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Protecting freedom of belief key to combating religious extremism — scholars

By Rula Samain - Feb 15,2016 - Last updated at Feb 15,2016

AMMAN — Islamic scholars, Christian religious leaders and politicians from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Tunisia came together in Amman this week for a two-day conference on “Freedom of Belief and Conscience in Legislation and Religions”.

Mohammad Khader, director of the Lebanese Islamic Forum for Dialogue and Dawah, said that while beauty lies in human differences, it is unnatural to have these differences as the cause of hatred and disagreement.

Mohammad Rafiqi, vice president of the Renaissance and Virtue Party in Morocco, said the freedom of belief gives every person the right to think and choose, which is religiously legitimate and just.

Oraib Rantawi, director of Al Quds Centre for Political Studies, the event’s organiser in cooperation with the Canadian embassy, told The Jordan Times that the timing of the conference is crucial mainly in standing in the face of extremism and takfirist groups.

“Through the centre, we encourage democratic-Islamic discourse and urge Islamist movements to develop their political discourse and thoughts in order to be integrated into political reforms,” said Rantawi.

Father Rifat Bader, director of the Catholic Centre for Studies and Media, and Father Hani Tauq, international law professor at Lebanon’s Holy Spirit University, presented the Christian point of view towards freedom of belief and conscience supported by verses from the Bible.

Both agreed that human dignity is derived from the freedom of belief and thought, and the right to acquire and achieve knowledge.

Bader told The Jordan Times that the road is long and the path is narrow to truly understand and practice true citizenship, unless serious education reform takes place.

At the closing ceremony, Canadian Ambassador Bruno Saccomani said that freedom of religion and belief is a global human right, stressing that restrictions of this freedom create radical communities.

 

“An example on radicalism among many others is Daesh which is the reason the Middle East is gradually being emptied of Christians,” Saccomani, noting that he looks forward to a day where forgiveness and stability is the norm everywhere.

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