Abdullah Fas, The Circle

Cultural and religious differences are the two major characteristics of the contemporary society. Muhammed Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Muslim scholar and peace advocate, proposes the use of dialogue to promote social and cultural integration. According to the prominent opinion leader, dialogue is an essential element in the establishment of firm relations between different faiths across the world. Gulen’s interfaith dialogue is centered on his perception of human distinctiveness (Sleap & Sener, 2014). These personality character traits are nurtured and developed through interactions with other religious beliefs and practices. The White Paper issued by the Council of Europe, on the other hand, suggests that the collective future of humans is highly reliant on the development of democracy, the rule of law, and protection of mutual understanding. It proposes the intercultural approach as the appropriate way of embracing and managing differences in the society (Council of Europe, 2010). Notably, both sources advocate for mutual understanding and the use of dialogue to establish a common ground between different cultures and religions.

The White Paper is centered on the importance of dialogue in facilitating the achievement of the core objectives of the Council of Europe. The document provides that intercultural approach is the appropriate strategy of addressing cultural diversity and ensuring that a nation is united towards achieving common goals (Council of Europe, 2010). The document was designed after it had become apparent that the society comprised of diverse cultures that undermined the unity of the people. According to the White Paper, dialogue facilitates the exchange of information and eradicates the development of stereotyped perceptions which might adversely affect the achievement of cultural coherence in the society. It proposes a concept based on the importance of embracing personal identity and shared destiny among people in the community. Further, the document clarifies that the European identity can only be attained through the development of common values, respect for diversity, and promotion of dignity and equality. Since intercultural dialogue cannot be enforced by law, the White Paper provides a conceptual framework meant to guide policymakers in developing initiatives that sustain social cohesion.

On the other hand, dialogue, for Gulen, is essential for identity development and self-enrichment. Though some of the religions significantly differ in beliefs and practices, the application of diplomacy can assist in establishing mutuality, hence reducing enmity between the cultures. Gulen has been a demonstrable example of the use of dialogue and peaceful negotiations, which is evident in his visits to religious and ethnic leaders including the Patriarch of the Turkish Orthodox community and the Pope (Sleap & Sener, 2014). Moreover, as per the scholar, dialogue is an essential element embedded in the foundation of the Islam faith. It is a religious duty that every Muslim must perform. The Qur’an significantly encourages diplomatic relations as they reflect its values and commands. God created humanity in an essential character that substantially relies on dialogue for association. Besides its political use, Gulen asserts that the application of the approach is enshrined in the Islamic religious scripts; therefore, it should be used in fostering religious and cultural integration in the society. The main argument here is that dialogue is essential in the promotion of the Muslim beliefs as well as in the establishment of relationships between Islam and other religions.

Both articles critiqued in this study center on the importance of dialogue in promoting cultural diversity and fostering unity in the society. Gulen explores its significance from a religious perspective, whereby he propounds that the Islam faith advocates for the boundless use of the approach. Principally, communication nurtures religious identity and increases tolerance. The White Paper is anchored on the use of dialogue from a cultural perspective. It highlights that diversity is inevitable in the society, and the only way to address it is through establishing mutual understanding and working towards the achievement of common national goals (Council of Europe, 2010). Democracy and rule of law can only be achieved if respect for the differences exist between the people. Therefore, dialogue is a crucial element in the development of coherence between different cultures and religions.

Response

The two articles primarily discuss the importance of dialogue in the promotion of unity and coherence. The authors present themes that substantially contribute to the topic of living inter-faithfully. They both note that dialogue facilitates mutual understanding between people with different worldviews. One of the elements that interest me is the argument presented by Gulen regarding the use of this approach to nurture identity. I believe that the author highlights an essential aspect of exchanges. One can only be conscious of their identity when exposed to different cultural practices and beliefs (Sleap & Sener, 2014). Appreciation of the differences that naturally occur in the society stems from interactions that clear some of the misconceptions, facilitating mutual understanding. The White Paper presents a similar argument regarding the embrace of cultural diversity. In my opinion, all people are different, and the dissimilarity should not affect their unity and ability to reason together in matters that require mutual contribution. In this regard, I strongly support the arguments presented in both articles. Though Gulen concentrates on a religious perspective, he highlights themes that resonate with the cultural elements explored by the White Paper.

