On October 27th, Dr. Aisha Al-Mannai, the Dean of the College of Sharia at Qatar University gave a lecture titled “Islam’s View of Other Religions” on the UW-Madison campus. Dr. Al-Mannai is the first female Dean of Sharia in the Arab world and a founding member of Doha International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue.
A packed room listened to Dr. Al-Mannai as she talked about Islam’s respect for other faiths, especially the Abrahamic traditions. She mentioned, for example, that Muslims are required to be clean when touching the Bible and the Torah because they contain a divine message. Consequently, Muslims are prohibited from descrating other sacred texts as Pastor Terry Jones was planning to do with the Qur’an on September 11th. Thus, Dr. Al-Mannai argued that it was necessary to accord to the Qur’an the same level of respect.
Dr. Al-Mannai also emphasized that, as in other faiths, peace is one of the fundamental aspects of Islam. She highlighted that one of the 99 names of God in Islam is “Peace” and that Muslims use that word many times throughout the day when they greet each other. Thus, for Dr. Al-Mannai, this common commitment to peace should be a starting point for cooperation and interfaith exchange.
So, what is the source of conflict for Dr. Al-Mannai? It is the extremist followers of any religion who ignore the core principles of their faiths, principles which are often shared among many religions. These extremists, for her, display arrogance by believing that their way is the only way. The Dean reminded the audience that arrogance is a trait that is rejected by the three Abrahamic faiths. In order, therefore, to continue the important work of interfaith dialogue, Dr. Al-Mannai highlighted that basic respect for all faiths must be maintained–that is the way to begin to defeat extremists.
Did you attend Dr. Al-Mannai’s lecture? What was your reaction? Do you think that interfaith work can resolve conflict? What do you think is at the core of extremism? Please leave your comments below.