By Glauco D’Agostino

The World by Petrus Schenck (copper engraving), c. 1700


In times of pandemic, the ideals of human fraternity seem to falter under the blows of old and new social intolerances. Pope Francis and the Grand Imām aṭ-Ṭayyib in the Human Fraternity Document warn about the danger of extremism and blind fundamentalism, but, as well, they cite the “vortex of atheistic and agnostic extremism”, blaming and deeming it as a danger. Today, the 17th-century-built secular nation-state does not withstand any more the impact of the highly technological current society. It loses the legitimacy of preserving monopoly in fixing and running the legislative and juridical system. Old secularism needs to reform itself and open up to dialogue. The quite fundamentalist notion of West and East as opposing civilisations is failing in favour of another as much not a new dangerous ideology, cosmopolitanism (other than national multiculturalism) that proves to erase identities by emphasising the individual traits in the relationships among men-brothers. The human fraternity does not ground on the repeal of differences, which are a value opposed to behavioural uniformity and levelling of consciences. It is not built on formulaic egalitarianism, which is an ideology and political option. The human fraternity consists of the duties of coexistence and dialogue among different people, all aware of the enhancement civilisations could bring each other.

Mass society has introduced two concepts dangerous for the community and considered either values or desirable practices, neutrality and the simplification of the arguments through slogans. It is the victory of contingency over permanence, transient over stability, pragmatism over fundamentals defence.  Clash is not as much among basic values as to how they enter civil life order. Hence the issue of rights. We must understand the concept of rights, which have not only an individual nature. While considering all readings, there is no full match between the human fraternity and human rights. It depends on the content of the wording. Reconciling two main demands: admitting fairness and justice as principles with no discrimination to the recognised otherness.


Human fraternity, values, rights, equity, justice, Nation-State, integralism, extremism, fundamentalism, secularism, cosmopolitanism, multiculturalism, egalitarianism.


The decline of the nation-state

The first issue is that we must clarify the relationship between ethics and legality, two concepts identifying purposes and needs not always overlapping, indeed. An ethically reprehensible action is not always against the law in force in a state. It raises the problem between conscience (individual or collective) and state authority. The individual conscience (leading to the moral sense) reports to a single subject, the collective one (hence ethics springs) to the community. In turn, morals and ethics can have a religious or non-religious origin. In the first case, the conscience must respond by choice to the authority it recognises as competent and legitimate in the matter; in the latter, again for recognition of competence and legitimacy, necessarily to the State of belonging.

In short, a jurisdiction problem, where the discriminating factor is the community in which we recognise ourselves. Jurisdiction does not necessarily need to be exclusive, otherwise the conflict between authorities in charge, each claiming a monopoly power of regulation and sanction. It is the historical conflict between the state and religious authorities, which one expected to solve through the separation of powers. How does this separation work? Each subject holding the power of moulding behaviours and rules must act within the scope of its judicial capacity. Basically, the two powers have no reason for dialogue. When conflicting, the secular authority prevails over the religious, under a tenet assumed a validation of modernity.[1] Anyone who disapproved of it would oppose the progress and state authority layout. Therefore he would resist the law and deserve sanctions.

That historical narrative of the last two centuries reflects the nation-state structure, which everyone definitely must respond to. It is alleged modernity, where the absolute power of a monarch or religious authority by the divine right has given way to another absolute sovereign but by profane law, who does not allow power equalisation or partners in shaping the pattern of society to achieve. Because this is the ultimate law purpose.

None disputes that the claim to regulate a complex society such as the current one may not meet the consensus over a single actor or patron of the social order. And this is the point. Just as the absolute monarchy did not withstand the impact of a changing society, where the players have multiplied (in politics, economics, culture, and so on), so the 17th-century-built secular nation-state does not withstand any more the impact of the highly technological current society. It loses the legitimacy of preserving monopoly in fixing and running the legislative and juridical system. As a victim of its institutions’ decay, it must acknowledge that the “seclusion in command” it used to boast about no longer works. Old secularism needs to reform itself and open up to dialogue.

