of others who are different from us, and also accommodation towards the others, and also to some extent, cooperation and partnership with others.
Despite the differences of religions, there are similarities, there are commonalities, and it is these commonalities that need to be capitalised in order that we could develop a more peaceful and tolerant society. To some extent, tolerance is not always easy, and pluralism is not always easy, because there are values that might be the obstacle or hindrance of this.
In this regard, I just call another good example, despite the differences with Islam and others. Last year I went to the Netherlands. I attended an interfaith conference in the Hague, There was a very good example of Muslim and Jewish working together to struggle for their religious beliefs that are Qur’an and the Bible. So, despite the differences, there was respect and understanding for our commonalities and understanding for our shared responsibility. There is still a possibility that different faiths can cooperate with one another, because we respect the others with full dignity and full sincerity.
Prof. Chang: We could link this virtue of tolerance and the lack of tolerance with what was said in the earlier session about the crucial role the leaders of our communities can play. I was thinking two specific examples that I personally know very well. One is what most of you probably know. During the Cultural Revolution, Chinese people who usually value very much harmonious relationship with their neighbours, with their co-workers without any division in religious beliefs, without any ethnic or linguistic differences, people turned one against the other. A trust-breach was committed. Animosity of such vehemence that is hard to understand. Hundreds of millions of people were engaged in it. It is not to say that there were leaders in small communities to attack this home. So, I believe we must go through a deeper thinking as to what is the human nature, what is the relationship between the theoretical or leader’s call in general and the behaviour of the populace at the grass-root level.
The second one is Kirghistan. I visited Kirghistan twice, once before and another time after the election. I went specifically to City Oschi, where the Kirghis and Uzbeks lived in the same country. The religious beliefs even to themselves are not distinguishable. Some belong to a wing of the Suffi and the other belong to another type, but it has nothing to do with ethnic differences. But during the election time, major atrocities burning down houses, killing people happened, just recently. This has nothing to do with ethnic difference - it is difficult for a Kirghis to tell a Kirghis from an Uzbek, though there is a linguistic difference. So, all these seem to have something to do just deeper with religions, or ethnicity, or indoctrination by a leader. Because all of these happen suddenly, at a certain level. So, I wonder if it’s the leadership that failed rather than a religious difference.
Dr. Habash: I believe tolerance is a very high value. But I would like to mention our experience in our country. That is that tolerance is not enough. My country is Syria. Even a famous European philosopher said that everyone has two countries: his own and Syria, because you can find in Syria prophets’ history, history of religions or history of cultures. We were in a very nice situation. Everyone knows that there are Muslims, Christians and Jews in Syria, and inside the Muslim society, there are diverse groups without any problem. We were in the comprehensive, harmonious situation. We had daily meetings of Islamic leaders, Christian leaders and even Jewish leaders.
But that is not enough. Without democracy and freedom, without dignity, without trust in between, sectarian understanding, we cannot arrive at any kind of positive target. So, I believe it’s not the responsibility of religious leaders only. This is the responsibility of political leaders. Political leaders have the same responsibility as religious leaders to call for this kind of tolerance and harmony. As President Obasanjo said, the problem now is the lot of problems inside Muslims. I believe this kind of problems falls on the responsibility of political leaders and religious leaders. Without democracy, without dignity, without freedom, anytime, any second, we can find a new revolution like the situation in Syria.
Chairman Obasanjo: Arif Zamhari came up with something I took note of. Religion is failing. I heard people say we have more religion but less spirituality. And religion without spirituality cannot achieve tolerance we are talking about. How much are the leaders exemplary, whether they are political leaders or religious leaders? Are they teachers and preachers? But they have nothing to show by practice, by example.
We have said in this session that tolerance is not enough, whether tolerance goes to acceptance and acceptance goes to reciprocity, it is still not enough. Here we have a changing situation. We had a dramatic change in Syria, and not only in Syria. So, whatever we have cannot be taken for granted. Can I come to the conclusion that whatever the situation is, whether you have harmony, tolerance and all that, it must be massaged like love, because unless you massage like love, you can’t take it for granted. It can be there today but not there tomorrow.
And I want to refer to the points we have taken from the three presentations. Humanity is an issue.
Prof. Axworthy: We began by talking about being precise about the language that we use around these concepts. In my view, toleration regime is the forbearance of imposition. One does not coerce. That’s the minimum that we hope we can achieve, and that was an important game in Europe as we had some presentations on, when people began to at least say “we will live and let live”. They may not like to have the situation that others have, other religions and other points of view, but they were willing to abide by it and not use the force of violence to achieve their own ends. Now, in our age, that is still not unimportant.
Someone once said that tolerance is a pacemaker for other kinds of rights and evolutions in human society. So, the work to try to ensure that at least we have tolerance is a very practical objective when we bring religious leaders, education leaders and political leaders together.
Because the point was made by Dr. Zulehner’s key intervention that whatever we may say about toleration in theory, significant numbers of people do not even adhere to that minimum set of values. There is a rejection of tolerance in wide elements of our population. So, if we jump right to human rights, and do not spend time on the education of virtues of tolerance, then we are setting ourselves for a fall. And we are creating ourselves great difficulties.
So, I think the practical thinking through of what must be done is to begin to (1) inculcate the value of tolerance in our individual attitudes, (2) look at practical accommodation on the ground.
Prime Minister Chrétien helped negotiate the charter rights in 1982, but the idea was first moved in 1950. It took 30 years. We have had Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and President Giscard d’Estaing who helped bring together the European Union, when Jean Monnet was thinking of it in the 1920s. It took them 30 or 40 years to get that idea implemented.
I would finish here that the previous work of the Council, in working on the Declaration of Human Responsibility, the human responsibility as a connector between different religions and different ethics, we just started that. We just came with that. We started in 1996 and 1997 and yes, it hasn’t been accepted by human rights or UN votes yet. But that is no reason not working on it. It is a powerful idea, powerful ideas take decades to achieve. I would argue for this Council, we have just started our effort and there is much more that needs to be done there, but be at cheer. We are on the right track.
Prof. Saikal: I feel very uncomfortable with the term “tolerance”. It may be good under particular circumstances. But by and large, it is an imposition on another. I would prefer the promotion of mutual accommodation. That is more appropriate. Another comment related to Ravi Shankar, is frustration and deprivation. This sort of conditions lead people to the act of violence. But there are other reasons as well. When your life and liberty in your society are either seriously threatened or violated by outsiders, it also leads to acts of violence. The question I would like to leave is “Is there such a thing as legitimate violence?”
Metropolitan Niphon: In listening to the debates and reading all the papers, I was asking myself about the fact that none of us used the word “Love” as a synonym to tolerance. I don’t know why. Don’t you see in love acceptance? Don’t you see in love solidarity? Don’t you see in love dignity? Don’t you see in love freedom? Don’t you see in love mutual accommodation? Why don’t we use it?
Prime Minister Fraser: Taking the example I know the best, we used to have a society up to the beginning of the second World War, which said that if you want to be a good Australian, you ought to be Anglo- Saxon-Celtic. And if you are not, you better pretend to be, even though there are many who came to Australia in 1800s from Afghanistan and China and from all over the place. But then after that war, people started to come to Australia from a couple of hundreds of different countries around the world. In our society, tolerance came to mean, well to be a good Australian, you don’t have to forget your culture or history, your religion, your special days, your cultural days. If you want to go on celebrating these days, that’s fine. That’s compatible with being a good Australian.
So, tolerance, acceptance, very deliberate effort to make sure all that new settlers understood that to be an Australian, you don’t have to forget what you were or where you came from, or the love of your country of origin. I think this is quite in line with what Jean Chrétien was describing earlier today. So, it depends on how you define what your experience teaches you about the word “tolerance”, whether it is the lowest common denominator or whether it is interpreted quite broadly. I think in most people’s mind, they interpret it broadly.
Prof. Chang: From my understanding of the words, love is on a higher order. To prevent social chaos, to promote understanding, and to promote social tranquillity, tolerance is what is needed. But if you can go beyond that, acceptance and reciprocity, (in my own words it is active respect), then it becomes closer to love. So, at this level I would prefer to use tolerance as a minimum, as a threshold line.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Regarding the point of how far the violence is acceptable or legitimate, I would say war is the worst. Anyone who starts a war, they have reasons for the war. I think exactly, the communications have broken down, and the human touch of how you can communicate with people, the skills of communication breaking down is one of the reasons. Violence should not be justified at any cost.
Dr. Mettanando: I think the word “tolerance” has to be understood as a secondary principle in ethics, after justice. If you justify anything, can you justify a minor child being abused in front of you? You cannot say that you remain tolerant of the situation, because if you do so, you are complacent, irresponsible to the situation. You are not just. I think there are reasons that we cannot say that there is absolutely no place for violence at all. I think we have to take justice as the main principle, for judging what is right and what is wrong; what is the reason behind any particular situation.
If a child is abused in front of you, who cannot defend himself, the way to help is to intervene and we have to react immediately. You cannot say, “We have to stop because we are tolerant”. That would be irresponsibility, denying the right to exist and right to life of other people. So, tolerance is the secondary principle after justice. If we exercise the principle of justice correctly with respect to rights and dignity of other people, then we can tolerate that when we see the situation in front of us is just and fair. Otherwise tolerance cannot be applied all across the board.
Chairman Obasanjo: I think that tolerance is not enough. We must be also mindful of changing situations. But for whatever we do, to me mutuality is very, very important. Common humanity, common values, common security (if you want your security, you must think of my own security), common prosperity, and mutual love, mutual accommodation, mutual respect, mutual acceptance, and of course, shared society. Commonality, if you like, and harmony. All that depends on good and exemplary leadership, whether that leadership is political, religious, or even community. I think if we have this, we will be on our way to have a new society.
4. Jihadi and Western Perceptions
Session chaired by H.E. Andries van Agt
Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands
“Jihad” is one of the few Islamic terms that are well-known and contentious in the world. The session discussed what the word really means and how violence carried out in its name could be prevented.
The first introducer, Dr. Abdul Mukti, focused on the ethical aspect of jihad as implied in Qur’anic verses and how it could be contextualised today. Jihad was originally intended as a matter of strengthening one’s faith, not forcing others to follow it. The Qur’anic concept covered a wide range of ideas from self-improvement religiously to using whatever means one could to defend one’s faith. He said, Jihad was a matter of seeking to be in God’s way.
Prof. Amin Saikal described the two competing visions of Islam: (1) reformist Islam (ijtihadi) believing that Muslims could apply Islam to their individual and community living according to the changing times and conditions, (2) combative Islam (jihadi) who argued for an Islamic Government and live under Sharia. These views led to four categories of Muslims: ijtihadi, rejecting any form of violence unless threatened; radical Islamists with professed adherence to the Islam fundamentals; neo-fundamentalist adhering to strict, literal interpretation of Islam, applying violence as a means not only to bring change but also to govern; and grass-roots with very basic Islamic knowledge and easily galvanised into foot soldiers. He argued that the war on terror served to reinforce the violent radical Islamist and neo- fundamentalists, only a tiny minority. The West must cease judging the majority of Muslims by the actions of the few, and to engage in policy actions that could help to empower the ijtihadi Islamists.
※Note: The meeting had taken place before the establishment of the Islamic State.
Dr. Gholamali Khoshroo identified three-interrelated forms of violence in modern time; physical violence, structural violence and violence as opposed to freedom, for which he believed that dialogue, justice and freedom were three alternatives.
In the discussion, Muslim participants from the Middle East described that the Qur’an mentioned 17 levels of how to treat others and that the 17th level was a clear order to fight all non-Muslims, which cancelled out all the previous orders. They also pointed to the essentiality of following the text strictly. Moderate Muslims and Christians argued that while the text was important, it was necessary to apply it in the context of the changing time and conditions. Shia Islam offered a way out of extremism and violence not through the rejection of the religion itself but public commitment to democratic principles. Another participant brought up the importance of self-analysis, the struggle to be honest with oneself and to find truth, which led to efforts to see another point of view, to put oneself in the other person’s shoes. By showing love and concern, humanity could look at and recognise other narratives. Mr. Jean Chrétien believed it was essential to find a way of separating religion from state in the Muslim world, in the way it had been achieved in the West.
Jihād as an Ethical Concept
Introducer 1: Dr. Abdul Mukti
Secretary, Central Board of Muhammadiyah, Indonesia
Walisongo to Lecturer at Faculty of Islamic Education,
State Islamic University, Syarif Hidayatullah, Jakarta
In the last few decades, jihād has been one among a few Islamic terms most famous and contentious outside and inside the Muslim world. There have been a lot of discussions with regard to what it truly means and what it does not really mean. There have been a lot of efforts to clarify and reclaim the meaning of jihād which is perceived to have been ‘hijacked’, ‘abused’ or ‘distorted’ by some persons - either Muslims or non-Muslims - in favour of their own interest and has been publicised more according to their use of this term - more as involvement in waging an armed ‘holy’ war.
Here I would not focus on arguing against the supposedly incorrect, violent understanding of jihād - something which has been done by many scholars and religious leaders, Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Rather, I would like to lay much emphasis on pointing out the ethical message of jihād. In this regard, I would focus on moral aspects of jihād as implied in Qur’anic verses and how these aspects can be contextualised in our life today. I would concentrate mostly on the Qur’ān - the primary source of Islamic teachings - partly in an effort to avoid any irrelevant projection of extra-Qur’ānic ideas into the understanding of jihād, which has been, I believe, a common case.
Meaning of Jihād in the Qur’ān
Qur’ānic parts are considered to interpret one another. Therefore, for any interpretation to be legitimately valid, it needs to engage all relevant verses dealing with the subject under discussion. It has been often argued that before employing any other methodological step, an interpreter of the Qur’ān should look closely at different parts of the Qur’ān in order to make the Qur’ān itself as the best guide to it and avoid any incorrect conclusion. For that reason, any discussion of ‘jihād’ should take all related verses into account in order to find what is perceived as the originally intended meaning of that word in the Qur’ān as well as the originally intended Qur’ānic principle regarding ‘jihād’.
To interpret the Qur’ān by reference to the Qur’ān itself, also means to read and interpret every word or concept in the Qur’ān against the background of the Qur’ān as a whole. This means that if one wants to discuss the Qur’ānic concept of ‘jihād’, one should also take other Qur’ānic teachings - such as on ‘justice’, ‘peace’, ‘protection of human life’ and ‘submission to God’ - into account. While this would not be my focus here, I feel it is necessary to remind the reader that any reading of ‘jihād’ is likely to be much less legitimate if it contradicts Qur’ānic views on other subjects.
On the other hand, the Qur’ān is believed to be full of rhetoric subtleties in which no single word or particle can replace another with the exactly same meaning. The word jihād for instance could not be accurately replaced by words that are close in meaning like juhd (ability; exerting energy; hard work) and mujāhada (vigorous effort; fight) or by associated words like qitāl (fighting), da‘wa (preaching) and infāq (spending money for the good). These rhetoric subtleties might also include the possibility of a word mentioned in a certain place in the Qur’ān to have its own specific connotation that is subtly different from the meaning of the same word or a similar word mentioned in another place.
If we agree with this assumption, then the word jihād might have finely different connotations in different places in the Qur’ān and accordingly should be understood in connection with its specific textual context in addition to its general textual context (overall Qur’ānic usage). To find these rhetoric subtleties is, however, a challenging academic task that needs collaborative involvement of committed scholars. In this light, the only claim I can make is that my discussion on jihād in the Qur’ān is far from comprehensive.
The word ‘jihād’ is sometimes closely associated with war. It is varyingly equated with ‘holy war’, ‘just war’ or ‘defensive war’ - all of which are to some extent inaccurate. However, I would emphasise, jihād and war are two different topics though both might be interrelated in certain cases. What I will talk about is ‘jihād in Islam’, not ‘war in Islam’. Islamic teachings regarding the responsibility to fight against oppression and aggression, regarding martyrdom (shahāda), and regarding the ethics in warfare could be better addressed separately. Therefore, throughout the rest of this essay, the reader might find least association of jihād with war or violence.
In the Qur’ān, the tri-consonantal root for jihād-related words (j-h-d) occurs forty one times - mostly in verb forms (twenty seven times). The root connotes tireless effort, striving, endeavoring, being in earnest, struggle, ability, force, and fighting. Most of the references to jihād in the Qur’ān do not deal with a clear call to Muslims to wage war or to fight.
Some verses containing the word jihād (and its derivatives) were already revealed during the Meccan period when there was no war between the community of believers and the pagans. One of the verses reads: wa man jāhada fa innamā yujāhidu linafsihi inna Allāh laghanīyun ‘an al-‘ālamīn (and whoever strives only strives for [the benefit of] himself. Indeed, Allah is free from need of the worlds” (Q 29: 6).
As some commentators of the Qur’ān argue, striving here is most likely to mean striving to face difficulties or inconveniences while maintaining one’s faith, as indicated in 29: 2 which states, “Do the people think that they will be left to say, ‘We believe’ and they will not be tried?” Believers are tested by God to know which believers are true believers and which are not (29: 3), which ones are striving and which are not (9: 16, 47: 31). Defending our faith often requires hard struggle and patience on our behalf - especially if we face a situation like what happened with the followers of the Prophet in Mecca.
A modern Shī‘ī exegete, al-Ṭabātabā’ī in his tafsīr, al-Mīzān, implies that jihād in this verse means preserving faith and being persistent with all persistent in all nuances. Similarly, a modern Sunnī exegete, Ibn ‘Ᾱshūr in his tafsīr, al-Taḥrīr wa al-Tanwīr mentions that the first possible meaning of jihād here is patience in facing difficulties and pains as a result of entering Islam. Another modern exegete, al- Qāsimī in his Maḥāsin al-Ta’wīl also understands jihād in the verse as striving to be patient in facing trials and to be consistent in truth despite all pain.
The closeness in meaning of the three concepts, i.e. jihād, faith (īmān) and patience (ṣabr), is in fact indicated in the Qur’ān by the frequent mention of jihād with one of this word. In not less than ten places the word jihād is preceded by īmān, and in three places it is followed by ṣabr. Jihād is suggested to be one of signs of true believers (49: 15; 8: 74). Another concept frequently associated with jihād, which is also a sign of true believers, is hijra (generally meaning an act of leaving corrupt condition) which precedes jihād in seven places. Even though the word jihād in certain places of the Qur’ān is often understood as qitāl (fighting in a battle/war or against threats), both words are never mentioned together nor quite close in the Qur’ān.
Qitāl itself (sometimes called ‘jihād by sword’) is often understood - based on a famous narrated tradition - as a ‘lesser jihad’ (jihād aṣghar), in comparison with the ‘greater jihad’ (jihād akbar), which is a jihād against one’s own willful desires (jihād al-nafs; in another version: mujāhadat al-‘abd hawāhu) - an internal struggle to live an upright and spiritual life (known in Sufism as mujāhada). In the Qur’ān itself, the one that is referred to as ‘great jihad’ ( jihād kabīr) is jihād against disbelievers by means of the Qur’ān. In a Meccan sura, it is stated: falā tuṭi‘al-kāfirīn wa jāhidhum bihi jihādan kabīran (so do not obey the disbelievers, and strive against them with the Qur’ān a great striving). (Q 25: 52).
According to al-Ṭabātabā’ī, striving against the disbelievers with the Qur’ān means reading it for them, explaining all information it contains and perfecting its arguments against them. Similar interpretation can be found in other tafsirs, such as al-Alūsī’s Rūḥ al-Ma‘ānī and al-Shawkānī’s Fatḥ al-Qadīr. Al-Alūsī goes further to say that it might be concluded from this verse that the greatest jihād is jihād by ulamā’ in countering the enemies of faith through the Qur’ān. This verse, therefore, implies that jihād is a vigorous effort to confront disbelievers by means of rational argumentation to a point that the truth is disclosed. The context of this jihād, as hinted at in the early part of the verse, is the attempts of disbelievers to force believers to obey their wills.
While this is the only verse that mentions jihād by means of the Qur’ān, many jihād verses mention jihād by means of wealth and lives (in seven places). This emphasises the meaning of jihād as a serious and sincere effort - something that requires us to do our best to a point that we might lose our wealth and perhaps also our lives. But, surely Islam is not a religion which disregards wealth and life. In fact, among the purposes of sharī‘a are the protection of wealth (ḥifzh al-māl) and that of life (ḥifzh al-nafs). So, in what context can it be legitimate to sacrifice our wealth and lives?
Many times in the Qur’ān (in not less than eleven places) the word jihād is followed by fī sabīl Allāh (in God’s way) - once it is shortened to be fī Allāh and once fīnā, which is understood as having the same meaning. The association of jihad with fī sabīl Allāh might indicate that jihād should be done according to and for the benefit of His dīn (religion). Fī sabīl Allāh is not the same as ‘in the name of God’ or ‘for God’s sake’. In the Qur’ān, this phrase also frequently follows the word qitāl (fighting in a warfare context) - that is in thirteen places. While this might be taken to mean that qitāl is very close in meaning with jihād, one should not forget that this phrase also frequently follows the word infāq (money spending) - in seven places - and hijra (moving from a bad situation) - in four places. The word sabīl Allāh itself is very often used in the context of disbelievers’ effort to move people away from His way (at least in twenty three places) and the state of those who go astray from His way (at least in eleven places). This suggests that sabīl Allāh could be best understood as His dīn - which is also often referred to as al-ṣirāṭ al-mustaqīm (the straight path) - even though there might be subtle difference between these terms.
