Mr. Ahmed Toufiq: Framing Remarks, Marrakesh Meeting “Rights of Religious Minorities in the Muslim Countries: the Legal Framework and Call to Action”

Mr. Ahmed Toufiq: Framing Remarks, Marrakesh Meeting “Rights of Religious Minorities in the Muslim Countries: the Legal Framework and Call to Action”

Mr. Ahmed Toufiq, Minister of Religious Endowments and Islamic Affairs presented Monday, January 25, 2016 his intervention at the Marrakech meeting: “The rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries: the legal framework and call to action“. They are framing remarks of the Marrakech meeting.

Marrakech meeting: “The rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries: the legal framework and call to action”.

The full text of the framing remarks is the following:

“In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Muslim Scholars took great interest in the “circumstances of [Quranic] revelation”, not only regarding the verses of the divine prophecy, but also with regard to the exceptional events themselves.  What they mean by “circumstances of revelation” is justifications and obligations, or the objective contexts needed foran event to happen, which jurists sometimes call “revelation”.  The purpose of this interest in the circumstances of revelation is to guarantee the understanding and the issuing of sound judgment on the events which happened; and drawing inspiration from this method requires that we include in the program of this meeting these remarks which we call a set of guidelines.  By these remarks, we only mean to stress brief elements of the circumstances of revelation of this meeting so that it [the meeting] would not be misunderstood, or misjudged by the just-minded.

The meeting may be focused on three complementary contexts: religious, organizational, and political.

Firstly, the Religious Context, which distinguishes the nature and specificity of the meeting from other meetings:

This Religious Context is based on three orientations in Islamic Tradition and Directives of Hadith [prophetic narrations] texts, which refer to texts known to specialists, and which establish three truths:

  1. Relationship between Religion and Religious Science;
  2. Condition of Justice and Moderation in Religious References;
  3. Religion resting on the need for advice to the rulers, and to the general public.

From these guidelines, it becomes clear that scholars alone can interpret those texts which are used by religious people, either to establish rights, or otherwise, in understanding them.  Yet the texts can also be used to commit crimes in the name of religion, when they are, in fact, against religion.  The cause of this is the distortion of religious texts, as has been established in Islamic heritage since the time of the Prophet, is the three calamities: ignorance, imposture, and extremism. Therefore, it is no surprise that the initiative of organizing this meeting comes from religious scholars. Their duty in communicating this suffers greatly from the aforementioned calamities.  Thus it is they who must set these concepts aright.  For, they have a role especially in the issue of rights, which people today are used to seeing discussed by other authorities.

Just as religious scholars were interested in the occurrences of the revelation, they also took care to establish trust in the authenticity of transmitters.  This issue is of paramount importance, especially in our age of communication technologies, through which suicides are recruited from among the zealous youth by uneducated people, posing as religious scholars.  It is interesting that jurist Al Manawi, the 17th century Egyptian religious scholar, in his explanation of the hadith on imposture, quotes the Bible, where he mentions “If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”

This is the religious context of this meeting, which is to set the concepts aright.

Secondly, the Organizational Context, which is also a methodological context.   The issue here is the reasons that prompted this meeting, and give it shape.  They are five in number:

  1. The Islamic Parties, boldly raising this issue for the first time.  This is an achievement worthy of recognition in itself.
  2. Preparation for this Meeting through Workshops among the Organizational Parties during the past two years.
  3. Consideration of the duty of declaration and advice as a collective duty, because good cannot be monopolized by anyone; therefore, there is no reason to question the representation of this meeting’s organizers. There is an open question, and it is related strictly to reminding people of the principles on which there is consensus. Thus, it is not related to interest-based negotiations, or to issues that are part of jurisprudential conflicts, or to the details which lend themselves to debate.
  4. Inclusion of scholarly studies in the program of the meeting that bring to mind various historical and intellectual conflicts.  These scholarly studies have been included for an explanatory purpose, and for no other reason.  Knowing that, its positive meaning can only be understood in its context, the purpose of which is to consolidate the principle, and not to start a useless historical argument, considering that the desired result for all religions today is coexistence and solidarity.
  5. Inviting representatives from other religions which have minorities [in Muslim communities] to participate in this meeting. The justification for this call is engagement with the present and future; the purpose is that the guests be witnesses to this declaration, to hear this call, and to move together with Muslim scholars in the direction of better understanding. Further, to avoid making generalizations which lead to negative judgments of religions, which can only lead to discord and deviation from the path of wisdom and salvation.

Thirdly, the Political Context, which outlines the expectations of the meeting.  The Context becomes clear through the mission of religious scholars, because they can only communicate and explain principles and values, and give advice as to the implementation of these values.  This explains the invitation extended to a number of political stakeholders to attend this meeting. Politicians are expected to guarantee rights, and to regulate laws at the level of each country, as mentioned in the Royal Letter.  Otherwise, there are many provisions related to the issue of minorities, related to acquiring rights, and to exercising them, in the issue of minorities. This meeting is not the place to enter into such details, because what is required is establishing and committing to these principles, and keeping religion from violating them. For the sake of clarification, we point out that other minorities, i.e. Muslim minorities in non-Muslim countries, do not consistently enjoy similar rights, depending on the country, ranging from total denial of their rights, to neutrality, to varying degrees of empowerment, to equality in terms of civic rights, guaranteed by citizenship in some countries.

However, the scholars organizing this meeting rely on two other things beside politicians.

  • Firstly, using their ability as preachers to persuade the Muslim majority to use its legal and legitimate voice to win this issue of minority rights.
  • Secondly, mobilizing the press towards the fundamental issue made clear by the Royal Letter, namely that no one is allowed to claim that religion allows them to harm the rights of religious minorities in Muslim majority countries.

This address may be concluded by something argued by only by those obsessed with historical detail, and the issue that cannot be argued is that religions genuinely come to preach goodness, which is based on justice and moderation, and in which they should compete on a cosmic level instead of through sectarian conflict.  As we can see, in its current journey, the world today has experienced different lifestyles and modes of thought and behavior, yet it is facing crises which threaten it.  And it seems that the silver lining of these crises is that they could push humanity on a greater scale to take new interest in the meaning of life and existence. In its new interest, humanity will need the help of religions to provide it with the answer; yet there will be no answer if the religions themselves do not shun discord and aggression”.