On 18 June 2022, the world will mark the inaugural International Day for Countering Hate Speech. This couldn’t come at a more pressing time, given the recent rapid increase in hate speech globally. In this blog post, Noorjehan Safia Niaz, co-founder of the Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), shares her reflections on a new initiative of multi-faith dialogues that aim to counter hate speech against Muslims.
In India, there has recently been a nationwide campaign of hate against Muslims, accompanied by rampant hate speech. This alarming trend prompted people of various faiths to reach out to each other, not just to give much-needed healing, but also to send out a message of love and peaceful co-existence.
Some of us who belong to different faiths but a bound together by our shared humanity got together on 28 April 2022 under the banner of Collective for Multi Faith Dialogue. The purpose was to create platforms for all of us to come together to counter the wave of hatred. The first event, hosted by St. Peter’s Church, was an interfaith iftar attended by women and men from all faiths.
The event began with songs of hope, harmony and peace performed saathis of Centre for Promoting Democracy. This was followed by a welcome address by Fr. Frazer Mascarenhas SJ, Parish Priest for St. Peter’s Church. A brief introduction about the Collective was given by Brinelle D’Souza, Indian Christians for Democracy. Noorjehan Safia Niaz then spoke about the significance of Ramzaan, and the eternal values of Islam that bind all humanity together.
The gathering sat around tables to reflect collectively on our shared divinity and humanity. We wished for a more humane and peaceful future for society, both nationally and globally. Prayers from respective faiths and cultures played in the background. The collective also offered duas prayers for justice, love, and liberation. The gathering also prayed for the victims of hate and violence across the country and for the immediate release of political prisoners. The Preamble of the Constitution was read in Marathi, Urdu and English. The church bell ushered in the breaking of the multi faith fast. Finally, participants of other faiths accompanied the Muslim women and men in offering namaz and prayers.
This is the first of many interfaith conversations and celebrations, and the collective intends to do many more in future to continue to counter the campaign of hate speech against Muslim people.