The phrase fī sabīl Allāh might also emphasise the meaning of jihād as a tough response to persecution, oppression, attack and aggression by unbelievers which threaten the existence of our faith. All of these actions might require us to fight against them in a warfare (qitāl). In this context of fighting, one should - like it or not - exert all energy, either physical, financial, mental or intellectual - that is jihād. (Outside this context, jihād might be needed as well, as indicated in a hadith, “The most excellent jihad is uttering a word of truth in the face of a tyrant”.) Qitāl fī sabīl Allāh is better understood as one of the contexts in which jihād needs to be applied. This connection between persecution/oppression, qitāl, and jihād could be clearly seen for instance in Q 2: 216-218.
In these verses - among others - jihād is obviously more a matter of defending one’s faith, rather a matter of defending or pursuing worldly ends nor destroying the religious others. Jihād is not for the purpose of forcing others to follow one’s faith, because if one believes that one’s religion is perfect (kāmil), there is no need for compulsion for others to follow one’s religion. The coercion is likely to be involved when one unconsciously believes that one’s religion is imperfect. As clearly stated in the Qur’an, “there is no compulsion in religion”. Instead of compelling others, jihād is to avoid us from turning back from our religion when disbelievers fight against us. To fight against them in this context is better than remaining silent - as clearly stated in Q 4: 95.
One of the reasons why ‘those who strive’ - as mentioned in the verse - are preferred seems to be the courage they have - to do something they might hate but instructed by their faith, to struggle untiringly at the expense of valuable things they might have. This is something implied in some jihād verses, for instance in Q 9: 41, 44, and 81. In qitāl setting, this courage is of course greatly needed (as indicated in Q 2: 216).
The meaning of jihād in the context of qitāl could also include efforts to fight within the proper limits as laid down in the Qur’ān, for instance in Q 2: 190-193. In these verses, God informs believers that they are only allowed to fight with those who fight them and that they are not to transgress the proper limits to warfare. In addition, the only legitimate targets in war are those that practice oppression, and the fight should stop if they cease.
Contextualizing Jihād in Today’s World
It might be now concluded that the concept of jihād in the Qur’ān is broad in meaning, has diverse contexts, and might include some fundamental aspects as follows:
Sincere hard work and tireless effort.
Defence of faith and truth (from both inner and outer disturbance).
Patience in facing all ensuing difficulties and inconveniences.
Courage to place oneself and one’s property in danger in order to
fight against existing oppression/injustice.
Optimum use of all available means - intellectual, physical,
Good intention and action according to the rules of faith.
While there is much less legitimacy for us to narrow its meaning only to a self-defence armed war context and limit the actors to only combatants, we are in fact able to do our own jihād in our respective field and in our own environment as long as what we do involves abovementioned aspects. We could do our own jihād as educators, activists, authors, journalists, scientists, professionals, etc. We could do our jihād with our skill, our voice, our knowledge, our property, our activism or even our vote. We could do our jihād in the context of the betterment of education, in the context of human rights activism, in the context of environment protection, in the context of poverty alleviation, in the context of peace-building, in the context of the struggle for gender equity, and so on and so forth.
However, as jihād should be with good intention, what is more important is not to claim or declare that what we do actually is a jihād or that we have performed a jihād, rather to seek to live it out in our life just in the hope of God’s mercy and rewards. As stated in the Qur’ān, we are tested by God whether we are willing to do jihād or not. Therefore, it is God Himself who knows better which people among us who are truly in a jihād. We have no obvious authority to proclaim ourselves as mujāhidīn (actors of jihād). We have to have a spirit of jihād, but to say publicly that we are mujāhidīn is an indication of insincerety (riyā’). Based on a narrated tradition, those who want people recognise them as mujāhidīn are among those who will be disappointed in the hereafter.
In addition, we should also question every effort to narrow the meaning of jihād to only mean involvement in a war or so-called holy war by those who claim that they are mujāhidīn, that they are in jihād or waging a holy war. We should not forget that jihād and qitāl (fighting) are two different words, and jihād is never mentioned in the Qur’ān to clearly refer to a ‘holy war’. As often argued, the concept of a holy war is not even historically a Muslim one, and jihād’s association with the term ‘holy war’ is entirely contemporary. Jihād is a matter of seeking to be in God’s way, while waging a self-proclaimed holy war is a sort of authoritarianism.
al-Alūsī, al-Sayyid Maḥmūd. Rūḥ al-Ma‘ānī fī Tafsīr al-Qur’ān al- ‘Aẓīm wa al-Sab‘ al-Mathānī. Beirut: Idārat al-Ṭibā‘ah al-Munīrīyah, n.d.
Bonney, Richard. Jihād: From the Qur’ān to bin Lāden. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
El-Fadl, Khalid M. Abou. The Great Theft: Wrestling Islam from the Extremists. HarperOne, 2007.
Ibn ‘Ᾱshūr, al-Ṭāhir. Tafsīr al-Taḥrīr wa al-Tanwīr. Tūnis: Dār al- Tūnisiyā, 1984.
al-Qaraḍāwī, Yūsuf. Fiqh al-Jihād. Maktabah Wahbah, 2009. Rahman, Fazlur. Major Themes of the Qur’an.
al-Shawkānī, Muḥammad. Fatḥ al-Qadīr. Beirut: Dār al-Fikr, n.d. al-Ṭabāṭabā’ī, Muḥammad Ḥusayn. al-Mīzān fī Tafsīr al-Qur’ān.
Beirut: Mu’assasat al-A‘lamī li al-Maṭbū‘āt, 1997.
Jihadi and Ijtihadii Islam, and Western Perceptions
Introducer 2: Prof. Amin Saikal
Professor of Political Science, Director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Australian National University
Western perceptions of Islam today are coloured by a bewildering variety of terms and designations which are often more misleading than they are clarifying. This paper examines some of these terms and designations within a historical perspective, and seeks to provide a framework that can help provide some coherence for the analysis of the diverse and disparate phenomena that they attempt to describe.
Contemporary debates and disagreements about the role of Islam within the Muslim world may be traced to two competing visions of Islam, with much variation within each, which emerged in the Muslim community shortly after the death of the Prophet Mohammad.
The first view is characterised by the belief that Islam does not provide a theory of state or a specific blueprint as to what precisely constitutes an Islamic Government and unity of Muslims under a single Islamic leadership. It postulates that the Prophet left a very rich and elaborate legacy, based on a set of fundamental moral and ethical injunctions enshrined in the Qur’anic revelation and hadith literature, which would enable Muslims to apply Islam to their individual and community living according to the changing times and conditions in history. In other words, it advocates the application of Islam in ‘time space’, not ‘frozen in time’. As such, reformists consider it permissible for informed/learned Muslims to engage in creative interpretation and application of Islam, based on independent human reasoning, with dedication to renewal and reform as the best means to build, and live within, virtuous and interlinked Islamic societies. This view may be described as ijtihadi or reformist Islam.
The second view argues that there is no essential difference between religion and politics in Islam and that they are the two sides of the same coin. As such, it largely advocates a literalist understanding and application of Islam within the framework that the religion was established. The proponents of this view postulate that the best way a predominantly Muslim state can fulfil itself is to have an Islamic government. Whilst acknowledging the sanctity of the notion of an Islamic Umma or borderless community, some also recognise the legitimacy of independent political and territorial entities, especially since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, on the condition that they are governed by Islamic bodies and institutions. They urge Muslims to follow the concept of Tawhid (unity of God) and Sovereignty of God, and depict the Qur’an, Sunna (sayings and deeds of Prophet Mohammad), the style of the leadership of the Prophet and the pious and golden original Islamic community that he established, as a clear-cut model for the establishment of an Islamic Government and Kingdom of God on earth, and live in Dar al-Islam under Sharia or Islamic Law. Some of them - generally designated as ‘pan-Islamists’ - go as far as to reject the legitimacy of national borders and to advocate the revival of Umma under a single leadership. Emanating from this view has been what has popularly become known as jihadi or combative Islam.
These two views have historically given rise to four categories of Muslims, with different outlooks and attitudes towards the non- Muslim world in general, and the West in particular. They are: the ijtihadi, jihadi, neo-fundamentalist and local or grass-roots. Let us look each one of them in terms of their ideological disposition and practical behaviour.
The first category is made up of those moderate-reformist Islamists who uphold Islam as a dynamic source of political and social transformation, and a meaningful ideology of opposition to authoritarian regimes at home, but reject any form of violence as a means of achieving such objectives, unless their religion, life and liberty either at individual or societal level are seriously threatened or their lands invaded. Although there are many different types within this category, on the whole the moderates subscribe to what is termed ‘Islamic liberalism’ and ‘Islamic political pluralism’, and adhere to the Islamic principle, as enshrined in the Qur’an, that there is no compulsion in religion. They operate mainly within loose organisations, informal small groups or at individual levels. Some prominent groups and individuals identified with this camp include the Iranian Islamic reformists, led by President Mohammed Khatami; the Indonesian Nahdatul Ulama (Awakening of Ulama) organisation (now partly incorporated into a new political party, called Partai Kebangkit or National Awakening Party), formerly headed by the late Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid; and the now defunct Refah Partisi (Welfare Party) in Turkey, led by Necmettin Erbakan in the 1990s, and its ruling successor, the Justice and Development Party (AK), led by Prime Minister Recept Tayyip Erdogan since 2002.
Many Muslim intellectuals and well-educated Muslims fall into this category. They reject the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States and any act of terrorism perpetrated in the name of Islam as unacceptable, and were pained to learn that Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda were responsible for them. They have dissociated Islam from extremism and are appalled by those who have presumed to act in its name to take innocent lives, whether at home or abroad, and thereby place Muslims everywhere under siege in one form or another. They reject extremists’ impositions on the Muslims over whom they have managed to gain control, whether in Afghanistan or Pakistan or elsewhere. They regarded 9/11 and subsequent acts of terror perpetrated by Muslim extremists as providing a dangerous incentive and pretext that has enabled the US and its allies, and for that matter some other forces, to assume the higher moral ground in order to expand and deepen Western and non-Western encroachments upon the Muslim world, and marginalise defiant political Islam more than ever before. They contend that no matter what their cause, Bin Laden and his followers managed, just as the secular leader Saddam Hussein did by his foolish invasion of Kuwait in 1990, to set back by decades Muslim efforts to achieve domestic reform, independence from foreign interference and a strong voice for Muslims in the international arena. They stress the value of peaceful, evolutionary change and seek to work within existing national and international structures to bring about structural reform. They are open to modernisation, believe in the inevitability of progress, are well disposed to interfaith dialogue, and have no aversion to utilising Western knowledge and achievements to benefit their societies within a globalised world.
At the same time, many reformists are understandably critical of the United States and some of its allies for not making the necessary efforts to develop better understanding of Muslim faith, norms, values and practices, to build solid bridges of understanding for mutually rather than unilaterally beneficial or exploitative relationships. They reserve their harshest criticism for US policy actions that either overlook the plight of the Palestinian people or highlight the behaviour of some extremist Islamic groups when convenient to tarnish the image of Muslims in general. Their attitude towards the US and its Western allies is one of love and dislike. On the one hand, reformists have been keen to benefit from Western education and technology and markets, and to secure access to Western countries as both migrants and visitors. On the other, they have expressed deep concerns about Western policy behaviour towards the Muslim world and arrogant claims of Western superiority over the Muslim domain. In Islamic terms, the moderate Islamists may be described as ijtihadi.
The second category canvasses what may be termed radical Islamists, who are again diverse in their ideological disposition and modus operandi. Radical Islamists share some features with their moderate counterparts, especially in their professed adherence to the fundamentals of Islam. However, they differ from the moderates in their puritanical disposition and preference for what they perceived to be orthodox or traditional political and social operations. They also differ from reformists in their desire to institute Sharia (Islamic Law) as the foundation for operation of the state -a program that is ironically modern in its conception and implementation. They view political and social coercion and the use of violence under certain circumstances as legitimate means to protect and assert their interpretation of religion and religious-cultural identity, and to create the kind of polity they deem Islamic. They are not necessarily against modernisation, but want to ensure that modernity and all its manifestations are adopted in conformity with their understanding of Islamic values and practices.
They are prone to act radically to redress perceived historical and contemporary injustices inflicted upon Muslims by outsiders, but do not necessarily extend this to cover similar injustices committed by Muslims against Muslims or, for that matter, by Muslims against non- Muslims. They contest the legitimacy of outside powers that are not Muslim or not (in their view) truly Islamic, as well as denouncing their own governments for either being under the influence and control of those powers, or failing to respond effectively to the domestic and foreign policy problems facing the Muslim domain. They hold the West, the US in particular, responsible for the political, social, and economic plight and cultural decline of the Muslim global community, and for the damage that European colonisation and post- 1945 American hegemonic influence in the Muslim domain may have inflicted upon Muslims. At the same time, they have often insisted that the true cause of Islam’s subordination to the West lies in the Muslim community’s departure from Islamic law and morality, and that the restoration of true Islam is therefore necessary to overthrow Western global hegemony. They have often functioned more successfully in opposition than in power in national authoritarian settings.
Many groups in the Muslim world are of this nature. They range from some of the conservative (popularly known as hard-line) followers of the leader of the Iranian revolution of 1978-79, Ayatollah Rohullah Khomeini, who have achieved much greater power in Iran than they would have on the basis of popularity alone, to elements of Egypt’s Ikhwan al-Muslimun (Muslim Brotherhood), especially under the leadership of the charismatic Sayyed Qutb, who was killed in prison in 1966, and Sudanese National Islamic Front, led by Hassan Abdullah al- Turabi. Notwithstanding their apocalyptic, extremist activities, many of the AI Qaeda leaders and operatives, and, to some extent, elements of the less radical Palestinian Hamas and Lebanese Hezbullah (both of which are more or less direct products of the Israeli occupation) may also fall into this category, as many of their members consider violent Muslim actions against the US and its allies to be legitimate responses to US behaviour. These elements view the US as their most dangerous enemy, not only for providing unqualified support to Israel as occupier of Palestinian lands, most importantly East Jerusalem, but also for propping up corrupt and dictatorial regimes in many Muslim countries, which they insist is a US tactic intended to keep the Muslim world backward and to ensure US hegemony in world politics.
Radical Islamists consider much of the post-9/11 international crisis, particularly in the Muslim world, to be a deliberate strategy of hard- core realists of the Cold War era, neo-conservatives and born-again Christians, who dominated especially the first Bush Administration, and who wanted to replace the Soviet Union with Islam as the enemy. The views of the radical Islamists are often marked by hostility to Zionist Jews, who were paradoxically allied with the neo-conservative umbrella under Bush Junior. Some among them regard the United States and the civilisation for which it stands as demeaning and repugnant to Islam and the Islamic way of life. In Islamic terms, they are more jihadi (in the combative and assertive meaning of the term) than ijtihadi in their approach to societal reconstruction and foreign policy.
The third category comprises what can be called neo-fundamentalist Islamists, defined as those who adhere to a strict, literal interpretation of Islam, based on a particular school of thought emanating from particular Islamic scholars. What matters to them most is the text rather than the context. Without underestimating their diversity, on the whole they tend to be far more puritanical, sectarian, self- righteous, single-minded, discriminatory, xenophobic and coercive in their approach than the radical Islamists. Their preferred polity is mono-organisational, with a single leader or group exercising absolute power, closed to any form of pluralism, whether domestically grown or foreign inspired. They apply violence as a means not only to bring change but also to govern. In this sense, they are not much different from some Marxist-Leninist totalitarian groups of modern history. While their understanding of religion is often simplistic, they are generally poorly educated but highly socialised in a particular religious setting. They are often popularly described as extremists or ultra-orthodox traditionalists, the latter being a particularly misleading term in light of the huge distances that separate neo-fundamentalist ideologies from classical Islamic thought.
The Taliban militia and Pakistan-based Muslim brotherhood and Deobandi groups, such as the Jamiat-e Ulema-e Islam (the Society of Learned Scholars) of Pakistan and Lashkar-i Taiba, are well known examples of this category. Given the overlap between neo- fundamentalist and radical Islamist views, there have often been organic and organisational links between the two, with the latter using the former for human resources, protective purposes and outreach activities, including armed or terrorist operations. This was precisely the relationship between Al Qaeda and the Taliban, where Al Qaeda provided money and Arab fighters, and in return the Taliban harboured and helped Al Qaeda as a transnational force. This constituted a rare organic collaboration between Arab-led and non-Arab-led forces, their overlapping aspects reinforcing each other and assisting each to realise its objectives.
The fourth category stems from grassroots networks, whose knowledge of Islam is generally basic and at village and madrasa levels. They essentially follow Islam as a faith, but can be apolitical or political, depending largely on whether or not they feel their faith and way of life are threatened by hostile forces. Many of them are potential foot soldiers of Islam, vulnerable to manipulation by radical Islamists and neo-fundamentalists. This vulnerability stems from the fact that these communities have little exposure to in-depth news and analysis, and information outside their local context and region. As a result, they are often ill-equipped to develop independent and well-founded opinions about major political issues and events affecting them. They often rely instead on the selective information that is presented to them by more informed yet politically biased Islamists. This group constitutes the bulk of ordinary Muslims who, if left alone, could well remain preoccupied with their daily lives, especially in poor countries. However, they can be easily galvanised and mobilised by radical Islamists and neo-fundamentalists, whether they live in poor suburbs or the countryside of Egypt or Pakistan. This is particularly the case in instances where local conditions and lifestyles can be seen to have been directly or indirectly impacted by the policies of Western or, for that matter, non-Western powers, through military intervention, political influence, sanctions, as well as through the expansion of cultural or economic power. The plight of Muslims at the hands of “foreigners” has often roused formerly apolitical groups to political action.
The Taliban recruited many of their foot soldiers from amongst such people, many of whom were displaced, orphaned, and impoverished as a direct result of Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. The views of this group about the events of 9/11 and its aftermath have been shaped by what they have been told by their local preachers and radical and neo-fundamentalist Islamist activists, who have both the resources and the motives to present them with such an education. Nevertheless, the views of this category can range from intense dislike of the United States to indifference towards it.
The diverse attitudes towards Islam and Muslims in the West, and among Muslims towards the West, especially the United States, have caused much confusion and misunderstanding between the two sides. While sharpened since the 9/11 tragic events, these attitudes are grounded in a number of historical and contemporary issues that have been important in shaping them. Without a clear understanding of these issues, ranging from the legacy of European colonialist rule in the Muslim domain to US hegemonic interferences to state and societal illiberalism in the Muslim world, the crucial question of how Muslim extremism has come about, especially since the 1970s, will be missed in the debate, and the difficult question of how to improve relations objectively and constructively between the West and the domain of Islam will remain unsolved
The so-called ‘War on Terror’, initiated by Bush but downplayed by Obama, has done nothing to help the situation. If anything, it has served to reinforce the position of violent radical Islamist and neo- fundamentalist groups, who form only a tiny minority in the Muslim world, while drowning out the voices of moderate or ijtihadi factions. It is time for Western and, for that matter, other major powers to cease judging the majority of Muslims by the actions of the few, and to engage in policy actions that could help to empower the ijtihadi Islamists, whose religious stance represents the position of most of the Muslim people, to play a greater role in reforming their societies and promoting better relations with the West. In turn, it is incumbent upon ijtihadi Islamists to make a brave stand in countering their jihadi counterparts through dialogue and better understanding, perhaps along the lines of what was preached by the late Indonesian President Abdurrahman Wahid from the Sunni side and the former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami from the Shia side. Both of these scholars and political figures had argued that Islam is compatible with democracy and the International Declaration of Human Rights, with the exception of capital punishment.
Religion and Violence
Paper Submitted by Dr. Gholamali Khoshroo
Special Advisor of Former President Khatami, Iran
In our interdependent and interconnected world, where global threats are prevailing, security has become everybody’s most crucial concern. There is in effect no country or continent that is free from the danger of violence, terrorism and security challenges. Arms races, political alliances and military expenditure have been unable to bring peace and prosperity to the world. Indeed we are making the world more insecure by expending so much in the security apparatus. Human history has witnessed so many wars because of fear and threat.
Hence we must adopt a new perspective. The constitution of UNESCO stipulates, “Wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”. Relying on the political and economic arrangements of governments would not lead to lasting peace, “the peace must therefore be founded, if it is not to fail, upon the intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind”.
This global trend has brought opportunities that include growth in knowledge and science, access to information technology, access to world market and fostering economic growth as well as challenges such as undermining cultural identities, neglecting sustainable development, widening gap between poor and rich, and mass creation of means for violence. This may range from proliferation of weapon of mass destruction to terror networks and systematic surveillance and secretive intimidation of people. The global political structure fails to address the challenges of extremism and violence, arm race and of hegemonic unilateralism.
