Syria’s Grand Mufti on Islam and Tolerance of Other Religions

This is an interesting dude.

You might argue with him on the finer points of the examples and precedents cited in the article, and on just how free people were to worship in Jerusalem before 1948, but he seems like he’d at least argue his points reasonably.

Hope he doesn’t get fatwaed as an apostate or anything like that for his views, srsly! I believe many Muslims disagree with his views.

Excerpts from The Star 11 Oct 2010:

The importance of dialogue

Syria’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Dr Ahmad Badr Al Din Hassoun is no stranger to churches and temples. He has visited more than 300, giving speeches there and calling for tolerance and mutual respect among different religions.

He argues that Muslims who oppose inter-faith debates and dialogues are those who lack genuine and deep knowledge of Islam.

“They don’t truly comprehend what Islam really is so they have closed in on themselves and confined Islam to their own identity.”

He points out that the Holy Quran is in fact a book of dialogues and debates.

“What did Abraham say to his people when he was arguing against idol worship and what did they say to him in reply? Moses was arguing with the Pharaoh and Muhammad with his opponents who are the non-believers. All this is in the Quran.

“God is reciting to us all these debates as part of the Quran. Even the angels protested and argued with God when He was about to create man – and that too is recorded in the Quran,” he says.

His point is that “God is teaching us the discourse of dialogue and exchange”.

Using that argument, he asks, how can a child know about life if he does not have a dialogue with his mother or how can students in primary schools learn without some form of dialogue with teachers?

“How can we build a state or country without exchange of some kind?

“I love Islam and choose it because it doesn’t deny the other religions. Every day I affirm to myself that my Lord is the Lord of the universe, so how can I reject and turn my back on dialogue when my God and theirs is the same?”

And Dr Ahmad Badr puts what he preaches to practice. To date he has visited over 300 churches and temples and spoken in them.

He has even prayed in churches!

“The Holy Prophet was in Mecca for 13 years and he used to go and pray in the Kaabah area. At that time, there were 360 stone idols circling the Kaabah and he would stand in the midst of them and pray to God.

“He wasn’t concerned about the presence of the stone idols there. He never once touched (destroyed) any with his hand. He let those who believed pray to them, while he prayed to God itself. He was patient with them for 21 years but asked how they can worship idols that they made with their hands.”

For Dr Ahmad Badr, it is crucial to engage and relate with the rest of the world.

“We shouldn’t simply fight and oppose non-Muslims. Neither should we turn our back or refuse to go out and reach out to them,” he says.

He notes that the Holy Prophet always reached out to Jews, pagans and non-believers. Prophet Muhammad used to visit the council house of the pagans when they made decisions and even went to their homes where there were idols. He also visited the homes of the Jews in Medina.

“He never had any problems going to those places. He went there to display the true behaviour and virtue of the Muslim. So why are Muslims afraid to go to these places?

“I go to the house of Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. I visit them and bring them presents. This is what Islam taught me to do – to respect the human being.

“I think this is what Muslims need today,” he urges.

Furthermore, Dr Ahmad Badr does not believe in a so-called Islamic state or a state defined by religion because he deems it to be divisive and even dangerous.

He points out that religion and state are relatively recent terms, and that during the time of the Prophet there were Jews, Christians and pagans living together and the Prophet interacted with them. They were allowed to keep their religion and they were part of the state.

Hence, he says, the notion of a “religious state” rejects such an arrangement.

“In such a state, there should be only one religion, which implies a rejection of the religion of others. This is not what is preached by Islam,” he says, adding that there should be no compulsion in religion.

“Religion is my relationship with God and not my relationship to the state,” he stresses, adding that faith is rooted in the heart – and the heart is the house of God.

“Everyone has a heart which is a place of worship of God and this place is lit up by light and faith,” he explains, adding that if the seven billion people on earth had their hearts enlightened by faith, then they would realise that any individual who is slain reflects on God himself.

