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Marrakesh Declaration a watershed in the Muslim world

MARRAKESH (SE): Zouhir Louassini, a Muslim journalist from Italy’s state-owned 24-hour news channel, described the Marrakesh Declaration drawn up by 300 Muslim clerics and scholars as a highly important step forward in addressing the plight of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries, in an article published in L’Osservatore Romano on January 29.

The watershed declaration was published on January 27 at the conclusion of a three-day gathering on the Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominately Muslim Majority Communities held in Marrakesh, Morocco, and says that no one has the right to use religion for the purpose of aggression or to trample on the rights of religious minorities in any majority Muslim country.

The declaration states uncompromisingly that it is totally unacceptable to use any religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities where Islam holds influence.

The gathering was organised by the government of Morocco and hosted by both Sunni and Shiite Muslims from 120 countries. 

Opening the conference, the king of Morocco, Mohammed VI, said, “I am enabling Christians and Jews to practice their faith and not just as minorities. They can even serve in government.”

The Marrakesh Declaration recognises that in various parts of the Muslim world, conditions have deteriorated badly due to the use of violence and armed struggle as a tool for settling disputes and imposing a single point of view.

“This situation has weakened the authority of legitimate governments and enabled criminals to issue edicts attributed to Islam, but which, in fact alarmingly distort its fundamental principles and goals,” the declaration states.

The delegates noted that this year marks the 1,400th anniversary of the Charter of Medina, a contract made between the prophet, Muhammad, and the people of Medina, which guarantees religious liberty to all people, regardless of their faith.

The conference affirmed the principles laid out in the charter and the principles it contains, which relate to citizenship, freedom of movement and worship, property ownership, defence and justice, as well as equality before the law.

It says that the charter can provide a suitable framework for national constitutions, as the values it expresses are consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other United Nations charters.

The declaration states that there is a grave need for the cooperation of all religions and that this requires much more than simply tolerance and mutual respect, but must include the enforcement of the rights and liberties of all people without coercion, bias or arrogance.

The declaration calls on Muslim scholars and intellectuals to develop a jurisprudence on the concept of citizenship, which can be inclusive of all groups, which it says should be rooted in Islamic tradition, but mindful of global changes.

It also urges Muslim educators to be courageous in honestly and effectively developing curricula without any material that may promote aggression and extremism, especially anything that could lead to war or the destruction of our shared societies.

In a prepared speech, the patriarch of Babylon, Archbishop Louis Sako, spoke of the persecution of and discrimination against Christians in Iraq.

Fides reported that he spoke with regret of the military intervention by the United States of America in 2003, saying, “External players who acted according to their own ambitions in the region… have used democracy and freedom as a cover up to rob our natural resources, peace and freedom, and they have created chaos and terrorism in Iraq and the Middle East.”

Speaking to the First Arab Thinkers Forum, which was held in Abu Dhabi from January 17 to 19 at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, Father Miguel Guixot, from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said that religious leaders and opinion-makers must identify those who twist religious teachings to support their private agendas.

He added that this must be backed up by political leaders in order to prevent extremism from developing.

“As religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights,” the Vatican Information Service quoted him as saying.

An observer at the gathering in Marrakesh, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, called the declaration truly a great document that will have far reaching influence on our times and our history. He told CNS that he is grateful to the delegates who had the courage to prepare it.


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