Violence at the age of globalisation is a multifaceted phenomenon and has different connotations and applications. We may identify three interrelated aspects and applications of violence in modern time.
- A. Physical violence refers to exertion of physical force so as to injure or abuse. In this sense it is imposing harm and pressure against others privately or publicly. At national and global levels violence prevails, security challenges and political and social conflicts are settled with use of force.
- B. Structural violence results from the socio-economic inequality on the global scale. It refers to institutional imposition and harm that otherwise are both predictable and preventable. Structural violence includes the poverty that has caused suffering with the dramatic increases of inequality and systematic marginalisation of societies, both at global and national levels.
- C. Violence as opposed to freedom, in this sense violence happens by preventing individuals from being able to create power by competing and forming new groups. For Hanna Arendt tyranny is both the least powerful and the most violent form of government. Tyranny forces individuals and diminishes their capability to form power.
- For each of the above-mentioned conceptions there we should search for peaceful alternatives and remedies. To my view, dialogue, justice and freedom are three alternatives for a world free from violence.
Security and peace cannot prevail without meaningful engagement in dialogue, and dialogue will not be successful without a solid commitment to moral and spiritual standards and going beyond selfish and short-sighted interests. Today, political and cultural trends and processes in the Middle East and the world clearly show that the dialogue among cultures and religions is not merely a moral recommendation, but an imperative.
“Dialogue” is tantamount to the use of wisdom and foresight to understand the meaning, discover the realities through language, logic and empathy. During “dialogue”, finding common grounds and shared ideas enjoy the same degree of importance as attention to the existing differences. In the plural world of today, it is through the acceptance of diverse cultural identities that other cultures are recognised. Our belonging, in religious or cultural sense fosters our identity; this identity should be open to others to enrich human life. The human life is intermingled with differences and variations. Nobody can lead a healthy and successful life in this world on his or her own. Everybody’s happiness, in fact, depends on the happiness of other people.
Justice is a universally shared demand and aspiration heard and expressed all over the world. The quest for justice is core to our collective global consciousness. Objections against socio-economic inequality, the increasing inability of various political systems including western democracies in responding adequately to the global frustration, underscore the universal urgency of responding to the global dissatisfaction in a collective manner. This collective response needs a collective wisdom, and thus contributions from various traditions, cultures, and political modalities to arrive at a general definition of and requirement for justice without constraining the diversity of the conditions and the localities of the remedies. There is no monopoly and no one universal prescription fits all.
In addition to economic well-being, people need culture, spirituality and ethics. Economics without ethical boundaries will lead to the destruction of a healthy environment for humans, and instead of increasing satisfaction will lead to a race towards greedy consumerism and the destruction of inter-generational resources.
3. Religion and Democracy
In the age of globalisation, religious solidarity and sentiments fill the space left by the declining of traditional ties and social institutions that could nurture social solidarity. Religions perform a very real and prominent function in the areas of creating meaning and community. Religion has two pivotal aspects: believing and belonging. Believing in Allah, the most merciful, helps bring people closer together.
In recent decades, Islamic revivalism, as a very influential political factor, is playing a greater role in relations between Islam and the West. Such a broad based social movement as a global trend is much sensitive to socio-political developments of the world. For a constructive dialogue between Islam and the West it is not advisable to expect Muslims to be secular in order to be a good party for dialogue. Such an approach is counterproductive and only widens the gap and deepens mistrust. Thus a more practical and appropriate way to deal with Muslim societies is to promote democratic principles of the dignity, and respect moderate trend in the Islamic world.
At the same time, with great disappointment, we are witnessing, that fanatic and Takfiri groups in the Islamic world, claim exclusive access to truth and engage in a very dark-minded and superficial reading of the Holy text. They regard any other group either Muslim or non-Muslim as unbeliever and while promising heaven, turn human life into hell. Clash and conflict against followers of religions or the sectarian violence and killing within religions are horribleconsequences of such mentality.
In Imam Ali’s teaching (the first Imam of Shiite) all people are identifiable in two groupings, either our brother in religion or like us in creation. The reading of the text should be in conjunction with the compassion and mercy of God in an enlightening manner. Divine prophets as well as great philosophers and moral thinkers have endeavoured throughout human history to eradicate selfishness, aggression and tyranny. Despite those efforts, human thirsts for power and short-sighted benefits have caused destruction and war in human history.
We should go beyond fundamentalism-secularism dichotomy and promote religious democracy in the Islamic world. Policies based on containment of Islamic revivalism and approaches to use radical groups to achieve political ends only inflame violence and extremism. This trend endangers security and stability and weakens moral foundation of society. Divine prophets as well as great philosophers and moral thinkers have endeavoured throughout human history to eradicate selfishness, aggression and tyranny. Despite those efforts, human thirst for power and short-sighted benefits has caused destruction and war in human societies.
4. World against Violence and Extremism
Mindful of this treacherous trend, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus a resolution based on proposals offered by the Iranian President Rouhani who called for a World against Violence and Extremism (WAVE). This resolution condemns all measures that originate from the culture of tyranny, dictatorship and extremism such as use or threat of force against territorial integrity and political independence of nations; and further condemns any agitation to ethnic, racial and religious hatred.
In conclusion, the path to a world free from violence passes through dialogue, ethics, justice, development and freedom. All nations should enjoy equal opportunities for economic and social development. It is necessary for a peaceful international community that everyone benefits from economic freedom and the right to determine their political destiny. Indeed, any type of economic sanction or military threat will instead of promoting peace and security, merely create humanitarian crisis and aggravate conflict and divergence.
Therefore, to remove suspicion and mistrust and promote mutual respect and constructive dialogue on equal basis are necessary for the establishment of peace and tranquillity. Spiritual thinkers and religious figures have a sacred duty to invite humankind to dialogue, friendship and peace, as well as justice and freedom and mutual assistance.
Dr. Habash: I would like to add to Dr. Mukti’s reference that Qur’an mentions Jihad. We find 17 levels of how to treat others. It’s the same as in the Old Testament and New Testament, and the same in any kind of wisdom. In the Qur’an, you have “You have to forgive unbelievers, you have to love them”, as in the New Testament when Jesus said to love your enemy. The second level is “forgive them, be good with them, don’t attack unbelievers. You have your religion and I have my religion”. After that you have “If someone attacks you, you can attack him”. After that you have the permission to defend yourself against your enemy. After that you have to attack unbelievers if they attack you. After that you have “We have to fight unbelievers completely”. What is the meaning in difference of these from the first to the last level?
We can find in most holy texts that there are verses of war, verses exhorting the faithful to attack aggressors. There is a lot in the Old Testament, God asks Moses to attack and burn such and such cities. Even in the New Testament, “I didn’t come to give peace, I came to give sword”. We have to understand what the main target of this verse is. We have two ways of explaining this verse. The crusade interpretation, when they decided to attack all of the Islamic world, because of the Jihad mentality and other interpretations. But let me be frank. All Islamic leaders believe these verses of Jihad next apply, just during war and just when you find yourself in a danger. If you have a lot around who want to kill you, you have the right to defend yourself.
Prime Minister van Agt: You made that sharp distinction between the regimes, the way of life, the way how to behave in times of peace as opposed to times of war. Question: even in times of war, we have a set of so-called Red Cross Conventions, treaties, mostly called International Humanitarian Law. Simply said, this law is how to do war, how to behave in wartime, and how to behave when you occupy another country. Not everything is allowed during war, not even when the other one does not fully behave, as he should.
Dr. Habash: I’m against all wars. I don’t even believe in a just war. All wars are some kind of injustice. The law of war and the method of war in Islam are the same as the method of war in international law. Beheading, slitting throats, burning villages do not belong to any religion. Any situation like this has to be considered illegal, according to all Islamic laws. When Mohammed sent soldiers to Medina, he said “Do not kill women, do not kill children, do not kill clerics. Just you have the right to attack fighters who attack you”.
Dr. Al Salem: Everyone knows that the Christianity and Islam have holy wars, and the Christians were much more bloody than Muslim in history. But since they separated the church from the government, they started changing, and used religion as a way of war or to fight by the name of Jesus. We Muslims have a very clear order in Qur’an to fight all non-Muslims. This is the last of the 17 levels in the Qur’an. Islam has three phases: in Medina, no fighting, in Mecca fight to defend yourself, but after that he ordered to fight with everyone. So, it is very clear to any Muslim that the last order erases all the earlier orders. We have to talk honestly, if we want to solve the problem. It is not enough to cover our problem, which everyone knows about.
Prof. Saikal: I totally disagree with Dr. Al Salem. Islam, like any theology, is open to a wide range of interpretations, depending on what perspective you are taught. Don’t forget the fact that the Qur’an address the mentality of the people in the 7th century. The conditions have changed. The text is important, but we have to look at the text and apply it in the context of the changing time and conditions. That is how Islam has survived into the present day as a very dynamic religion. This approach to adopt the very narrow interpretation and application of Islam has been one of the important sources of tensions and conflicts not only between elements in the Muslim world and the West and the rest, but also between the Muslims themselves. That is something we have to really get away from.
President Obasanjo: Some of us cannot be just onlookers, because we are affected. I come from a country almost half Christians and half Muslim. And it is very important that they sort this out among themselves, because it affects countries like mine and many other countries, where there are a substantial number of Christians in a majority Muslim community, and also a substantial number of Muslims in a majority Christian community. It is absolutely important to be able to come and talk to both sides. Once you say that what the Qur’an says is “you must fight the unbeliever”, I, as a Christian, am a non-believer as far as the Muslims are concerned. And I said yesterday there are two blood brothers. One is a Christian and the other is a Muslim. My understanding is that explanation of the Muslim brother is that brothers are based on religion, not on blood, and that my Muslim brother can wage Jihad on me. So, this will have to be sorted out, because it will continue to be an issue, particularly in many countries in Africa.
Dr. Mettanando: I would like to raise a question to Dr. Mukti and Professor Saikal to consider the relationship between minority and majority. I would like to raise a point that in Tibet, when monks and nuns were fighting for justice against China, they chose self- immolation. They harmed themselves. This was when a minority Buddhists were fighting against the overwhelming power of the majority, the power of China. But on the other hand, when Buddhists were majority in Burma, they condemned and became aggressive and even killed the Muslims. Why? Is it different values that different religions embrace?
Dr. Koshroo: In this age of globalisation, religion has returned to society to give social solidarity, and it is performing a function for creating a meaning for community. These two senses of believing and belonging, and believing in God will bring people together. But belonging could create a problem. This is what we are facing. There is a problem between the West and Islam, and a constructive interaction between the Islam and West is not asking the Muslim society to be secular. This would be counter-productive, but a more practical and appropriate way is to promote democratic principles in the Islamic world.
Regarding the Jihadi view, we are disappointed that the fanatic groups who treat others as unbelievers. They close the door to the reformists and engage in very dark-minded and superficial reading of the Holy Text with no regard to the conditions and to time. This is not only with interpretation of the text. They also regard other Muslims and non-Muslims as non-believers, and while promising heaven, turn human life to hell. Sectarian violence and killings of others are horrible consequences of such mentality. And this mentality is prevailing in our region. Many, many people are killing because of the sects or religion. That is so dangerous.
The reading of the text should be with compassion and mercy of the God in an enlightened manner. In other words, religion has been misused for political purposes, yet religion can play a constructive role for peace and dialogue both between religions and between the branches of the same religion. This dialogue to promote friendship and mutual respect is common in our religion. The way out of extremism and violence is not the rejection of the religion itself, but the public commitment to the democratic principles.
Rabbi Dr. Rosen: It’s been very instructive this morning to listen to this debate about what we mean by Jihad and the whole concept, which to me as the only Jew here, heavily outnumbered, reminds me of a very important principle of self-analysis, struggle to be honest with oneself, and the struggle to find truth. All religions have different approaches. Within Christianity, there is the notion of mission. Mission is the idea that I have to take my message and I have to bring it to another religion, another group of people. But balancing the idea of mission is the idea of witness, that I act in a caring, humane, God- like way, and that is the way to influence the people.
So, you have these different models. You always had these different models, just as you always had a mystical approach and a rational approach. And you also had, of course, the political approach, that politics plays a role. In listening to the different points of view, the one thing that strikes me is that the only way to genuinely pursue Jihad in the sense of self-analysis is to try to put oneself in the other person’s boots, in the other person’s shoes.
In fact, yesterday, the Honourable Niphon said “Where is the concept of love in all of these?” We have an idea in the Bible of “Love your neighbour as yourself”. And this was added to by the New Testament as “Love your enemy”. To command to love is impossible. You can’t command somebody to love. You can encourage them to love. And I hope that they will. And, in fact, the original Hebrew doesn’t say “Love your neighbours as yourself”. It said “Show love to your neighbour, because he or she is as yourself”. We are all children of one source. What I hear in the debate is that for historical reasons, there is an absence of genuine self-analysis within too many parts of the world in which we live, but including the Islamic world, an inability to see another point of view.
For example, I will be controversial here and say inasmuch as I personally am deeply pained by the conflict in the Middle East, and in the conflict between the Israeli and Palestinians. Deeply pained, I am on the side of the left, I’m on the side of concession and peace. But the fact is no story is black and white. No story is only one side. The Middle East is not just the product of the Holocaust. The Middle East is a product of “Who was there before even Islam? What were the colours there? And what were the ramifications that were there?” And therefore, simply to say “I must protect myself against the invader?” Perhaps the invader was not the first invader.
We seem fated to fight and fated to kill each other. But we have to battle against this tendency to see things in black and white. And a way to do this is by showing love, by showing concern. I can honestly say that there is not one person that I’ve met in this room today and have spoken to, to whom I do not feel love towards. Love, because I genuinely feel that they are struggling to find the right way, and to find a solution. If we want to achieve this, and the way to do it is, as Metropolitan Niphon said through love, through showing love. And in doing that it means we have to look at another narrative and recognise that there are other narratives. And we have to find a way of seeing if we can come as close as possible to come to each other.
Prime Minister Chrétien: I just want to raise an issue. In listening to the debate, nobody talked about the need to separate religion from politics, the division of society. I come from a society where religion was dominating the politics 100 years ago. Now, the separation of the churches and the state is absolute in my country. And I listen to you and have the impression that the religion is the society. The influence of the religion on the political process is dominant. In my view, that leads to abuse. Because in my view the spirituality of an individual is very personal. It is your own conviction vis-à-vis the creator. That is important. But to translate that belief into the political arena leads to a lot of conflict and I don’t hear this morning this need of separation of the church and the state. And when you have that strong division on any land, it is very difficult. That is the problem of the President of Nigeria, where the problem comes from the politics dominated by religions. Why would any faith not always be driving or aiming at the principle that the running of a state is completely separated from the faith?
Prof. Chang: I think it is the fundamental point in our effort to find world ethics independent of religious beliefs. But I think our discussion this morning seems to focus on the sliver of history, or we are taking a snapshot of what the world today is, and then we give different interpretations? It may be useful to extend it a little bit to look at history to see how the present state of the world has come about. And in that context it may be useful to look at some of the issues of Jihad, Mujahideen, etc. and how they are interpreted and how they are used, misused or abused.
Because we are in Vienna, I’d take 1530, when the Ottoman troops left Vienna after being defeated. Even at that time, the Ottoman sultans did not use the word Jihad, but used the system of Gadjis. The Gadjis were those who fought to extend those frontiers of Islam. In your definition, I don’t think the purpose was to really extend the frontiers of Islam at that time. But Gadjis were useful tools for the sultans. Xinjiang is very much in the news. Xinjiang became islamised, because a group of people led a Jihad in the 11th century. The people of today’s Uzbekistan and Turkistan attacked the East. The same kind of people believed in Buddhism, Menschenism and Christianity. But the Jihad from the 11th to the 15th century in Xinjiang made the area a majority Muslim. So we can see that it is history as much as religious belief that determines how countries are run.
President Obasanjo: I believe that what the religions do is not only to prescribe how to live among your human beings, whatever maybe their affiliation politically, religiously, socially, but they give sanction as a means of making you obey what that religion prescribes. I think for Christianity, for Islam and for Judaism, there is life after death and there will be judgement, depending on how you have lived your life here. I believe for other religions like Hinduism, Shintoism, depending on how you lived this life, you come back either higher up or lower down, again giving you or sanctioning you to make sure that what the religion has prescribed, you keep to it. And if you don’t keep to it, there is punishment for not keeping it. That is all right with me, and I believe it should be all right with almost all of us.
But when you come up and say that your religion sees me as a non- believer, and then you should fight me because of the last instruction, obey the last order of fighting whoever the non-believer to the end. Now, it gives me some concern within the locality which I come from, within the country I come from, within the region I come from. And indeed it gives me concern globally. And that is the issue. I believe whether it is a liberal interpretation or the coming together and making the situation that prevailed when the Prophet Mohammed prescribed these things, the situation has changed. I am sure, without causing any offense, that if Prophet Mohammed were in the world today, his prescriptions would have been somewhat different.
As I say to my Christian brothers, that if Christ were alive today, he would not have gone to Jerusalem on a donkey. He probably would have taken a helicopter. That is the change we have to be mindful of. My worry is that life would be impossible in most of our countries in Africa, particularly in West Africa, if the injunction, if the Qur’anic passage is that non-believers must have Jihad waged on them. Then, there will never be peace. And don’t let us deceive ourselves that people like me, we have no role to play to try to bring two sides to seriously talk. I think you can help us.
Dr. Al Salem: First, the moderate understanding of the Qur’an and Sunna is actually moving the religious leaders from the Middle Ages to our age, and they will understand the Qur’an and Sunna in a modern way. If there is a new understanding, why do we need religious leaders? There is new life, everything is new, and the economists or engineers understand better than the religious leaders. The problem of misunderstanding is that we do not have a reference like a church and a priest whom everyone can follow. In Islam, everyone can become a religious leader. That is our problem. We have 1400 years of history, and it changes. If they start the understanding on the context, everyone makes the religion according to what he wants. Each army fights according to their understanding of the context. Then, there is no rule. So, we have to return back to the text.
Prof. Saikal: Are you trying to say that everyone should follow the text as it was written in the 7th century, according to the conditions of the 7th century? Or we should take the context into consideration, in terms of applying Islam according to the changing time and condition. The Prophet left the application of Islam to the followers of Islam according to the changing time and condition, not frozen time.
5. Rediscovery of
Ethics and its Role
Session chaired by H.E. George Vassilliou
Former President of Cyprus
While the idea of a global ethic common to major religions was a radical idea in 1987, when the InterAction Council began to promote it, the concept is more commonly accepted today. The difficulty is putting it to practical use in political and economic decision-making.
The first introducer, Prof. Kirk Hanson, described the complex difficulty of how the shared ethic ought to guide political and economic decision-making. In business the struggle between profit and ethics never ended. Major problems hindering corporations to apply an ethical standard included competitive disadvantage, pressure from financial markets, decisions favouring broader human welfare tending to lack legal authority. In government, the struggle between three concerns - humanitarian, national and the self-interests of leaders - would always exist. Prof. Hanson was apprehensive that there could ever be a definitive answer to how to apply a global ethic in politics and economics.
Dr. Mano Mettanando, introduced a concept of a commonwealth of morality through describing Marigalasutta, the ancient concept of the good omen practiced by Theravada (Southern) Buddhists. Thais actively engaged in social development through this and created a perception of society as being dynamic. He proposed to the Thai government to incorporate this concept into the citizen ID card (given to everyone over 7 years old). It could be done through crediting electronically voluntary ethical activities of children and youths as rewards for their higher education and professional trainings.
H.E. Sheikh A. Al-Quraishi presented his view on financial ethics. The recent global financial crisis resulted from the complete collapse of ethical behaviour across the financial industry and the lack of any fiduciary responsibility to the ultimate client. Greed taught us to treat others as objects to be exploited rather than as humanity, whose goals must be cherished. Great religions could help the financial sector. Ethics were essential and basic ethical principles should be taught in homes and schools, since rules and regulations were no substitute for personal integrity. He stressed that upholding moral values was the only solution for societies with growing degradation and cultural anarchy.
Dr. Hamzah Al Salem, proposed the liberation of Islamic ethics and incorporating them in decision-making process by the Islamic government leaders. He argued that Islamic ethics were under specific restrictions and confinements and did not harmonise with general human ethics in discarding violence and bloodshed. Freeing the Islamic ethics from these restrictions could be done by removing what jurists had introduced and incorporated into the religion over the centuries. This would remove the religious structure that was motivating extremists. He argued that the Wahhabi Call was best suited to correct the ongoing deficiencies in the Muslim world.
In the ensuing discussion, the obvious discrepancy between the desire to be ethical and its practice was brought up by many. Political leaders argued that ethics alone were not sufficient and definitely needed help from rules and regulations, as human beings would always remain human beings with constant temptations. Politicians were always under pressure. Bribery cases, in which the tax deductible bribing business party was not punished, were discussed at length. Some governments would never agree to regulate the financial industry, for example, for fear of harming their leading economic sector. They pondered whether and how pressure could be applied so that leaders could behave more ethically. A role model - honest but still successful - was essential, for which education was crucial. Also a sense of ethics was indispensable across the board - in the media, legislative bodies and sciences - so that corporations and politicians would come under public scrutiny. The importance of transparency was also stressed.