“I don’t believe in religious wars nor in holy wars. The killing of another human is not a holy deed. I never saw religion bid me to kill anyone. My religion has commanded me to try to reach out to people to bring them to a state of peace,” he declares, adding that it is important to teach people, especially the young, to have respect for all sacred teachings.

Having studied the different faiths in the world, Dr Ahmad Badr says, religions do not conflict as they all invite to one essential value, which is the sacredness of the divine and the inherent dignity of the individual.

But the problem, he says, is that followers do not really comprehend the religion they adhere to and that some political leaders exploit religious sentiment and “light the fire to promote discord and enmity” between the followers of different faiths to advance their own special interest.

“This is what is happening today in the world,” he says.

Educate and enlighten

Touching on the Palestinian and Israeli problem, he says that in the past (before the state of Israel was formed in 1948) Muslims, Christians and Jews used to live in peace and harmony and there were no problems with people of any faith going to worship at the holy sites and shrines, be it in Jerusalem or Bethlehem.

But now, because of the international partitioning, millions of Palestinians have been evicted from their homes and made refugees (so that Israelis can move in) and there are also thousands of armed Israeli troops around the holy sites so “how can I go and pray to God when armed men are around me”.

He also highlights the irony that Europe, with 33 countries, a number of languages and religions, has lifted the borders between them, while in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, it is the opposite.

Some want Iraq split into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish states, he says, while in Sudan there is a threat of the north and south being divided based on religion.

Dr Ahmad Badr also laments that Muslims are abused more by their own leadership than by the non-Muslim world.

“Don’t ask me about the Arab lands. I am so saddened by what they are doing in those places. I don’t complain about the enemies,” he says.

And what does he think about the Danish cartoons ridiculing the Prophet and the American pastor who threatened to burn the Quran?

He says he had actually invited the cartoonist (Kurt Westergaard) and Florida pastor (Terry Jones) to Syria for a dialogue (but they did not agree) so that they would learn what Islam is really like and what the Quran represents.

“I don’t curse them and I don’t oppose them in fighting. I try to educate and enlighten. If the cartoonist really knew who Muhammad was, he would never ever have distorted the image in such a cartoon fashion.” (The cartoons which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in 2005 and sparked Muslim outrage internationally have been recently republished in a book titled The Tyranny of Silence.)

As for pastor Jones, Dr Ahmad Badr says he did not read the Quran so he does not know there is a most beautiful and profound portrayal in it of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

“The Quran teaches me as a Muslim to respect and value the views of the Jews and Christians. The pastor wants to burn a document that ensures we have mutual respect, which he claims is lacking in us. So he is the one who loses, not me.”

In any case, he says, the real copy of the Quran for Muslims is not on paper but in their breast.

“We keep it preserved pure in our heart. These men should not be opposed or condemned in a violent manner. If they really understood and realised the reality of Islam, then they would learn to love and respect it.”

See here for more on Geert Wilders – he was just repeating the viewpoint of self-proclaimed Muslims, but as mentioned above, one that Dr Ahmad opposes.


30 Responses to “Syria’s Grand Mufti on Islam and Tolerance of Other Religions”

  1. Zack T Says:

    Dr Ahmad isn’t practising what he preach… If he was… he’d be ‘dialoguing’ with Allah and questioning a number of things Muhammad did and condoned.

  2. allo Says:

    “Touching on the Palestinian and Israeli problem, he says that in the past (before the state of Israel was formed in 1948) Muslims, Christians and Jews used to live in peace and harmony and there were no problems with people of any faith going to worship at the holy sites and shrines, be it in Jerusalem or Bethlehem.”

    The 1920 Palestine riots, or Nabi Musa riots, took place in British controlled Palestine April 4–7, 1920 in and around the Old City of Jerusalem.

