Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League, called the attack on writer Salman Rushdie “a crime that Islam does not accept.”
In an interview with Arab News on the side of his participation in a conference on inter-religious dialogue in the Italian city of Rimini, he said: “Islam is against violence and can never admit any method of violence. Religious and intellectual issues, including phrases that may read in full or partly as offensive, cannot never be dealt with in these violent ways.”
Al-Issa was speaking after a long and friendly meeting with the chairman of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi.
“There are texts in the Islamic religion that are opposed to violence. And those text are explicit,” he said.
Al-Issa, who is also president of the International Islamic Halal Organization and a former Saudi justice minister, is considered a leading global voice on moderate Islam as well as a key figure in the fight to combat extremist ideology. Religious leaders and government officials alike have commended him for his efforts to promote moderation, cooperation and coexistence among all people.
He received a warm welcome at the 43rd “Meeting of Friendship Between People” in Rimini, organized by Comunione e Liberazione, a prominent Roman Catholic movement.
Al-Issa said religion “is the sense of man’s existence in this life, the sum of values based on particular principles, at the base of which there is not only a philosophy but also a religious source that comes from God. For this we speak of values, both religious and human. These values represent the sense of religion and the religious instinct. This also means the sense of faith in the human being.”
Passion and love, he says, are “central factors in religion,” adding: “The believer must love all others even if he does not agree with them. The believer knows that love and mercy are needed in this life. Love is life, coexistence, peace, harmony.”
He stressed the need for intra-faith dialogue, as it “eliminates all misunderstandings and clarifies the truths both within and outside the Islamic world, both for Muslims and non-Muslims. Dialogue is the language of the reasonable, of the wise. If everyone practices it, we all get close and this approach takes away the fears of other people.
“Even if each may be different from the other, there is no reason to be afraid or worried about the other person: We all share life on this earth and we must talk and understand each other. Differences between human beings go back to the creation of humanity. If God had wanted, he could have created only a single ethnic group or a single religion. But he didn’t, and we have to believe in his wisdom,” he said.
Al-Issa then talked about respect for Muslims all over the world.
“We wish for everyone to live with dignity — all minorities — and that they are well integrated into the land where they live. We also hope that all governments around the world respect the rights of minorities and their cultural, religious and cultural specificities. We do not accept any minority in the world being offended, no matter if they are Muslim or not.”
He finally called on all nations to take care of refugees.
“Refugees are victims and must be taken care of by integrating them into the societies in which they live, and guaranteeing them human rights in the countries where they have taken refuge,” he said.