To the generally pessimistic views, an optimism was voiced that some of the major improvements in the past had been initiated by single individuals or small institutions that brought their commitment to the top of the agenda, which step by step filtered down to influence the political agenda. This was consciousness building. It was thus essential to keep on raising the group’s voices on ethical issues.
From a Global Ethic to Ethical Decision-Making
in Government and Business
Introducer 1: Professor Kirk Hanson
Executive Director, Markkula Center for Applied Ethics,
Santa Clara University, Calif., U.S.A.
This paper, one of two to introduce the session focusing on ethical decision-making, draws upon my background as a Roman Catholic professor of business and organizational ethics. In the following pages, I describe the difficulty of taking even a commonly accepted global ethic and putting it to practical use in political and economic decision-making.
The InterAction Council’s leadership in promoting a global ethic has been very influential. Not only in the Council’s deliberations, but also in the deliberations of the United Nations and many other organizations, there is an understanding that there is no more important agenda than finding and endorsing the common moral agenda of all religions and, indeed, of all humanity. The notion that there is a common moral agenda may have been a radical idea in 1987 when the Council began to promote it, but the idea has gained widespread acceptance and endorsement.
In no way does this suggest this first task is easy. Each religion and each national culture has its own traditional formulation of its moral code. And some religions, including my own Roman Catholicism, have at times made unfortunate distinctions between the rights and worth of different classes of persons, be they slaves or adherents of other religions. Fortunately, Roman Catholicism, and Christianity more broadly, has taken a significant turn in the last century toward a universal ethic and ethical prescriptions and religious freedoms for ALL persons.
Today, there are many exemplary projects by which theologians of different religious traditions are in dialogue with one another to understand the differences and commonalities in their theological and ethical beliefs. In this environment, the Council’s document “Declaration of Human Responsibilities” drafted and championed by the Council’s advisor Hans Küng, remains a symbol of what can be accomplished by people of good will. This meeting, convening religious leaders of various traditions, demonstrates the power of this vision.
General Problems of Moving from Ethical Principles to Ethical Decisions
Moving from a shared global ethic to a shared understanding of how that ethic ought to guide political and economic decision-making is more complex. Ethical choices in political and economic situations depend on context, on available resources, and on the maturity of political or economic structures in which they are made. A simple ethical code for political or economic decision-making and action is difficult if not impossible to achieve.
The most challenging problem is the context. Moral choice depends on how “the good” may be achieved in this particular complex situation. Responding, for example, to human rights violations by one country on its own citizens, will depend on what type of intervention will actually make things better. In one circumstance, the “ethical” intervention may be armed intervention by a coalition of countries, in another the imposition of sanctions, and in another no more than an expression of opprobrium. Similarly, the response by a business to an economic downturn may be layoffs in one case, retraining of workers in another, and paid furloughs in yet another. In some cases the downturn may be short-term; in others there may be no hope of reemploying the workers in the particular industry or firm.
The second challenging problem is the capability and resources of the actor. Military intervention on the other side of the world, or in multiple simultaneous conflicts, may be impossible. A business may find it does not have the financial capacity to retain and retrain all its workers in a downturn.
The third challenge is the stage of development itself. A society which is wealthy enough to provide financial support and retraining for its workers presumably has a greater moral obligation to do so than a society that is at a much less developed stage in its history. Some companies have argued that the same principle applies to them - that good ethical decision-making and greater attention to all its stakeholders is something they are obliged to do only when the firm is mature and stable enough to afford it. Responding to this challenge requires developing moral norms and standards that bind any government and any business no matter what their stage of development, but some other standards that indeed will bind only at a more mature stage of development.
Roman Catholic Attempts to Address Practical Ethical Decision- Making
In Roman Catholicism, Popes and national bodies of bishops and other church leaders have sought to describe the proper application of the moral tradition to policy, politics and economics in a series of Papal Social Encyclicals and national pastoral statements. The 1891 Encyclical Rerum Novarum by Pope Leo XIII is regarded as the first of these modern social encyclicals. The 2009 Encyclical Caritas in Veritate by Pope Benedict XVI is the most recent. Pope Francis I on November 24, 2013, issued “Evangelii Gaudium,” an Apostolic Exhortation addressing many political, policy, and economic questions. In the Roman Catholic moral tradition, an exhortation does not claim the same level of authority as embodied in encyclicals. In the United States, the national Catholic bishops’ organization issues two notable pastoral letters in the 1980s addressing topics of concern to this meeting - one on nuclear proliferation and peace, and the other on economic justice. However, in the shifting debate over centralization and decentralization in the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican suppressed further such statements by the US and other national bishops’ conferences.
The series of Papal Social Encyclicals have established several key themes, among them: the life and dignity of every human person; the importance of family, community and participation by all; human rights and responsibilities; a special obligation to the poor and vulnerable; the dignity of work and the rights of workers; solidarity with all peoples in a global world; and care and respect for the physical environment. An underlying principle in these documents is called “subsidiarity,” and argues that decisions and implementation of decisions ought to take place at the most local effective level possible.
In the most recent social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI noted, among many other themes, that the market could not exist solely “for itself” and that the market must be made to serve all humanity. Expressing special concern for the wide gap between the rich and poor, Benedict urged business leaders to make decisions that serve all “stakeholders” affected by their work by adopting a principle of “gift” by which economic structures exist to serve all of humanity. In his 2013 exhortation, Pope Francis I developed further the need to incorporate the interests of the poor into decision making, lamenting “an economy of exclusion and a “new idolatry of money.”
Some Specific Problems of Applying Ethical Principles in Economic Decisions
As a business ethicist, I have spent my own lifetime addressing the task of putting ethical principles to work in decisions made in business. Many have written about the inherent tension between the capitalist logic and pre-eminence given to the profit maximization and ethical values. This tension is real and expresses itself vividly today despite noble attempts to reconcile the two.
The most notable attempt to reconcile ethics and capitalism have been innumerable “global codes” adopted by NGOs and businesses which address specific commercial behaviors. Among these are supply chain standards for the treatment of employees and the environment, global environmental standards regarding water use and pollution, commerce in “conflict minerals,” and commitments to fight corruption. The hope has been that these global codes and other similar standards would solve three fundamental problems faced by global businesses.
The first is competitive disadvantage. Only by cooperative and widespread adoption of ethical and enlightened business practices will businesses feel they can act responsibly and not put themselves at a competitive disadvantage. The reality is that no “voluntary” global code will ever completely solve this problem. There will always be a business ready to ignore the code’s standards in order to save money; there will always be a country where legal standards are more lax and some companies can operate more cheaply.
The second problem is intense pressure from financial markets, which have increasingly demanded of businesses uninterrupted profitability, even on a quarterly basis. Many business leaders, believing good ethical decision-making usually serves long term profitability, feel constrained to avoid decisions that serve humanity and are more “ethical” in order to keep short-term performance at high levels. This, of course, is bad both for the stakeholders whose interests are ignored, and for the economy itself.
A third problem is the lack of legal authority in some countries for professional managers to make decisions that favor the broader human welfare. Corporate charters, in the United States and many other countries, specifically oblige boards of directors and managers to serve the interests of the equity owners, and no one else. While there is some room for business judgments or ethical decisions, they must be argued as being clearly related to the long-term interests of the shareholders.
The fourth problem cited by many in business is that there simply is no global ethic or global ethical consensus, and that companies face conflicting ethical expectations from different national cultures. Some business people abdicate all responsibility at this point and say they will meet only the legal expectations in each jurisdiction in which they operate. Indeed, such a “compliance philosophy” has become the dominant working practice of many, if not most, global corporations.
How Progress Can Be Made Toward Global Ethical Decision- Making
Earlier in this essay, I took note of the development of dozens and even hundreds of voluntary codes of commercial conduct. These codes “level the playing field” and give managers some legitimacy to argue that compliance with such voluntary codes is a part of protecting and advancing the long-term interests of the shareholders.
No one force will translate the growing consensus around a global ethic into global ethical decision-making, neither in politics, nor in economic affairs. But these voluntary codes and several other specific developments will contribute to the translation.
There is a concurrent global movement to rationalize laws and regulations in selected areas to implement global norms regarding human rights, environmental pollution, corruption, and even consumer rights. These campaigns are being encouraged by the United Nations, by the OECD, and regional economic associations. Among the most significant of these voluntary codes efforts is the United Nations Global Compact, now over ten years old, which has championed 10 principles of corporate behavior and has attracted thousands of companies and associations as signatories. In some specific areas of behavior, this movement has progressed quite far, for example by securing the adoption of anti-corruption statutes in most industrialized countries. As might be expected, the translation of laws into enforced standards is taking longer and is less consistent.
Recognizing that even legal compliance by businesses to existing laws and regulations would result in better behavior and less damage to human welfare, a significant movement for “corporate compliance” has developed in the United States and other countries (this is sometimes referred to as a “corporate ethics movement,” but that name is misleading). Best practices for corporate compliance - adoption of company codes of conduct, educational efforts, investigative and disciplinary procedures - are widely discussed and implemented by most large corporations. Nonetheless, despite such compliance efforts, some argue that corporate “wrongdoing” has become more common in recent years.
In the United States and elsewhere, legal constraints on the ability of boards and professional mangers has provoked a new movement to establish alternative governance laws, authorizing “B Corporations” organized and authorized specifically for social benefit. Almost half of the 50 United States have adopted B Corporation legislation but the number and size of businesses organized under these laws remain very small.
Finally, religious organizations have increased their efforts to address the practical world of political and economic decision-making. In my Roman Catholic tradition, there is a growing awareness both that the Church must address practical decision making but also that it must enlist laypersons both from the Roman Catholic tradition and from other traditions in that work. Few church leaders have experience in political and economic decision-making and therefore the expertise to speak authoritatively on such matters. In the wake of Pope Benedict’s many comments about economic decision-making in Caritas in Veritate, the Vatican and other Roman Catholic bodies sponsored meetings of practitioners to expand upon Benedict’s vision of responsible business. One of those efforts produced a teaching titled “Vocation of the Business Leader,” published by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. This document advances the dialogue significantly on how to translate a global ethic into ethical economic decision-making.
The task outlined in this essay has two dimensions. First, one must ask now to apply even a common understanding of global ethics to the complex worlds of politics and commerce - reaching decisions that are genuinely based on that common ethic. Second, one must find ways of implementing a commitment to make ethical decisions in large, bureaucratic, and at times resistant organizations. Both tasks are formidable; both tasks are unending. The political/economic context is constantly changing, requiring discernment and debate over how a global ethic applies today in this instance, and more discernment how it will apply tomorrow in a different context. The nature of our organizations constantly changes also, requiring continual rethinking about how to use the structures and incentives in those organizations to motivate consistent ethical choices.
These realities suggest that there will never be a definitive and lasting answer to how to apply a global ethic in the world of politics and economics. There will be the need for continuing discernment by many different types and levels of organizations - and an openness on the part of political and business leaders to this continuing process.
This essay has focused on ethical decision-making in economic organizations. A parallel process of ongoing discernment is occurring in organizations dedicated to political and policy formulation. There is no single principle that will forever determine when humanitarian intervention should be undertaken, for example. Responsible decision- making which respects the rights of all affected, and embraces the responsibilities each party bears, will take continuing dialogue and discernment to respond to the specific details of the individual case and the evolving context. As in business where the struggle between profit and ethics is never-ending, so also in government the struggle between three concerns - humanitarian concern, national interest, and the self-interest of the leaders - will always be in tension.
Society as a Commonwealth of Individual Morality
- Marigalasutta Sutra:
A Systematic Interpretation of Buddhism
Introducer 2: Dr. Mano Mettanando Laohavanich
Lecturer, Chulabhorn International College of Medicine,
Member of the Thai Senate Sub-Committee on Religion and Ethics
Although Buddhism has numerous teachings on the cultivation of inner peace and self-development, the Buddha never mentioned about ideal system of administration or an utopian concept. The Buddha himself renounced his princely life in spiritual quest. And none of the traditional interpretations of the Millennium, Buddhism has much interest in social and global issues. Practicing Theravada Buddhists tend to be uninterested in social problems and non-religious conflict.
However, I believe one of the earliest Buddhist sutras called the Marigalasutta, or the aphorism on the Good Omens, could be generally applied as another way of interpreting Buddhism. I also believe that it could be directly related to building up a peaceful and just society. Traditionally, the sutra has been popular among Buddhists as a part of the Paritta chanting, which is recited by monks and nuns at most auspicious celebrations and festivities.
The sutra is a mythological dialogue between the Buddha and a deity who came to inquire about the nature of Good Omens, which had been an issue of debates in heaven and earth for an immeasurable length of time. The Buddha is said to have expounded the 38 Good Omens that offer a holistic approach that helps us understand Buddhist social ethics, which are the foundation of civil society.
The term “Marigala” is a Sanskrit word and shared with Pāli. It directly refers to a belief in traditional society that before an episode of a significant event, there is a sign that foretells the incidence. This belief is common even in our modern life in the Buddhist world. Each tradition has its own way of interpreting “Marigala”. For example, in some society emphasis is on the colour of the dress a person is wearing, or the character of the body parts, or location and appearance of a house which influences the future of the owner.
There are 12 verses in the Marigalasutta, beginning with “Do not associate with a fool” “associate with the wise” and “worship those who are worthy” Each verse, except for the last, ends with a phrase, “This is the highest Good Omen”. The Marigalasutta is probably the only systematic interpretation of Buddhism. It shows the coherence of Buddhist precepts and practices for spiritual development. It shows that the Buddha lived his life according to this sutra, and practiced what he preached.
※1 Slightly, adapted from the English translation of Sutta-Nipata by Fausboll, pp. 43-44.
The twelve verses of the Marigalasutta offer a holistic approach to Buddhism. The Marigalas or Good Omens are not arbitrarily arranged; they are systematically related to one another. Beginning with the most external and physical, it gradually introduces us to various ethical principles and guidelines for living life as a good person, up to the most advanced quality of mind (the mind which is free from sorrow, free from defilements, and secure). The concept of Marigala is directly related to prosperity in the future. One interpretation is that the aphorism is an ethicised version of the Indian superstition which evolved when the early community of monks and nuns were actively engaged in the local culture.
The sutra also shows the practical relationship between one Buddhist principle to the other, which allows one to see an entire process of spiritual development. Also, each Marigala, once practiced can lead to the higher ones. Marigala also connects social ethics, such as responsibility to parents, children, spouses, friends and relatives. Hence, the connectedness of each member of the society is also seen.
Since Marigalas or good omens are signs related to the future, they create a perception of society as being dynamic. Its progress or failure depends upon the common good for every member of the society. In other words, a society is the Commonwealth of Morality of individuals. The virtue that one has accomplished maintains and mobilises society towards a good direction. Through the lens of this sutra, vice in society is a bad omen. It will corrupt the society, and cause a spiral of decay. It is the responsibility of every member of the society to take action and reverse the bad omen.
The interpretation is also based on the model of Dependent Origination (Paticcasamuppāda).※2 Our lives are conditioned by others and our success or failures come from conditions associated with our moral actions. Once one marigala is performed it also conditions another marigala to come into existence. And when all marigalas are practiced, happiness and success in life are assured. Therefore, the aphorism is a systematic teaching of social ethics in Buddhism, and provides a social dimension, in which happiness and success in life depend upon an individual’s morality. The collective good of individual members in society assures the common happiness and success of everyone.※3
※2 Vin.I.1; SN. II, 1; Vbh.135; Vism.517; Comp.188. The books are canonical literature of Theravada Buddhists published by the Pali Text Society. See also PA Payutto’s Dictionary pp. 301-305.
※3 Mettanando Bhikkhu, Dhamma-Osot, pp.75-81
The Buddha through the lens of the Marigalasutta: An agent for world transformation
Through the lens of the Marigalasutta, the Buddha can be seen as an ideal person. He perfected all the Marigalas in his life, and he was indeed the First Good Omen of the World. In a Buddhist legend, the Buddha was formerly a Bodhisattva who had accumulated an enormous amount of merit in his past lives, which were enough to enable him to win Supreme Enlightenment in the fifth marigala in the aphorism.
The Buddha’s moral decision to renounce his princely life was a blessing, which allowed him to fulfil his spiritual quest. The life story of the Buddha reveals to us all 38 good omens practiced by the Buddha on different occasions. Each moral decision made by him was supportive of other blessings. Together they fostered changes in society.
Buddhist community was founded and committed to propagating the teachings of the Buddha to encourage spiritual civilisation in humankind. Prince Siddhattha’s renunciation in his pursuit of Enlightenment is seen as another blessing, although some may criticise him for not being a good husband or father. Yet the Buddha never completely abandoned his responsibilities as a husband and father. He returned to his family after he had accomplished his objective. In this sense, he fulfilled all the blessings as he revealed them in the aphorism and elsewhere in the Pali canon. Judged by the teaching of the Marigalasutta, the Buddha practiced what he taught and did not behave otherwise. He was a sincere spiritual teacher and his life was the embodiment of his teachings.
The Marigalasutta and Development of Democracy
Although nowhere in the Buddhist cannon did the Buddha give a definition of a society or what an ideal society looked like, it is clear that when the members of the society are practicing the Marigalas, they are actively engaged in social development. The teachings of the Buddha are not merely for the sake of attaining Nirvana. They are also conducive to the collective good of everyone in the world, as society improves by its members being devoted to decreasing suffering.
Moreover, the 38 Marigalas in the sutra are not gender specific or limited to particular social status. They can be applied collectively in every part of the society. Marigalas for lay people are also good for the ordained; Marigalas for men are also good for women, and vice versa.
Through the lens of the Marigalasutta, a society is not merely a gathering of separated and isolated individuals; people are all inter- connected with one another and with the environment. A civil society is a society which is therefore respectful of law and order, where its members are good friends to one another, and are actively engaged in various kinds of activities, academic, arts and science, literature, philosophy, religion, etc. They are also responsible for one another, the environment and social welfare.
For Buddhists, the sutra on the good omens provides a holistic and systematic interpretation of Buddhism, under which a spiritual life cannot be lived alone, but depends upon one another. The aphorism also supports inter-religious dialogue which is not seen as optional for Buddhist spiritual development, but essential to the true practice of Buddhism, i.e. by knowing other faiths you know more of your own. I believe time has come for the Buddhist world to re-discover this ancient teaching.
According to the message of Marigalasutta, religious leaders should be working together to offer the strongest message in support of human dignity. It is no longer any use arguing which faith or religious institution is the best. We need to recognise that the strongest ones are in the best position to do the most good for the humanity. And all the faiths and religious institutions should recognise that by assuming their respective roles, they can play their part in the joint objective of working for the peaceful and just world.
Suggested Practical Guidelines for Strategic Plans
With the blessing of the Internet and computer technology, it is plausible to apply the technology for social mobilisation and human resource development. Based on the works of Abraham Maslow who is the authority in psychology of inspiration, the Marigalasutta could be applied together with the framework of the hierarchy of needs as described by Maslow.
In Thailand where the citizen ID card is linked to the computer networks of the government, it can relate to a national scoring system for achievement of each registered citizen. The smart card is distributed freely to every citizen of Thailand from the age of seven. The network already has profiles of all citizens of Thailand. However, the database is accessible by government officers, and not the citizen; the law also protects the rights of each citizen.
Additional profile for social credit can be created online and open to public. Registered persons can open their own profile for credit which weigh their social contribution related to projects of public good, based on the philosophy of Marigalasutta in Buddhism, every act of goodness and society is the Commonwealth of Morality. According to this principle, everyone is responsible for the good and the bad done by other member of the society.
Rooted in the historic book, the social credit system can be accepted by the people of Thailand, and other Theravada Buddhist countries, as a way to promote morality and human resource development. However, the system cannot work without public acknowledgments and trainings suitable for carrier path development of each citizen.
The system can open up new territories of volunteer activities and human resource development. For example, medical schools can use the score to merit candidates for entrance examination, wherein certain number of hour works of volunteer services in hospitals or community healthcare centres With the social credit system, the government can inspire hope and dream for better future of the youth and children, as well as enhancing human resource development.
More people will participate in political, religious, and humanitarian, and environmental activities.
In certain urgent public problems such as conflicts of faiths among religious people, the government can create incentive for youth groups to join special training programs that promote peaceful dialogues among religions.
Combined applications of Buddhism and Maslow’s hierarch of needs can work together for human resource development and various social volunteer activities with the help of IT and smart card under the rubric of “Social Credit System”.
The government of Thailand should facilitate new social technology that could be applied to galvanise sustainable development through inspiring its own people to get involved in volunteer works. One of the options is through the use of the Internet, and applied with citizen ID card that links the volunteer activities to scoring system which is accessible and traceable by the public. The scoring system can be designed to be just and fair. Since the card is issued to every citizen of Thailand from the age of seven, the moral promotion program can begin with the scoring system for every child from the age of seven onwards.
