Friday, 19 December 2008

King Abdullah at the Interfaith Conference at the United Nations

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, urged world leaders attending a historic conference on interfaith dialogue at the United Nations to learn lessons from the past and establish justice in order to end violence. “We say today with a single voice that religions through which Almighty God sought to bring happiness to mankind should not be turned into instruments to cause misery,” the king said in his keynote speech at the Culture of Peace Conference organized by the UN General Assembly.

Meeting with Heads of Muslim states
King Abdullah began this journey of his interfaith dialogue three years ago in the Holy City of Makkah, when he called on all 57 Muslim heads of state to meet in Islam’s holiest city to ponder the issues of extremism and call for a Muslim renaissance. The King reiterated that message in words and deed. The King traveled to Vatican and met Pope Benedict offering him peace and friendship on behalf of the Muslim world. Given the long history of the Crusades and bitter relations between the followers of Islam and Christianity, that gesture by Abdullah marked a watershed. The visit heralded a new era in the relations between two Abrahamic faiths that have so much in common yet have seldom been at peace with each other. Abdullah’s mission to Vatican was perhaps the strongest message of peace and good will to emanate from Arabia since the dawn of Islam in Makkah.

Meeting with the Vatican Pope
The King reiterated that message in words and deed. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques traveled to Vatican and met Pope Benedict offering him peace and friendship on behalf of the Muslim world. The visit heralded a new era in the relations between two Abrahamic faiths that have so much in common yet have seldom been at peace with each other. Abdullah’s mission to Vatican was perhaps the strongest message of peace and good will to emanate from Arabia since the dawn of Islam in Makkah.

Interfaith dialogue at Makkah and Madrid
Earlier this year, in June 2008, King Abdullah hosted a first historic Interfaith dialogue conference of hundreds of Islamic scholars in the holy city of Makkah to discuss ways of promoting tolerance and more robust interfaith dialogue with the outside world. It was followed by a gathering in Madrid that the King hosted alongside King Juan Carlos of Spain. It was attended by representatives from Vatican, Anglican Church, Judaism, Hinduism and other faiths.
And now he has taken his battle of hearts and minds to the global center-stage at the UN. The landmark UN meeting comes on the recommendation of the World Dialogue Conference that was held in Madrid on July 16, which was attended by more than 300 leaders representing Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism

High-Level Meeting on Culture of Peace at UN
A Two-day interfaith conference titled “High-Level Meeting on Culture of Peace” was held at the UN headquarters from 12-13 November 2008 to promote the culture of peace and dialogue among the followers of various faiths.

UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann invited leaders of 192 member countries and observers, including the Vatican, to attend the conference. Many world leaders including US President George W. Bush, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Israeli President Shimon Peres, King Abdallah of Jordan, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference attended at the conference.

President of the UN General Assembly
Opening the Conference, the President of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, warned that the world desperately needs to learn the positive lessons of religion. D’Escoto said all religions included “social responsibility,” but that the world has “become contaminated by the spirit of selfishness and individualism.” “Although social responsibility is a basic law in each of the world’s religions and in all ethical and philosophical traditions, we have allowed ourselves to become contaminated by the spirit of selfishness and individualism, which are the principal values, or rather, anti-values of the globally dominant culture. This culture declares ethics and morals off limits to economic and political activity. It claims that ‘the business of business is business’ and that the concepts of justice and fairness have no place within it. The principles of justice, mercy and compassion are not applicable to economic activities and are deemed to be completely irrelevant,” said D’Escoto.

He hit out at the “unbridled greed” of the “dominant” Western culture. “Unbridled greed and social irresponsibility have thus become the main driving force of the dominant culture. The result is that we have been turned into veritable moral invalids,” said the President of the UN General Assembly.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, thanked King Abdullah for his “dynamic role” in making the UN meeting possible, and Saudi Arabia for a “truly inspiring initiative for global harmony and mutual understanding.” “In fact, the world has suffered a lot because of the lack of appreciation, the lack of understanding, and mutual respect and the differences of opinions in religions and faith and culture,” he said. “This is a good start.”

He said similar initiatives made by a number of countries in the United Nations should have “some complementary effect.” “Among them, the Saudi King’s initiative will also be very important. We also have an Alliance of Civilizations.”

