‘Equating Islam with terrorism is dangerous’ (Lead)

October 17th, 2008 - 7:46 pm ICT by IANS  

Astana, Oct 17 (IANS) The widening gulf between different religions was leading to dangerous global instability, said leaders of Western and Islamic countries here Friday, and warned against equating Islam with terrorism.At an international summit in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, foreign ministers and other participants from 65 countries and international organisations said reconciliatory measures and dialogue between Muslims and Christians were a must for global peace and stability.

“It is a great pity that we see incessant attempts to authenticate and unify Islam and terrorism. The doctrinal substance of Islam is distorted. This repulses a big chunk of Muslims who cannot help but be offended by such treatment of the Quran,” said Kazakhstan Foreign Minister M. Tazhin, addressing the conference, Common World - Progress Through Diversity.

Muslim belief, he said, “is declared as extremism, which erodes the principles of tolerance”.

“Anti-Islamism is a danger with negative consequences not only for the Muslim community but also for Western countries themselves,” Tahzin warned.

The Kazakhstan foreign minister suggested that the world leaders should not argue on what he referred to as “grammatical subtleties of our life and time and instead address mundane problems affronting the world today”.

The summit is being held in the backdrop of the perceived widening gap between Islam and the Western world. The venue was a pyramid shaped architectural masterpiece, called the Palace of Peace and Concord in Astana - the hi-tech city in the north-central Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev stressed the need to jointly stave off threats to world security due to terrorism and the apparent discord between Muslims and Christians.

He said it was “imperative to stave off the division of the world along civilisational, cultural and religious lines and unite in the face of common threats to humanity”.

Kazakhstan - a former USSR state that became independent in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union - is home to nearly 16 million people of 130 ethnic groups practising 46 faiths with a pre-dominant Muslim population.

The world’s largest landlocked country is bordered by Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Caspian Sea towards the west.

The central Asian country, rich in mineral and fossil fuel resources, is a presidential republic. Nazarbayev, a popular leader with strong secular leanings, was re-elected as the head of the state in the 2005 elections with a thumping majority, with over 90 percent votes.

Kazakhs generally are highly appreciative of President Nazarbayev’s social and economic reforms even though some international organisations doubted that the 2005 elections weren’t held in accordance with global standards.

Condemning what he described as “mass media outrages” against feelings of followers of other religions, Nazarbayev warned that “journalists involved in these practices will face outrages against their own faith”.

“That is why, it is imperative to stave off the division of the world along civilisational, cultural and religious lines and unite in the face of common threats to humanity.”

OIC General Secretary Ekrneleddin Ihsanogiu said diversity was one of the fundamental principles of Islamic teachings that vouch for peaceful coexistence of different civilisations.

“Islam is the religion of peace, moderation and compassion and celebrates diversity and even recognises Christianity and Judaism,” Ihsanogiu said.

Echoing the same sentiments, foreign ministers and participants from, Pakistan, Russia, Belgium European Union, Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, Poland and other nations unanimously rejected any form of “tensions based on religious beliefs, cultural and civilisational differences and their use for fuelling hatred, xenophobia and confrontation”.

They also stressed the need to encourage permanent contacts and dialogue within and between Muslim and Western societies at political and social level.

They stressed that international relations should be guided by fundamental principles that underpin at corpus of human rights, democracy and equity.

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