Here is the main concept, the magical word, dialogue. In my opinion, human fraternity embraces this idea: a dissolution by anyone’s claim to represent the totality of human needs, which for centuries and progressively, spirituality as an expression of human nature has been excluded from, to benefit materialistic and atheist concept of interpersonal and social relationships.[2] On the subject, I think, conversely, modernity is what meets the essence of creation. It does not depend on an individual view, which is contingent and subjective. It depends on understanding, not of the ultimate reality (by its nature unknowable if not by faith), but the deeper humanity dynamics. For this aim, we require study, commitment, dedication, responsibility.[3] I call it politics, which is not power achievement as today’s schools of the secular society teach, or abstract ideals finding an easy consensus among large masses, but proposals of ways for the abstract models to become real life. It implies internal effort and defence of tenets. In reverse, we see external adhesion and acquiescence to the state of the affair, possibly legitimised by accidental majorities, especially in the computer age with easy manipulation of events.

Neutrality and simplification

Mass society has introduced, among others, two concepts dangerous for the community and considered either values or desirable practices. On the one hand, neutrality;[4] on the other, the simplification of the arguments through slogans.

The easiest way to gain consensus is to take no stance. That is, reasons for a possible conflict are all sound and are evidence of opposing interests. Therefore, it is better to abstain to avoid conflicts. The aim is to safeguard peace. There is no discrimination between right and wrong. The only distinction is there is compliance with the law resulting from the established power and enforced according to a majority rule. It is the capitulation of ethics, which by its nature discriminates right and wrong regardless of the law in force. Ethical judgment is permanent (of course, not eternal as it conforms to the society it addresses), but you may easily subvert the law in force. It is the victory of contingency over permanence, transient over stability, pragmatism over fundamentals defence. It’s not these mods are always unacceptable because otherwise, we would fall into maximalism and intolerance. But when they elevated to new standards of conduct, it means desertion from civic duty to testify to a belief, whether secular or religious, to the advantage of the system raised to compromise.

Beyond everyone’s stance, dialogue does not mean compromise, does not authorise syncretism, mind you, but it shows respect for other people’s thoughts.[5]

The other identified danger is a simplification, the slogan. The assumption is that everyone needs to understand, then any concept is generalised as much as possible, and the language should be as simple as possible.[6] These, as well, have become communication values while we are unaware (or guilty conscious) this attitude at all instigates the contrast among diversities fuelled by what in other times we would have called prejudices.

Examples of current and often subliminal slogans are:

  • The West (now restricted to just a military alliance) is modern, and the East must emancipate itself;
  • Religions must conform to secular principles (therefore, reject their role);
  • There are only individual universal rights;
  • We have to guard Judaism (intrinsically Eastern) as part of the West and since the Jews were victims of the Holocaust (which everyone knows) and not also for its (less known) thousands-year-old religious principles;
  • Christianity symbolises the past, and Islam is inherently violent;
  • Would you like a neighbour of another skin colour, religion, ethnicity or is it better he is congruent with your features? And so on.

Modern society, now in free fall vis-a-vis the 21st-century post-modern challenges, is feeding on this drinking trough, even though the so-called advanced society, one of the academies, exclusive circles, short-term economic potentates, one that should lead the transition to a “new world” is unable to notice it. And the reason could lie in the evidence it has not prepared its handover, while so proud of having spent time in current greed without thinking that historical cyclical processes do not provide for the status quo immutability. Do you remember Fukuyama’s End of History?

Therefore, a dialogue takes place on the ground of values defence, aiming to understand one another, avoiding to emphasise differences that cannot bridge[7] and it is not correct to fill trying to reach a common position. It is what His Holiness Pope Francis and Grand Imām of Al-Azhar Aḥmad aṭ-Ṭayyib did by signing the Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together Document at the 2019 Abu Dhabi meeting (The Holy See, 2019). That document finds common ground for many issues, which becomes an ethical guide for the respective religious communities and their internal schismatic groups but all men of goodwill, believers and non-believers. Here is a jurisdiction matter. Albeit not establishing legal norms, the document words are signs for humanity and also rules of behaviour to the religious communities both personalities lead.

Ethical principles, legality and participation

The ethics versus legality relationship echoes once again, and the request to translate the principles “into policies, decisions, legislative texts” (The Holy See, 2019) points to claiming an active power in the political sphere that a ruling secularist trend would want to call off and often actually denies. It is about granting representation of instances not to citizens only, as it is obvious but not always assumed (Taylor, 1994).

