WASHINGTON, Sept 23: Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States Sherry Rehman told an American audience on Saturday night that Sufism embraced the spirit of tolerance and inclusion and that its message was increasingly relevant in “this age of competing ideologies”.

She was speaking at the Smithsonian Institute, where popular singer Sanam Marvi gave a scintillating performance that was attended by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, new US ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson, senior American officials and a large number of Pakistani and American music and poetry enthusiasts.

In her remarks, Ambassador Rehman made it clear that Sufism was not a separate sect of Muslims. “Its practice encapsulates the very essence of our faith,” she remarked.

“For over a decade now,” she said, “we have seen the marketplace of global ideas being distorted by new walls of hatred and prejudice... This negativity causes many to lose hope in the peace projects.”

She said that Pakistan’s founding father, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, actively advocated plurality, asserting that all citizens should enjoy the same rights and privileges, regardless of their religious affiliation.

Ms Rehman said that “being grounded in the mystical connection between the individual and the divine, Sufism embraces the spirit of tolerance and inclusion in both its discourse and practice”.

This was one of the reasons why Sufi saints played a central role in the spread of Islam, especially in South Asia, making it the second biggest and the most practised religion in the world, she added.

“The Sufi doctrine is simple and universal, that the light of God abides in the heart of each person. The Sufi ‘tareeqa’ or the Sufi’s way guides us to the roads of the inner journey towards discovering the self, for the ultimate goal of reaching the divine light and wisdom that each one of us carries within”.

“What could, indeed, be a more appropriate time to think about and reflect upon the message of unity, peace, togetherness and patience as exemplified by the lives and teachings of the Sufi saints?”—APP

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