Laiq Ahmed Atif | Malta Independent on Sunday | 13 March 2022 |
Constructive dialogue is the spirit of a true and thriving democracy. The Holy Quran explains this by stating: “and those who hearken to their Lord, and observe prayer, and whose affairs are decided by mutual consultation.” (42:39)
This verse lays down mutual consultation and dialogue as the fundamental principle in the transaction of the national affairs. This simple phrase contains the nucleus of the effective functioning of a government which is how a democratic government functions. This verse also draws our attention to the matter that the government or the head of the state is bound to take counsel from the elected representatives when taking any decision of vital national importance.
Furthermore, this verse also sets out a guiding principle that constant dialogue and mutual consultation is vital for every national matter, be it political, social, economic or religious.
It is unfortunate, that on some occasions, such discussions take the form of insults, taunts, and shouting. Some incorrectly label political and religious discussions and the exchanging of views as attempts to sabotage peace, however it is the manner of dialogue, which, when not conducted in a civilised manner that should be condemned and not dialogue itself. The exchanging of ideas and voicing of opinions is one of the most important fundamental human rights which must not be compromised at any cost.
We must remember that it is logic, reason and the strength of an argument that counts, not the volume of a voice, taunts or insults. Shouting doesn’t strengthen the validity of an argument and I have been taught that you lose the argument the moment you feel the need to raise your voice, insult a person or use foul language.
People only feel the need to shout or indulge in vain talk when they feel that their argument is not strong enough, or when they lack valid points and therefore get loud to disrupt the process.
The Holy Founder of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community presented a fair and effective method in holding such discussions that encourages speakers to highlight the most distinctive features of their arguments whether they are based on faith or politics, without maligning or provoking others.
If all parties explain their manifestos, policies and plans without unnecessarily maligning others, keeping in view that viewers and listeners are the best judge, I am convinced that this will build a brilliant platform for constructive and progressive dialogue. This will lead to healthy discussions and debates and will establish a balanced, harmonious and vibrant democratic society.
Furthermore, all parties should be given equal and unbiased opportunities to present their point of view without any disruptions. The discussion should be conducted in a respectful and civilised manner, words should be selected wisely, even if the reality is bitter and hard, despite this, it should still be challenged carefully and appropriately.
Unfortunately, some take offense towards all forms of criticism, even if it is genuinely constructive. I believe we should always try to take the positive points from any criticism received as none of us are perfect and it can make us a better person. We must develop the habit of listening, because listening is equally important as, if not more important, speaking. In addition, if a mistake has been made, there is no shame at all in admitting it. It is not necessary to win every time, but by putting one’s ego aside, we may win by losing as admitting one’s mistake is also a victory as it can be corrected and be a learning point for everyone.
Mutual respect, care, and considerate attitudes towards each other are the foundations upon which a prosperous and sustainable democratic society should be built. The Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, laid down a golden and timeless principle that is remarkably relevant today: “A person should desire for others whatever he desires for himself”. None of us want to be insulted, taunted or shouted at, and prefer our views be respected, so why we do not reciprocate these values to others?