The political demands from the religious world must be recognised in the fullness of their identities and not just as a secular substitute for an identity to hide in the name of a presumed founding values uniformity. Even so, it happens that religious identity could coincide or overlap with the national (Nikolova, 2018). It occurs, for example, in countries of Christian-Orthodox tradition where a blend of national and religious feeling roots in the federative system of ecclesiastical jurisdictions and where morals are a side of religious people’s consciousness. It is the theme of religious participation in social and political life. This scheme is useful to set up welcome and solidarity with no exclusion, at last, to build the path to fraternity among pars.

This issue concerns the so-called Western world (Houtman and Aupers, 2007) as the secularised Muslim countries, the latter often heirs to colonial powers that subdued their societies. These newly independent countries have taken the colonisers’ institutions and founding principles as a model, drawing some positive constitutional principles, other ones misleading to the way their “new” citizens live the society (Khan, Elius, et al., 2020). Namely, when democracy is running, you cannot prevent religious parties from exercising executive power or even, as in many cases, running to the elections. Cases of the past are endless, including the Front Islamique du Salut in Algeria, Mouvement de la Tendance Islamique in Tunisia, Ḥamās in Palestine, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and so on.

As a result, the involved parties need to establish their fundamentals again. The splinter extremist fringes, refusing unequal provisos than other political players’, unavoidably take an odious terrorist road. The unequivocal terrorism condemnation is obvious on an ethical. Thus, any people with common sense may not take a different stance. Regrettable for national and international institutions not to acknowledge the failure of a secular fundamentalist model artificially implanted in the heart of countries expecting from the achieved independence far more benefits than a selective exclusion of most of their respective societies. I do not believe the fable of violent Islam to take root in the consciousness of over one billion and a half Muslims, many of whom live in “Western” countries and are one of its components.

The criminalisation of over a quarter of humanity does not lead to the human fraternity.[8] On the other hand, I believe the continuous tension and instability are functional to the putative role in the name of all humanity and in terms of ethical judgments that some countries have assumed the right to represent other “non-conformed” players. The general acceptance of this putative role did not lead to hoped-for universal peace and brotherhood feeling since it does not rely on the awareness of the communities suffering it but might external parties take on their behalf, and with no consent by them. Indeed, the very acquisition of that role ethically illegitimate and not always correct even in terms of international law allowed the military invasion of defenceless countries (Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, coincidentally all Muslim majority) and their almost permanent destabilisation. But they call it a brotherhood.

I don’t think it’s just a lexical question as much as it is semantic, something sacred history had already stated about Babel. I am a bit confused when the “Peace of Galilee” worked for invading Lebanon! Simplification and slogan but extremely effective. We have talked about it. The assassination of General Sulaimānī, who fought against terrorism, was in the name of the global war on terror, a paradox, nor we can include it in a “collateral damage” case that justifies war crimes. Better, they justified, seeing today’s international treaty’s exegetes need to admit one. Some defended the infamous torture in Guantánamo, considering it a risk to run and trying to balance risks and benefits.[9] It is an interpretation of human rights but aberrant from an ethical point of view. Especially since, even from a legal point of view, no one can pay for the crime. If it is a crime given the unclear position of the jurisdiction under which Guantánamo falls despite “in the case of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and the crime of torture, international treaties make prosecution not only a right but a duty” (Schabas, 2020).

The global war on terror has yet resulted in a kind of world militarisation that seems to fear its workforce unemployment. It cannot easily stop the sophisticated technological machine of remote attacks, just like the blast furnaces of a steel plant cannot shut down overnight. As Newsweek American magazine noted (Arkin, 2021),

At the center of the perpetual war machine – are the back-end hubs of the Middle East, commands and bases in the supposedly safer countries outside combat zones – places like Jordan, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Djibouti.

The cosmopolitanism risk

Pope Francis and the Grand Imām aṭ-Ṭayyib have blamed atheist extremism and deemed it a danger. I did not seem to have read much about it in the scholars’ comments on the Document. It is as if many human fraternity supporters believe this attack on atheism has been an imprudence on the part of both authoritative religious leaders. It is very religious teachings that, on an ethical-moral ground, distinguish sin from the sinner. Those who do not refer to these teachings have obvious difficulty understanding their meaning.

