Originally published on Issue 46, April 2017
Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali visited Scotland end of February 2017 to attend two programmes organised jointly by the Ahl Al-Bait Society Scotland and the Focolare Movement in Scotland. The events which had been planned since his last visit in Sep 2016 included an address to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh during Time for Reflection session and an open lecture on interfaith at the University of Glasgow. The theme of the lecture at the University of Glasgow was: “Unity in God and Unity of God”. The speakers were Dr Shomali and Dr Paolo Frizzi, a lecturer in Religious and Global Processes and Theology and Praxis of Interfaith Dialogue in Italy at the Sophia University Institute.
Dr Mohammad Ali Shomali’s speech at the Scottish Parliament
In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.
Presiding Officer, members of Parliament and everyone here, I sincerely appreciate the opportunity to address you today. I have been to Scotland several times and always associate it with welcoming people and beautiful nature.
If we reflect on the development of religions and traditions, we realise that there has always been a central question: how to keep your people together and convince them that, by remaining inside the circle, they are better off. Otherwise, you may lose them. It is closely related to the issue of identity: how we understand our position in relation to others.
Unfortunately, the way to demonstrate that we are better off in the circle was often to distance ourselves from others. Instead of saying what you are, the focus was on what you are not. That type of identity is based on fear and exclusion. It will certainly not work in today’s world. If it worked before, it was because the world was very partitioned and people often did not meet people of other faiths, ethnicities or cultures. That is not today’s world, and that fragile understanding of identity no longer works. We need a new type of understanding that is based on what
we have, can offer and appreciate in others. Relating to others is an essential part of everyone’s identity. I cannot be a good Muslim or Christian – or a good Iranian or Scot – unless I know how to relate to other people and accommodate them in my own identity.
For believers in God, that is a very important part of our faith. How can we believe in God, the creator of all, and then fail to care for part of God’s creation? For us, every human, animal, bird, flower and drop of water is significant because it is a manifestation of God. So, now, we need to rethink our understanding of identity. Human bodies have different organs and each has its own function. However, nothing survives in isolation. Humans can survive only in relation to others, finding their role within a bigger unity. When I look at the Qur’an, I see that that is actually God’s
plan. In his creation and revelation, God has shown us the way towards unity. God’s plan is that humanity unites around the truth, and one of the places in which we can establish a model of mutual recognition, respect, love and unity, in Scotland.
Islam Today issue 65 (Special Issue) is dedicated to the interfaith work undertaken by the Islamic Centre of England over the past few years. Download the full pdf here: