Conference on Religion Sparks Split Before it Starts, by Karim Seidman
The Gazette (Montreal)
The Conference on Religion has not sparked the split before it starts. One started out to organize the Conference in the recognition that a split already exists within a religious tradition as much as among them. It was to promote dialogue between the "conservative" and "liberal" strands of Islam that both Professor Tariq Ramadan and Madam Shirin Ebadi, who has championed the rights of women within Islam, were both invited to the Conference. Madam Ebadi participated in the 2006 Conference, the precursor to this one, but unfortunately is unable to attend this one. It is worth adding that one of the points of discussion at the Conference is the formulation of a Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the World's Religions, which aims at bridging not only the divide among religions but also the secular religious divide as well.
At this Conference each speaker will express their own views and the presence of other speakers should not be construed as involving support or criticism of other speakers. Each speaker speaks in his or her own right and is entitled to his or her own views, irrespective of what others say. At this conference, the Dalai Lama will present his own views and Tariq Ramadan will present his own. While I appreciate Tarek Fatah's principal opposition to certain forms of Islam, I would urge that such a stance should not be stiffened to a point when we are not even prepared to let those, whose views we believed to be opposed to us, present their views. I concur with Tarek Fatah that religion should never be above criticism, for religion may be above reason but it can never be against it.
Arvind Sharma, Birks Professor of Comparative Religion, McGill University