January 28, 2016Interviews

A Muslim Declaration on Religious Minorities: An Interview w/ Pastor Bob Roberts in Marrakesh, Morocco

Landmark declaration from 250 global Muslim leaders calls for religious tolerance
A Muslim Declaration on Religious Minorities: An Interview w/ Pastor Bob Roberts in Marrakesh, Morocco
Image: Wikimedia Commons

ES: Bob, what’s happening there in Morocco and why does it matter?

Bob Roberts: This is the first gathering in modern times that Muslims have called from among themselves to address issues of religious freedom in Muslim majority nations.

Attendees are heads of state, ministers of religion, top imams, and top Islamic scholars in agreement to publicly condemn those like ISIS and other extremists for what they have done, and to promote religious freedom and protection for minorities.

It is a declaration across Islam by its top leaders globally—but, it is not law. Sheik Bin Bayyah says the challenge now is implementation. Each country will respond in their own way. But there has not been a statement like this since the Medina Charter from the prophet Mohammed, that's why this is so big. To get the leaders here in agreement across the various strands of Islam and to speak for it is incredible.

Next, the declaration will be taken to countries, and distributed among Muslims and minorities. There will be workshops and round tables which Imam Magid and I will do globally.

We will do the same in Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Myanmar, US, Central Africa Republic, and more.

ES: How do you think this will be received across the Muslim-majority world? How will the participants be perceived?

BR: The majority of Muslims will welcome it­—their global media has been here, and there is a lot of positive response. Those here have grown their influence and will be as statesmen for the masses. They could also be targets for the extremists.

ES: That statement mentions the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” which includes a right to convert or change your faith. This brings up issues likes apostasy and blasphemy laws, which are a key part of any religious liberty issue in Muslim-majority countries.

BR: It is completely in line with the declaration of human rights; lawyers have been here to insure it.

I spoke with a lawyer here specifically who was working on it and he told me there is NOTHING that prohibits conversion—but keep in mind it's a declaration not a law. This is a first step but a huge first step.

This is where some nations' apostasy laws come into effect. The other issue is blasphemy laws—which addresses the issue of freedom of speech.

Keep in mind there are many laws in effect in some Muslim majority nations that already do address these issues, but because of uneducated imams and extremists they are ignored or unenforced. So education is critical to seeing the recommendations of the declaration implemented.

Sheik Bin Bayyah said minorities must be a part of the government so they can address the issues—they are calling for many practical steps, the focus is already looking forward.

Sheik Bin Bayyah and Bob Roberts, Jr. in Morocco

Sheik Bin Bayyah and Bob Roberts, Jr. in Morocco

Here is the full text of the Morocco Declaration:

In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate

Executive Summary of the Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Religious Minorities in

Predominantly Muslim Majority Communities

25th-27th January 2016

WHEREAS, conditions in various parts of the Muslim World have deteriorated dangerously due to the use of violence and armed struggle as a tool for settling conflicts and imposing one's point of view;

WHEREAS, this situation has also weakened the authority of legitimate governments and enabled criminal groups to issue edicts attributed to Islam, but which, in fact, alarmingly distort its fundamental principles and goals in ways that have seriously harmed the population as a whole;

WHEREAS, this year marks the 1,400th anniversary of the Charter of Medina, a constitutional contract between the Prophet Muhammad, God's peace and blessings be upon him, and the people of Medina, which guaranteed the religious liberty of all, regardless of faith;

WHEREAS, hundreds of Muslim scholars and intellectuals from over 120 countries, along with representatives of Islamic and international organizations, as well as leaders from diverse religious groups and nationalities, gathered in Marrakesh on this date to reaffirm the principles of the Charter of Medina at a major conference;

WHEREAS, this conference was held under the auspices of His Majesty, King Mohammed VI of Morocco, and organized jointly by the Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs in the Kingdom of Morocco and the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies based in the United Arab Emirates;

AND NOTING the gravity of this situation afflicting Muslims as well as peoples of other faiths throughout the world, and after thorough deliberation and discussion, the convened Muslim scholars and intellectuals:

DECLARE HEREBY our firm commitment to the principles articulated in the Charter of Medina, whose provisions contained a number of the principles of constitutional contractual citizenship, such as freedom of movement, property ownership, mutual solidarity and defense, as well as principles of justice and equality before the law; and that,

The objectives of the Charter of Medina provide a suitable framework for national constitutions in countries with Muslim majorities, and the United Nations Charter and related documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, are in harmony with the Charter of Medina, including consideration for public order.

NOTING FURTHER that deep reflection upon the various crises afflicting humanity underscores the inevitable and urgent need for cooperation among all religious groups, we

AFFIRM HEREBY that such cooperation must be based on a "Common Word," requiring that such cooperation must go beyond mutual tolerance and respect, to providing full protection for the rights and liberties to all religious groups in a civilized manner that eschews coercion, bias, and arrogance.

BASED ON ALL OF THE ABOVE, we hereby: Call upon Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world to develop a jurisprudence of the concept of "citizenship" which is inclusive of diverse groups. Such jurisprudence shall be rooted in Islamic tradition and principles and mindful of global changes.

Urge Muslim educational institutions and authorities to conduct a courageous review of educational curricula that addresses honestly and effectively any material that instigates aggression and extremism, leads to war and chaos, and results in the destruction of our shared societies;

Call upon politicians and decision makers to take the political and legal steps necessary to establish a constitutional contractual relationship among its citizens, and to support all formulations and initiatives that aim to fortify relations and understanding among the various religious groups in the Muslim World;

Call upon the educated, artistic, and creative members of our societies, as well as organizations of civil society, to establish a broad movement for the just treatment of religious minorites in Muslim countries and to raise awareness as to their rights, and to work together to ensure the success of these efforts.

Call upon the various religious groups bound by the same national fabric to address their mutual state of selective amnesia that blocks memories of centuries of joint and shared living on the same land; we call upon them to rebuild the past by reviving this tradition of conviviality, and restoring our shared trust that has been eroded by extremists using acts of terror and aggression;

Call upon representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, villification, and denegration of what people hold sacred, as well as all speech that promote hatred and bigotry;

AND FINALLY, AFFIRM that it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.


January 27th, 2016

As I mention in this post, if you are among the top ten countries for Christian persecution, you are either in North Korean or a majority-Muslim country. I'm praying that this meeting, which involved Jewish rabbis from Israel and American Evangelicals from Texas, and the declaration that came from it, might make some progress for freedom of religion in the Middle East.

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