The 14th Doha Conference on Interfaith Dialogue kicked off Tuesday under the patronage of HE the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz al-Thani.
The conference, under the theme of 'Religions and Hate Speech...Scriptures and Practice', is being attended by 300 scholars, religious leaders, academics, and media personalities from about 70 countries, in addition to their local counterparts.
In his opening speech, HE the State Minister for Foreign Affairs Sultan bin Saad al-Muraikhi said Qatar believes that through co-operation nations can build a harmonious society based on mutual respect and co-existence no matter what their religious, cultural, or ethnic differences are.
He said this year's event, in line with previous conferences, stresses this principle, and the policy that aims to emphasise the culture of dialogue, especially interfaith dialogue.
He asserted that the only way for co-existence and co-operation amongst individuals, groups, and states alike is through a constructive dialogue based on the recognition of otherness, respecting different peoples' cultures, beliefs and sanctities.
HE al-Muraikhi stressed that "confronting hate speech is a serious matter, and the destructive consequences of hate speech on our societies cannot be dealt with only by international laws, or just by quoting religious scriptures. Rather, it requires a united and serious effort by all including the religious leadership and civil institutions, to raise awareness and faith, consolidated by laws".
The way to world peace can only be through a moderate religious rhetoric, and a constructive, serious, and calm dialogue, HE al-Muraikhi said.
"It is imperative that we follow serious discussions from all religious leaders, scholars, and thinkers present at this conference with realistic action plans and initiatives through which we can confront all forms of hate speech; be it religious, philosophical, or legal, and explain the dangers of hate speech to our societies, where we aspire that every person lives a free, safe, and dignified life regardless of their religion, sex, or colour," he said.
HE al-Muraikhi pointed out that religion is full of mercy, and that all prophets and religions called for peace between God and man, and between man and his fellow man.
He added "The peace we yearn for in our world today, can be manifested by highlighting the religious and humane values of life preservation, the rejection of violence, and the abandonment of fanaticism and hate speech, in addition to harbouring a strong sense of belonging to humanity as a whole."
HE al-Muraikhi expressed Qatar's gratitude towards the attendees for their participation in the conference, and his confidence that this conference will yield positive results. He said it is vital to find the ideal action plan based on the conference's recommendations, for the meeting to fulfill its objective.
HE al-Muraikhi welcomed the participants in the preliminary session, and hoped that the supreme goal of this conference be reached, which is the coming together of people of faith, together with experts, to open up the horizons of dialogue and understanding, in order for peace and love to spread among mankind regardless of religion, ethnicities and cultures.
The two-day conference is organised by the Doha International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue to discuss three main topics: the first relates to the concept of hate speech, its causes and motivations, with the focus being on extremist religious rhetoric and its role in the spreading of hate speech, and the misunderstanding of religion.
The conference also hopes to find ways to solidify the moderate religious rhetoric, and discuss the issue of the spread of extremist rhetoric amongst some religious and political leaders, and its effects on world peace.
The second topic is titled The Patterns and Forms of Hate Speech, where participants will discuss the dangers of the spread of hate speech, the incitement of violence and terror, the political utilisation of hate speech, the consequences of the spread of hate speech on co-existence and its generation of racism, specifically taking a toll on migrants, religious minorities, and women.
The third topic of discussion will be The Role of Leaders, Religious Institutions, and Journalists in Combating Hate Speech, The Responsibility of Religious Scholars and the Role of Acts of Worship in Raising Awareness of the Importance of Respecting Religions, and the Media Effect on Limiting Hate Speech, The Role of Religious and Moral Values in Combating Hate Speech, and The Culture of Peace, Co-existence, and Respect of Cultural and Religious Diversity.
Furthermore, participants of the third topic will discuss international laws and treaties related to criminalising hate speech, where the limits of the application of freedom of speech will be investigated.
The protection of freedom of speech in the international and humanitarian law, in addition to religious and legal frameworks in combating hate speech, and the role of educational, cultural, and artistic institutions in confronting hate speech, and spreading of respect and acceptance of diversity, will also be discussed.