Islam and respect for people

Muslims and Christians can agree on one point: the vital importance of respect for all human beings[1]. However, has Islam not been intolerant of those declared as non-Muslims? History tells us that, in fact, it has been no more intolerant than Christianity has been toward non-Christians. One should always distinguish between facts and values.

The Koran insists on respect for others

A famous passage from the Koran expresses respect for other people and groups in an original way:

« But He [Allah] made you different, in order to test you, that you might know one another and vie one with another in good works » Koran 5, 48

In his message, the Prophet Muhammad says that respect for people goes hand in hand with the idea of developing and encouraging their autonomy. The message of the Koran therefore seeks to develop human beings in terms of their sense of responsibility and freedom of conscience[2]. An open-minded Muslim proposes the Revelation of the Koran to other people, because what he wants is their free consent[3].

Notes :

[1].  Christian Delorme and Rachid Benzine, Chrétiens et musulmans. Nous avons tant de choses à nous dire (Christians and Muslims: we have so much to say to each other), Albin Michel, 1998, p. 240. Christian Delorme is a Catholic priest.
[2].  Here, I have based my ideas on the interpretation of Abdelmajid Charfi, one of the Muslim thinkers introduced by Rachid Benzine in his work Les nouveaux penseurs de l’islam (the new thinkers of Islam), Albin Michel, 2004; p. 237 and 240.
[3].  See Mohammed Arkoun, Penser l’islam aujourd’hui (thinking about Islam today), Alger: Laphomic ENAL, 1993 (quoted by Rachid Benzine, Les nouveaux penseurs de l’islam (the new thinkers of Islam), op. cit., p. 104). There is no doubt that Muslims can do as well as Catholics with regard to religious freedom (see Lettre ouverte aux catholiques [open letter to Catholics]). A famous verse from the Koran states that: « there is no compulsion in religion » (Koran 2/256); here we simply acknowledge that this is in line with the interpretations of Arkoun and Benzine.

About the author:

Yvon Provençal is a researcher in philosophy (Ph. D. University of Montreal) criticizing religious beliefs. He taught philosophy for 24 years and believes in the importance of « critical caregiver » of others, that is to say, a critique in order to help each other to grow in autonomy rather than detract from their development.