The condemnation of an ethical or moral deviation is a duty by the religious authority, under penalty of its de-legitimation. But society does not expel the sinner since sin does not imply profane law infraction. Rightful or unjust one wishes to consider, it is the civil authority that determines the punishment for the sake of preserving social order, up to the irreversible sanction of the death penalty. Does the human fraternity concept imply the abolition of penalties for those who violate profane or religious law? And, on an ethical, does it involve the expulsion from the community of all societies applying the death penalty? I underline they include, among many others, two countries declaring themselves champions of their respective civilisations, the United States and Saudi Arabia, which are an example to their “reference worlds” but close allies as well, gathering together on virtually all fields of human activity. Perhaps, the quite fundamentalist notion of West and East as opposing civilisations is failing in favour of another as much not a new dangerous ideology, cosmopolitanism (other than national multiculturalism). This doctrine proves to erase identities by emphasising the individual traits in the relationships among men-brothers (Fuller, 2003). In this sense, even the disputes between nationalist and ethnocentric tendencies that permeate the prevailing debates are updated (Brubaker, 1990).

Dialogue at a Delhī interfaith conference in 2019

In my opinion, the human fraternity does not ground on the repeal of differences, which are a value as opposed to a behavioural uniformity and levelling of consciences (Pope’s and the Grand Imām’s document calls it “desensitized human conscience”). The human fraternity consists of the duties of coexistence and dialogue among different people, all aware of the enhancement civilisations could bring each other (Pallavicini and Guiderdoni, 2021). This ideal exchange among different even opposing and often irreducible stances is a value, as well. Quite the opposite of the claim to standardise society’s inspiring principles, with resulting repercussions on the social order, sources of law, relations between individuals and communities, what is a right and is not. Here I quote a sentence by the Chinese philosopher Lo Chung-Shu from “Human Rights in the Chinese Tradition” (UNESCO, 2018):

The basic ethical concept of Chinese social political relations is the fulfilment of the duty to one’s neighbour, rather than the claiming of rights. The idea of mutual obligations is regarded as the fundamental teaching of Confucianism.

Maybe, should we ask the Chinese to cast aside Confucianism after millennia of its practice? And, the second question, why do we have the very precious ethical-normative provision of Universal Human Rights (which are individual ones) and not a Charter of Human and Institutional Duties bringing together individual and collective commitments under the same specimen and entail criminal penalties to the offenders? At present, the states are not liable for war crimes. Who does pay for failing to fulfil its duty of protecting the civilian people over an armed attack in occupied territories? International treaties provide for it when a conflict is declared but not in “asymmetrical” wars where everyone claims the right to intervene militarily in defiance of any human or institutional duty. Incidentally, when the body of a victim of such treatment disappears, the conditions for the judgment in a trial are also missing, even when the offender has confessed! And this is of little use to the alleged action in favour of peace by the International Criminal Court,[10] which prosecutes crimes committed within member states and that, for example, Israel, Sudan, the United States and Russia have withdrawn. We wonder why!

Perhaps we are already on this path, since, with no universal encoding, some international players have decided to apply their own prescriptive code and evaluate who is wrong and is not, judge which the “rogue states” are, unilaterally apply a justice standard, and impose the penalties they deem appropriate. Something bringing back to the biblical “law of retaliation” but with no juridical basis, any legitimacy to run it and a chance of dealing with the opposing party, as well as Roman, Germanic and subsequent laws had recognised. I do not see debates about it. I see addiction to the behaviour of the powerful on duty, a departure from the human fraternity’s perspective. Above all, I do not see ethical reproof (not a judicial one, another matter) to such risky, systematic and not occasional conduct. In other words, to approach religious lingo, I do not see the sin condemnation because the sinner has taken the moralizer’s clothes.

Atheistic and agnostic extremism

Pope Francis and the Grand Imām aṭ-Ṭayyib warn about the danger of extremism[11] and blind fundamentalism, but, as well, they cite both religious fundamentalism (covering a small part of the communities they represent) and the “vortex of atheistic and agnostic extremism”. It does not mean excluding atheists from the human fraternity dialogue. The Caliphal institution itself, heir to the Charter of Medina, ensured freedom of conscience to the point of not forcing any “infidel” to participate in the Muslim religious wars, thus implementing a different conception from “everybody is equal before the law” that validates the egalitarian and imperative law of modern states; and the Mughal Emperor Jalāl ud-Dīn Moḥammad Akbar-e-Azam, albeit within the syncretic Dīn-i-Ilāhi doctrine, had included atheists in the multi-religious discussion group connecting Muslims, Hindus, Jainists, Sikhs, Christians and Parsi Hebrews to debate points and reasons of their different opinions (D’Agostino, 2010, p. 155). But the danger of atheism, particularly when aggressive, is another matter.

