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Challenge for modern world is to accept diversity: Ansari


Rabat (Morocco) : Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari has said the challenge for the modern world is to accept diversity as an existential reality and to configure attitudes and methodologies for dealing with it.

“In developing such an approach, the traditional virtue of tolerance is desirable but insufficient; our effort, thinking and practices have to look beyond it and seek acceptance of diversity and adopt it as a civic virtue,” said Vice President Ansari.

“We in India are attempting it, cannot yet say that we have succeeded, but are committed to continue the effort. We invite all right-minded people to join us in this endeavour,” he added.

The Vice President said that Indian Muslims have lived in India’s religiously plural society for over a thousand years and that has impacted on modern India and its existential reality of a plural society on the basis of which a democratic polity and a secular state structure was put in place.

He said that the framers of the Indian Constitution had the objective of securing civic, political, economic, social and cultural rights as essential ingredients of citizenship with particular emphasis on rights of religious minorities.

Vice President Ansari said the Muslim experience in modern India is that its citizens professing Islamic faith are citizens, consider themselves as such, are beneficiaries of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution, participate fully in the civic processes of the polity and seek correctives for their grievances within the system.

“There is no inclination in their ranks to resort to ideologies and practices of violence,” he added while delivering a lecture at the Mohammed V University in Rabat, Morocco, today on the topic ‘Accommodating Diversity in a Globalising World: The Indian Experience’.

He said that in countries having complex societal makeup, accommodation of diversity in political structures and socio-economic policies is not an option but an imperative necessity ignoring which can have unpleasant consequences.

The Vice President said that the Indian model was of relevance to our globalizing world because in India, an attempt was being made to look beyond the traditional virtue of tolerance and seek acceptance of diversity and adopt it as a civic virtue.

He further said even in distant India, the contribution of Moroccan intellectuals to modern thought and challenges is known and acknowledged.

“Names like Abdullah Al-Arui and Abid al-Jabri readily come to mind; so do the contributions of feminist writers like Fatima Mernisi and Fatima Sadiqi. The challenge in each case was that of modernity and the contemporary responses to it,” he said.

Vice President Ansari said the misfortunes visited on Arab lands since the 19th century was in good measure a result of their proximity to Europe in the age of imperialism.

“In current discussions in many places, the terms ‘Arab’ and ‘Islam’ are used together or interchangeably. But are the two synonymous? Is Arab thought synonymous with Islamic thought? Is all Arab thought Islamic or visa versa? Above all, can all Islamic thinking be attributed to Arabs?” he added.

Vice President Ansari said Islam is a global faith and its adherents are in all parts of the world.

“The history of Islam as a faith, and of Muslims as its adherents, is rich and diversified. In different ages and in different regions the Muslim contribution to civilisation has been note worthy,” Vice President Ansari said.

“In cultural terms, the history of Islam ‘is the history of a dialogue between the realm of religious symbols and the world of everyday reality, a history of the interaction between Islamic values and the historical experiences of Muslim people that has shaped the formation of a number of different but interrelated Muslim societies’,” he added.

Vice President Ansari said India counts amongst its citizens the second largest Muslim population in the world.

“It numbers 180 million and accounts for 14.2 percent of the country’s total population of 1.3 billion. Furthermore, religious minorities as a whole (Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis or Zoroastrians) constitute 19.4 percent of the population of India,” he added.

Vice President Ansari said India’s interaction with Islam and Muslims began early and bears the imprint of history.

“Indian Muslims have lived in India’s religiously plural society for over a thousand years, at times as rulers, at others as subjects and now as citizens. They are not homogenous in racial or linguistic terms and bear the impact of local cultural surroundings, in manners and customs, in varying degrees,” Vice President Ansari said.

“Through extensive trading ties before the advent of Islam, India was a known land to the people of the Arabian Peninsula, the Persian Gulf, and western Asia and was sought after for its prosperity and trading skills and respected for its attainments in different branches of knowledge. Thus Baghdad became the seeker, and dispenser, of Indian numerals and sciences,” he added.

He said an Indo-Islamic culture developed in India over centuries of intermingling and interaction.

Vice President Ansari further said globalization has many facets – economic, political and cultural.

“All necessitate the emergence of a set of norms, values and practices that are universally accepted. A sociologist has defined it as ‘the compression of the world and the intensification of consciousness of the world as a whole,” Vice President Ansari said.

“An obvious implication of this would be assimilation and homogenization. In a world of intrinsically diverse societies at different levels of development, this could only result in denial of their diversity and imposition of uniformity. Such an approach can only result in conflict,” he added.

The Moroccan University later conferred an honoris causa degree on Vice President Ansari. (ANI)

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