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December 6, 2013
Subject: Presentation by Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan (Ret.) Adjunct Professor Seton Hall University,
USA, ...
Our planet today, significant parts of which are victims of violent extremism, civil strife, poverty,
deprivation and brea...
We need to understand that the root causes of extremism and militancy lies in
political injustice, denial, and deprivation...
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[Ambassador Hassan] Speech: Presentation by Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan (Ret.) in the GPC panel on Faith and Diversity


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Date: Dec. 6th 2013
Session: Interfaith Partnerships: Faith and Diversity: Toward a Global Ethic for Inclusive and Moderate Societies
Speaker: Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan; Former Pakistani Ambassador to Malaysia, Syria and Morrocco, Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Published in: Spiritual
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[Ambassador Hassan] Speech: Presentation by Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan (Ret.) in the GPC panel on Faith and Diversity

  1. 1. December 6, 2013 Subject: Presentation by Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan (Ret.) Adjunct Professor Seton Hall University, USA, in the GPC panel on Faith and Diversity: Toward a Global Ethic for Inclusive and Moderate Societies. I am grateful to the organizers of the Global Peace Convention for inviting me to participate in this important colloquium in the lovely city of Kuala Lumpur. The invitation has permitted me to visit Kuala Lumpur where I had the honor to be stationed as the Ambassador of Pakistan in the mid- 1980s. The topic under discussion is both timely and important. There are more than seven billion human beings on our planet living in varying degrees of harmony and tranquility and its polar opposite, violence and discord between each other. Few thinking persons would deny the pressing needfor like- minded persons desiring peace to replace violent extremism by mitigating sentiments of fear, mistrust and dissension among peoples of different faiths and different regions. I do not think I would be far wrong in suggesting that such persons of goodwill, commitment and experience include all the participants congregating here for this Convention. To place our efforts in context it would be useful to recall that a former President of Iran, Mohammed Khatami,had unveiled to the United Nations in 1998 his proposal for the international community to initiate a dialogue amongst civilizations. Many countries were supportive of Khatami’s initiative but it got side tracked by the unprecedented terrorist attack on the United States on September 11 2001. Fortunately not long after this atrocity which changed the global geopolitical landscape, the concept of a dialogue amongst civilizations was revived jointly, under UN auspices, by the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey as the Alliance among Civilizations. This project has had a positive effect among peoples across the globe. The Alliance among Civilizations emphasizes the common humanity which informs the deepest aspirations for peace and tranquility among the human race. It gives out valuable information about common objectives and aspirations which people in the five continents yearn to achieve. Such information increases understanding and empathy- two sorely needed commodities in our times- and acts as a welcome antidote to the efforts of some groups to sow discord and division among peoples. All the world’s major religions teach the way of peaceful interaction among God’s creation. Also undeniable is the fact the persons of good will and humanity in the different faith traditions have supported feelings of fellowship among human beings. The great American statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin expressed such feelings of toleration toward persons of different faiths.The Amman Declaration espoused by King Abdullah II of Jordan in 2004 and the more recent Charter of Compassion formulated by the tireless interfaith activist Karen Armstrong ,are two recent examples of many initiatives aimed at lowering animosity and antagonism among peoples hailing from different religious and cultural traditions. It is principles such as these that need to be disseminated more regularly by religious leaders and others engaged in interfaith advocacy. Such leaders could perhaps point to the fact that the word religion which is etymologically derived from its Latin root, religio, carries the meaning “to bind” and that is what in essence all religions teach us. [Type text] Page 1