  3. allo Says:

    “Touching on the Palestinian and Israeli problem, he says that in the past (before the state of Israel was formed in 1948) Muslims, Christians and Jews used to live in peace and harmony and there were no problems with people of any faith going to worship at the holy sites and shrines, be it in Jerusalem or Bethlehem.”

    The 1920 Palestine riots, or Nabi Musa riots, took place in British controlled Palestine April 4–7, 1920 in and around the Old City of Jerusalem.

  4. allo Says:

    The British military administration’s erratic response failed to contain the rioting, which continued for four days. As a result of the events, trust between the British, Jews, and Arabs eroded. One consequence was that the Jewish community increased moves towards an autonomous infrastructure and security apparatus parallel to that of the British administration.

  5. allo Says:

    One of the el-Husseinis, Haj Amin, who emerged as the leading figure in Palestinian politics during the mandate period, first began to organize small groups of suicide groups, fedayeen (“one who sacrifices himself”), to terrorize Jews in 1919 in the hope of duplicating the success of Kemal in Turkey and drive the Jews out of Palestine, just as the Turkish nationalists were driving the Greeks from Turkey. The first large Arab riots took place in Jerusalem in the intermediary days of Passover, April 1920.

  6. allo Says:

    I am urging everyone to go to the link and sign the petition and then to urge all friends and family to sign the petition! For every signature 1 cent will be donated, if we can make this big and gather 1 million signatures we can raise $10,000 badly needed dollars, money will go to HaTenua Lekinun HaMikdash (Organization for Renewal of the Temple) and help with Temple Mount activities!


  7. gerbil Says:

    ‘Alawites are an offshoot of Shi’ites. Some other Muslims, particularly in Syria and Lebanon, accept them as Muslims, but others consider them heretics (ghali) and outside of Islam. ‘Alawites have seven pillars of Islam, including Jihad and devotion to ‘Ali,who is divine. ‘Alawites believe in drinking wine, and they have something similar to a communion service. Tens of thousands of ‘Alawites have been killed by other Muslims, but today ‘Alawites are in control in the country of Syria.

  8. Zack T Says:

    ‘Alawites have seven pillars of Islam, including Jihad and devotion to ‘Ali,who is divine. ‘Alawites believe in drinking wine, and they have something similar to a communion service.

    Wow.. is this the Second Messiah that loop was referring to? =O

  9. gerbil Says:

    The Alawites, knowing that their worship of Mary prevents them from being regarded as full-fledged Muslims, sought several years ago to obtain from Shi’ite clerics in Iran a fatwa that entitled them to be considered as orthodox, albeit Shi’a, Muslims. Such a fatwa was issued. And now Syria supports Hizballah, by helping Iran transfer weaponry to that group in Lebanon, for two reasons.

    The first reason is that the Syrians need Iran. Every Alawite house has a picture of Mary. Every Alawite village is known. The Alawites need the legitimacy that Iran’s clerics can, so the Alawites think, confer on them, so as to allow them to present themselves as real Muslims, rather than heretical syncretists.

  10. gerbil Says:

    The second reason is that Syria,so far eagerness to assuage Muslims, both Sunni and Shi’a, outside Syria, appears to have worked. Group Al-Assad is still in power. Alawite generals still strut about. But there is a way to get Syrian cooperation. It would require that American policymakers understood the weakness of the Alawites, and how fearful they are of internal opposition from the Ikhwan. If the American government were to explain to the Alawites that it knows how worrisome such a charge can be, and knows just how dangerous it could be for every Alawite village if Sunni regimes — say that of Saudi Arabia — were suddenly to turn up the volume on its coverage of the “Alawites” and to depict them as Infidels, working with the “Rafidite dogs” of Iraq and the “Persians,” that would get the attention of Aal-Assad and his military henchmen in a way that nothing else could do.