Areas of children’s participation can include all non-academic activities such as tree plantation, public services, and all public volunteer activities. The Internet can give immediate results to the activities. Of course, it must have checking system to endorse the activities that have been done online. The social credit system can be a powerhouse for the development of democracy, human rights, and human dignity and harmony of different faith groups. It also gives model for community healthcare development which advocates active participation of every members of the community in caring and nurturing one another. The system will not only decrease the requirement for government funding but also potentiate the quality of care for members of the local communities.
Paper presented by H.E. Sheikh Abdulaziz Al-Quraishi
Former Governor of Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority and
InterAction Council member
On the occasion of our Interfaith Dialogue and as a non-political member of the Council with a long career in civil service and business, I have chosen to share my views with you briefly on the subject of ethics in business, and more particularly in finance. The lack of ethical values was a major factor in the financial bubble in 2007 that led to the crisis from which the world is still recovering. Outside the finance area, ethical values are not as central because businesses produce goods and services, which customers can scrutinise. For example, if you plan to buy a car, you test drive a couple of cars and you can judge which one suits your needs best. A company that produces shoddy cars will not survive in the marketplace. But finance is different because it relies on trust.
Bankers always understood that their ethical reputation was a key part of maintaining their business. Then how did business, and especially financial ethics, collapse so completely? Briefly, I think, it is due to short-termism and the bonus culture. What can we do to restore ethical standards in business and finance? Let me start by making two obvious points:
- (1) the difference between positive and passive honesty, and
- (2) the importance of leadership
Passive honesty is where people abstain from doing a dishonest act. It is a sad truth that the majority of people are passively honest but not positively honest (positive honesty involves positive acts to maintain ethics). Passive honesty can be enforced by police and the law, and in business by compliance officers. But positive honesty comes from inside a person and is based on the values he has learned. Positive honesty is learned from your role models: in society, these are your parents, teachers, people you admire, and in business they are your bosses, especially your first bosses when you are starting out. We can’t legislate our way back into ethical business practices just through the law and regulations: these standards must come from within as well.
The recent global financial crisis is in essence the result of erosion of social and ethical capital among the bankers. Although the crisis was linked to poor risk controls, massive leverage and indifference to the bubble-like conditions in the housing market, the root cause lies in the complete collapse of ethical behaviour across the financial industry and the absence of any sense of fiduciary responsibility to the ultimate client. For instance, in the recent sub-prime lending crisis, with incentives linked to the volume of business rather than quality of business, mortgage agents felt encouraged to bring as many mortgages as they could regardless of the borrower’s quality. Banks approved the mortgages, lent to the clients and sold the paper into mortgage pools that in turn were sold to investors. Underwriting standards declined (i.e. selling mortgage loans to people who could not afford them). Consequently, end investors became the victim of banks’ shoddy practices in this seedy and greedy game.
Also, the role of the rating agencies was rife with conflicts of interest to the point that a “symbiotic relationship” between the agencies and the banks was suspected. Rating agencies’ elevated rating of the complex structured products made them look like a better risk with higher return. Thus, there was over-reliance on and misunderstanding of ratings.
The inference from the sub-prime lending crisis is that business ethics and corporate values are challenged in a greedy world. This has to do with structural flaws in the way the banks operate and are supervised. Re-regulation of the banking industry is to counter unethical practices. Ethical banking is a hot topic these days, and the bottom line is that integrity and ethics should come from within voluntarily. Moral values should be nurtured at the banks as part of staff training.
Linkage between faith & ethics
In terms of the linkage between ethics and faith, all religions preach, among other things, morality and ethics. The great religions can offer us some help here. For instance, Islam has not only provided legal safeguards, but also a very effective moral system. It is a well-known fact that communities with a strong religious commitment have lower crime rates. It is because religion teaches us to see others as similar to us and to behave well towards them. Indeed moral values are extremely important for our overall well-being. Broadly speaking, there are five basic principles of ethics that are common to all faiths:
- ・Do not harm others
- ・Make things better
- ・Respect others
- ・Be fair
- ・Be loving
These values are cross-cultural and should be taught in homes and classrooms as well for a better society.
As we know, ethics and morals are often associated with religion, but schools can also provide important lessons in ethical thinking and action. There is room for teaching young people in school and college about the codes of ethics that we know work. Currently, they learn from the consumer culture that “greed is good”. But greed is actually a pretty bad guide to life. Greed can make us give up present benefits for illusory future ones, as when ordinary people lose their savings in an asset bubble. Or greed can make us throw away future security for a smaller pleasure of the moment. Greed teaches us to treat other people as objects to be exploited rather than as creatures like ourselves whose goals must also be cherished.
Islam as a comprehensive way of life encompasses a complete moral system, which stems from its primary creed of belief in one God as the Creator & Sustainer of the Universe.
Corporate governance in the MENA region
Corporate governance is a relatively new concept in the MENA region. Despite its infancy in the region, corporate governance has been making significant headway. The region is on the right path, but challenges remain. In Saudi Arabia, the basics of corporate governance (transparency, regular reporting and independent auditing) are strictly enforced. In fact, authentic corporate governance serves important public policy objectives. Good governance reduces market vulnerability to financial crises and weak governance reduces investor confidence. Implementation of corporate governance puts the burden on everyone (regulators, business leaders and reformers) to see it through smoothly.
In conclusion, a code is not a panacea if it is wilfully ignored. Rules and regulations are no substitute for personal integrity; they can only enforce passive honesty. Positive honesty must come from an ethical code that we learn as children and in our first jobs. The change should come from within and the corporate world should have leaders with a strong moral compass. Business leaders and politicians have to show in their own lives that they are ethical people. In other words, leadership should be in action, not position. Greed is not a good guide to living a worthwhile life, nor a good guide to running a successful business either.
The bottom line is teaching ethics in schools provides a fresh approach to moral education. It demonstrates how an ethics-based model can influence habits of mind and encourage students to think for themselves and develop good moral judgment. Liberals may call it a reactionary move, but in reality it appears to be the right approach. Upholding moral values is the only solution for the growing moral degradation and cultural anarchy in the modern society. Also, stakeholders can play an important role in holding the corporate community accountable for ethical wrongdoings by factoring company business ethics into their purchase and investment decisions.
Liberalisation and Activation of the Islamic Ethics
in Political Decisions
Paper by Dr. Hamzah Mohammed Al Salem,
Professor of Economics, Prince Sultan University
Al Jazeera Columnist, Saudi Arabia
The rationale for achieving a common ethical code rests on the assumption that the world shares one single life and agrees on the natural ethical basis of human life. But such ethics are the essence of religions which people have disagreed and fought against each other under their slogans. The evidence for this is the saying of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (PBUH), in which He embodied the religion as a whole in ethics. He said, “I was sent to perfect good conduct”.
My contribution will be dedicated to the Sunni Islam. The followers of every religion have their own considerations. We, Muslims, are particularly unique in this regard. We still do not separate religion from life and politics. Religion is the dominant factor in shaping our culture, identifying our methods of thinking, thereby an effective factor in making our decisions and options. I will focus on a solution that ends the increasing gap between Islam and the West.
There is an increasing risk of a fundamental division between the West and Islam today. The propagation of such a common ethic seems to be all the more necessary and urgent. The question that I will address is “How can we liberate the Islamic ethics so that they would be part of the considerations of the leaders of the Islamic states?”
This question assumes the existence of Islamic ethics which are confined and restricted. It establishes that when ethics are freed, they will be put into consideration by the political leaders of the Islamic states. Whenever the word “ethics” is mentioned, we mean only a part of them, which is the merciful ethics that religions adopt in dealing with other religions and doctrines, despite the differences among them. For example, I am not to be just and faithful because my religion or doctrine orders this; but justice and faithfulness must be my character regardless of religion and doctrine. So, the answer which I will try to present must include what is meant by the confinement of the Islamic ethics. The core of my argument will be the method of liberating Islamic ethics and incorporating them into general human ethics. Finally, the results of liberating Islamic ethics will guide the Islamic state leaders to adopt these ethics and incorporate them in the process of decision-making.
First, the question assumes that Islamic ethics prohibit violence and combat but they are confined. It is necessary to ask “Do religions, including Islam, call for the avoidance of wars and bloodshed?” Unlike other religions, Christianity and Islam, in particular, adopted the call of sacred Jihad to spread religion. In practice, religions, in general, were the reason for the majority of wars, or they were the reason given to legitimise economic and political wars, whether the fighting was intra-religious or inter-religious. Thus, ethics in these proselytising religions don’t harmonise with general human ethics except under specific restrictions and certain confinements; ethics in fact are limited by these restrictions and confinements.
The theory of Islam and Christianity calls for compassion among people and good conduct in dealing with other nations. Meanwhile, both have called for fighting against other nations under the pretext of holy war, including doctrinal, sectarian and political wars. The concepts raised by the two faiths, such as solidarity,※1 peace, and good conduct are restricted by the fact that supremacy, esteem and rule are enjoyed only by the Christians and Muslims. The followers of other religions are of a second class upon whom taxes, charges and tribute are imposed and solidarity, compassion and good conduct are then represented in not attacking the honour, properties and blood of the secondary class.
This restraint prevented the compassionate Islamic ethics from merging with general human ethics in discarding violence and bloodshed. It can be overcome by discussing how to be freed from these elements which prevent Islamic ethics from being in conformity with the human ethics to achieve what the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said, “I was sent to perfect good conduct”. This has been the concept of solidarity and ethics in treating other religions by Muslims.
Can we make Islam’s sometimes superior history a practice by establishing that Islamic ethics could play an important role in the decisions by an Islamic politician? Or we should reformulate the question: “Why did Muslims often treat non-Muslims※2 more mercifully than other Muslims of different doctrines?※3” Was the reason for this the existence of explicit and powerful commands with other nations in the texts of the Islamic Sharia and the non-existence of the same when dealing with Muslims of different doctrines? Or was it that good treatment of non-Muslims had a practical feasibility for political Muslim leaders? Undoubtedly, the second assumption is right. Some of the senior companions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) fought against each other in battles, marked with violence and mercilessness. The command of good treatment of non-Muslims came in the context of general ethics in the texts of mercy and charity. I don’t believe that the Islamic ethics were the reason for this good treatment, but were the pretext for achieving other interests.
Muslims’ good and distinguished treatment of non-Muslims in the culture of this earlier era had social, economic and political reasons. The social reason was that Muslims did not hate other races. The Arabs, the carriers of Islam and the origin of its rule and dominion, were the minority and other people were the majority. The existence of non-Muslims didn’t create political spoils or racial troubles, such as xenophobia and the hate of dissenters of religion and traditions, a natural alienation existing in the nature of homogenous communities. The Muslim communities were not racially homogenous because of the Arab dominance.
※1 The subject of my contribution focuses on Islam. The reference to Christianity is only for comparative convenience and clarification.
※2 Non-Muslims are the followers of other religions who live with Muslims in their countries under the Islamic rule and pay tribute (a type of taxes imposed on non-Muslims having sufficient amount of money. Such non-Muslims do not pay Zakat and do not fight against the enemies).
※3 The answer to this question may lead us to know the ethics employed by the extremists in their terrorist operations.
The political reason was the importance of the tribute which non- Muslims were paying and the experience which they provided to the Muslims. Another reason was the impossibility of non-Muslims to struggle for ruling the Islamic states because of the religious difference. Accordingly, the political leaders found that ethics which Islam brought would serve the public interest and adopted them. This also served as a good publicity by the good treatment of non-Muslims as ordained by the Islamic Sharia, together with the non-existence of racial reluctance from the Muslims. It should be highlighted that ethics drove the Muslim leaders to adopt them only if they were useful.
The next question is “why do some Muslims stand alone in continuing former methods as represented by the thinking of the holy war?” In the modern age, the role of religions has become limited to spiritual and after-life aspects. Today, most Muslim no longer make their religions an obviously declared cause of war or a vehicle for igniting unjust hatred or bloody dislike, except if it is in reciprocity. Hatred generates counter-hatred and violence creates counter-violence. The role of religions in contemporary wars should be only to spread patience and condolence among soldiers and at the agony of death and funerals.
The reason for this is that Muslims still deny and do not accept their scientific and economic reality of backwardness. When they have found nothing to be proud of among the nations, they have come to use Islam to vie in glory with other nations.※4 Islam has become the only prestige and honour by which these people can face other nations. Because of this, Muslims will not accept any concept that places religions on an equal footing. If they did, Muslims psychologically believe they would lose what distinguishes them from the underdeveloped states and raises them to the level of the civilised world. So any solution containing the concept of religious equality will not work unless it stems from an Islamic concept.
※4 This is noticed in the behaviour of some Muslim students and emigrants who go to the Western civilised countries. Some of them are very intelligent and have a sense of honour; when they engage with the western civilisation, they refuse - driven by their self-esteem - to acknowledge the backwardness of Muslims. In this situation, they satisfy themselves by being proud of Islam if non-Muslims have the worldly life. Here they become more increasingly pious and religious but sometimes more fanatic.
It is a well-noticed fact that extremism is a natural human phenomenon that is found in any community. It could even be said that extremism is a part of the normal distribution of social thinking in all places. It is found in all religions, cultures and peoples, but it sometimes disappears publicly. Extremism strongly appears as an active factor in two cases:
- ・When the intellectual structure of the society motivates and helps the appearance of terrorism, such as the Islamic community.
- ・When extremism comes as an equal and counter reaction to a religiously hostile extremism; i.e., the appearance of extremism in non-Muslim communities as a reaction to the Islamic extremism.
A Muslim’s pride is directly or indirectly centred on Jihad and battling. Through Jihad, Muslims went out of the ignorance and poverty of the Arabian Peninsula and possessed the crowns of kings. Through Jihad, they proved the Muslims’ mercy on other nations※5 and established an empire which produced sciences and urban civilisation. The belief that Islam is the alternative to modern civilisation along with the dream of building an Islamic caliphate and the pride of Jihad has made Islam an easy vehicle for every opportunist and extremist. Muslims usually welcome and encourage every new Islamic movement or political party.
In this context, the danger of producing extremism is stronger among Muslims than other nations. This is because Muslims, in general, live for this dream in their life today, unlike other peoples. In addition, unlike non-Muslims who know nothing about the contents of their religions, Muslims read Qur’an day and night and listen to the verses of Jihad and spoils.※6
※5 As previously mentioned about the conditions of non-Muslims in the Islamic countries.
※6 The word “Spoils” refer to the money and properties collected after the defeat of an enemy.
There is a verse in the Qur’an with the name “Al-Anfal”, i.e. spoils.
Practices of using the religion to be the source of hatred, or using it as a vehicle to achieve their targets and their public and private political interests, also exists in other religions, as happened in Balkans. Today, it is often noticed that hatred arises as a reaction to a religious counter-hatred. This is manifested in ethnic disputes in underdeveloped countries. This is also found as a reaction in America and Europe after the September 11 attacks. If the extremist Muslims cease to provoke religious hatred, other parties will have no reason for their reaction.
Any well-informed person knows that the human utopia which is called for by religions, including Islam, has never materialised at the communities’ level for any periods of time. The undeclared fact is that Islam nowadays and for long centuries is only practiced from the spiritual aspects and formalities of worship. The importance of this religious part is unanimously agreed to by the wise because of its significance and impact in reforming the community.
When it comes to the practical aspect, what is mostly applied today has nothing to do with Islam. Treatment and dealings among the individuals of the Muslim communities under Islamic rule are just a human jurisprudence, having no relation to religion. The jurisprudence has accumulated over centuries during which personal interests intermixed with political interests with precaution, austerity, mastery and extravagance. It is because all the motives and arguments of extremism, and restrictions of Islamic ethics stem from, and are based on, such human jurisprudence. The way to tackle this human jurisprudence in Sunni Islam differs from the way of tackling in other religions and doctrines. Religious authority is the means of settling a religious issue in all religions and doctrines except Sunni Islam.
The religious authority is a means of legislating wars and combat according to the interests of the politicians and those in control of power. However, it has also become an efficient method to disseminate human ethics after it has been put away from politics. Its role has become limited to the spiritual sector. The Sunni Islam rules that there is no unified authority, and it is impossible to establish such authority. The absence of a unified authority is the major difference between the Sunni Muslims and other Islamic doctrines.
As a result of the overlap between politics and religion since the early centuries of Islam, the trade of Islamic jurisprudence (Fiqh) industry and a jurist industry flourished. Politicians have used jurists to serve their interests. Society produces the jurist who addresses their feelings; physical needs produce the jurist; the followers of doctrines and revolutionaries produce their own jurists (Foqaha’a). Consequently, jurists have become numerous and the commands of Islam have become intermixed in peoples’ life. And every jurist explained the Sharia texts in consistency with the objectives of his career. As such, ethics were used for murder and destruction of opponents in some cases and for serving the economic and political interests in other cases.
Jurists were keen to meet demands for producing more jurisprudence; so, they intervened with smallest issues of Muslims’ life and made religion a force that became involved in matters which it had previously stayed away. Despite this decentralisation, this easily understood juristic approach, which appears to follow the texts of the Qur’an and the Sunna, is undoubtedly the most influential and accepted among the Muslim public. This approach is difficult, inflexible and exerts pressure on the freedom of people.
So, the practical solution in the absence of a unified authority for the Sunni Muslims is that they must go back through their civil scholars※7 to the origin and reality of Islam by following and understanding the actual texts of the Qur’an and the Sunna on the basis of the Rightly Guided Caliphs and the great companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This could be achieved by removing what the jurists introduced and incorporated into the religion over the centuries. If this is achieved, the religious structure that is motivating extremists will disappear. The austerity in the obligatory commands or prohibitions imposed on Muslims stems from the jurists’ opinions throughout 14 centuries. Such opinions are absolutely rootless or incorrectly derived from texts.
※7 This could be achieved through the scholars who theoretically believe in this juristic approach and are supported by the authorities and funds.
The basis and structure of Islam are very clear in the texts of the Qur’an and the Sunna. Islam is an easy religion which addresses the human instinct; it is not a religion of austerity or prohibition. The prohibitions and commands in Islam are few in the Sharia texts in light of the deeds and actions of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his senior companions. All of them address the fulfilment of good conduct, such as the prohibition of killing, adultery and aggression, etc. Other prohibitions are ordained over some actions which could transgress the prohibitions. An order or obligation of a means is cancelled by the disappearance of its cause. The one to decide the disappearance of the cause and the cancellation of the order is the person who is responsible or the one who takes such acts, not the jurist or the religious leader. This puts an end to the religious custody over the society and individuals. And the custody is the most important motive of extremism. It also terminates the intellectual extremist Jihadi arguments.
An excellent example of this is the order of distributing war spoils by the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his Caliph Abu Bakr. Omar, the second Caliph, came and cancelled this procedure due to the absence of its cause. The distribution of war spoils is a means of Jihad that leads us to an objective which is the protection of the society and the spread of Islam. Since the distribution of spoils had become an obstacle for Jihad, Omar cancelled the distribution of spoils. The evidences and proofs are numerous and unanimously established by the Muslim Sunnis. The majority of these means do not exist today.
Another example is Jihad which extremists use as a pretext. Jihad is one of the issues which are cancelled by the disappearance of their causes. Today, the reasons for Jihad no longer exists due to the existence of civil communities, dialogues and communications. Jihad is a means and not an objective. It is a means for proclaiming the call for Islam and protecting the Muslim community from its enemies. Both the attacking and defence reasons do not exist today. If Omar were resurrected, he would cancel Jihad as he did with the war spoils and other matters.
The ideal is the case where a Muslim’s worship and conducts are similar to that of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is manifested in the Prophet’s saying: “Pray as you saw me pray”; “Take your rituals after me”. The lowest effort is the case where a Muslim performs what he/she can; if he/she can’t, there is no harm, exactly as the Prophet Muhammad said: “Do it (now) and there is no harm”. Allah also says: “So keep your duty to Allah and fear Him as much as you can”. The Muslim individual is the one to decide the degree of own worship to Allah as clearly stated in Sharia. Society should not be forced in its choice of how to worship.
This can be noticed everywhere in the Muslim communities. A modern example may be enough. The Taliban State tried to be at the maximum perfection. Its leaders were mistaken when they tried to impose such perfection on the entire society. This is impossible. People are not like the prophets in their ethics and patience. So, they failed after they floundered.
On the other hand, we find Turkey, which tried to impose the lowest effort on the society. The people hated its secularism. Now Turkey and Malaysia provide choice for individuals in society. They have become two ideal examples for Muslims and other nations. Muslims today have more pride and affiliation to Turkey and Malaysia. Their problem is that they don’t have a completely thought-through structure of Sharia in their applied model. It represents today an obstacle to the other Muslim countries in applying the model of Turkey and Malaysia. However, their models also used religion in the area of economy and politics.
The call for Islam by the Wahhabi School is treated the same as the majority of religions. It has been defamed sometimes and its leaders were mistaken sometimes. It was accompanied with bloodshed which was dictated by the necessities and cultures existing at that time. It is religiously, scientifically, politically and materially supported and has as its frame of reference the plan to restore Islam to its origin which the Prophet Muhammad came with. This origin is confined between the maximum perfection as clearly noted in the Prophet’s saying, “Pray as you saw me pray” and the lowest effort which is clearly manifested in the Prophet’s saying: “Do it (now) and there is no harm”, and Allah’s saying: “So keep your duty to Allah and fear Him as much as you can.”
