Year of Tolerance

Our strength lies in our differences: New Zealand Imam

Saman Haziq/Dubai
Filed on November 14, 2019
Our strength lies in our differences: New Zealand Imam

(Reuters file)

'The unfortunate incident in Christchurch was primarily due to ignorance.'

Intolerance is often a result of ignorance, misinformation and misconceptions and people should learn more about each other's cultures, countries and backgrounds to tackle it, said Sheikh Gamal Fouda Imam of Al Noor Mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, one of the key delegates at the World Tolerance Summit (WTS) 2019.

"God has made us different and we must understand that our strength lies in our differences. We must embrace these differences and not underestimate the importance of diversity," said Sheikh Fouda, who had witnessed the March 15 incident where a gunman opened fire on worshippers during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch. At least 50 were killed and more than 40 were injured in the attack.

Speaking to Khaleej Times on the sidelines of the summit, Sheikh Fouda said: "The unfortunate incident in Christchurch was primarily due to ignorance. People are ignorant about different cultures, practices and traditions. Hence, they can easily be brainwashed to become victims of hate-mongering. This ignorance about other cultures, people, languages and countries lead to a lack of respect and understanding in people.

"The tolerance summit is just what the world needs today. It is bringing people of different nationalities and faiths together where they learn from each other. This message is then taken back by these people to their home countries to educate their people."

Sheikh Fouda is happy that a Muslim country (UAE) is sending such a strong and positive message to the world through this unique summit. "This is the true face of Islam. It teaches us to treat everyone equally, accept all and love them. The Quran says it is for God to judge people and not us. All we have to do is to educate people, accept, love and learn from each other."

Sheikh Fouda said people should consider their differences as power and not weakness. "This is the message the World Tolerance Summit has given to the world - uniting people, starting a dialogue and giving them a chance to learn and understand each other."

Sheikh Fouda said New Zealand is a tolerant country and people are very welcoming. "However, in every society, there are some negative elements that need to be tackled. Authorities have now teamed up with educational and religious institutes and leaders to educate people about different faiths and cultures so they can respect and understand each other and live in peace and harmony.

"We need to educate children about peace as early as possible. The UAE is the perfect model for tolerance for the world where people of all nationalities live together in peace and harmony and celebrate their diversity."

Sheikh Fouda was also a panelist at the session titled 'Instilling communal peace and harmony within societies', where he along with other religious and community leaders shared perspectives on tolerance, peace and co-existence.

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