  11. campoos Says:

    The London Times found that one cleric who had lectured the UCL Islamic Society was on record as saying of the Jews (inevitably): “They’re all the same. They’ve monopolised everything: the Holocaust, God, money, interest, usury, the world economy, the media, political institutions… they monopolised tyranny and oppression as well.” Alongside the racism came the concomitant sexism, homophobia and hatred of the western world. Channel 4, for instance, had caught another visiting imam on camera saying that the testimony of women was worth half that of a man. As for gays, he added: “Do you practise homosexuality with men? Take that homosexual man and throw him off the mountain.”

  12. campoos Says:

    In its meeting this past weekend, the Arab League rejected a proposal by its Secretary General, Amr Moussa, to admit Iran and Turkey to the Arab League, at least on some limited basis.

    But it was a proposal by the charismatic secretary-general of the Arab League that has produced a lot of fireworks. Amr Moussa strongly believes that the Arab League should invite key players in the region – mainly Iran and Turkey – to take part in Arab summits and have a say in some of the decisions that are of common interest.

    That proposal too was nipped in the bud. The Arab League is composed of predominantly Sunni countries which are very sceptical of Iran. Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, has on many occasions accused Iran of spreading ‘Shiaism’ in the Middle East and North Africa.

    In 2009 Morocco severed relations with Iran after making similar charges.

  13. gabra Says:

    If the Americans deserve to be murdered because of Washington’s “bias” in favor of Israel, why are countries such as France, Britain and Germany — which have, generally speaking, been very supportive of the Palestinians — now on the black list of radical Islamic groups?

    The Europeans are being targeted for the same reason the Americans are: for being “infidels” and enemies of Islam and for the Western values they represent. They are being targeted because of their failure to transform into Islamic countries. Those who think that solving the Israeli-Arab conflict will undermine Al-Qaeda and its allies do not know what they are talking about.

  14. pushkin Says:

    Top 10 Movies Banned In The Middle East

  15. stroth Says:

    ““I go to the house of Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. I visit them and bring them presents.”

    Remember the Fall of Troy. Beware Greeks who bear gifts.

  16. stroth Says:

    ‘Hijackers collected Rs. 71,000 for gift to Taliban’

    The hijackers of the Indian Airlines plane would like the incident to be remembered for a long time to come. Perhaps this is what prompted them to urge the passengers to collect money for making a gold-plated model of a plane with “Indian Airlines IC-814” inscribed on it for installation at a Kandahar museum.

    On the night of December 30, the most popular of the hijackers, Burger, told the passengers that 80 per cent of the negotiations had been finalised with the Indian Government. Stating that all the deals were being put on paper, he told the passengers that in all probability, “with God’s grace”, they would be free the following morning.

    However, as one of the hostages, Rajinder Singh, recalled: “Burger also asked us, what kind of people we were. The Taliban has done so much for you, would you not like to give them something. Then he told us to voluntarily donate money for their cause.”

    A paper bag was circulated in which the passengers put in their contributions. Rajinder Singh said over Rs. 71,000 was collected in dollars, and Indian and Nepalese currency. This was announced by Burger over his hand-held loudspeaker.

    Once the money was collected, Burger asked the passengers what gift they would like to give the Taliban. “After people made various suggestions, he opined that we should rather give them a model of the Indian Airlines plane, a gold-plated one at that.”

    Then two passengers were chosen by Burger who handed them Rs 20,000 for getting such a model prepared. The task of handing over the model to the Taliban was entrusted to a Nepali passenger, who was given the rest of the money.

    This Nepali passenger, who works for a non-governmental organisation in Afghanistan and is based in Peshawar, Pakistan, was instructed to carry the plane model to Afghanistan and get it installed in a museum. As another passenger, Mr. Vipin Menon, pointed out, “he was also told to donate the rest of the amount to a hospital in Kandahar.”

    `Noble’ gestures indeed from hijackers who were responsible for the agony of the passengers, their relatives and most of all the family of Rupin Katyal.