Pope Benedict XVI had no qualms in attacking “atheist extremism” and “aggressive secularism” and deploring the damage “the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life” has done in the last century (Jones, Hooper and Kington, 2010). According to the Australian analyst CJ Werleman (2015),

“fundamentalism and violent extremism is not the sole domain of religion” and “New Atheists promote white supremacy, anti-Muslim bigotry, secular fundamentalism.”

This fundamentalist drift is a direct result of the French Enlightenment, from the hedonistic materialism of the Breton illuminist Julien Offray de La Mettrie to the atheism of Denis Diderot. As Charles T. Wolfe, from the Department of Philosophy and Moral Sciences at the Ghent University, points out, Auguste Comte, who was the positivism initiator, considered the doctrine “everything that exists, is material, including human beings” as the attempt at “explaining the higher level in terms of the lower level.” (Wolfe, 2016).

A line of thought today very well credited deems every religion as intrinsically violent and atheism aimed at peace, so it would be enough to eliminate religions (Shumacher, 2012). We are not talking about extremist fringes that do not count but authors who set fashion on a globalised society stage, such as the Americans Samuel Benjamin Harris and Daniel Clement Dennett III, the former neurobiologist and the latter philosopher, and the British Richard Dawkins and Christopher Eric Hitchens, respectively ethologist and writer (Megoran and Foster, 2018). They call themselves “The Four Horsemen of New Atheism (or the Non-Apocalypse)”. In particular, Harris stands out for his anti-Islamic fury.[12]

History disproves the argument that atheism leads to peaceful coexistence. As a matter of fact, since atheism has been assuming the modern connotations the Enlightenment provided for it, the regimes supporting a faithless society have perpetrated the widest mass murder, from the “Terror” Jacobin massacres in the French Revolution to the USSR’s anti-religious persecutions up to the WWII Holocaust horrors. A slate clean on all, apologetically extolling atheism virtues and proposing the abolition of religions as a cure. In my opinion, it is infantilism. If only Humanity were so simple to be managed!

On the contrary, it is not to justify the historical errors of religions or condemn the state’s secular form. Except that we cannot tackle the problem on the ideological ground, i.e. all the good on the one hand, all the bad on the other. It is a view the so-called modernity introduced when identifying some behaviours or people or even society’s sectors as “the absolute evil”. And the news goes on to show these samples of fundamentalism based on generalisation. It would be as for Hiroshima and Nagasaki annihilation we repute Harry Truman as “the absolute evil”, the American people as a  whole responsible for the attempted genocide, and, ironically, the entire American Democratic Party as an accomplice of that crime. It contrasts, on the ethical, with the distinction between sin and sinner. The deplorable action remains a crime against humanity. On a juridical-legal level, the secular courts must impose the corresponding punishment. And then, in this specific case, the UN had not yet approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights!

Dialogue in diversity and minority rights

From an Islamic perspective, the non-automatic overlap of religious rules and juridical norms found a solution at the root. A fatwā has the nature of juridical response as an authoritative personal opinion of a faqīh, a jurist given legitimacy and broad social esteem. Under its very subjective nature, fatwā compels automatic application only if the faqīh is up to the same juridical-theological school of the qāḍī (judge) referring to his ministry. When the trial expects severe penalties (for example, the death penalty), a particular qualified faqīh figure, a muftī, must endorse them (D’Agostino, 2010). Marzouk Aulad Abdellah (2013), professor at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, says:

There are two reasons why such opinions (fatwas) are not obligatory. In principle, every individual is answerable to God for his or her own acts: people may choose which of the various fatwas they want to follow. In practice, this means that fatwas carry no legal force. The state can set down Islamic rules and norms in law, and in that respect it can happen that state legislation will forbid acts that are permitted according to many fiqh scholars.

This is the freedom the Islamic Law grants, and the imposition of secular law, absolutist and pervasive of any legal judgment, does not allow.

In this sense, Islam is different also from the Christianity of Roman Catholicism. Since the beginning, the absence of an ecclesial authority acting for the entire Umma has allowed the birth of juridical-theological schools, madhāhib, each with its legal application anyone can choose to join. The difference in the evaluation each madhhab can implement against another matches the acknowledgement that cultures diversify even within the Umma. The ability to conform to territorial and ethnic customs is a good practice for worship freedom (Ekmekci, 2016). This does not affect the validity of the Umma view. Conversely, it enhances the goal of dialogue in diversity and Islamic brotherhood. The same logic and substantial methodology can and must apply by extension to the human fraternity: not uniformity but the dialogue in diversity. Any attempt to expunge Sharī’a from Muslim life is an attack on Islam because Sharī’a shows the basic general principles to the Umma and fiqh, the jurisprudential law, flexibly applies to specific cases under the legal rule.