Globalization and technological improvement have broken the communication barriers that initially prevented the establishment of productive dialogue between people. Currently, wide variety of platforms exists that can be used to communicate and discuss issues of a substantial impact on cultural and religious diversity. The use of current information communication technologies has promoted the application of dialogue in the society. The arguments presented in the White Paper outline that democracy and equality entail confronting people with diverse opinions and cultural practices. Though humans may at times attempt to minimize contact with people who have different beliefs for the fear that the latter will erode the culture of the former, isolation is not the solution (Council of Europe, 2010). The two articles suggest that societies should develop the capacity to dialogue and establish relationships with communities and cultures that have divergent worldview and practices. Interaction facilitates the development of resonance with each other, hence promoting joint efforts in handling common challenges in the society.  

Gülen has been an Imam and inspirational speaker for a long time and has championed dialogue as an essential element in the contemporary society. Principally, his argument in favor of this method has triggered the contribution of other authors on the issue. He highlights crucial problems which have not been widely discussed in the past. I believe that most of people are not comfortable with diversity in the society, whichin most cases results in isolation. The White Paper is against the seclusion of people due to cultural or other differences. Instead, it pivots on developing a society where individuals respect the differences and develop mutual relationships that are culturally inclusive. More importantly, dialogue enhances self-discovery and helps in enduring daily human challenges (Council of Europe, 2010). Essential elements in the society such as democracy and equality are also significantly promoted by the establishment of discussions between the affected parties. In my opinion, both authors have explicitly explained the importance of dialogue, pointing out to how it can be applied to achieve a culturally, religiously, and politically accommodative society.

Personal Arguments and Insights

An analysis of the two articles reveals that they both discuss similar issues. While Gulen’s focal point is on the significance of dialogue with regards to the Islamic faith, the White Paper is centered on the use of the approach to promote cultural diversity. Besides using dialogue to develop a personal identity and establish mutual interpersonal relationships, both articles deliberate on the significance of the method in government and religious institutions. The arguments presented in both reports can be grouped into many primary themes. One of the main ideas evident in both is the inherent human value and moral dignity. According to Gulen, social value is defined by the Islam religion as the ability to portray character traits that adhere to the teachings of the Qur’an (Sleap & Sener, 2014). Personally, I believe that humans are created in a way that compels them to be kind, compassionate, and caring. Dialogue provides a platform through which these critical elements can be expressed. On the other hand, the White Paper advocates for the protection of human identities and dignity. It asserts that people need to embrace their differences and use dialogue to develop a common understanding of their distinctive traits.

The other element that I consider the two articles attempt to expound is the essence of freedom of thought. A person has the right to have different views and opinions on an issue in the society. Similarly, cultural and religious diversity is inevitable in the society, as everyone has the freedom of thought which manifests through reasoning and choice. Therefore, the social and political structures should embrace these differences and promote freedoms that respect the different identities of members of the society (Council of Europe, 2010). According to Gulen, the most effective dialogue should be open and action-oriented. In this regard, it should spark actions that unite people to fight their everyday challenges.

Conclusion

Overall, diversity is unavoidable in the society. Therefore, dialogue can effectively be used to initiate understanding between different cultures and religions. Development of religious identities unites people who hold the same view, while interacting with different religions molds the already developed personality. Religion is a spiritual home that allows people to venture out and return enriched with elements attained out of interfaith interactions. Furthermore, dialogue promotes cooperation and achievement of lasting solutions to issues that threaten the unity of a nation. In my opinion, the approach is an essential factor that enhances the development of a political culture which values diversity and promotes human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as citizen participation.

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