(MENAFN - Arab News) A prominent Islamic scholar and imam of the famous Thiruvananthapuram Palayam Mosque in the south Indian state of Kerala has emphasized the importance of holding an interfaith dialogue conference in India, the land of religions and cultures, and sought the support of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to make the much awaited dream a reality.
"King Abdullah is the champion of interfaith and intercultural positive dialogue concept. I was inspired by his vision that encouraged me to visit the Vatican recently to meet Pope Benedict XVI and attend the consistory of Cardinal Moran Mor Baselios Cleemis Catholicos. May the king be blessed with good health to continue his services for the progress and prosperity of humanity," said Jamal Mankada in a telephone interview with Arab News.
He commended the formation of King Abdullah Dialogue Center in Vienna and hoped it would take the initiative to organize the interfaith dialogue conference in Kochi in association with International Interfaith Dialogue India (IIDI). Jamal is one of IIDI's patrons. "Dialogue is the best way for people to know one another and remove their misunderstandings."
Jamal hoped the Vienna center would hold various programs to bring together the followers of different faiths and open a new era of peaceful coexistence. "It will definitely have a positive impact on world peace and stability," the imam said. "Muslims have to reach out to people of other religions and remove their misconceptions about Islam and Muslims," he added.
He said the Kerala government has welcomed the dialogue conference in Kochi, which he said would strengthen the country's unity and integrity.
Imam Jamal said he was highly impressed by the hospitality accorded him and other religious leaders by the Vatican ever since their arrival for the function. "I had visited Rome with great excitement inspired by a chapter named "Rome" in the Holy Qur'an, which had predicted that Rome would become victorious after it was defeated by the Persians. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had expressed his sorrow over Rome's defeat," he said, adding that the Qur'anic prophecy became true within nine years during the Prophet's lifetime.
Jamal said the Christian officials had received him with great respect, adding that he was the only Muslim religious leader to attend the consistory. "It gave me an opportunity to get a complete picture of the Vatican City and get to know the Christian traditions and rituals," he added. Jamal delivered a speech during the event, congratulating the new Indian Cardinal. He also got an opportunity to address a Rome meeting of some 10,000 Malayali Christians who came from different parts of the world.
Jamal had presented a memento to the pope, a replica of the Holy Kaaba printed with the verses 64:3 from the Holy Qur'an with its English translation "Say, O People of the scriptures, come to a word that is equitable between us and you " that we will not worship except God and not associate anything with Him."
He added: "The Pope was happy to receive such a memento and instructed to keep it in the Vatican Library." The memento was visualized by V.K. Abdul Aziz, director of Al-Hayat International School, and IIDI coordinator.
There is a mosque in Rome where more than 100 Muslims assemble for the Juma prayer. It is located on the Mosque Road and has a special prayer area for women, the imam said. "There are only few Muslims in the city. They are mostly migrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Morocco," he pointed out.
The official Indian delegation to the function was headed by P.J. Kurian, deputy speaker of Rajya Sabha and included Muslim League leader E.T. Muhammad Bashir and Hindu leaders like Swami Guru Ratna Gnana Thapasi. "All religious leaders who attended the ceremony have vowed to work together for communal harmony in India," Jamal said.
In his congratulatory speech at the Vatican, Imam Jamal said: "It is the need of the hour to pull mankind from the smaller self-interest in order to work for the greater interest of society and world. It is time that we realize that it is only through harmony, understanding and cooperation we can build a safer and stable world, not only for us but also for our future generations."
He continued: "We should not allow religions to become a reason for turmoil and conflicts in the world; instead we should use our religions as instruments of peace - the original mission of every religion. And this change should first come from us, the men of God - the priests, ulema, rabbis and the purohits."
Jamal urged the followers of all religions to return to the true teachings of their scriptures in order to make people realize that all religions are but various hues of the same light. "We all believe in the same God, whom we call by different names -Jehovah, Parabrahma or Allah. Let us learn and act with renewed urgency on the words of Jesus: "Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called the children of God."