I wish to argue that the Wahhabi Salfi Call is the one most likely to correct the current deficiencies in the Muslim world. This Call confirms the importance of rituals and gives them priority over conducts. It also confirms the non-existence of mediators between the Muslim and his Lord. In worship and conducts, a Muslim does not pay attention to the opinion of any jurist or a human being whenever it contradicts the Qur’an or Sunna. If this has not been applied in conducts, it is the time for applying this Call. The Wahhabi Call has taken time to avoid the concept of mediators, because it has adopted Prophet Muhammad’s approach in calling people to Islam.
It started with purifying the deeds of the heart. It cared for pure monotheism (Tawheed) for Allah only in worship. In the second stage, the Wahhabi Call was to pay attention to purifying the conducts as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did in his call in Makkah and Medina. Unfortunately, the First Saudi State collapsed in the early 19th century. This meant that the Wahhabi Call couldn’t complete the second stage of purifying the acts of the heart and making them clear and pure for Allah in line with the Qur’an and Sunna but without compliance with the jurists’ opinions and books.
Now is the time for implementing the second phase of Sheikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab’s Call. Today the conditions are suitable from the political, social and religious aspects; it is also urgent and necessary. With the extension of the Wahhabi Call to include conducts, the concept of applying the ruling on the means and ends will be effectuated. Then the limitations on applying Islamic ethics will be reduced and we can go out of the jail of austerity. There are logical reasons for the Muslims to accepting this solution. Politically, the Islamic state leaders are facing the danger of the Jihadi Islam and the calls for Islamic Politics. They will welcome this new corrective movement which prevents these dangers and gathers the popular political support. Because the Wahhabi Call is the Islamic approach that is followed in Saudi Arabia, it may be supposed that the Saudi leaders are much interested in giving it political and economic support.
An extremist is usually sincere; he does not accept fabrications in interpreting the Sharia texts. His sincerity forces him to comply with the well-established texts if they are rightly and simply construed. Extremists comply with the texts and apply them in a simply but wrongly in logical reasoning (jurisprudence rules). The Wahhabi School, even if it is radically and substantially different from the extremist thinking, is similar to this thinking in their commitment and understanding of the Sharia texts. So, this is the best Islamic school to accommodate their way of thinking. If the Wahhabi School completes its practical part in restoring the reasoning of jurisprudence by using the sound juristic reasoning (logic), this will be an extension of its juristic approach in worships and understanding of faith.
The calls of intellectuals are usually expressed in the re- understanding of the Qur’an, with their own interest. Self-interest is the pretext of all constitutions, governments, movements and extremists. Many intellectual movements or doctrines, which try to move Islam away from political and commercial exploitation, work for Islam to appear in its original form. Yet none worked for freeing Islam from the industry of jurisprudence throughout centuries. If the Wahhabi Salafi Call extends to include the area of conducts, it can keep Islam away from political, economic and extreme exploitation under the pretext of the revelation, the Qur’an and the Sunna. By applying the pure revelation sent down by the Prophet Muhammad, no one can exploit Islam politically or for their own interests. This also will mean that Muslims can continue to be proud of their religion and achieve their dream of applying Islam in their countries as well as keeping them away from strictness.
Wahhabi Salafism can help cut the intellectual and jihadi support, which the extremists obtain from Islamic societies. If we succeed in achieving this, Muslims will be included in the goal of gathering humanity together on the basis of good conduct.
Chairman Vassilliou: Practically everybody knows here what the rules of ethical behaviour are. There may be some differences, but the question is very simple. Do we expect people to act on their own good will, or listen to the rabbis, preachers, monks on what they have to do? Or do you want to create conditions within our societies, which will put pressure on both business and political leaders to behave in a more ethical way. In my opinion, if we expect people on their free will to do it, the chance of this happening is very remote. Some of them, like Gandhi and Mandela, behaved like that and they changed the world. But that’s not enough. That is what I would like discussions moving on to see if we can find our societies increase the pressure on leaders to behave more in an ethical way.
I wonder if shareholders will complain if he or she is told that the company is not making profit because you are ethical, or you would applaud that when you hear that shares are increasing in values, and so on and you would not ask any questions. Although I fully agree with you concerning the need for education, for development, and so on, I still believe that unfortunately, we are all humans, we have our weaknesses, and we need to have more control.
Chancellor Vranitzky: At least in the industrialised countries, we have achieved a good deal of progress in the last 200-300 years, based on the principles of ethics, but also based on the principles of “all men are equal”. So, we have developed solidarity in our countries. We built up social security systems, good models of a welfare state. We live in the world of Montesquieu’s division of power. But having said that and having listened to so many contributions, interesting and valuable, I remember someone on this table said “Ethics and principles are one side of the medal, but the implication into life is the other side of the medal”. Now, as it was raised also today, should there be any kind of pressure on politicians and decision-makers, ethics in decision- making? Probably “Yes”. But how should this pressure be organised?
And this leads me to a few basic questions on democratic systems and democratic societies. For instance, in Europe and also in North America, we see a good deal of dissatisfaction, not only of the so- called “men on the street” but also of political organisations towards decision-makers. In Europe, this leads to the question “Should we not have more, as we call it, direct democracy as opposed to our models of representative democracy?”Representative democracy, again, means those who represent in various parliaments, are they now the targets of pressure or not? We listened to our friends who talked about “pretentions of ethcs”. In almost all the Western parliaments, they have ethics committees, checking the behaviour of politicians. Now, this is one side.
The other side is, having achieved so much, we cannot say that we were successful in producing equality of human beings, no gender equality. In many countries, no equality of those people who lived in these countries for a long period; they were not born in these countries, who came from different parts of the world, who happen to have racial differences, etc.
So, my question actually would be while “Ethics in Decision- making” is an interesting, challenging subject, how do we look at the implication of this subject in connection with the rethinking of our democracies? Of democratic systems and societies? In the United States, the Tea Party is a very striking example of dissatisfaction with what’s going on in the White House and the Congress. In Europe, there are many movements and many organisations, who in the end do not hide their opinions that direct methods - methods of direct democracy - is the will of the people. In the more Eastern parts of Europe, we do see these debates and discussions on streets. How do we handle this? The apparent discrepancy between the desire and ethics, and the real conditions or real circumstances that’s the necessary pressure on decision-makers cannot be organised in a way, but we can say that this adds to the stability of our systems. Perhaps, the speakers of this morning can give us some kind of answer or indication of what we can take away from this meeting without just agreeing that there should be good basis of ethics in decision-making.
President Obasanjo: Politicians are under pressure. Most of them are under very heavy pressure from the electorate, from their constituencies. If we have to give politicians opportunity and encouragement to observe ethical principles and live up to ethical standards, there must be some form of incentives. I don’t know how that incentive can be thought out, or worked out, and some form of sanctioning as well. Because that is the only way that they can be pressurised to maintain the ethical standards and ethical principle. That is internally. There is also an external one that I have observed. When it was said that in Europe and some of the settled societies things have improved, I would say “yes”, but not enough.
A few years back, Peter Eigen and I started to work on what is today known as “Transparency International”. OECD companies obtained tax deductibility for bribes paid in other countries, not in theirs. That is one of the things we had to work on. And, of course, the OECD came up with conventions and things on that. But in spite of that, there are still countries that encourage their corporate bodies to pay to actually induce corruption outside their own countries. How do we ensure that terms of ethical principles and ethical standard be imposed so that this can be completely stopped?
Chairman Vassilliou: I just want to mention that in Cyprus, they have decided to impose a law now, which punishes payer of bribes as well. Who is to blame more? In Greece, we have former Defence Minister and many others in prison, because they got a lot of money when they bought a lot of boats and other things from German and other companies. They went to prison but those who gave incentives, they simply made profits. So, if we really want to move into a better world, I think we have to look at this issue of punishment is not only for those who are corrupt, but also those who are corrupting the other.
President Obasanjo: Corruption is a two-way affair. If you punish only one of the two, you are not going to stop corruption.
Prime Minister Chrétien: In Canada we have laws that we can be charged, if we pay a bribe, not if we receive a bribe, but if we pay a bribe, not only in Canada but abroad. So, you are right, Mr. Obasanjo, that in Europe for a long time, a bribe was considered needed to produce businesses and it was tax deductible. When I realised that, I was very shocked by that. They are changing it, or they have changed it. But in Canada, we have some problem at this time and some corporations are being sued, because they paid bribes in Nigeria and others, and it is a problem. But you mention that regulations can burden business, but it can make for some practical solutions. I have been in politics for 40 years and 10 years as an observer.
When Sheikh Al-Quraishi mentioned the problem of the collapse in 2008, one of the things happened is that the top regulations, especially in the United States, where in the old days you were a banker, you did banking. If you were an insurance company, you did insurance. You were a broker, you were doing brokerage, and there were merchant bankers. They were separated from the others. The problem today is all that is mixed up, because today a banker can sell insurance as well. In the old days in my country they could not. Now they are starting. I was opposed to that but my successor permitted that. So what happens when you go to a banker and say “I want to borrow money from you”. And they say “Yes, but you have to buy an insurance on your life to get the loan”. Or the banker would say, “I’m not lending you money. But I would prefer you to issue shares”. Because they make more money on shares than they get on interest to the loans.
So, we used to call it four pillars, separated one from the other. In the name of freedom, we let that go. In my judgment, this created constant conflict of interests. And talking about our own experience, now the people are claiming Canadian bankers are not very good. But when I was a Prime Minister, I refused to permit banks from merging. In Canada the rule is that you cannot have more than 80 percent equity in a mortgage. But what happened in the USA was that they were lending at 150 percent of the value of the building, because they thought that in 10 or 20 years they would have an increase in value.
And everybody played into that game and they were brokers and insurers, and they were all mixed up in a constant conflict of interest. And they were all in short-term, too. If one is a president of a bank for five years, he has to make share value go up quickly, so he uses up the option in five years and goes to Florida and buys a big house. So, I think ethics need help. The president of a bank is judged on the profit he makes. So, the shareholders sometimes don’t give a damn about the way he has done it, as long as he pays dividends.
But we are making progress on rules and how to do business. Probably most of the countries in the world, they would charge somebody who bribes. This did not exist 20 years ago. Twenty years ago, it was tax-deductible. Today, it is no more tax deductible in most of the countries the way I understand.
So, ethics has to be in line with regulations. Now, I see in many countries laws are being passed that bribe is no more a business expense, and no more tax deductible. And when you bribe, you are as guilty as the other one who receives money. That is my view, and that is the worldview that ethics need help of regulation, because human beings will always remain human beings, I guess, and temptations are always there.
Chancellor Vranitzky: I am afraid we are in a circle. During the world economic crisis in the 1930s, the American Congress passed the law, Glass-Steagall, completely separating investment banking from commercial banking. This was a very good decision. Some decades later, American bankers approached President Clinton and said “Mr. President, with our system separating commercial banking from investment banking, we are not competitive enough in the system of globalisation”. So, step by step, they got rid of this separation. So, this led to the development where most of American big banks did not stay in New York, but went to London, Tokyo, Singapore, what have you.
At the same time, the UK lost its number one position as the industrialised country. Infrastructure went down, automobile production went down, machine manufacturing went down, etc. So, the most important profit-making place in the UK was London as the financial place, not as the manufacturing centre. And this is the reason why when we are talking about regulations, I am completely on your side. For example, the British Government would never impose any regulation, because every regulation would harm London as the international financial centre. This is number 1.
Number 2, the digital revolution brought us to a situation in which the financial markets are much more efficient, much quick, much more what have you. So, while we are sitting here, one of my former colleagues in banking moved to brokerage and some went broke. While we are sitting here, debating ethics, they push a button and send a few billions of dollars, euros, and what have you from Vienna to Frankfurt, to Singapore to Tokyo, and perhaps back to Vienna, breathless.
Number 3, we have in the globalised world, as we know, enormous discrepancies in the levels of wages and salaries. So, this leads industrial leaders to source out production from high-wage countries in Europe and the US to the third world. And the governments accompany these expansions to the third world with tax benefits. It’s not the bribing system that is benefitting from the tax system, but investments. It’s much easier to invest in countries where wages and salaries are low. And if you can deduct from tax both in your own country and guest country, then you don’t pay any taxes.
So, this is the third point why politicians and decision-makers are under pressure. Because it’s not only the CEOs who urge them to take care of tax benefits, etc., but also the unions. Because, if they get full order books, it’s good for the unions and also full employment. And we are talking about ethics. Good luck.
Ms. Bandion-Ortner: I only wanted to say that as a former judge, a criminal judge specialised on economic crimes, if there were more ethics, more morality in our business, especially in our banking system, there would be no worldwide crisis. The problem is that not each misbehaviour is a criminal act, which can be punished. Sometimes, it’s only an issue of morality. And morality has sometimes no consequences. That’s the problem, and the people and sometimes the media do not understand this. I would like to confirm what Dr. Vranizky said, because that’s really the problem.
Chancellor Vranitzky: But in your career as a judge, you were only confronted with criminals, not with the good ones.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: In 2010, we started in India this fight against corruption, because people were surrounded by insurmountable amounts of corruption. Even to get a death certificate, people had to bribe. To get a birth certificate, people had to bribe. So, we started this “India against Corruption” movement, where we pressurised the government to pass a law, which has been pending for the last 15 years. There are laws in India that give severe punishment for people who are indulging in unethical practices. But there is no implementation.
You need to educate people to take the commitment and place in front of them role models. You need to look to your own conscience. Character building, educating people, to follow the rules, follow the ethics, are most important. Otherwise, the laws come in when a crime already has taken place, and then you punish them. But to prevent them, positive ethics, positive honesty is essential, not the false honesty. So, we did one thing. In large meetings throughout India, we invited officials and asked them to pledge not to give or take a bribe. This worked actually.
Living simply, which Mahatma Gandhi set the example once upon a time, has almost vanished in the country. We need to bring this once more; creating a role model for the people. It makes sense. The public memory is very short. When they see scandals after scandals, in the USA and in India in the financial sector, we need to remind people that quick bucks can land you in a jail. But creating a role model of honest and still can be successful is important. Unfortunately, young entrepreneurs think that to make big money is to go to an unethical path. This concept in the mind of young people has to be corrected. And that can be corrected through good examples. So, for the ethics in business, creating a model is essential. The companies which have done very good business and made good profits, they exhibit their success to inspire people as a role model.
Chairman Vassiliou: It’s good to teach but that’s not enough. In India, you can tell people not to rape, but you need management for that.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Absolutely, you need both; laws and education.
Dr. Habash: I’d like to add something to Sheikh Al-Quraishi, when he said that we have to teach ethics in our school. It is very important to do something in the field of education. But we cannot do enough without a common ground for ethics. We are talking about ethics but who is the final one who can say “This is ethical, unethical, moral, immoral”. We are looking for some higher reference, I believe, to arrive to this point, we have to work hard. We have to make special meetings. Maybe we cannot arrive at the final conclusion in this meeting about how to make global ethics work on decision-making.
We are looking for some experts to stay together to discuss line by line, word by word on how to create the new common understanding, new global understanding about ethics to teach in our schools. It’s so easy to find in religions. I prepared this draft and gave this to our friends here, to Christians, to Buddhists and the Hindu, and the Jew. I believe we have to work hard to arrive at the final references of humanity. Every nation, every country, every religion has the final say. Without serious activity in this field, we can speak about ethic as any cleric around the world, as any philosopher around the world, but we cannot say this is the moral issue, or this is an immoral issue. All humanity is the child of God, and we are looking for one family under God, and we believe that all families belong to the same father. But we need to work hard.
Chairman Vassilliou: We will work hard, but it will not be completed in our life time, not even of our grand-children, and their grand- children.
Prime Minister Majali: We heard a lot about “Ethics in Decision- Making” mainly in banking and business. The most influential people all over the world now are in the media. And ethics in the media unfortunately is such that is affecting decision makers in one way or another in making decisions. So, whatever we are going to say about ethics, it should not be just about decision makers but also the media itself. The second point is legislature. Those parliaments, they make the law. And if they make the law with ethics in mind, I think they can affect in this area. The third point is science. Unfortunately, up to now, there is no control of ethics in science. Invention of especially things which are affecting the lives of people. So, I think we should mention something related to ethics in science.
Dr. Schlensog: Listening to the discussion here, I would like to remind you that I don’t think we should be too pessimistic on this matter. Because if you look back, for example, the last 40-50 years, there are a few big questions on which we have made big development. For example, ecology, the role of women in our societies in the Western world. Not enough, not enough, for example in the sphere of armament. Why did we succeed in these areas in last 40-50 years? Because it started with single persons, or single small institutions who brought this topic to the top of the agenda. Then, step by step it filtered down as the political agenda, the public discussion, and politicians discovered these topics as political agenda. That is what we call consciousness building. Step by step. And I think it’s similar in business ethics. Twenty years ago, nobody talked about business ethics. But it’s a matter of discussions in many universities and many companies. So my point is we need to keep on raising our voices on ethics and ethical questions, and the InterAction Council is one organisation that can raise its voice on this matter.
My second point is President Obasanjo asked “Which are the incentives for example for politicians? Which are incentives for ethical behaviour?” One very important incentive is public opinion. When scandals are in the media, when ethical problems are discussed in the media, when the ethical dimension of the problems is discussed in the media, then we have a chance of getting it discussed in the public, and public opinion. Public acceptance of behaviours is very important for companies and politicians, too. So, I am convinced that we have to keep with the discussion on those topics, especially in the media.
The third point is in Tübingen University, we have an institute for business ethic, and our foundation is at the University. In business ethics, we have a discussion on something like a paradigm shift in business ethic. We have an old model and a new model. The old model is the model of limitations of rules and regulations: for example, with compliance management, corporate responsibility etc. That’s right; that functions. Many companies try to avoid misuse in different fields. That’s a very important point in business ethics.
But the new discussion is now to say “That’s not enough”. If we keep educating our young professionals in business and politics, etc., human beings as homo-economics where they want to maximise their profits. If we educate them with this view of human beings, we will never change in this matter. But if we help them to get a new view on the function of business, for example, or the function of politics and their responsibility and roles, then we have a chance to change the system. But we can only have the chance to change the system, if we change the view on the system, and that is the matter of education. Therefore, we should begin with education at business schools and universities, etc. We have a long way to go, but we have to go this way, as we have no alternative.
Chairman Vassilliou: Education is vital, we all agree on that. But that’s not enough and we have to do much more. But anyway, we are not pessimistic. If you are pessimistic, we would not have had this discussion. We know there has been a lot of progress, but that’s not enough.
Mr. Muaammar: I think globalisation is the problem. The whole world stood to have some rules when we had the stem revolution, trying to deal with this scientific stem cells. Fortunately, when it comes to our communications, we stood behind in many ways. We didn’t touch so much environmental issues, for example. Another thing we are facing is the social media. It is very important that we should really think about it, because it is becoming more powerful than the education itself.
So, how can we decide where are the sources of the influence over the people? I think school, family, worship places, media, etc. So, how can we create general rules which can cover the whole world? It’s really more than the relationship in the world that is influenced by economic interest, where the economy is driving almost everything. Can we do anything about this? We have a long way to go, but the way I look at it is to start with yourself.
Dr. Mettanando: In Thailand, we discuss the problem of moral education quite a lot. I work in the Senate Sub-committee for Morality and Ethics, and we came up with the term “responsible citizens” where we use the internet, and in the program we use the paradigm of hierarchy of people, promotion of good, and it is community that award the score for each student who works for community service. We have a contribution from the business sector, who support applications for mobile phones to credit every single activity that people give to society. This is reported on the website and people know who served society. This is called “Credit Social System”. This is going on in Thailand, and soon we hope we can become a better society with the use of IT and social media.
Chairman Vassilliou: Good idea. We have had quite good suggestions, but one thing in which everyone can play a role is transparency, to increase pressure for more transparency. And the need for people in politics and business to give a regular report on how they got money. Because, in many countries of the world, suddenly we see a lot of billionaires, who were very poor before. But they were with the government, etc. If they have a system of annually reporting where they got their money that would have greatly improved the world.
Prof. Hanson: There was an answer to the question of which of these mechanisms will work. The answer is we have to push all at the same time. And there is a role for basic corporate governance, public report and transparency, and so on. There is a role for a voluntary code as a result of both public pressure and corporate cooperation in the development of those codes. There is room for new laws that the passage of anti-corruption legislation throughout the OECD and other countries in recent years is the result of the growing consensus that was needed, as was pointed out by several people. There is still a step of implementing it and using it to discipline incidences of corruption. But there has been a considerable amount of progress.
Even with those things, there are still need for creative and moral behaviour inside on the part of individual executives who begin to see the need to do business in a more moral way without imposing substantial costs on their shareholders and securing considerable gains for other stakeholders. This is the bottom line of “Creative capitalism”, “Conscious capitalism” and so on. There are many searches going on in many companies. That is a sign of optimism, but that’s also not a complete answer. And we will still need pressure for the forward moral thinking. The answer is we need all these things simultaneously.