  2. 2. Our planet today, significant parts of which are victims of violent extremism, civil strife, poverty, deprivation and breakdown of social cohesion, badly needs the positive equilibrium of fostering unity in diversity. I would humbly like to suggest that this noble task cannot be performed by our governments alone. Governments are being besieged by an ever increasing and pressing agenda of political, economic and social issues. They are therefore not in a position to give their undivided attention to conceptualizing and promoting inclusive societies which accept diversity and are willing to cohabit peacefully with the so called Other.Fostering harmony at the global level would therefore be more effective if governmental efforts are supplemented meaningfully through the participation of civil society. The growth of non- governmental organizations in the past few decades is a salutary development. By forming alliances among themselves and thereby reinforcing their advocacy activities, the ngo’s have achieved remarkable results. The UN Convention to ban land mines which almost all member states at the UN have signed is a major achievement. Much needless deaths and injuries to innocent civilians, long after the armed conflicts which spawned the use of land mines were over, would now be avoided. Similarly sustained civil society activism a decade ago culminated in the establishment of the International Criminal Court. Political leaders who engage in genocidal activities will now have to think many times before indulging in such unacceptable and morally reprehensible activities for fear of being prosecuted. The Court has already successfully prosecuted former leaders for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. We all need to fully support the work of the International Criminal Court because this institution acts as a deterrent against state terrorism and other forms of mass killings.Many other examples where ngo’s are acting as change agents in diverse field can be cited not the least of which is climate change. Despite well- meaning efforts of civil society leaders, conflicts cannot be eradicated totally. But the incidence of future conflicts can be reduced through the mechanism of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. About 26 such commissions across the world, according to Wikipedia, have delved into “discovering and revealing past wrongdoing by a government (or, depending upon the circumstances, non-state actors also), in the hope of resolving conflicts left over from the past.” The South African Commission established by then President Nelson Mandela and chaired by Nobel-laureate Desmond Tutu after apartheid, is generally considered a model of truth commissions. These commissions help to prevent future conflicts. I believe that directly or indirectly, they provide valuable insights for avoiding conflict in the future. All of us should support and examine the painstaking and often painful work of such commissions and, armed with this knowledge disseminate the lessons learned to our communities. Finally, when we look at the phenomenon of violent extremism – a world -wide occurrence-I will make just two points: first we must not shirk from asking why men and some women embrace extremist ideologies? Why and how these persons get radicalized to the extent of committing random violence often against innocent civilians? I believe that going into the motivations of these actions does not at all imply that we support their unacceptable behavior. In an op-ed in the Washington Post in 2004 former President of Pakistan, President Musharraf lobbied for his concept of “enlightened moderation” as a model for the Islamic world’s relations with the international community. According to Musharraf: [Type text] Page 2
  3. 3. We need to understand that the root causes of extremism and militancy lies in political injustice, denial, and deprivation. Political injustice to a nation or people, when combined with stark poverty and illiteracy, makes for an explosive mix. It produces an acute sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. A nation suffering fromthese lethal ills is easily available for the propagation of militancy and the perpetration of extremist, terrorist acts. And how would Enlightened Moderation counteract the above tendencies diagnosed by Musharraf? He went on to say: The first part is for the Muslim world to shun militancy and extremism and adopt the path of socioeconomic uplift. The second is for the West and the United States in particular to seek to resolve all political disputes with justice, and to aid in the socioeconomic betterment of the deprived Muslim world. This was Musharraf’s solution to what is happening in Islamic lands. His remedies may not be completely relevant in other parts of the world. The entire world was shocked two years ago by a Norwegian extremist who gunned down over 100 school children in Norway because he was unhappy with Norwegian policies toward immigration, especially Muslim migrants. Such lone ranger terrorism can occur anywhere. Civil society should condemn it unreservedly. Terrorism anywhere in the world can be lessened if it earns the unreserved condemnation of the communities where the perpetrators come from.Two examples of such counteraction by civil society that I share with my students, relate to condemnation respectively of violence against Spain by the Basque ETA extremist group and against the British forces by the Irish Republican Army.Thanks to opposition by civil society such groups lost their support in their communities. Today Northern Ireland is peaceful and Spain has largely been spared ETA- imposed violence. The above examples indicate that religious leaders and other activists can help mobilize a ground swell of such opinion in their communities. Such actions would serve as an effective deterrent for future terrorists. The other action which religious and other society leaders need to focus more on is increasing outreach for reform of misguided elements.This has been a technique used fairly effectively, it would seem, by governments in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Yemen and possibly elsewhere. It is an area where ngo’s could also participate effectively. These are some brief comments I wish to make before this distinguished panel. I look forward to our ensuing discussions. [Type text] Page 3