Make friendship key concept, speaker urges

Friendship as a worldview is the concept Mohammad Mahallati spoke about Tuesday at Heidelberg University during International Education Week.

Mahallati, presidential scholar in Islamic studies at Oberlin College, presented “Friendship: A Better Metaphor for International Relations.”

Mahallati researches the ethics of friendship and aiming at a better understanding of friendship as a moral category in Muslim cultures at the individual and social levels. The research looks at cultural and religious elements in Muslim life that could be utilized in modern international relations.

“Friendship is a paradigm that is needed in this time and era,” Mahallati said. “My approach to friendship is different in the way we look at the interpersonal virtue.”

Mahallati said justice is the dominant paradigm and foundation of all kinds of relations and discourses.

Mahallati asked the audience if they wanted justice for themselves, or if justice was only for others.

“In normal situations ,we do not want justice for ourselves,” he said. “It is a double standard.”

To survive, Mahallati said people need benevolence and forgiveness.

Mahallati said the basis of his research is a quote from Aristotle: “In a society of friends there is not justice, but in a society based on justices there is still a need for friendship.”

“Justice alone cannot help us survive.” he said.

During his talk, Mahallati presented the three levels of moral life. The first level is the sublegal level or basement where people are free to transgress. Second is the ground floor or legal and justice level were individuals are not law breakers, but are not moral either, Mahallati said.

“This level, the people do not get any credit because they are supposed to abide by laws, that is what a normal person is supposed to do,” Mahallati said.

The third level is for morality and friendship. “By nature, people are friendly,” he said.

On how to promote friendship in a public setting, Mahallati said to theorize and institutionalize it and to celebrate National American Friendship Day April 8.

In conclusion, Mahallati suggested using ethics of war, ethics of forgiveness and ethics of friendship in conflict resolution courses.

Mahallati served as the Iranian ambassador to the United Nations 1987-89 and worked on the U.N. Security Council Resolution 598 to end the violence between Iran and Iraq that began with the Iran-Iraq war in September 1980.

His visit to Heidelberg was made possible through a grant from the United States Institute of Peace to the Office of International Affairs & Studies, Campus Ministry & Religious Life and the Political Science Department.