President of Association of French Imams
Imam Tareq Oubrou, born in Morocco, is director of the Bordeaux Mosque and president of the Association of the Imams of France. Considered as an open and tolerant religious leader, he has done pioneer work on formulation of Islamic law for minorities, aimed at adapting Muslims to the requirements of France's republican and secular system.
Imam Tareq Oubrou
In today's world, communication between cultures and religions has become more than a necessity. Indeed, globalization has created an existential uncertainty that has led to a widespread identity crisis. There is a risk that humanity could break up into pockets of identity resistance and hostility to others, because they have a different religion and tradition.
In this charged climate of fear and uncertainty, several conflicts are simmering and could explode if humanity does not proceed in the direction of interreligious dialogue to nurture a widespread culture through politics, through the media, through intellectuals, academics, and religious authorities. This is a domain that concerns the entire humanity.
In this climate of heightened tensions over identity what interests me here is the dialogue between Muslims and Jews, where the subtext is the hostility we are witnessing in the Middle East. To start this dialogue we need a set of moral foundations that would allow both sides to remain faithful to their respective roots and traditions, while taking steps in mutual dialogue and encounters, in spite of political, economic, psychological, and socio-economic problems that act as catalysts for conflict.
How to overcome these obstacles? To do so we need a universal ethic, namely the recognition of each other. For us Muslims, the Koran is clear: it tells us that if God had wanted, He would have created us as a single community. The conclusion is, therefore, that diversity is a divine value that must be respected. The dignity of others must be respected in their difference; so the others must be recognized in what they are.
Secondly, we respect their dignity and their woes; we must accept their memories. Today, there is a war of memories that is not an intellectually honest exercise. We must all respect our respective memories. To take a cynical view of another, to refuse to recognize the other, to sink into the systematic denial of the other cannot promote peace. Peace requires the recognition of each other. To deny the other is to deny oneself. If we want the recognition of our specificities, our misery, our memory, we must do likewise and respect the past and the memory of the other.
Here we are in the Holocaust Memorial Monument. In my view, it is absurd to deny a human catastrophe and misfortune. A mindless genocide is a universal evil; it is not only a Jewish question but a matter for all humanity. To deny it to defend the Palestinian cause harms the Palestinian cause, because it is to deny oneself. I call here for the recognition of past catastrophes and recent woes. Both sides must recognize the misfortunes of one another and transcend the barriers of identity to be able to make peace. Peace requires courage, justice, correctness, lucidity, and many concessions to take this step towards the other. Without courage and without transcending the barriers, there can be no just and lasting peace. This is the only way. I see no other way except that we recognize each other, talk to each other, even when we do not agree with each other, even if we are very different from each other, even if we consider each other as enemy. But we must remember that an enemy is never absolute. I call for this courageous step towards the other; a step that everyone should take.