The annual meeting of the “Russia- Islamic World” Strategic Vision Group.
28-30 November.2019- City of UFA (republic of Bashkortostan, The Russian Federation)
Address by Dr. Ezzat Saad, Director of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt.
On the Dialog of Civilizations, Cultures and Religions
First of all, I would like to express my deep thanks and gratitude to the sponsors of this important international conference and for the hospitality, well-being and care they have brought to our attention.
I would also like to commend the Russian Federation’s consistent positions in supporting the just causes of the Islamic world and the keenness of the political leadership in the Russian Federation to achieve harmony, understanding, tolerance and coexistence between the peoples of Russia and the peoples of the Islamic States in order to meet common challenges and achieve progress and prosperity for all.
Indeed, historically, the Russian people – Christians and Muslims – have always lived side by side in peace, and Russian leaders have been keen to present their country as a friend of Islamic countries and peoples who respect their internal affairs, values, customs and traditions. Let us recall that during the Soviet Union, Moscow did not intervene to stop the abuse and violence of communist parties in certain Arab countries, such as Iraq, Syria, and Libya. In order to confirm Russia’s orientation towards the Islamic world, President Putin participated in the Organization of the Islamic Conference in October 2003, before Russia gained observer status for the organization two years later (2005), which we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of its establishment today.
Tatarstan is a model for the Islamic world on religious tolerance in Russia, and the determination of the Russian political leadership to interact with the Islamic world – which represents our group…Strategic Vision Group… One of its manifestations is also evidence of the sincerity of intentions and desire to support relations between the two sides on the basis of the principles of global governance, the core of which is the Charter of the United Nations, especially the principles of non-interference in internal affairs, the renunciation of the use of force in international relations, sovereign equality, and the peaceful settlement of international disputes within, not outside, the relevant organs of the United Nations.
Russia continues to work actively within the framework of international bodies to promote initiatives aimed at dialog among civilizations and coexistence among religions rather than conflict between them. On the contrary, we notice the hate, racism and incitement of some American circles, especially the pillars of the current administration, which see only “oil, sand, and death” in our region and nothing else. It adopts an irresponsible and destructive policy on serious issues that affect not only the security of the Middle East, but also international peace and security issues, such as unlimited support for the aggressive and racist practices of Israel in the occupied Arab territories, and the violation of all the international law, the legality of the Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories. This destructive policy, and the current American administration’s abandonment of multilateral collective action, especially the United Nations, calls into question by the complete cessation or reduction of funding for the Palestinian Refugee Agency, the United Nations Population Fund, and the United Nations Office for Counter-Terrorism, as well as the withdrawal of multilateral agreements and institutions, including UNESCO and the United Nations Human Rights Council. This reminds us of what former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a reception in Washington in 2008 to present the first US special envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Sada Number, when she stated, “The notion that the US is in a war with Islam was unleashed by violent extremists who seek to divide and provoke Islamic societies against each other.” The organization agreed with the credibility of what Rice claimed.
The theme of the dialog on religions, civilizations and cultures has received special attention in Egypt, whether by religious institutions or government authorities. In this context, I would like to note that among the activities of the third Youth Forum, hosted by Egypt from 4 to 9 November, which provides an opportunity to launch initiatives to enrich intercultural dialog among young people of different cultures and create a cultural context of dialog that will enable societies to express themselves freely as a crucial dimension of international understanding and the reconciliation of different viewpoints, there was a session on the second day of the forum on “Differences of Civilizations and Cultures: Saddam Umm Al-Tawil”, in which President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi participated, along with a large number of intellectuals and academics from various countries around the world. In this session, it was emphasized that there is no clash between civilizations at all, or rather when conflict or disagreement takes place, it is not between civilizations, but between peoples and societies in a broader sense. When some try to link the conflict of civilizations and religious differences, it is an unhealthy connection. Religions also do not have differences that reach the level of conflict, although there is a real difference in the priorities and arrangement of values on which each religion is focused, but they are all of divine values and principles and values that have been established to organize and organize and promote human life and promote it … Unfortunately, some powers and groups take religion as hostage among their will and interpretation to serve their goals and to practice terrorism and destruction, which is the common enemy of all civilizations that are the industry of life, while it is the industry of destruction and death.
Points of contention can only start when religion becomes a behavior and action that may collide with the rights of other adherents of one religion. The only case in which this situation is manifested is that it is based on the Jewish teachings and laws (according to Jewish claims) on raping Islamic land and sanctities in Palestine. The problem also lies in some trying to impose their own visions, values and concepts on others. Diversity and difference of age in the universe, and extremism and terrorism come from superiority whether in religion, sect, ethnicity, or ideology. Hence, it can be said that the danger that threatens all imposes a dialog of religions itself, which cannot – and cannot be – separate from the dialog of cultures, because if there is cultural cooperation and popular communication, we would be avoiding great risks. International media has a dangerous role to play, both as a factor of convergence and as a torch of fires.
