Feb 10, 2009

Scholar says overcome ego to overcome intolerance

Scholar on religions Karen Armstrong has advised Muslims to use the pluralism and inclusiveness in Islam to overcome the intolerance prevailing in today’s world.“We are living in a world full of strife and intolerance which is pushing peoples into ideological ghettos,” she said in a lecture as guest of the Aga Khan Foundation and the International Islamic University Islamabad on Friday.Alongside the intolerance, however, existed the desire for understanding. She said the post-modern mind in the West was trying to reach out to old religious traditions and suggested Muslims should respond to it.Her next book on how the West came to atheism may be called “The Case for God”, she said.Ms Armstrong, who is world-renowned for her scholarship and books on religions, said, “intolerance hinders spiritual quest and leads to atrocities not compassion — the true test of religiosity”.She told her huge audience of university students and others that her books on Islam were meant to clear the minds of “my own people” about Islam. She has given to the revised edition of her popular biography of the Prophet of Islam the title Muhammad — the Prophet of our Times.“That’s my jihad against West’s Islamophobia,” she said about her literary works.Intolerance grows out of ignorance or bloated ego and can be conquered “by stepping out of self”, she observed.She quoted from Islamic history and the works of Rumi and Ibn al-Arabi to illustrate the pluralism in Islam and said the Christians in Al-Quds had such love for Salah ad-Din Ayyubi when he ejected the Crusaders from the holy city that they believed he was a Christian sent by God to free them of the Crusaders’ tyranny.“I have no idea but there is hope out there,” Ms Armstrong said to a question at the end of her lecture whether intolerance would be overcome.“We (the older generation) are stuck in our own ideas but you are not. You have clear, clean minds and have youthful energy to embrace the new,” she said addressing the university students filling the galleries of the Jinnah Convention Centre, the venue of her lecture.“Use technology to spread the compassion and respect for others that Islam teaches. You can save the world,” she said to great applause.It was the second lecture in a series of five that the Aga Khan Foundation has invited her to deliver in Pakistan on the pluralistic and intellectual traditions of Islam to mark the Golden Jubilee of Prince Karim Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismail Muslims.

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