Will Muslim Leaders Mandate Rights for Non-Muslims?

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Update: The Marrakesh Declaration has now been issued as a joint statement by those present at the conference. Among other things it affirms “that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.

Leaders from around the world gathered in Marrakesh for a three day conference on the rights of non-Muslim minorities in Muslim countries.

Entitled The Rights of Religious Minorities in Predominantly Muslim Lands:
Legal Framework and a Call to Action, the three-day conference, from January 25 to January 27, was hosted by King Mohammed VI of Morocco.

It was a joint conference between the Moroccan Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, a think-tank based in the United Arab Emirates.

A joint ‘Marrakesh Declaration’ was planned to follow the conference, which would promote religious rights for all.  It was expected to say “religion must not be manipulated to justify any infringement or denial of the rights of religious minorities in Islamic countries,” King Mohammed stated in his message.

The conference was presided over by one of the most renowned Muslim scholars in the world, Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah.

It aims “to begin the historic revival of the objectives and aims of the Charter of Medina, taking into account global and international treaties and utilizing enlightening, innovative case studies that are good examples of working towards pluralism,” according to an official Marrakesh Declaration Concept Paper signed by Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah.

The Charter of Medina was drawn up by Mohammed, the founder of Islam, in 622 and served as the constitution of the city state of Medina, ruled by Mohammed. It was an agreement between Quraysh Muslims who had followed Mohammed, Muslim natives of Medina and Jewish tribes.

The conference drew speakers from around the world, including representatives from various governments and non-Muslim communities.

Some of those who attended were previously affiliated with Islamist organizations or beliefs. The organizer, bin Bayyah himself, said in the past that contributions to jihadi fighters count as charity and that Muslims should support Hamas financially. He was also former vice chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, which in 2004 issued a fatwa imposing a “duty on every able Muslim in and outside of Iraq” to carry out and support attacks on American soldiers.

The conference also seemed to be very concerned with Islam’s reputation, rather than securing the rights of victims of oppression.

“Muslims have to show that certain events which are happening under the guise of Islam are driven or prompted by considerations which have nothing to do with religion,” King Mohammed said in his statement.

This could have been positive if it motivated the attendees of the conference to implement equal rights for both Muslims and non-Muslims and to deconstruct the extremist ideologies that foster discrimination.

Given bin Bayyah organized the conference it is too early to tell if that is possible.

See the conference website for more information




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Meira Svirsky

Meira Svirsky is the editor of ClarionProject.org