When Pope Francis and the Grand Imām aṭ-Ṭayyib refer to the citizenship concept, they use a common ground based on territorial law, excluding ethnic, tribal, national and even religious privileges. The identification between State and Nation that arose from the crumbling of the religious-based state has spilt into citizenship meaning, changing it in favour of nationality (blood ties) instead of territoriality (Çaylak, 2014). The very term “citizenship” refers to a concept not necessary before the nation-state’s birth. From an Islamic point of view, the State of Medina and subsequent Caliphates recognised the same rights and duties to those who reside in the State territory, regardless of their birthplace, social status, and religion. Restrictions and protection still applied to minorities did not undermine the right of belonging and the ability to act of individuals and communities but enhanced their social duty to intervene in support of the integrity of a wider community, just the Umma. Moḥammad Hashim Kamali (2009), a former professor of law at the International Islamic University Malaysia, goes so far as to say that

the rules of fiqh on residence and domicile within the wider dār alIslām are far less restrictive than the Immigration and citizenship laws of the presentday Muslim countries.

Speaking of rights in an Islamic state, Adem Çaylak (2014), from Kocaeli University, explains that

Obedience is compulsory if the executive is lawful and legitimate. Otherwise, Islam recognizes the right of civil disobedience. And the assistance refers to the community rather than individual. Therefore it is congruent with the group rights which rejects being introvert but promotes establishment of relationships. However umma should be comprehended as a roof above the cultures reinforcing the neighborhood.

Then, we must understand the concept of rights, which have not only an individual nature. Without overcoming this misunderstanding, it is difficult, however desirable, to establish a dialogue on the path of human fraternity.

Anyway, while considering all readings, there is no full match between the human fraternity and human rights and, discerning the meanings, yet, neither one nor the other goes hand in hand with cosmopolitanism. It depends on the content of the wording. Just by hinting at a topic giving rise to endless debates, the view that a worldwide specific model of morality matches the human fraternity gist does not link at all to this hope. More, if the aspiration itself leans to become the norm, it could sharpen conflicts. When Kant stated that

the greatest problem for the human species, the solution of which nature compels him to seek, is that of attaining a civil society, which can administer justice universally,

was introducing the very question of global rules (Brown, 2009). His cosmopolitanism rejoined surely Montaigne’s cultural pluralism. But the thought of the Jewish-stemmed humanist philosopher from Aquitaine, who had an idea of morality based on human reason, emphasised above all the inability of standardising the cultural perspectives’ complexity. He said (Brown, 2009):

Human reason is a dye spread more or less equally through all the opinions and all the manners of us humans, which are infinite in matter and infinite in diversity.

Therefore, pluralism in diversity.[13] Exactly the opposite of the model of cultural and ethical uniformity cosmopolitanism raises.

The Document Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together does not propose and ever mention the term cosmopolitanism that would conflict, above all, with the multicultural nature of Islamic thought (Cole, 2019). However, some manipulation of the text might lead one to believe there are openings to this perspective. I refer, in particular, to the passage where it is said (Holy See, 2019):

It is therefore crucial to establish in our societies the concept of full citizenship and reject the discriminatory use of the term minorities which engenders feelings of isolation and inferiority. Its misuse paves the way for hostility and discord.

The non-recognition of minority status aims, as it is written, at full citizenship, which, you want highlights, not even the states of liberal democracy currently reached. Then, a goal to achieve in homage to the concept of civic responsibility and duty by the institutions legislating to that effect. So much so that in a subsequent step, it is said:

The protection of the rights of the elderly, the weak, the disabled, and the oppressed is a religious and social obligation.

Now, a contradiction could lie in likely discrimination. The mentioned reduced abilities require protection while ethnic, cultural, religious minority conditions, which are inherently assumptions of difficulty in interacting with the rest of people, should give up shelter as a tribute to equal individual rights. Equality is ideological as presupposed and hence not a real proviso. It could result in the extinction of all protective measures for minorities, first of all, their language’s. For instance, should a minority member in a trial unavoidably read, understand and answer only in the state’s national language or otherwise have the right to interact in his native language? Here is a specific right of his condition, mostly needed in democratic countries, where laws are by definition an expression of most citizens. Under the full equality tenet, a citizen of a language, ethnicity, religion other than most people would suffer a denial of his peculiar prerogatives. Minorities lack recognition and protection unless the state’s Basic Law provides for them. In the latter case, institutions must acknowledge the existence and rights of each specific group they deem relevant for the purpose. Community’s, not just individual rights!

