Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Masood Khan has stressed the need of promoting interfaith harmony on the global level, urging all religious communities across the world to reach out to each other and understand the basis of their faith.
"The religious leaders have a great role to play in promoting tolerance and moderation and prevent crimes particularly the crimes against humanity being committed in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) and other parts of the world," he added.
The president expressed these views while addressing a virtual conference titled “Role of Religious Leaders in Crime Prevention” jointly organised by the Universal Peace Federation International (UPF), International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace and Vienna-based LIOS-SOIL on Thursday.
Hosted and moderated by Dr Afsar Rathore, the president of LIOS SOIL Austria, the event was also addressed by Shunila Ruth, Parliamentary Secretary for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Syed Hussain Jahania Gardezi, Agriculture Minister of Punjab Lal Chand Malhi, Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights, Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, Bishop of Lahore and Ramesh Singh Arora, Member of Punjab Assembly.
Masood called upon the leaders in the West to strive for banning the exploitation of Islamophobia. "Instead of Islamophobia communities should reach out to each other to promote the culture of tolerance and mutual co-existence."
He said that it is not just the responsibilities of religious leaders but all actors of the civil society have to be involved. In the past, he added, there have been incidents of religious hatred been incited by politicians for electoral gains.
Exhorting the need of nurturing a culture of accountability both nationally and internationally, the president said that criminal justice is necessary for bringing the people promoting religious hatred to the task. “Impunity for committing hate crimes should be demolished,” he said, adding that internationally the laws are not selective but the executors and practitioners should also not be selective.
He said that in developing countries, minority rights have to be protected irrespective of their numbers, and added that the "othering" of other people has led to hatred, violence, sexual violence, xenophobia and sometimes legal prejudices.
He suggested setting up tribunals to try perpetrators of genocides should be tried in order to end discrimination, and said that "we should emphasise and highlight universal values and ethical systems".
"Leaders and followers of various faiths would have informal and formal meetings so as to promote mutual respect and acceptance," he added.
Referring to the so-called Hindutva doctrine of the Indian leadership, the AJK president said that the BJP-RSS Hindu extremist regime is targeting Muslims because it believes that India is the country only for the Hindus and the followers of other religions have no right to live in that country. He added that the rising wave of extremist Hindutva is a fascist doctrine that advocates the use of violence against the followers of the other religions.
Masood also said that discrimination on the basis of religion is very evident in conflict areas like the Central African Republic, Myanmar, Palestine and the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir where people are killed and persecuted for their faith and also for demanding their democratic right to self-determination.