Science should be the basis of unity in the Muslim world, Minister of Tolerance Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak said, on the first of a two-day conference of the World Muslim Communities Council in Abu Dhabi.
The event, which kicked off on Sunday under the banner of unity, included Muslim religious leaders from the UAE, Russia, Turkey, Syria, Egypt and Azerbaijan, among others. During the conference, experts delved into the religious, social and political components of uniting the Muslim Ummah, or community.
“I am not a specialist, but Islam is a religion of science and knowledge. It is therefore important that science and research become the foundation for Muslim unity,” Sheikh Nahyan said.
“The UAE is a notable model in tolerance and an example of successful nation-building and development. But reaching unity in the Muslim world requires understanding the challenges facing it from within and from abroad by those wanting to change the face of the Muslim community,” he said.
Experts argued that patriotism and loyalty to one’s country should trump the concept of uniting Muslims under one flag in a single “caliphate” akin to the one the expansionist, ultra-violent, terrorist group ISIS sought to create.
“The concept of a united Muslim world falls under two categories: a rational one, represented by this conference, and an impossible and fictional one exploited by extremist and terrorist groups who endeavour to bring all the world’s Muslims under one flag and in one country,” said Dr Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, Egypt's Minister of Endowments.
“In our modern day and age, it is more important to have loyalty to one’s country and nation, its flag and land, than to seek an impossible unity under a newly created country.”
This futile endeavour bids to “weaken” the national state and alienate Muslim minorities living in non-Muslim communities, Dr Gomaa said.
A 2016 study on terrorism around the world by the University of Maryland, which looked at 70,767 terrorist attacks over a decade, found that 85 per cent of attacks by ISIS and Al Qaeda-linked groups occurred in Muslim-majority countries with the vast majority of victims being Muslim.
“It is also essential to understand the verses of the Quran in the time, place and context they were meant for and not in the way that terrorist groups exploit them to market their cause,” he said.
World Muslim Communities Council Secretary General Mohamed Bechari told The National the journey to renew our understanding of unity begins with a single step like the one represented by the conference.
“There are fractures within the Muslim world which need to be mended. The Sunni mindset faces challenges and so, while Shiite groups are present at today’s event, it will take more of these conversations to ensure wider inclusivity in the future,” he said.
For two days in the capital, religious leaders from the international Muslim community will continue to discuss the concept of the Ummah, its meaning and understanding based the Quran, the Prophet Mohammed’s life story (Seerah), and Islamic Fiqh, or jurisprudence.