For decades (I think the 1960s), the dialog of religions has been taking place between the Vatican and Al-Azhar in Egypt (since 1988) and other parts of the Islamic world until the dialog was transferred to the United Nations General Assembly on a Saudi initiative, I think.
However, we have to admit that the message of interreligious dialog remains confined to the elite and has not moved to the broad base. In the Islamic religion, dialog with others is required and confirmed in the Quran. God created us different from each other, but to get to know each other (Rooms 13), that is, dialog is God’s explicit.
There are some who believe in the idea of dialog among religions and those who truly advocate that this dialog should not be confined to the three monotheistic religions, as it should be extended to include other faiths and religions such as Buddhists, Hindus and others as long as they are ready to do so.
Dialog in logic is the opposite of the word confrontation. As long as we are in a state of dialog, there is no confrontation and it is not in the interest of anyone to go to confrontation. Moreover, peace is the ultimate goal of the dialog. Of course, peace must not be separated from justice, and to say otherwise means that the violation of rights and the oppressor benefits the peace. Here we have to emphasize that the dialog needs a good and balanced environment, and not that the other imposes such a dialog on you like Trump and what he wants to do with the Palestinians and Arabs.
The goal of the dialog of religions is to search for a kind of historical reconciliation between freedom of opinion and expression and the red lines that protect the line of others in respecting their beliefs. This is a challenge that is not easy, especially since there is a segment of the dialog that will be angered by this. However, standing by justice and justice deserves courage and sacrifice.
Of course, the success and continuation of the dialog requires a favorable and peaceful international climate. This peace always needs balance and justice as a basis for this balance, whether internal or inter-State. The goal of the dialog is to reach points of peace, but without justice and without the realization of the right, the dialog will not reach a result. A clear example of this is the Palestinian issue for which a political solution could not be reached because of the blatant bias of one team against the other.
In cooperation with the Egyptian government, a Coptic resident abroad (Dr. Qadis, President of the Union of Egyptian Communities in Europe) established the first academy for dialog between religions in Egypt to be a nucleus for spreading understanding, tolerance and cooperation between Islam and Christianity on scientific and cultural bases among Muslims and Copts and renewing religious thought based on understanding, knowledge and dialog.
We had talked in St. Petersburg last October about the war of information and fake news and the great impact of social media on the issue of communication among civilizations and cultures, and the implications of that for human development. In this context, States have the right to preserve their independence, national identity and system of values, whatever and wherever they may be. In this context, it is important to cooperate and coordinate among States and communities to develop creative commons, above all politics and agendas. Unfortunately, Western thought is the one who exported the idea of a clash of civilizations. Although, historically, many wars have taken place among people of the same religions, such as the wars of the Catholics and the Evangelists in Europe, and the 100-year war, that is, as there was a clash between Christianity and Islam (the crusades), wars took place among the Christian sects themselves.
In the opinion of many, the idea of a clash of civilizations is linked to the issue of personal and political identity and is also used by extremists to consolidate the conflict between Arab and Western countries. Thus, it seems important to reach out to other cultures and civilizations and understand them as a basis for joint co-existence and respect for diversity and diversity of different cultures as a source of intellectual enrichment rather than conflict between civilizations. Rather, it is important to bring religions closer together, achieve communication, resolve disputes and develop curricula that establish peaceful coexistence and acceptance of others. Those who destroyed museums and antiquities in some countries should realize that they have failed to wipe out these civilizations. Civilizations, too, have a past, present and future.
The conclusion is that the problem is not in civilizations or in religions, so intellectuals and elites gather a lot to discuss the conflict of civilizations or religions without reaching a real thing, because they do not find what they differ about. They come up with positive, conciliatory slogans and broad lines, but they are useless because they deal away from the heart of the real problem. The old accusation against Muslims and Arabs is no longer valid and has no place at present after the wave of globalization and the extension of everything that is Western to our societies. It has been proven that the Arabs and Muslims have a high capacity to absorb and accept each other as is the case. What has happened for a while is that the other is the one who attacks Arabs and Muslims and practices all human and political violations against them. In this context, it should be recognized that there is a current trend in American policy that clearly reveals a civilized struggle against Islam and Muslims, with which talk about dialog becomes like surrender, because the dialog that will be conducted will be based on the conditions of the West, according to its perceptions, and towards its aims, and because American policy uses cultural dimensions to serve political purposes in the first place. In this context, we should not ignore the fact that stopping and decreasing the American aid to the Palestinians, which is intended for the Palestinian Refugees Relief Agency, and all the measures and procedures that the administration has taken in this direction, were, through the statements of the pillars of the Trump administration, the same thing, forcing the Palestinians to sit at the negotiating table and accept what is called the “deal of the century.”
Indeed, the unilateral policies of the United States Administration, its abandonment of dialog and multilateralism pose major challenges to the future of the United Nations and its role in the maintenance of international peace and security, and also weaken the ability of the international community to meet global challenges through cooperation, coordination and consultation among States. This calls for a strong stand by the international community to confront these dangerous trends that are detrimental to peace and security around the world, especially in the Middle East.