Dialogue crucial in combating extremism

Throughout the ages, people have been discussing politics and religion, and tragedy occurs when productive discussion is rejected for violent action.

Mr Mohammad Alami Musa has rightly stressed the importance of "the exclusion of religion as the basis of social and political orders" (Keeping religion separate from state; Dec 14).

In his book When Religion Becomes Lethal, professor Charles Kimball talks about the relationship between monotheistic religions.

Education is crucial in combating the volatile and lethal consequences that may occur when believers clash with others outside of their religious traditions.

Prof Kimball's message of hope is his assertion that within religions, there exists an inherent flexibility that gives religious believers the ability to bend with the times and to contribute positively to their present circumstances.

He warns that within each of these religious traditions, however, extremists deny such flexibility and may work against freedom and diversity by employing violent tactics.

The post-Sept 11 world is seized with the dangers of religious extremism and conflict between religions.

The key of success in interfaith dialogue lies in a mechanism for resolving violent conflicts, with a particular focus on apology and forgiveness.

It is also important to keep the focus of interfaith dialogue on issues of social justice so that religious peace-building does not merely make people feel safer but also more tolerant and understanding of religious diversity.

Heng Cho Choon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 16, 2017, with the headline 'Dialogue crucial in combating extremism'. Print Edition | Subscribe