Muslim leaders reiterate support for minority rights in Islamic nations


MARRAKESH, Morocco (CNS) — Muslim leaders from
around the world adopted a declaration defending the rights of religious
minorities in predominantly Muslim countries.

Participants said the Marrakesh Declaration,
developed during a Jan. 25-27 conference, was based on the Medina Charter, a
constitutional contract between the Prophet Muhammad and the people of Medina. The declaration
said the charter, instituted 1,400 years ago, guaranteed the religious liberty
of all, regardless of faith.

The conference included Muslim
leaders from more than 120 countries, representatives of persecuted religious
communities — including Chaldean Catholics from Iraq — and government

The declaration said “conditions
in various parts of the Muslim world have deteriorated dangerously due to the
use of violence and armed struggle as a tool for settling conflicts and
imposing one’s point of view,” which has enabled criminal groups to issue
edicts that “alarmingly distort” Islam’s “fundamental principles
and goals.”

“It is unconscionable to
employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious
minorities in Muslim countries,” the declaration said.

It called on:

— Muslim scholars “to
develop a jurisprudence of the concept of ‘citizenship’ which is inclusive of
diverse groups.”

— Muslim educational
institutions to review their curricula to address material that “instigates
aggression and extremism, leads to war and chaos, and results in the
destruction of our shared societies.”

— Politicians and leaders to
take necessary steps to legally “fortify relations and understanding among
the various religious groups in the Muslim world.”

— All members of society
“to establish a broad movement for the just treatment of religious minorities
in Muslim countries and to raise awareness as to their rights, and to work
together to ensure the success of these efforts.”

— Religious groups to remove
“selective amnesia that blocks memories of centuries of joint and shared
living on the same land.”

The declaration said cooperation
must be based on “A
Common Word,” a statement issued in 2007 and originally signed by 138 Muslim scholars and
endorsed later by dozens of other Muslim leaders. Addressed to then-Pope
Benedict XVI and the heads of other Christian churches, the statement called
for new efforts at Christian-Muslim dialogue based on the shared belief in the
existence of one God, in God’s love for humanity and in people’s obligation to
love one another.

With such a large percentage of
the world’s population belonging to the Christian or Muslim faith, the Common
Word scholars insisted “the future of the world depends on peace between
Muslims and Christians.”

“The basis for this peace
and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational
principles of both faiths: love of the one God, and love of the neighbor,”
it said.

“Muslims, Christians and
Jews should be free to each follow what God commanded them, and not have ‘to
prostrate before kings and the like,'” the Common Word statement said,
insisting that “justice and freedom of religion are a crucial part”
of the love of neighbor called for both in the Quran and the Bible.

The 50 non-Muslim religious
leaders at the Marrakesh conference shared concerns over violence in the name
of religion, limitations of citizenship, restrictions on freedom of religion or
belief, and xenophobia, especially Islamophobia by members of their religions;
reaffirmed values shared with Muslims; and asked forgiveness for past and
current injuries for which their communities are complicit.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of
Washington, provided the public report from the interfaith observers at
the conference.

“I was privileged to have
listened to the declaration of our final gathering. It is truly a great
document, one that will influence our times and our history. It is a document
that our world has been waiting for and a tribute to the Muslim scholars who
prepared it. As one of the People of the Book, I thank you for this document
and I thank the Lord God who has provided his followers the courage to prepare
this document.

“I will be honored as an
observer to support it,” he said.

Organizers of the conference
said they hoped to encourage Muslim nations to adopt the declaration as formal
Islamic law.

The conference was led by Sheik Abdallah Bin Bayyah, president
of the Forum for Promoting
Peace in Muslim Societies based in United Arab Emirates. It was held
under the auspices of King
Mohammed VI of Morocco and was organized by the country’s Ministry of Endowment and Islamic
Affairs and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.

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