The festering Israel-Palestine conflict and the continued tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir is sometimes painted as a conflict of Islam with Jews and Hindus. Both are economic and political conflicts. Yet, there are Muslims who wish to revive the domination of past Caliphates and the inegalitarian treatment of dhimmis (non-Muslim citizens of an Islamic state). However, we have to move past fanciful Empires and reject the pitiful view of perpetual victimhood.
The worldview based on salvific exclusivism and cosmic conflicts must be replaced by mutual cooperation and radical inclusion. It should not always be how we are oppressed by the world but what we can contribute to it. This necessitates addressing the supremacist tropes in our respective faiths. Only Jews can do this in Judaism, Hindus in Hinduism and Muslims in Islam.
There are Muslims who employ supremacist tropes to put down Hindus and view Jews through the lens of conspiracy theories. They believe that Muslims possess the perfect faith and have nothing to learn from others who have gone astray. They make fun of Hindus for worshiping elephant and monkey gods. With respect to Jews, they can marshal texts that condemn them as apes and pigs or even the more scary ones that call for the murder of Jews.
A vast majority of Muslims do not make much of such texts. However, such texts allow hateful supremacists to perpetuate a bastardized theology. A huge overhaul is required in Muslim theology on doctrines related to polytheism, apostasy, and blasphemy, each of which has led to persecution, especially of minority Muslim denominations, in Muslim countries.
The existence of difficult texts cannot be denied but there are many juristic techniques to drastically curtail the relevance of such texts. One technique is that of specification. For instance, the definition of Jews referred to in the scathing texts is confined to a specific location and time. Another is to convincingly reject the hateful stories from the secondary Muslim literature that have been added to the Islamic tradition. Yet another strategy is to give precedence to the universal Meccan verses over the specific Medinese verses. There are even Muslims who view Qur'anic verses in support of the state of Israel.
However, the more effective strategy is to perhaps highlight the mutual cooperation between Jews and Muslims through the Prophet's friendship with Rabbi Muhayriq who died fighting side by side with Muslims. It is important to emphasize how the Prophet stood up in respect for the passing funeral of a Jewish person, how his shield was kept in trust by a Jewish man Avi Shachm, and how through the constitution of Medina, Jews were included as equal members of the ummah (community).
While originally Christians and Jews were considered as People of the Book, some Muslim jurists recognize Hindus and others from the dharmic (Indian) faiths as such. Indeed, verse 22:40 mentions the Muslim role to protect churches, temples and synagogues. Muslim scholar Omar Salem even mentions that without Christian and Jewish neighbours, our faith goes untested, therefore, Heaven lies beneath the feet of Jews and Christians. He also writes:
Whether one is Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, Christian, Jew or Muslim, one should be looking to one's own traditions to draw the best morals and ethical values, then strive towards such values and help others to strive towards their own good morals, ethics, virtues, traditions, and values.
One Muslim scholar, in his defense of interfaith marriages of Muslims, has written:
When it comes to Hindus, you might benefit from learning more about them and their religion ... Check out what the "Nirguna Brahman" concept is. If you are so strongly defensive of monotheism, it is possible that this interpretation might be very attractive to you since it is even more rigid than the normative Islamic interpretation on unicity.
There are numerous examples of Muslim, Hindu and Jewish neighbours watching over one another. Muslims have saved Jews during the Holocaust and Jews have saved Muslims from genocide in Bosnia. Muslims and Jews have opened up their holy places for each other in distress, warded off bullies, patrolled for safety and respected each other's traditions.
There are incredible stories from the 1947 partition of India, in which Muslims rescued Hindus from Muslim mobs in Pakistan and vice versa. There are also examples of Hindus fasting with Muslims and Muslims not slaughtering cows out of respect. As Muslim parents have supported their daughter, who won a contest on the Hindu scriptures, a Hindu father has raised a Muslim son abandoned by his birth parents.
In contrast to the naysayers, Hindus and Muslims have also shown a remarkable capacity to pray together. This is especially true in the case of Jhuley Lal, also known as Shaikh Tahir in Sindh, Pakistan. Lal is deemed as a Sufi saint by Muslims and as the incarnation of the god Varuna by Hindus. The current spiritual master at Jhuley Lal's shrine has mentioned:
"Shaikh Tahir is our pir (spiritual guide). He saved the Hindu dharma in Sindh."
Perhaps, the way forward is in the intimate realms of both spirituality and sexuality. This may happen when we break down the barriers of religion by emphasizing our common human bonds through inter-faith and intra-faith marriages. The least we can do, however, is to share each other's sorrows and joys and to honour each other by celebrating our holy festivals together.
It is for this reason that Muslims of all stripes and their allies have come together to wish their Jewish brothers and sisters prosperity as they end observing their High Holidays and to wish their Hindu brothers and sisters a Happy Diwali, as they begin to celebrate the festival of lights.
*This is the 5th video in the Allah Loves Us All series.
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