  17. campoos Says:

    No higher an authority than President Obama praised the work of the comic’s creator, Kuwaiti psychologist Naif al-Mustawa. At an April meeting with Arab entrepreneurs, Obama said, “His superheroes embody the teachings of the tolerance of Islam.”

  18. kirpan Says:

    Not much different from:

    “Faisal Shahzad is being treated like some sort of stupid child who doesn’t know his own religion, even though he has practiced it all his life and probably knows the entire Koran by heart”

  19. kirpan Says:

    She added, “It disgraces the mightiest prophet of the God of all creation. He may have been a pedophile but he was not a homosexual. To say otherwise is pure defamation.”

    But the artist, a professor at Stanford University, said he was simply making a statement on problems he sees with religious institutions, including the Islamic religion. “My intention is to critique religious institutions, since they affect everybody’s lives – even people outside the religious sects,” Chagoya told

    “In my work mentioned above I address the role of the Islamic religion among other religious groups imposing its credo on cultures all over the globe. I also critique Islam’s position against same-sex marriage while allowing pedophiles to be reviled as prophets.”

  20. kirpan Says:

    Professor Chagoya, when asked whether he fears reprisals from Muslims, had this to say on Friday: “If you can’t understand satire – whether it mocks exalted professors or exalted prophets – then jump on the next camel and get the hell out of the country. This is America, not a Muslim theocracy.”

  21. gerbil Says:

    They cannot show tolerance:

    Female students at Al-Azhar University in the Nile Delta city of Zagazig on Sunday staged a sit-in on campus, claiming they had been assaulted by campus security after refusing to submit to body searches.

    Police eventually dispersed the protesters, arresting ten male students that had been supporting their female colleagues.

    According to one protester, female students were beaten by campus police after they asked to be searched by female security personnel.

  22. Latma Says:

    Eggs, shoes hurled at Obama poster during TA protest
    Demonstration against US “brutality” held near US Embassy; ‘You are not the 12th imam,’ signs read.

    An unusual demonstration (for Israel) was held outside the US embassy in Tel Aviv on Monday night. Shoes and eggs were thrown at this picture of President Obama (which was taken while he was on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu in April 2009 and touched off quite a scandal because it was considered disparaging to Netanyahu) to protest the pressure he is putting on Israel to extend the ‘settlement freeze.’

  23. milochka Says:

    Samir Khan: “”I am a traitor to America because my religion requires me to be. We pledge to wage jihad for the rest of our lives until either we implant Islam all over the world or meet our Lord as bearers of Islam.”

  24. The Lord's Angels Says:

    Angels Worship in Heaven…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

  25. toboggan Says:

    Protesters in Tel Aviv have thrown shoes and eggs at an image of US President Barack Obama over an alleged pro-Palestinian policy.

  26. toboggan Says:

    The Muslim Brotherhood has declared war on America.
    The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood has endorsed (English translation by MEMRI) anti-American Jihad and pretty much every element in the al-Qaida ideology book. Since the Brotherhood is the main opposition force in Egypt and Jordan as well as the most powerful group, both politically and religiously, in the Muslim communities of Europe and North America this is pretty serious stuff.

    By the way, no one can argue that he merely represents old, tired policies of the distant past because the supreme guide who said these things was elected just a few months ago. His position reflects current thinking.

  27. rotfl Says:

    We Are Family

  28. ustad053 Says:

    Islamic thought and information platform

  29. Serious Shepherd Says:

    Nabi Musa celebration? I can’t find that event in my kalendar kuda.

    “The Muslim Brotherhood has declared war on America” no thanks to more financial aid for the Mu-barack regime.

  30. loop Says:

    Dr Ahmad Badr have made a clear stand but most were really anxious and unable to think clearly or they just rather burn the houses that throw their prejudice.Really Dr Ahmad had driven you mad, suffering and problem until some cannot stop annoying or upsetting someone very much.

    He made it clear but you with great destruction.

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