Prejudice is completely and utterly against faith’ was the outcome of a recent conference held by the Islamic Centre of England in London. The one-day conference on 7th February 2016 was held under the title of ‘A Revolution against Extremism and Sectarianism’. Speakers at this conference acclaimed the Islamic Revolution of 1979 as a movement against extremism and sectarianism. They cited quotations from Imam Khomeini’s sermons prior to and after the revolution in which he reassured all Iranians irrespective of their faith to enjoy equal rights. In his words, all Muslims whether Shi’a or Sunni as well as other believers including Jews and Christians were equal and the revolution would preserve their rights. Dr Zahir Parviz, the former president of the UK Islamic Mission, said that the Islamic revolution in Iran was a universal movement against tyranny and didn’t belong only to Iranians or Shi’a Muslims. According to him, from the very beginning, all Muslims around the world, either Shi’a or Sunni felt proud of the Islamic revolution. He talked about the importance of unity in Islam and said that bringing peace and unity to humankind was the main aim of all holy prophets. He said that the Islamic revolution caused a historical shift, in which Islam took the centre stage, after centuries in the background. The Iranian charge d’affaires in the UK, Mr Hassan Habibollahzadeh spoke of the official policies of the Islamic Republic of Iran in regards to sectarianism. He emphasised that Iranian foreign policy is based on certain principles stemming from three sources: Imam Khomeini and Ayatollah Khamenei’s teachings and decrees based on Islamic jurisprudence, as well as the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. He added that all three of these sources are clear in considering the unity of the Islamic world and the prosperity of all Islamic countries as an unchangeable principle. According to him, the doctrine of Iran’s foreign policy in all aspects of cultural, economic and diplomatic relations is to encourage unity and avoid any divisions or sectarianism. Among them, he mentioned Iran’s principled policy on supporting Palestinians’ rights regardless of any sectarian concerns. Reverend Abi-Doumeth, from the Lebanese Christian Community in the UK, mentioned that the Catholic Church in 1968 declared the first day of the Christian calendar as a day for peace. He said that bringing humanity to peace and love was the main goal of all religions and prophets. Referring to the Qur’an, hadith and the Bible, he concluded that Islam and Christianity both share this goal. He expressed his admiration for the Islamic Republic of Iran for its equal treatment of all Christians and Muslims, mainly Christians’ freedom in their religious affairs as well as the abundance and freedom of churches in Iran. Lastly, Sheikh Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali, director of the Islamic Centre of England, took the podium. He said that the Islamic Revolution gave confidence and dignity not only to Muslims but also to all the believers in God. He said that God’s prophets were mainly scorned and rejected by their people. They however succeeded in their mission gradually and through sacrifice, struggle and endeavour. However some individuals continued their corrupt conduct under the mask of religion. He stressed that any sectarianism is a remnant of jahiliyya (the pre- Islamic age of ignorance). Dr. Shomali added that Imam Khomeini, despite being a prominent Shia scholar was never lured into Shia-Sunni division. He always talked about Islam, the Muslim ummah and more generally about all mustadh’afin, the poor and the oppressed, regardless of their faith. He rejected the idea that Imam Khomeini’s inclusive attitude was tactical by reminding us that he held this view during the strongest and most popular stage of the revolution when he did not need any external support. Dr Shomali emphasised that according to Islam, prejudice and bigotry are against faith (imaan). He said that prejudice, pride and envy could awaken the inner impurity and evils, as happened to Iblis according to the Qur’an, and turned him into Satan. According to Islamic beliefs, Iblis disobeyed God’s direct order to bow to Adam because of his pride.
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