Education - I spent my lifetime educating businessmen to act more responsibly on their business. I am not sure if I can document my impact over that time. I sometimes kid that my students have had 47 percent fewer indictments - of course I don’t have such data. But there is a hope that through education, the minimum you can get people to reflect on the importance of their particular professional lives and potential for acting morally.
As a last comment, I like the notion Dr. Majali made that there are professional ethics in other fields. I think we need simultaneously ethics for the government, for the media, and simultaneously for NGOs. In each of these fields, there is a similar challenge of implementing a global code, in all those important institutions in modern society.
6. The Way Forward
Session chaired by H.E. Yasuo Fukuda
Former Prime Minister of Japan
“How can ethically-based human wisdom lead to peace and to a more just world, given the outlook of the 9 billion population ahead? How could we leave a sustainable world for the posterity?” These were the central questions the group addressed in the final session. They, of course, knew fully well that consensual answers could not emerge in just one session over the issues encompassing such divergent problems as population explosion, energy, food, water, technological vices and virtues. Nevertheless some direction or an indication of how we might work towards a better future for humanity was crucial.
The first introducer, the Venerable Koshin Ohtani pointed out the need to become more aware of and to empathise with others and their pain, and deepen our consciousness of the fact that the present had a great impact on the future. The relentless appetite of global capitalism was degrading natural resources that should be left for future generations. In order to halt the ravenous desire of modern societies, self-awareness was crucial in his faith, which was to see the results and effects of one’s own actions that pass staggering liabilities to other nations and posterity. Controlling one’s own desires would bring about spiritual wealth. He reiterated the value of the Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities for the rights of future generations, animals and plants.
The second introducer, Metropolitan Niphon, believed that ethics were based on the knowledge of truth, rationalism and belief. He advocated the strong principles of love and God’s justice. Love was the foundation in human life, eternal, immortal and assumed an internal order of the personality. As human beings were created in God’s image, self-respect and the respect with love for others were essential for the formation of ethical standards and for the co-existence of people. He hoped that respect would be the cornerstone of all governments. Tolerance, in his Eastern Orthodox Church, meant working on one’s own personality and he stressed that future generations must be brought up with common values.
H.E. Tun Abudullah Haji Ahmad Badawi emphasised that the well being of future generations was a major responsibility of political leaders who must uphold values in decision-making. He introduced the concept of the “Civilisational Islam” practiced in Malaysia, based on 10 fundamental principles and offering a moderate reading of Islam away from the radical assertions that guide decision-making at the leadership level. His main thesis was that leaders’ choices show what they value most and that religion should assist the transformation within oneself that may radiate into the whole of society.
In the ensuing discussion, several suggestions were made by political leaders such as finding a regime that permitted the use of nuclear energy solely for the peaceful purpose, the empowerment of women and cutting fiscal subsidies to large families, reducing birth rates, remedying the wealth gap, addressing the “democracy for sale” tendency in the West, among others.
The North American natives’ spiritual perspective - belief in harmony between man and nature - was introduced. This was similar to the East Asian tradition, but vastly different from consumerism that was extinguishing species. It was suggested that if a new, holistic ethic of integration with the planet (instead of dominion over it) could be combined with the enthusiasm of young people to preserve the environment, it might be a way out of our dilemma.
Although no consensus emerged as to how to deal with the world of 9 billion people, everyone was aware of its potentially catastrophic impact. Some voiced that the past development pattern could not be repeated. The group shared a clear vision of what was wrong, and it was reiterated that the major challenge was to raise voices on these issues, to get the majority to pay attention to the group’s vision. It was up to the participants to make the world a better place. Doing nothing was no longer an option.
Learning from Other Religions, Cultures, and Civilisations through
Dialogue and Fellowship
Introducer 1: H.H. The Venerable Koshin Ohtani,
Head of Jodo Shinshu Hongwanji-ha (Pure Land Sect), Japan
Generally speaking, people’s religious beliefs develop under the environment and circumstances in which they were reared. Since this serves as their spiritual base, it is often not easy for them to fully comprehend other religions. I believe that although religion could hardly become the direct cause of conflicts, because social disputes usually include religious aspects, religion can sometimes be effective in reducing tension. But at other times, unfortunately, it can accelerate it. Therefore, depending on how politicians and religious leaders utilise religion in tense and strained circumstances, the result differs completely.
In order to enable those of differing viewpoints and background to engage in dialogue for the realisation of peace, a common foundation is essential. Even if they are unable to understand the concepts of each other’s beliefs, by acknowledging the mutual logic and line of thinking, this will lead to the feeling of assuredness, the ability to continue dialogue, and then to respect one another. Then the IAC’s Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities will truly become a highly influential criterion, together with the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Thinking about the future of humanity
Following the conclusion of World War II, it seemed as if the world was coming together with the creation of the United Nations, the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the establishment of the ideals of humanity. In reality, however, it became divided into Eastern and Western blocs, and amidst much tension, they competed with each other, aiming to improve their own society. However, at present, the prominent tendency has been, “...if it makes things better now, it does not matter...” and “...as long as we, ourselves, are comfortable....” Economic globalisation, especially, disregards the aims of a country’s governmental objectives of stability and welfare of its citizenry and causes severe, uneven distribution of wealth.
Currently, the relentless appetite of global capitalism makes free use of scientific technology, robs the world of its natural resources, as well as pre-empts those resources that should be left for future generations. In addition, it must be said that we are creating staggering liabilities, such as environmental destruction and environmental contamination, which must be unwittingly inherited by people of the future. Sadly, there are even some in Japan who nonchalantly say, “Let posterity worry about disposing of the radioactive waste from our nuclear power plants”.
The innate, self-promoting desires of human beings, which cause them to become engrossed solely with their own interests and welfare rather than those of the future, are extremely difficult for other people to control and suppress. In reflection from a Buddhist perspective, a person’s unrestrained self-promoting desires not only bring about suffering and anxiety, but also make it nearly impossible to halt the ravenous desire of modern society. Now, in order to restrain our desires and greed, nothing is more important than self-awareness. In order to bring about this self-awareness, we must enable ourselves to truly see the results and effects of our actions, no matter how unpleasant and frightening this may be.
The results of an ethically lacking global economy are, before we know it, manifesting themselves as tremendous liabilities to the people of other nations and posterity, passing that burden on to them.
Based on these ideas, I hope that each religion will be able to present its own aims and indications for an ideal world for humanity. As a Shin Buddhist follower, I would like to propose aiming for “a society in which both oneself and others can together live life of spiritual fulfilment”. The meaning of this is an affluent society that is free of bias in material prosperity, does not disdain the pain of others, and possesses the spirit of sharing and mutual support.
Armed conflicts, the use of violence and ethically lacking global economy not only hurt the contemporary world, but create vast problems for future generations. In my view, the United Nations’ Declaration of Human Rights, probably due to the restrictions of the era in which it was drawn up, does not give enough considerations in regard to future generations, who are unable to lobby for their rights at present. Advocating the InterAction Council’s Universal Responsibilities is crucial for each of us to empower ourselves as individuals of the modern day society to take responsibility for the rights of future generations as well as the rights of animals and plants. Based on this principle, I would like to propose that this view be added to the IAC’s Declaration of Human Responsibilities.
In the past, when science and technology were not yet highly developed, nature’s constraints were much greater. So, peoples’ materialistic desires were kept under control. On the other hand, the verbally expressed ethics are merely external restraints that do not carry any penalties. To make them effective, we need to internalise them.
We must face up to the devastations caused by nuclear armaments, the nuclear power plant accident, and the tragedy of poverty and military disputes in developing nations. If we see nothing, when we see the horrible conditions of today’s world and the people who suffer, may it be because we are not able to see others as the same human beings as we are? Right now, it is truly crucial for us to become more aware of and empathise with others and their pain, and deepen our consciousness of the fact that the present has a great impact on the future. With this point in mind, the development and employment of nuclear energy and the manipulation of life, through genetic engineering, should always be openly discussed and verified, because these are issues that relate to the future of humanity and will irreversibly affect our descendants.
In addition, it is predicted that by the end of this century, there will be over 9 billion people, and this drastic increase of the world’s population is yet another issue that is related to the future of humanity. In other words, the population explosion will lead to further economic disparities, such as serious food crises. And our ethically lacking desires will bring about destructions of the natural environment on the global scale. Now is the time for us to incorporate the historical wisdom of humanity, which is telling us that controlling our own desires will bring about spiritual wealth.
The purpose of politics, economy, as well as religious and philosophical thoughts was to originally allow people to lead a happy life in a peaceful society. To begin with, let us refer this in ourselves and accept the global ethics, which is called for by the InterAction Council as a collective wisdom of humanity. This, indeed, is a monumental task. In order to achieve this, all idealists and religious leaders must carry out their duties for establishing the significance of global ethics from their own ideological and cultural standpoint regardless of whether their culture and ethics are founded on a monolithic belief or not. Only when we accomplish this obligation, will the Declaration transcend cultural diversity, permeate throughout the world and fully manifest its great power.
A Step for a Global World Unity
Introducer 2: His Eminence Metropolitan Niphon
Vicar of the Patriarch of Antioch in Moscow
Since ancient times, philosophers and men of religion have always struggled with the issue of what is ethical. Each society around the world has found its own definition and formulation in the light of its own circumstances.
For me, ethics can be accurately divided into two categories: religious and non-religious. Both possess three sources of knowledge of moral truth, rationalism, empiricism and belief. The main distinction between them is in the formation of the systems of values. In any religious system of values, including Christianity, about which I want to speak, there are absolutes.
In the non-religious ethic you find freedom without obligations. This is about what the French materialist René Descartes wrote: “As long as the absolute doesn’t exist, why not act as you consider it necessary?” But as he was brought up in religious ethics, he continued: “especially, if it doesn’t do harm to others”. But if it is to be consecutive, we should say what Dostoyevsky’s hero mentioned in his novel, Crime and Punishment: “If God doesn’t exist, everything is permitted”.
For example, in history we see that none of the unreligious philosophical systems can explain the criteria of good and evil, the nature of human conscience. I lived in the Soviet Union many years and saw how they tried to make an unreligious society. It was the greatest project for which a special philosophical concept was specially produced that explained everything - from the beginning of creation till eschatology - everything, except ethics. The Marxist philosophy failed, because it couldn’t explain what conscience is and why there is a general understanding of the good and evil in all human civilisation. This is impossible to explain from the point of view of the evolution and relativity of morals.
Secular, non-religious ethics cannot resolve inter-religious or international conflicts, because they are always based on private, relative morals. It will be always constructed on private, relative morals.
None of us complains that the law of physics limits our freedom, but by studying them, we try to use them ourselves for our benefit in the same way as we have to act with moral laws. It is obvious to religious consciousness that what is fair for physical laws of nature is justified also for the moral laws founded by the Creator. They don’t limit our freedom, but to be morally free, we should implement morals laws. Formulating these laws we have to distinguish accurately the criteria for good and evil, and this is possible only if we have the invariable absolute.
A lot of things in the world have changed throughout history - society develops. Today the speed of technical progress is mesmerising. It seems that this progress doesn’t solve human (=moral) problems. But on the contrary, it causes the need for creating new ethical directions; bioethics, medical ethics, moral aspect in policy, etc.
Bible ethics propose a norm, which doesn’t depend on social development, but stands firm on the strong principles of love and God’s justice. Love is the first in human life, eternal, immortal, the Divine beginning which temporarily gives worldly sense of life. This is not what philosophers of “situationalism”, who determined all acts by love, spoke of love as being uncertain and subjective. This is a kind of “anti-nominalism” lawlessness, following by Heraclitus’ opinion that it is impossible to enter twice one river, and that there are no invariable absolutes. Love - in the religious system, biblical thinking - assumes an internal order of the personality, where justice is an external order.
Christians believe that God overcame the evil. Probably, the first reaction will be a surprise, because it is enough to look around and we see terrible, incessant disasters, murders, violence, and destruction of cultural heritages. These feelings from the point of view of Christians are our subjective experiences. Everything that occurs in our private life or inside borders of any state, or the planet is in our inner world. Speaking in the modern language, it is a certain virtual reality. We grieve or we feel pity, we rejoice or we exult, we thank or we damn, this is only our subjective perception. But in the scales of history and meta-history (that oversteps the bounds of history), we are sure of an objective victory of God in the world.
We believe that human being as God’s image has a special value. This personal value can’t be taken away from him, and should be respected by each of us, society and states. The personal dignity resembles a price, which ranges high or low, which depends on how much a human being develops the image of God in himself. So as far as we are on God’s side, fighting for the truth and justice, the human personality is decorated and ennobled with the dignity of the human being.
From the point of view of the church that I belong to, self-respect and the respect for others are the first and foremost essentiality for the formation of ethical standards.
Ethics, morals, virtues in the majority of countries have had and
do have a religious character. Even those proclaiming atheistic regimes, the authorities of these countries adhered to religious and ethical principles on which they were brought up. (So, for example, in the atheistic Soviet Union, any person appointed to a post of an ambassador could not be divorced and could be married only once).
We want very much for human respect to be the cornerstone of legislative and executive powers of any state and to be guaranteed to the people by their leaders. Human rights, which are guaranteed by the state, have to be directed on realizing the dignity of each citizen. The separation of these rights from morality means profanation, because there can’t be an immoral dignity. Therefore, we recognise the rights and freedom of anybody as they help the eminence of human dignity.
Heads of state, who have power along with those in legislature in their countries, want their small families to live with respect and dignity. If so, within the power they receive (from God as we believe and from their peoples) the same wish should be extended to the people of their states. The people are their big families that are within the framework of ethical values. This is necessary in taking both private and personal decisions and thus essential in promoting a global state policy of any country.
I think it is necessary to designate a framework of ethical standards because in the modern world these concepts become a little vague. The modern model of tolerance teaches that a wrong behaviour doesn’t exist, whereas the traditional Christian tolerance, which is leniency, teaches to get on with good-neighbourliness without refusing the one understanding of truth. That means that we allow for belief and behaviour of others, but at the same time we have the right to express our point of view of what is good and what is bad. The danger of modern tolerance is the assumption that the distinctions among the beliefs of people are not significant.
The tolerance, which we preach, demands not to harbour malice against those whose belief you consider incorrect. Tolerance, of course, means working on your own personality. It is important to learn that any negative attitude to anything should not find in us an aggressive manifestation. Thus, from the point of view of Christianity, and the Orthodox Church that I belong to, and for the formation of the general ethical principles, the right concept of tolerance - that is respect in love - is necessary for the joint coexistence of people,
So we have to bring up our children without erasing distinction between the good and evil, but insisting on the standard values, to teach them to see God’s image in others. We have to protect our traditional values without fanaticism, but with determination that the new generation inherits from us steady and clear concepts and with a reliable support of a world full of different varieties.
Our Choices Show What We Value Most
H.E. Tun Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi
Former Prime Minister of Malaysia
The importance of ethics in laying a realistic foundation for effective governance and human security is our main concern today. Ethical choice - I mean the practice of virtue embodied in timeless values to reach wise decisions - is the antithesis of injustice. Values are not only the pre-requisite for good political and administrative decision making, but they are essential for human resource development and equitable distribution of limited material resources.
Ethics may not be divorced from justice, and as our blessed Prophet stated: justice means “extending inherent rights to their possessors equitably”. As Leaders, we have a great responsibility for the wellbeing of future generations. Who owns our earth? Do governments and private corporations have right of possession to use or abuse resources of nature, and manage the political and economic order for selfish profit-making interests? Unchecked concentration of wealth among a tiny elite of bankers and heads of corporations, acting above and beyond state regulation, is viewed in global context as an objective evil.
An aspect of Islamic thought that has invoked renewed interest in recent decades is the concept of Maqasid al-Shariah, the higher goals and objectives of Islamic law. Maqasid has become the subject of special interest for reasons primarily of its direct and unmediated relevance to basic values, and its relevance also to the international human rights law. The focus of this doctrine is on prioritising the so-called five essentials (al-daruriyyat al-khamsah), namely of the protection of life, faith, intellect, family and property that must guide decision-making at leadership level and law-making. The ethical importance of these values is self-evident in that the sanctity of human life, intellectual integrity and that of sound reason as well as the health of the family unit must be protected at all cost. These are also the governing principles of interpretation and implementation of the Islamic Shariah in all areas of law and governance.
We are also seeing the emergence of religion back into the public sphere and in circles of Governance. The legacy of imperialism bred overdependence on nation-state identities - ironically independence has fostered a narrowing down of human identity focused on politicised religions. For many societies in Asia and Africa de- secularisation accompanied by the political abuse of religious identity is an outstanding feature of late modernity. This inversion of religion brings many problems and forces us to carefully reconsider where and how permanent values may effectively contribute to genuine solutions.
In Malaysia we hold that the compulsion to act inspired by religion may be directed towards good, towards beneficial progress and sound human development. We call this approach Islam Hadhari or “Civilisational Islam”. This is a realistic approach towards enlightened Islamic civilisation compatible with modernity, yet firmly rooted in the noble values and injunctions of Islam. Islam Hadhari is consistent with the objective of creating a stable international world order where human security and peace-building may become norm.
Islam Hadhari posits ten fundamental principles which Muslim societies must cultivate. These are:
Faith and piety in Allah - The Creator of all beings;
A just and trustworthy government;
A free and independent people;
Vigorous pursuit and mastery of knowledge;
Balance and comprehensive economic development;
Good quality of life for the people;
Protecting rights of women and minority groups;
Authentic cultural and moral integrity;
Safeguarding natural resources and environment; and
Strong defence capabilities.
These sound principles are accepted by non-Muslims in Malaysia, as well as among our non-Muslim colleagues in government. Malaysia offers a modest working model of renewal and reform for the Muslim world which is succeeding in achieving material progress with stability and security. Islam Hadhari offers a moderate and mainstream reading of Islam away from its radical assertions and interpretations. It presents an inclusive vision of Islam’s intellectual and ethical legacy for leadership and decision making to resolve issues confronting Muslims locally and globally.※1
※1 A fuller articulation Islam Hadhari can be found in Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Islam Hadhari: A Model Approach For Development and Progress, Kuala Lumpur: MPH Publications, 2005, pp. 180.
IAC’s 2007 High-level Expert Group meeting in Tübingen, highlighted the alarming trend of religion being exploited and abused by political leaders to foment insecurity in order to secure their personal power and ill-gained wealth. It stressed that “the combination of ignorance, religion and nationalism creates a dangerous potential for war”. Regrettably such abuse has intensified and spread wider over the past seven years. As a concerned Muslim with experience of this unhealthy nexus of politics and religion, we are sorely pained at the proliferation of sectarian bloodshed afflicting major Islamic nations. From Pakistan to Bahrain, to Iraq and Syria, this cancer now infects many Muslim societies - echoed in my own region of S.E. Asia - bringing great tragedy and devastation through proxy wars whose long term consequences are to be dreaded.
Muslims should learn to maturely and responsibly recognise and accommodate inherent diversity within their own faith-practice. Therefore: we urge IAC to consider promoting discrete exploratory intra-Muslim dialogues among Sunni and Shi’a adversaries, as well as between the leading states involved. Whatever the cogency of seeking acceptance of common ethical values embraced by all world religions, the urgency of overcoming ignorant hatreds and elite- manipulated antagonisms among Muslim peoples can no longer be ignored. We place high priority upon this intra-Islamic necessity of initiating concrete measures to mitigate Muslim-on-Muslim violence - which is also severely affecting non-Muslim minorities in a number of countries - and is destroying numerous mosques, churches, and shrines in the name of God.
Ultimately religions retain important resources to assist the awakening of conscience and revive the transcendent roots of human identity. Let me invoke one seminal idea drawn from Islamic tradition: the doctrine of Human ‘Trusteeship’ khilāfah: to serve as custodians of our natural and human resources, implying that higher human interests touch the whole Society, and all of Nature.
Since the khilāfah devolves on humankind the role of guardians and protectors of the earth’s natural environment, Muslim scholars have proscribed the use and manufacture of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction. We may reflect further on this and propose the use of science-for-peace. Science has undoubtedly brought great benefits to humanity, but it has also been extensively used for destructive purposes. Ethical leadership requires that the vast potentials of science for peace be explored further and effectively utilised for the common good of all. Leadership decisions on resource allocation for global energy development, world water resources, and poverty alleviation not only address essential human needs but can also contribute greatly toward the reduction of conflicts among nations.
Growing from this shared imperative is recognition of the importance of “public” and respect for requirements of public opinion, and promoting the common interest - in Islamic terms, maslahah. This means a balance between rights of individuals, and their duties and responsibilities towards others, and between our innate self-interest and dis-interested altruistic values. Maslahah in Islamic thought makes it a duty of government and community leaders to strive to secure the public interest whenever opportunity avails itself; failure to do so incurs accountability. Hence, the legal maxim that “the affairs of the head of state (his success and failure) is judged by reference to maslahah - “amr al-imam manut bi’l-maslahah”. Securing the public interest under maslahah is inclusive of both the material and moral dimensions of public interest, which take priority, in turn, over the private and partisan interests. ‘Self-interest’ in the proper manner is good and necessary - but when pursued in an unbalanced excessively narrow manner it creates injustice, oppression, and contributes to violent conflict.
