For most Muslims, the Grand Imam of al Azhar based in Cairo has the prestige and influence similar in many ways to that which the Pope holds for Catholics. A recent report in the French based La Croix International highlighted a statement made by the Grand Imam of al Azhar at a meeting in Cairo with the Foreign Minister from Armenia whose population is mostly Christian.
The Grand Imam of al Azhar stated that Christianity and Islam have never been the basis of wars but rather that the two religions had been exploited to make it appear so. “The Grand Imam said the two religions teach that all human beings should be recognized as “brothers in humanity” and that his Sunni academic institution is committed to exposing manipulations that use contents of the Islamic faith to build ideologies of oppression.”
Church- State relationships have been a major factor in the development of modern Western democracies, particularly over the last thousand years or so. Here in Australia the Catholic, Anglican and other Christian Churches have been significant players in that process, sometimes positively, sometimes not quite so constructively. On the whole though as a result of those experiences, our Federal Constitution states:
The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.
Ours is a society which does not permit discrimination because of religious beliefs, nor permit special treatment for a particular religious group. If one religious group gets State funding for its schools, any other religious group which has schools is entitled to the same treatment. Muslim schools have found that they too are entitled to the same treatment as those of the various Christian groups.
History tells us that politicians will not always protect the freedoms in any Constitution. That is why it is so encouraging to see that Islam’s leadership is also aware of these dangers.
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