Laiq Ahmed Atif, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta, Ta’ Xbiex
Freedom is a prerogative of all living things, man being no exception. Liberty is the most cherished fruit of life.
Man is the epitome of liberty which is ingrained in him. His very texture is woven with the yarn of liberty.
And man enjoys at most, his freedom of faith, because every human being has this right to choose and practise a religion of his own choice. All the main religions of the world believe in freedom of faith. The Holy Quran makes it absolutely clear that “there is no compulsion in religion” (2:257). As long as that principle is adhered to, harmony, love and peace will be maintained in the society.
Yet, amazingly, we find all man-made institutions shaped to work against the liberty of man in the final analysis. A careful study of the history of progressive growth of traditions, customs and legislation is sufficient to prove this assertion.
Over the last few years, we have seen a considerable amount of adverse reaction to the wearing or display of religious symbols. The recent days have witnessed two more of this series as banning Christian crucifixes and minarets of Muslim mosques. Traditionally the main purpose of a minaret has been to provide a vantage point for the Muslim call to prayer.
The call to prayer can be compared to the ringing of bells from a church tower because both signify the time for worship. However, out of respect for the local indigenous population, in most Ahmadi mosques in the Western countries this does not occur and the call to prayer is instead performed from inside the mosque to minimise disturbance to non-Muslims.
Nonetheless, the minaret continues to play a role as a key architectural feature of the Islamic faith. In all Ahmadi mosques the true Islamic principles of love, peace and tolerance are continually exhorted and practised.
How can the religious symbols be a means of offence, when they are only the symbols of respect and love towards religion and God?
Practising the faith of one’s own choice is a fundamental human right and we cannot exclude the wearing or display of religious symbols from this fundamental human right.
And just because a symbol is shown somewhere in the modern age does not mean that someone is compelled to adopt that religion, or to accept the views represented by that symbol.
Respecting religious symbols of all the faiths and respecting sentiments of the people of different religions will lead to international peace. And according to the Islamic teachings, Ahmadiyya Community is always committed to show great respect to all the religions, their founders, symbols and holy places.
Therefore, if peace is to be established, we will have to respect the sentiments of each other and safeguard the rights of society. It is easy to spread hatred but very difficult to sow the seeds of love.
Modern man can find the whole world before him at the touch of a button while seated on his sofa in his drawing room. Were all the efforts to achieve that nearness of a global village aimed at kindling the fire of hatred or were they to witness the evergreen fruit-bearing trees of love and sympathy for mankind? Everyone will certainly agree that our goal should be to acquire and promote love.
The Times: Friday, 18th December 2009 http://www.timesofmalta.com.mt/articles/view/20091218/letters/respecting-religious-feelings-and-freedom