Is Enlightened Society Possible?

Recently, in talks I have been giving, I have asked people  what they think an enlightened society would be like. Here are the students at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco  offering their thoughts.

Our Sacred Responsibility

Statement to the
“Marrakech Declaration” Conference on
The Rights of Minorities in Muslim Lands
Morocco, 25 – 27 January 2016


Distinguished leaders and guests,

We are gathering at a time of rising hatred.

Our family – the human family – is being torn apart.

The fires of hatred are not only claiming the lives of thousands of people and driving millions from their homes. Hatred is poisoning minds and hearts around the world.

Read the full statement in Arabic or French

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The woman who rose above the hate

“I have the sincere belief that if people get to know each other, one on one, that they’ll stop being afraid of each other, and we’ll be able to get rid of all this hate in the world,” said Rose Hamid, the 56-year-old Muslim flight attendant who stood up in silence during Donald Trump’s campaign rally last week – and was ejected.

The Woman Who Rose Above the Hate 1The incident occurred at a Trump rally in Rock Hill, South Carolina, attended by more than 2,000 of his supporters. Wearing a white head scarf and a turquoise shirt that read “Salam, I come in peace”, she was reported to have said in advance, “I figured that most Trump supporters probably never met a Muslim so I figured that I’d give them the opportunity to meet one.”

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War Crimes in Paradise

In the year 1400 John de Marignolli, the Papal Ambassador to the Court of the Mongolian Emperor, wrote about Sri Lanka, then known as Seyllan: “From Seyllan to Paradise is a distance of forty Italian leagues, so it is said that the sound of waters falling from the fountains of Paradise is heard there.”

Six hundred and fifteen years later, the United Nations is due to publish a detailed report on war crimes and other serious abuses in the country. At a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on Monday this week, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the report’s findings “are of the most serious nature.”

War Crimes 1

“It is absolutely clear, given the findings in this report, that there must be a great deal of soul-searching that needs to take place if Sri Lanka is going to ensure non-recurrence,” said High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “It is crucial that this historic opportunity for truly fundamental change not be allowed to slip.”

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Dialogue on the global challenge of Islamophobia

I am deeply concerned about the global challenge of the spread of Islamophobia. There is a compelling need for the international community to understand and meet this challenge, just as surely as it would need to combat any epidemic that threatens the well-being of humanity.


Recently, I was invited to speak about religious conflict in today’s world at one of Morocco’s leading universities. This place of higher learning, Al Akhawayn University, belongs to the same international network, the Council of Independent Colleges, as Naropa University.

It is an independent, public, coeducational university established by Royal Decree to promote “the values of human solidarity and tolerance”. So it was a truly appropriate setting in which to talk about religious hatred.

I spoke from the perspective of two leadership positions I hold. I am the Chair of the International Working Group on Sri Lanka. It that works working for a just, peaceful and equitable resolution to the continuing conflicts in that country. In the last two years there have been more than 300 attacks on mosques, businesses and homes of Sri Lanka’s Muslim population – as well as attacks on other religious minorities. It deeply saddens me to say that these have been led, in many cases, by Buddhist monks and carried out in the name of Buddhism.

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