The Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) President Sardar Masood Khan has stressed the need for promoting interfaith harmony on the global level and urged all the religious communities across the world to reach out to one another and understand the basis of their faith. “The religious leaders have a great role to play in promoting tolerance and moderation and preventing crimes particularly the crimes against humanity being committed in occupied Kashmir and other parts of the world,” he asserted. The president expressed these views while addressing a virtual conference titled “Role of Religious Leaders in Crime Prevention” jointly organised by the Universal Peace Federation International (UPF), International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace and Vienna-based LIOS-SOIL here on Thursday. Khan called upon the leaders in the West to strive for banning the exploitation of Islamophobia. Instead of Islamophobia, communities should reach out to one another to promote the culture of tolerance and mutual coexistence, he added. He said that interfaith harmony is harmony not among religions but between believers and non-believers. “The international community has a collective responsibility to enhance interactions, communicate and maintain harmony between all civilisations in order to promote interfaith harmony and a culture of peace, stability and tolerance,” he said, adding that all this would help us progress and stem the drift to war and conflict. The state president said that it is not just the responsibilities of religious leaders but all actors of the civil society have to be involved. He said that in the past there have been incidents of religious hatred being incited by politicians for electoral gains. The AJK president said that in developing countries, minority rights have to be protected irrespective of their numbers. He suggested setting up tribunals to try perpetrators of genocides should be tried in order to end discrimination, and said, “We should emphasise and highlight universal values and ethical systems.” Leaders and followers of various faiths would have informal and formal meetings so as to promote mutual respect and acceptance. Referring to the so-called Hindutva doctrine of the Indian leadership, the AJK president said that the BJP-RSS Hindu extremist regime is targeting Muslims because it believes that India is the country only for the Hindus and the followers of other religions have no right to live in that country. He added that the rising wave of extremist Hindutva is a fascist doctrine that advocates the use of violence against the followers of the other religions. The AJK president said that discrimination on the basis of religion is very evident in conflict areas like Central African Republic, Myanmar, Palestine and the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir where people are killed and persecuted for their faith and also for demanding their democratic right to self-determination. Hosted and moderated by Dr Afsar Rathore, President of LIOS SOIL Austria, the event was also addressed by Shunila Ruth, Parliamentary Secretary for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony, Syed Hussain Jahania Gardezi, Agriculture Minister of Punjab, Lal Chand Malhi, Parliamentary Secretary for Human Rights, Archbishop Sebastian Francis Shaw, Bishop of Lahore and Ramesh Singh Arora, Member of Punjab Assembly.