That’s around the corner the danger of cosmopolitanism, improperly rated humanitarian. Human fraternity is not built on formulaic egalitarianism, which is an ideology and political option, also because history has already revealed to us what it leads to. And a short memory does not help to build universal peace. Conversely, we can recognise

common values shared by all humankind

along with

awareness about different cultures and religions, or beliefs, and the promotion of tolerance, which involves societal acceptance and respect for religious and cultural diversity, including with regard to religious expression,

as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres [bottom photo] recalled last February 4th for the celebration of the International Day of Human Fraternity in the context of World Interfaith Harmony Week (United Nations, 2021). Mustafa Genc (2021), Executive Director of the Harmony Institute in Nairobi, says:

Building social friendship between groups with a history of being different is not dependent on the absence of war, but by allowing people to show self-expression, and to reciprocate the skills of listening, looking, knowing, understanding, and finding common ground that suits each other.


In times of pandemic, the ideals of human fraternity seem to falter under the blows of old and new social intolerances. António Guterres again denounced (United Nations, 2020):

Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.  Migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus – and then denied access to medical treatment.

The road is paved by good intentions but also ideological prejudices that risk undermining the process. I don’t think the actual clash is that opposing traditionalists and modernists, as many analysts interpret and many political and institutional representatives have the interest to declare. Habit changes are part of history. The problems often deal with the change in times and thought maturity.[14] We have to preserve some immutable principles as founding values of creational dignity. Others arose from tradition and cultures not time-sticked, instead stemmed from the communities experience and its wise interpreters. More others formalise as criteria allowing a coexistence order. All previous categories should not be confused with each other nor distorted by materialism that rates valid and “modern” only economic values.

I believe that Tradition as a concept ended up under attack even before traditionalism, which is an ideology like all “isms”. Tradition is a guiding principle of human knowledge and wisdom and not nearly means defence of the past time. The latter is the prerogative of traditionalism and the various related schools of thought.[15] When confusing the terms, we can never understand each other, resulting in triggering conflict.

Clash is not as much among basic values as to how they enter civil life order. Hence the issue of rights. Leaving aside the collective rights, how could Islamic “personal status” reconcile Western-arise “family law”?[16] Of course, a theme very complex we don’t face here. Just remember the matter concerns marriage, rights and duties of spouses, rights of children, dowry, property regime, sexuality, repudiation, separation, divorce, cohabitation, adoption, succession, inheritance (Jaafar-Mohammad and Lehmann, 2011). And again, are we sure that democracy, political rights and financial interest each have the same meaning in all societies of the world? Just mention, for example, what usury means and how the banking system defines it and avoids (if any) its application. Is there a right to blasphemy, drug use, gambling, and wearing hijāb? When stating the “right to life” principle, which would acquire 100% consensus in a survey, is there a unanimous attitude towards the death penalty, abortion, euthanasia, surrogacy? Which one of the attitudes would you deem as modern? And once defining it, do you wonder whether modernity is a value or just a necessity? Because I suppose there is a huge hierarchical difference in esteem.

So, renounce the human fraternity? Quite the opposite. The human fraternity is an inescapable sentiment and a creational dignity value, as previously said. If we reduce it to slogans with no depth of content and problems lately stated, we risk making it into ideology, a metaphysical concept that does not match aims. Conversely, reducing it to a mere legal concept under the rule of law implies debasing its meaning simply to a conflict among juridical and political mindsets, just right it is happening. Pope Francis and the Grand Imām aṭ-Ṭayyib, as well, should be aware of.

I like to conclude by citing Khaled M. Abou El Fadl (2018), an author already mentioned in the text. The first quote emphasises that

the Qur’an explicates a moral and sociological principle of grave significance – it states that diversity is a principle of creation.

The other reads:

While recognizing the legitimacy of a considerable amount of difference, the Qur’an insists on objective, universal moral and ethical standards, encapsulated in the ideas of equity and justice.