Insisting on the private self-interest of a small group or class in society is no longer an adequate response to severe problems we are facing: environmental pollution, global warming, international security, peace-building after conflict. All these cannot be addressed or resolved by one group or one nation in isolation, but require concerted cooperation and mutual understanding. They demand that leaders and governments grow away from self-serving ethno-nationalisms or ruling clique interests, to embrace a profound valuation of our common humanity guided and informed by permanent values.
We must re-think what are true ‘interests’ and privileges; and re- think what ‘development’ really means: moving toward ‘Human Development’, growing society toward a more humane and abundant condition. What is real ‘Human Security’- What are our true self- interests? Peace and harmony in society may be achieved only through knowledge and understanding, never by force or coercion. Suffering results from wrong thinking taking form in misdirected action.
Positive peace requires promoting prosperity, fairness, justice and safeguarding human dignity and human security. Religion should not impose change by force or coercion, but assist the transformation within oneself thereby radiating out into the whole of society. Once individuals are so transformed, their combined influence may shift the centre-of-gravity of the entire society towards a truly human activity. To this all peoples bring their aspirations for justice and generosity, for harmony and compassion. These bear the experience and wisdom of the moral strengths and permanent virtues necessary to face the harsh challenges, and respond to the new opportunities of our intercultural and cosmopolitan global world.
Let us remind ourselves of the counsel given by the great spiritual guide Jalaluddin Rumi seven hundred years ago: Love the Whole- Not the Part. This wisdom is the price we must pay to shoulder our greatest responsibility, and inform decisions reflecting our true self-interest. We may discover our true freedom - the freedom from narrow selfish preferences by which we may awaken our common humanity. My wife often reminded me that it is not the love for power, but instead the power of love, that makes for us a better place. Thank you, leaders and friends. We place our trust in God Almighty with hope for the future.
Chairman Fukuda: This session follows on from what Chancellor Schmidt talked to us yesterday, which is the world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion at the middle of this century. He expressed a very serious concern as to how we should cope with such a world. We would like to deliberate on this issue and what we ought to think and how to live from now on.
There were common points in the presentations of the Venerable Ohtani and Metropolitan Niphon in terms of peaceful co-existence of religions and nations, which is very important in the future, and I would very much hope that religious leaders here would further pursue the subject.
On the other hand, there are many issues just as important that are more practical and resolvable. For example, the question of energy, which is indispensable for our daily lives and for industrial and economic activities. On this question of energy, many problems have emerged, and this is an issue we need to consider now with a view to several decades hence. The food problem also is indispensable for humankind, and likewise the question of water will become grave with the increasing population. The progress of science and technology is dramatic. The information technology is advancing at a dazzling speed; we cannot even forecast to what level it will advance. The industrial sector also is progressing with further automation of production. These all raise questions as to how they will affect our living or society. So, the central question is how we can sustain as humankind, given such changes, which in turn pose questions on human rights, peace and justice.
I hope you will refer to these questions in your interventions. In addition, life is controlled by technology, which I believe is a very heavy issue, including whether some questionable deeds should be allowed. It is a matter of to what extent society can permit.
Yesterday, the importance of education was frequently mentioned, as a means towards resolving conflicts. For the sake of society, nation and ultimately for the humankind we should ask, “What kind of education is needed and how ethics can play a role within such education?” In the globalised society, the spread of knowledge is essential. I should think it would be great, if we could all share a similar recognition as to how we ought to live henceforth, including ethical standards. But in reality, what is happening is a completely opposite phenomenon. I would be very happy if some kind of indication emerges out of this meeting. Of course, specific answers to the points I mentioned would have to be left to other meetings, but I would like the religious leaders to give us their views on the overall direction; what kind of stance religions can take on these problems.
Dr. Koshroo: The moral responsibility in the world that we are living in now is somewhat different from what it has been in the past. In the very important statements of both presenters, there was a focus on inner peace and how to contain desires, because these desires may lead to very dreadful results. But we know that in the age of globalisation and social media, the entertainment industry, the advancement of technology and science, economy, banking and finance, containing desires does not suffice. So, everybody is for advancement both in technology and communication or whatever. So, we should try to find a solution for the problem or the situation that we are now living in.
The other issue relates to nuclear energy. Yes, nuclear armament is a very important issue that can destroy the whole human society. But if we are moving towards 9 billion people, then the only energy that is less detrimental and dangerous is nuclear energy, because of the lack of oil, gas and all other sources of energy. Nuclear energy should be and can be under the scrutiny of various controls, but it should be the main source of energy in the modern world, if we are moving towards 9 billion population.
Prime Minister Chrétien: I think that as Chancellor Helmut Schmidt said yesterday, the 9 billion level of population will be a very big problem. But it will happen, for population is growing even with some control measures. That will keep growing, and of course there will be a problem of life expectancy. And today, we are talking about poverty, but very soon, there will be a huge problem of starvation, because we will have to produce the food for all these 9 billion people. And that leads to the problem of water. We are running out of water in a lot of parts of the world. We had a happy discussion in Quebec City, trying to forecast the problem of water. It’s not related to food production. But as we discussed at that time, water could or is at this time a big problem in the Middle East and China, because they are very short of water, and it can have a dire consequence. So, we have to start talking about these problems, as the world is growing into 9 billion people.
My predecessor referred to atomic energy. The one form of energy that does not cause pollution is atomic energy. The problem is the safety of that. And when you produce atomic energy, people are afraid, as in the case in Iran and elsewhere, which might be used not for energy but for weaponry, for atomic war. And this globe would have to find a regime, permitting that anybody who wants to have atomic energy to create electricity can do it, and not create a political problem because it could be used for other purposes.
Prime Minister van Agt: The discussion could be reformulated to as “How can we rescue this world from getting the population of up to 9 billion and all the disasters that are bound to follow?” Now, just a few simple points. You all know that it is no news that as much as welfare levels go up in the developing world, the birth rate goes down. That’s something we all know, but it cannot be emphasised enough. That’s one. Two, again an old song, and old refrain, nonetheless very important indeed, is the empowerment of women. Yes, very much so. We have said it time and again, but it is not moving sufficiently and quickly enough; notably, of course, opening doors to higher forms of education for women as part of that.
Thirdly, we should all close our TV stations and radio stations or what have you, for all those guys that still try to minimise the problems of environmental destruction. And it has become, for almost all the wise people here, crystal clear that a disaster is in making. And that cannot be shouted aloud sufficiently. At a young age, people should learn that our earth can no longer withstand further stress. That is a very serious matter here on the agenda, also for the generation that is being educated now. Climate change, if we were to make Al Gore the President of the world, for the decades to come he would have my vote. Already for this simple reason, this is in a way already a reason of a matter of life or death in the longer term for many.
And a completely different thing. I come from a European country. We are certainly not the only ones in Europe. In the welfare state, we hand out financial support, we call it, and this actually encourages big families. It’s a noble thing, helping the parents of many children, because it’s expensive and cumbersome and all that. But the question has risen as to whether the time has not come to stop the financial subsidies, stop the hand outs. The problem is that it can also conceivably have other financial consequences that demotivate and discourage the production (excuse for the word but it’s my poor English) of more and more and even more children.
And yes, you mentioned quite right, my dear Co-chairman, the food question. In one and the same breadth, probably this is included in your text. Water, most likely we are getting close to a very serious problem in providing all the humankind, all these billions, already with clean water fit for consumption. And despite all the technical abilities we have, all the possibilities that have been opened for desalinisation, it will be by far not enough - apart from the fact that desalinisation is extremely expensive.
And finally, there is a suggestion made by one of these wonderful people here to add to our Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities. But in case we try to start thinking it out, we should have a more specific, concrete formulation than simply to state duties to see to it, to take responsibilities for our future generations so they can live here.
Chairman Fukuda: We just heard a statement which would have cost him votes, if he were an incumbent politician. That is excellent, and we ought to make more statements like that.
Prof. Saikal: Prime Minister Chrétien raised the issue of food and water security, and Prime Minister van Agt referred to environmental degradation. I think the issue of food and water security cannot be addressed independent of climatic changes, and the global warming has become a very urgent matter of our time. And these issues cannot be addressed without engaging in projects of wealth redistribution at the global level. Today, eight individuals own half of the world’s wealth. There have to be measures adopted that look at all these issues in an inter-related, inter-connected fashion.
And, for that, what we really need is a new international political and economic order. These are not sort of issues, which could be handled by an organisation like the InterAction Council. But what IAC can do is to raise these issues not only as part of its declaration for this meeting, but as part of revision of its charter of responsibilities, that will have to be highlighted very effectively and widely for the attention of those who really matter in terms of reformulating the international political and economic order. The attention of these people will have to be drawn effectively to these issues.
Prime Minister Fraser: The disparity of wealth, which we were just told again, has advanced enormously since the early 1980s. We cannot get away from the fact that these extremely wealthy people in Europe or North America or in some other countries, have happened as a consequence of deregulation, as a consequence of globalisation. Now, everyone moved on these paths in the 1980s, because we were told it was a universal good. And there have been advantages, undoubtedly.
But nobody has tried to come to grips with the totally indecent division in wealth between the rich and poor in nearly every country in the world. There is not a Western country that has not suffered from much, much greater divisions. In my country or the United States, the wealthy grew wealthier, and people at the lower end of the scale find it harder to do the things that they feel they need to do and want to do for their families. Now, this is a worldwide phenomenon. And the power of global corporations is now greater than the power of governments in which they operate, because they have more funds. They simply have more money.
In part of the same trend, we find in more countries, money is coming to play a greater impact on democracy itself. We can almost say that in some countries, democracy is for sale, and is that still democracy? I’m not sure if I could define today how many countries are in fact real democracies, because money plays such an important part in who wins and who loses. An influence of corporations and quite simply of money can lead the wrong people to win. So, in ethically-based human wisdom to bring peace and justice to the world heading towards 9 billion people, we are going to have to deal with the problems created by globalisation, by deregulation, by growth of worldwide corporations that have massive power in many countries, much more power than the governments in which they are operating.
Chairman Fukuda: Is there any religious leader willing to talk about how such a complicated world should be managed from a religious perspective? Humankind wants money, but an excessive pursuit of wealth can lead to expanded discrepancy, and invite new chaos. And if we pursue convenience, it can lead to many problems too, such as environmental destruction. And informational society can infringe upon human rights. Moreover, although democracy is said to be the best form of governing, if we listen to the views of too many people, it could result in slower decision-making, or it could lead to popularism. Is this really a good way of running government? Anything you do with good intentions always have its opposite elements. I would be most grateful if any of you can discuss these issues from a religious perspective.
Dr. Mettanando: According to a Buddhist canon, there was a prophesy of the Buddha that in the future the world would be populated at a very high level, but people would live a very high quality life, with equality between the rich and poor. There would be no discrepancy and mankind would solve the problem of discrepancy. This is said to be the prophesy of the Buddha. So some Buddhists do not have any argument against overpopulation, but they believe that finally there will be a period of time that a good, just society, in which the highly populated people will live high quality of life.
Rabbi Dr. Rosen: Two thousand years ago, there was a rabbinic decision that said that if there was a famine, you must stop procreating. This is an unusual and controversial religious response to the crisis of over-population. Even earlier, the Bible said that it is man’s responsibility, in the first chapter of the Genesis, to take on the guardianship, the responsibility for the whole world, to look after it, and to nurture it. So, it’s clear that the problem is not whether there are religious responses to the crises that face us with population, with the lack of resources to feed the numbers that increase in this universe as well as the issue of peace and co-existence.
The issue is not one of religious leadership. The issue is a bigger problem. In fact, it is the problem of creation. We live in an imperfect universe regardless of how it was created or evolved. In the Talmud, we have a famous statement that laws, rules and morals were not given for angels. They were given for imperfect human beings. And it is for humans to abide by them and to develop them.
We now face massive challenges, possibly greater than at any other time. And we certainly seem incapable of agreeing as to how to deal with them. So, whether it was sticks and stones then and now jets and bombs, this constant challenge that we have, to find a resolution to the issues, whether they are materialism, financial control, food, population, nature or war, they remain constant challenges to a humanity.
We are currently overwhelmed by massive migration both in terms of political refugees and economic migrants. The humanitarian challenge is huge. Anybody who studies the development of minorities, as they migrate, notices how people respond to challenges. Some are fortunate to escape to Western societies, where welfare will be a safety net. Most refugees are usually forced to struggle, to strive to earn livings for themselves and their families, and know they have to push themselves. This often benefits the host societies. But they also create cultural conflicts that too often bring out the worst in people. This too is a challenge we face that can bring out the best in us and sadly, the worst.
There are many ancient versions of Noah’s flood, the first recorded catastrophe to face humanity. The Biblical version is a story that links disaster to human failure. Yet it is an expression of hope. We have another chance, and it’s up to us to take it.
But of course you know and I know that outside this room, too many people are not interested. They are sitting at their desks, making massive amount of money on shares. They are polluting the atmosphere, busy mining gold and other materials from the earth with little regard for the human consequences. They are exploiting other human beings in manufacturing and service.
We here have a clear vision of what is wrong. The challenge is to get the majority to pay attention to us. And it has always been thus, whether it was Moses, Buddha, Jesus or Mohammed. Their voices were always raised on these issues. They were always talking about them and too often their voices have not been heard. But within each generation, within each society and within each group of people, there have been those who had a vision, and maintained their vision despite the frustration and the agony of being ignored by everybody around. That is what has inspired us, the religious people. The visions of those people were not listened to, who were dismissed and sometimes killed, because they said what was unpopular, what was uncomfortable.
We cannot realistically expect that we will change anything overnight. But we must be the voice in the wilderness. We must reiterate. We must repeat. We must stand for the values that everybody is expressing today in this room. And it is up to us to go forward from here and try to do every one of us can do to make the world a better place. Doing nothing is not an option. And we cannot know what our actions may achieve. We must not remain silent.
Metropolitan Niphon: We see reproduction, children as a blessing, see it as a blessing from God. We are now dealing with what can take place when the nations are growing to 9 billion people. We in our faith as a church, I mean Roman Catholic, Protestants and Orthodox, we believe that God will help. He will not leave those people who are created by the image and shape of God. He will help through people like you, through people who are responsible. He will give them the wisdom, how to deal, as we believe, for instance tonight in our meeting. This is the pure belief of the church. And this we consider it as God’s protection to his creation.
Prof. Chang: I am most hesitant to be a speaker this afternoon. I am neither a theologian nor a scholar of any particular school of religion. But I come from a society that is generally known as a Confucian society, the Confucius tradition. For 2,500 years, this passage is known and taught to every student.
When the great way is practiced, the world will be shared by all. The good people will be elected and jobs will be given to the capable. Words will be kept and harmony will be obtained. Therefore, people will not only treat their own parents as parents, not only their own children as children. Hence the young will be cared for and the old will end at the right place. Goods, if not needed should be left on the roadsides, rather than kept by oneself. Strength or energy, if it is not exercised by the person, it should not be for the person himself. When everyone is happy, then the great way will be achieved. This was the goal that was said by a very secular philosopher Confucius in his Analects. Then he said, “Before achieving that level, then the great common goal, minor prosperity”. And the current Chinese Government said that the year 2050 as the time when the Chinese nation will reach a minor prosperity. The great common goal is still way off.
My personal comment is India has a population of 1.1 billion now, China has slightly over 1.3 billion, together 2.5 billion roughly. By the models we have seen in terms of economic development, if China and India follow exactly the same path of development, we will know that our resources will be so finite that there will be a very strong competition for them, land, water. Then the ethics that we are hoping for will probably be downgraded to a negligent level.
I therefore think, even not from a religious point of view, from 2,000 years of biblical decisions and so forth, but just from a rational humanistic point of view, we must start thinking of new ways of development, such that the early development model - from the 18th century, the 19th century and even the 20th century - that pattern cannot be repeated just by these two countries alone. We still have Indonesia, we still have Brazil, we still have the whole of Africa, so forth. So, somehow, for the common good of humanity and for everybody who lives on this globe, we really should think about a different model of economic development. I am not speaking about political systems. Curtail our own desires so that we will not all use water so freely and use the goods so freely. This is an engineer’s point of view.
Prof. Axworthy: Thank you for both the theme of this session and for your request if there are spiritual or religious values or analyses that help us think through the situation. I am not in any way a religious leader. I’m a Methodist and specialise in choirs more than anything else. But I have spent some considerable time in working with the first nations in North America. In religious or spiritual perspective, that is not here. But our first nations or tribes, whose religious or spiritual traditions go back thousands of years, are quite close to the values the Venerable Ohtani raised in his presentation.
When we talk about resources and the planet, our first nations believe that human beings must be in synch with the water, the land and the physical terrain around them; they believe that humankind does not exist to dominate its environment. Humankind is a part of a cycle of the Great Spirit where it inter-relates. And that’s a very different perspective, a spiritual perspective which is different from consumerism or that the planet exists to feed desires of our species.
We are not necessarily deliberately exterminating other species but by the element of our desires, we are creating the world where they cannot live. This problem is already evident. It’s just going to get worse as we get more population, because there will be zero-sum competition for ever declining resource.
So, how do we combine these two things, and does the religious insight that Venerable Ohtani raised and which our first nations hold? Does it help us out in anyway philosophically or ethically under this dilemma? If you believe, as our first nations do, that the physical environment, the water and the air are as important as we humans, then, they believe that these elements of our life should also be represented in our legal environmental system.
Now, that’s a very different ethic and perspective, and it’s Utopian to even raise it or think about it. That concept is opposed to our current largely accepted paradigm of consumption, ever more consumption. With this problem getting worse and with conflict and environmental degradation coming out of it, the one hope in this is that young people right across the world, certainly North America and here in Europe, are animated by the preservation of the environment. Green parties everywhere exist, because of the desire that young people have toward maintaining the environment.
If we could combine the new, a holistic ethic of integration with the planet, instead of dominion over it, combine that ethic to the organising and enthusiasm of young people to preserve the environment, then that may be a potential way out of dilemma. And ethics which say we share the planet with rivers and air and space, and they are as important as we are, it means that we have to lessen our consumption. That is hard to do, if there isn’t an overwhelming motivating force of positive one, not the negative one that “I want more and I’m afraid I’m going to have less”. But a positive one that tries to have some commonality. Perhaps the commonality can be a sustainable planet where we respect the earth, the water and the atmosphere as much as we respect ourselves.
Prof. Chang: I neglected to say harmony between man and nature, harmony among men themselves, and harmony within oneself are also Confucian philosophy.
Prof. Hanson: I just wanted to take a couple of moments to summarise a couple of developments within the Roman Catholicism relating to both environmentalism and population. Of course, I’m not a theologian either, but I am a student of the social and cyclical of the Catholic Church, which are the documents that come out of the Vatican under the name of the current Pope. It summarises the direction of the application of ethical principles to practical affairs. The first of those was 1891 under Pope Leo XIII to address the rights of the labour. Recent encyclicals have increasingly mentioned environment. And it is a movement from the Old Testament, from the dominion of the environment to the protection of the environment. The predecessors to those documents mentioning environment was by a variety of individuals within the Roman Catholic Church, clergy and lay people, who began to rethink the Church’s approach to the environmentalism. So, there is a very interesting developmental process whereby the Catholic Church is beginning to address the environmentalism. What it will turn out to be in terms of principles is to be seen in future documents. But for over the last 15 years or so, there has been an increasing documents on the environment and the push for Christian Environmentalism, spiritual environmentalism that takes into account the spiritual principles.
The other development has to do with the population issue. One of the most controversial decisions in the Catholic Church in recent years was the 1968 Encyclical of the Pope which said that the ban on artificial birth control would be continued. A commission that Paul VI had set up had recommended overwhelmingly to permit artificial contraception. Many lay and clergy recommended this but Pope did not take this recommendation. The current Pope is revising that, although it is yet to be seen how much he will revisit it. He asked the Roman Catholic bishops of the world to consult with the laity over their reactions to the decision and to report back to the Vatican on what the laity believes about contraception.
And of course one of the stark facts exists in the US, for example; 88 percent of Catholic women of child-bearing age have used contraception, exactly the same percentage with the rest of the population, which seems to indicate the lack of acceptance of the papal ban on contraception. Whether that information, coming back to the Vatican, to the current Pope, will change anything anyway is to be seen. But simply to have opened that conversation is significant. And the motivation of some of the Catholics who practice contraception has been the moral obligation to control population growth. There are obviously others who have controlled their own fertility for personal purposes or for narcissistic purposes. So, this is something to watch the Catholic Church as this dialogue unfolds.
Chairman Fukuda: The question of the problems we have today and what impacts they will have on the future cannot be answered by our discussions alone. But in everything we do, we should not be excessive. Such expressions as harmony and restraint have been mentioned frequently this afternoon. Religion is a crystal of wisdom for the survival of humankind. From that perspective, the importance of the role all of the religious leaders here will increase henceforth. Given this, all of you should be more actively state your views and thoughts. It is not easy to sum up all the discussions made here, but we hope to take up your suggestions and reflect some of them into our policy-making.