THE war in Ukraine has created the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War.

Like the conflict in Bosnia, this is happening here in Europe. Millions are trying to escape to neighbouring countries, particularly Poland.

Hopefully, both sides will find a way to peace or compromise. In the meantime, international organisations are providing relief for a growing number of refugees.

Sadly, many aspects of the situation have roots in ethnicity, language and culture. Ukraine, like all countries, has a diverse mix of people from many nations and backgrounds.

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Sadly too, a natural consequence of such diversity is that anxiety and mistrust can arise, fuelled by President Putin’s geopolitical ambitions.

One lesson from Ukraine is that we must not, and cannot, allow war to bring out underlying differences between us. The Ukrainian president is Jewish. Many of his citizens are Orthodox Christians, Muslims, or from other faiths or no faith.

So what has that got to do with Islam, a religion often wrongly associated with barbarism and extremism?

Well, that label of extremist belief has been mistakenly attributed. The Quran recognises that people from diverse cultures and beliefs are not that different.

We all need the same universal values to live in peace and security, and that means the same core values and ethical standards.

Disasters such the war in Ukraine show us that, in times of need, everyone must rely on universal permanent values, as found in the Quran, and it is these enduring principles of life that bring communities together.

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We should start from the point of wanting peace, not from the point of fighting futile wars, and what real peace could mean.

It is extremism of all descriptions that is detrimental, and it is incumbent upon everyone to confront, refute and oppose all regressive narratives that erode societies and our humanity.

Individuals are ultimately defined only by their conduct and not by their nationality, religion, race or language. Common values remove barriers and bring people together. If people are good then it follows that society will, unfailingly, also be good.

We possibly cannot understand the pain of those caught up in the Ukrainian fight. The suffering of men, women and children, desperate for a way out.

The Quran’s wisdom on helping those who need safe passage is clear; all these people who need help and seek help should be given the aid they need – without discrimination.

From Ukraine, our task – maybe our duty – is to create societies where conflicts such as this can’t happen again. But first we must build unified societies, free from suspicion and bigotry.

In Yemen, thousands are dying in a conflict that we have forgotten about. Along with other conflicts, across parts of Africa and Asia, thousands are dying from poor drinking water and sanitation.

Yet, across nations, within a year, we found vaccines and treatments for Covid-19.

Out of this conflict, why can’t we determine a better world? To end the causes of other conflicts by focusing on what brings us together, rather than that which drives us apart.

Why couldn’t we set a target to eradicate poor world sanitation in a decade? Maybe find a cure for cancer in a generation? There is so much that working together could achieve, with permanent values to bind us together, irrespective of nationality, race, religion or creed.

Together, out of Ukraine, let’s start to make that change and do something positive.

Paigham Mustafa
via email