By:morteza Agha Mohammadi
Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick who served as Archbishop of Washington, D.C. from 2001 to 2006 called prophet of Islam “The Prophet” saying Mohammed is a true prophet, inspired by God. Website of “knights Templar international” reported him insisting that Islam shares foundational rules with Christianity. He also claimed that “Catholic social teaching is based on the dignity of the human person… [And] as you study the holy Koran, as you study Islam, basically, this is what Muhammad the prophet, peace be upon him, has been teaching.”
These sayings of the Cardinal uttered at the time violent conducts of extremist Muslim groups were at its climax. Human dignity and respect is a very good point to start dialogue with Christians as well as atheists. Believing in human dignity is a principle that causes peaceful coexistence. Quran states: “we have honored the sons of Adam, provided them with transport on land and sea, given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of our creation”(17:70).
Late Allama Tabatabai in his book, Al-Mizan, interpreted this verse saying that the dignity of mankind is beyond the other creatures; because Allah has donated the ability of reason, mind, and understanding to him; also, Allah has granted him with everything in more amount than others. Thus this dignity lays in the nature of mankind and isn’t an extrinsic element (Tabatabai, 1403, Al-mizan Vo.13, pp.155-156). Man's dignity is an important principle in Islamic ethics as well as Islamic jurisprudence. Also, other religions consider the dignity of man to be the manifestation of the divine will; therefore no one can negate it from human beings. The core of this utterance is to respect all humans as the corner stone in civilized human relations. It is the matter of protecting against the possible mistreatment coming from anyone toward man's dignity, something that is the departure point between man and other animals and is shared by all human beings. The universal government that will be established by the last Imam, Imam Mahdi A.S, which is to practice the best divine prescription for man, also focuses on serving man by giving dignity and respect to all. As it is read in the supplication taught by Shia Imam's which is known as Iftitah (the opening) that is highly recommended to be recited during the month of Ramadan and also other times:
«اللهم انا نرغب اليک في دولة کريمة تعز بها الاسلام و اهله و تذل بها النفاق و اهله»
Heads and commanders of the society, governed by the Imam, first have to inculcate and manifest human dignity within them so that they can treat people with dignity and respect. Their focus is not to only provide people with the material needs, but it is the dignity of man to be the most valuable gift. Islamic Sharia' considers a very special significance for this issue to the extent that even people are not permitted to violate their own dignity. So according to this declaration human beings regardless of their color, race, country or religion must be respected. One is not permitted to hurt others just because they don’t believe in what he believes. As much as the person is God-fearing must observe more precaution considering people's dignity, life, reputation and property.
The recent decades have witnessed a terrifying image depicted by some extremists such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS and others about Islam. Where this extremism comes from? There are different ontological, political, social, economic and many other aspects for this disappointing reality. Therefore it's a blind effort to look only for theological aspects of the issue, while many of those who engage in the violent conducts are not that much serious with the practical rituals of their religion. One important issue in this regard is the cultural and psychological side of the problem that in many cases is not easily visible; therefore without understanding it, wrong judgments might be made about the basic teachings of the religion. Some people due to various reasons such as hard condition they grew up in and difficulties they faced and the sufferings they tolerated have harsh and violent character. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi can be a case study here. He lost his father at his early age and engaged into drug business and committed violent actions. In his adolescence he was arrested and imprisoned, where he met Salafi figures and changed his way of life. Amongst Jihadists, he was the most radical one who excommunicated the other Muslims and killed them in so far as his supporters protested against his actions. One of the incentives which bring Salafis from all around the world to Iraq and Syria is this.
Institutionalized or actual backwardness is the other characteristic which leads to violent acts. There are countries and societies that are already poor and backwardness is witnessed in their daily lives. However, in some other societies there is a good economic condition and sometimes the welfare standards of these societies equal those of developed countries, although poverty is not visible in their lives and they are well off, yet there are sufferings from institutionalized cultural and financial deficiencies which may break out in a form of barbaric and brutal attempts and behaviors. Thus in many cases what provokes people for violent acts have no direct relation with religious sources and they impose their interpretations to find justification of their evil conducts. Therefor a fair study of the Quran and the traditions shows the great emphasis put on human dignity that entails respecting all and living peacefully with them regardless of their faith or other differences.
 -P.H.D in Islamic studies, P.H.D in Shia Studies, faculty member of Al-Mustafa University, researcher in the institute for Strategic studies of contemporary Islam (MARAM)