An Important Vision of Enlightened and Moderate Thought

  • 20 May 2015

The symposium – The Mirage: Enlightened Thought in Countering Terrorism – which was organized by the ECSSR yesterday, provided a broad vision for developing enlightened and moderate thought to confront the illusions being created by extremist political and religious groups in Arab and Muslim societies. H.E. Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi’s latest book, The Mirage, was in focus throughout the symposium, which was attended by key scholars and experts of political Islam in the UAE and abroad. Speakers emphasized the importance of giving due emphasis on intellectual and cultural aspects of this struggle against extremist ideologies. These groups claim to speak in the name of Islam yet create religious and sectarian divides in the region. They deceive simple people with false slogans that yield nothing but destruction and bloodshed.

H.E. Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi’s welcoming remarks at the symposium highlighted the nature of the threat posed by political Islamist groups. These groups pose the most serious challenge to Arab and Muslim countries. They exploit in the name of Islam, serve their own interests and fuel conflicts among people of different faiths, sects and schools of thought. Such groups do not represent Islam at all. On the contrary, they deviate from the true teachings of Islam and have become a bigger threat to Muslims than non-Muslims. These groups should hence be confronted intellectually, which is no less important than security or military struggle.

In light of the threats posed by these groups there is need for a new vision to formulate enlightened, open-minded and modern thought, which refutes the illusions being created by them. Following are the observations and recommendations by experts during this symposium: First; there is a need to confront these groups at intellectual and cultural levels in order to dispel the illusions being promoted by them and ending the reasons behind their infiltration into some Arab and Muslim societies. This could be done by mobilizing tangible and intangible resources of the state and civil society.

Second important component is separation of religion from politics and benefitting from the European experience in this regard. Such a separation in Europe during the Middle Ages led to scientific advancement and human development and could produce the same results in Arab and Muslim worlds. Third relates to making efforts to correct the image of Islam as a religion of science, logic, tolerance, dialog and acceptance of the other instead of the image presented by the groups, which are characterized by fanaticism, narrow-mindedness and rejection of the other. The substance of Islamic civilization is associated with its values and principles of tolerance and moderation, which have ensured security and stability in Arab and Muslim societies for decades.

The fourth recommendation made by the experts was religious reform and call for enlightenment alongside social reforms and human freedom, which they believed, would deny these groups and organization the opportunity to build a social base and not let them exploit any failure by the state in performing its role and providing services to citizens. The dilemma faced by many Arab and Muslim societies is partly the result of the emergence of these political and religious groups. They are misusing religion to serve their vested interests and to grab power. Making serious efforts to develop an enlightened and moderate vision is the path to protect our societies from these groups and moving towards development and modernization.