That’s the correct path. Reconciling both demands: admitting fairness and justice as principles with no discrimination to the recognised otherness. It is quite the discriminations that prevent the achievement of human fraternity!



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[1] Giancarlo Rovati, Professor of General Sociology at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Milan, Italy, says: «French “laïcité” [is] based on a radical separation between religion and politics, which in fact aims to submit religion to politics.» (Rovati, 2020).

[2] Citation of Kees Waaijman’s view (Kame and Tshaka, 2015).

[3] Khaled M. Abou El Fadl, a prominent scholar in the field of human rights from the UCLA School of Law, says: “We continue to suffer from hate, bigotry and racism, but our knowledge of human sociology, anthropology and history – of our collective experience as human beings – makes these failures more offensive and less justifiable than at any other time in history.” (El Fadl, 2018).

[4] “Modern society requires and deserves a truly secular state, by which I do not mean state atheism, but state neutrality in all matters pertaining to religion.” It is a citation from atheist Richard Dawkins (which this essay will speak of further) depicting well a ruling attitude of this school of thought. (Gribbin, 2011).

[5] In Islamic doctrine, these concepts are clearly expressed by the Qur’an: “To you be your Way, And to me mine” (CIX: 6) and “God forbids you not, With regard to those who Fight you not for (your) Faith Nor drive you out Of your homes, From dealing kindly and justly With them: For God loveth Those who are just” (LX: 8). (The Holy Qur’an. Translation and commentary by Abdullah Yusuf Ali).

[6] In the Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis says: “Wisdom is not born of quick searches on the internet nor is it a mass of unverified data. That is not the way to mature in the encounter with truth. Conversations revolve only around the latest data; they become merely horizontal and cumulative. We fail to keep our attention focused, to penetrate to the heart of matters, and to recognize what is essential to give meaning to our lives. Freedom thus becomes an illusion that we are peddled, easily confused with the ability to navigate the internet.” (The Holy See, 2020).

[7] Adeng Muchtar Ghazali, from the Sunan Gunung Djati State Islamic University (UIN) of Bandung, says that “the understanding on plurality is not always related to theology matters or faith but it only gives a place and confession for other religion existence.” (Ghazali, 2014).

[8] Louise A. Cainkar, from the Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, documents that Arabs and Muslims have been discriminated against in the U.S.A. after 9/11, as they were all deemed adherents of extremist movements. (Cainkar, 2009).

[9] “It seems obvious that the misapplication of torture should be far less troubling to us than collateral damage: there are, after all, no infants interned at Guantanamo Bay.” (Harris, 2011).

[10] The mentioned William A. Schabas, Professor of International Law at the Middlesex University, London, notes: “There have been no prosecutions for crimes against peace or for aggression since the post-World War II trials. Virtually no national jurisdictions have introduced this category of crime into domestic legal codes, in contrast to the widespread acceptance of national laws against genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.”

[11] For the contemporary use of the term “extreme”, see Wibisono, Louis, and Jetten, 2019.

[12] This is what Harris says in his book The End of Faith. Religion, Terror, and the future of Reason: “I think it is clear that Islam must find some way to revise itself, peacefully or otherwise. What this will mean is not all obvious. What is obvious, however, is that the West must win the argument or win the war. All else will be bondage.” (Megoran and Foster, 2018, cit.)

[13] Adeng Muchtar Ghazali says that “those who try to deny culture diversity law, it will cause continuous conflict phenomenon.” (Ghazali, 2014, cit.)

[14] I propose the following Tamara Kharroub’s reflections bringing back the thought on women’s rights in the Islamic world by Aziza al-Hibri, Professor emerita of Law at the University of Richmond: “Gradual stable change to the status and rights of Muslim women is therefore achievable through Islam. […] Secular approaches to women’s rights are not likely to ‘liberate’ Muslim women because people of faith will continue to want to follow their perception of the Divine Will. […] The West should not keep a monopoly on the topographies of modernity and truth.” See Kharroub, 2015, and al-Hibri, 1997.

[15] In this regard, Giancarlo Rovati’s selection for a survey is noteworthy. (Rovati, 2020, cit.)

[16] Alessandro Mangia, Professor of Constitutional Law at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore of Milan, Italy, says (a free translation from Italian): “The re-emerging of personal status idea in the cultural context where the rule of law arose and developed highlights the difficult situation concerning the conceptions inspired by the rule of law absolutising ideology when approaching multiculturalism problems.” (Mangia, n.d.).

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