The rise of ISIS and other Muslim extremist groups in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia has brought horrific persecution of non-Muslims — Christians, Jews and other religious minorities. Now, a group of Islamic scholars, Muslim leaders and government ministers from Muslim-majority countries has promised to work together to protect those minorities, saying Islam forbids religious persecution.
More than 100 countries were represented at the gathering of Muslim leaders in Marrakech this week, sponsored by the Moroccan government and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, an organization led by Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah.
“We have people being enslaved into sexual slavery,” he told NPR from Marrakech. “We have Christian churches that have been there for long before Islam was in these lands, that are being destroyed. And we have Jews in Yemen, one of the oldest Jewish communities, now the very existence of which is threatened.”
While some prominent Muslim leaders belittle the plight of non-Muslims in their countries, those who came to this meeting heard testimony from other faith leaders about the conditions in their countries.
Sheikh Sattar Jabbar Hilu, speaking on behalf of his Sabian sect in Iraq, said they and other minorities face killing and deportations, and the situation is getting worse.
The message from this meeting: Such persecution is un-Islamic. Nearly 1,400 years ago, the Prophet Muhammad directed the preparation of a governing outline for an Islamic state, the Charter of Medina. It was named for the city in Arabia where Muhammad had taken refuge.
At the time, Medina was inhabited by various tribes and religious groups, and the charter mandated peaceful coexistence and religious freedom for all.
“Today we need to re-publicize this document,” says Recep Senturk, an Islamic scholar from Istanbul’s Fatih University, who was among those in Morocco. “Especially when we see that the minority rights are violated. Those people who are involved in terror activities, they are misusing the name of Islam and misusing the name of the Prophet Muhammad to justify their evil actions.”