Kudos to the Lutherans, Catholics and Muslims for recently coming together and planning to build God’ House in Stockholm. The news should be music to the lovers and admirers of peace and harmony everywhere. Pastor Henrik Larsson, Bishop Bengt Wadensjö and Imam Awad Olwan - all of Nacka - must be commended for their effort in bringing the commonalities of their respective faiths to cement the bonds of humanity, rather than fragmenting by the exaggeration of the differences.
These are dark times indeed. Coinciding with the 9th anniversary of 9/11, a controversy began to brew in the United States last year over the building of an Islamic Center and a place of worship near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan in New York. Even before the ink had dried on the concept, the project was called 'a deliberately provocative act that will precipitate more bloodshed in the name of Allah'. This was no doubt in blatant refusal of the positive contribution that about six million Muslim-Americans make every day.
As it turned out, that was the election time in New York. Once that over, the vitriol foaming at the corner of every right-winger’s mouth evaporated into thin air. Gone too were the bloggers with poisonous pens, radio talk-show maniacs and the spin doctors at 24/7 television networks. At such short lease is every defamation attempt by deranged individuals and special interest groups everywhere.
Scoring political victories by sowing the seeds of mistrust and creating the fog of ‘fear of the unknown’ is a centuries-old game. The rising tide of sectarian popularity in neighboring countries might be liltingly encouraging - even a profitable gamble - in short run. But in the long run, it would prove ruinous.
Establishment of God’s House in Stockholm assumes relevance and far greater significance in the backdrop of the undisputed and unveiled hatred for Islam and Muslims in greater parts of Europe. Both the religion and its followers have come under relentless and scathing onslaught – be it their scripture, prophet and even God himself. Hiding behind the feigned banner of ‘freedom’ of expression, even the so-called intellectuals and heads of governments have fallen prey to the enticement of 15 seconds of infamy.
This conduct, however, is not new. Seventy years ago - right in the heart of Europe - Jews were the chosen victims, simply because they were intelligent, gifted, hard-working, and wealthier than their European compatriots. In the new millennium, Muslims and Islam are at the bull’s eye. Who knows, in the next 50 or so years, a new target will be picked.
History would tell us that profanities and insults hurled at Islam and its prophet are not a new phenomenon. John the Baptist was persecuted and so was Jesus. The patriarch Abraham of all the three monotheist religions was ostracized by his own father and his tribe of idolaters.
What is pathetic and saddening though is this. On one hand, the world peace is being engulfed by the phenomenon of self-radicalization and the doctrines of isolationism and sectarianism within Europe’s own borders. On the other, the reprehensible and deliberately open display of intolerance in various shapes and forms are stoking the flames of retaliatory fire even higher at the doorsteps of civilized and enlightened Europe.
So, this mantra of ‘non-working multiculturalism’ is just another political fad, albeit full of hypocrisy. No matter how technologically advanced the global village becomes, the vicious cycle of intolerance towards seemingly ‘lesser’ and ‘darker’ human beings will continue.
It is, therefore, vital that an audacious project like God’s House should have full and unconditional support of every individual and group who believes in civility and practices it. The structure will symbolize a bridge of understanding and will provide a platform for people of different faiths – or no faith - to make conversation. Blessed are the peacemakers as the true inheritors of the Heavens. This Divine decree is common to the Scriptures of all the three major faiths.
Fog of mistrust disappears when people communicate. God’s House will serve as a beacon of understanding to those who are basking unaware in the bliss of myopic ignorance towards the belief system of their coworkers, colleagues or next-door neighbors.
Read also Mr Azad's previous articles in Stockholm News:
Olof Palme: JFK of Sweden