“Extremist ideologies are on the rise. Societies are more polarized. Anti-Semitism remains a scourge. Islamophobia has emerged as a new term for an old and terrible form of prejudice,” the UN chief said.

The UN chief praised King Abdullah’s initiative in promoting dialogue between the followers of different religious faiths and cultures. “Dialogue will certainly bring peoples and nations closer,” he told reporters.

“What we need is dialogue that delivers,” the UN chief said. “We need new partnerships that will continue after the last delegate has gone home.” For this to work, we need to involve everyone: Government officials, grass-roots groups, CEOs, philanthropists, academics and the media. “And we especially need the world’s young people. By virtue of their youth, prejudice may not be as ingrained; in a sense, they may have less to unlearn.”

King Abdullah’s Speech at the United Nations
King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, told world leaders on Wednesday, 12 of November 2008 at a UN Conference on Culture of Peace that the time has come to learn from the unjustifiable bloodshed and destruction caused by fanaticism from religious and cultural differences throughout history, and to gather around common values “for a more peaceful, more just, and more tolerant world.”

“We state with a unified voice that religions through which God Almighty sought to bring happiness to mankind should not be turned into instruments to cause misery,” the King said in the first speech by a Saudi monarch to the United Nations in 51 years, which was delivered at the opening session of the General Assembly’s two-day interfaith conference titled “High-level Meeting on Culture of Peace.”

“Human beings were created as equals and partners on this planet. Either they live together in peace and harmony or they will inevitably be consumed by the flames of misunderstanding, malice and hatred,” King Abdullah said.

In his UN speech, King Abdullah said that throughout history, differences between followers of religions and cultures had engendered intolerance, causing devastating wars and bloodshed without any sound logical or ideological justification.

“It is time to learn from the hard lessons of the past and to meet together on the ethics and ideals in which we all believe. What we differ, will be settled by God on the Judgment Day,” he said.
Human denial of justice has led to the world’s misery, the King said.He called for tolerance and a renewal of family ties to overcome the scourge of terrorism and crime. “Terrorism and criminality are the enemies of God and the enemies of every religion and civilization,” he said. “Had not the principle of tolerance and the wonder surrounding the lives of many young people been absent, they would not have emerged.”

The King blamed the decay of family values for the spread of drug abuse and crime. “Drugs and criminality spread only after the collapse of family ties, which God Almighty wanted to remain strong and firm,” he said.

“The humanity is in need of people like you to guide them and make them understand the facts,” the king said and emphasized the need to preserve the family system intact. The participants representing various faiths commended King Abdullah’s efforts to promote interfaith dialogue.

“We would like to emphasize here that our interest in dialogue was inspired by the teachings of Islam and its values and because of our concern for the future of humanity,” the king said. “We’ll stretch our hands to all those who love peace, justice and tolerance.”

“Our dialogue, which will be conducted in a civilized manner, is sure to revive and consolidate noble values, among peoples and nations. There is no doubt that this would represent a magnificent victory for the best in mankind’s character over the worst in him, giving hope for a future where justice, security and noble life prevails over grievance, fear and poverty,” the king said.

The king made this comment while speaking to leaders of different faiths during a special General Assembly session on interfaith dialogue at the United Nations headquarters in New York. “I hope that this dialogue would be a good beginning for humanity ... The days and years that have passed will not come back ... We had enough of killings, enmity and rights violations,” the king said.

The King urged the participants to form a committee on dialogue to continue efforts for years to come toward peaceful coexistence.

King Abdullah lambasted terrorism. “(Those who indulge in) terrorism and (other) crimes are enemies of God and enemies of every religion and culture,” he said. “They would not have appeared in the presence of tolerance.”

King Abdullah aimed at hastening action on some of the most urgent challenges facing the world. “All the tragedies the world witnesses today is the result of its abandoning of a major principle, the principle of justice, promulgated by all religions and cultures,” said King Abdullah, who is the first Saudi king to address the United Nations in 51 years.

“If countries in the world had turned to peace and kept away from wars and conflicts and spent their time and energy to fight poverty and engage in humanitarian work we would not have seen these diseases and poverty,” the king said.

King Abdullah urged world leaders to open a new era of peace, leaving behind the bloody past, and mobilize their resources to fight poverty, provide treatment to patients and boost development.

The King concluded his speech by reminding the audience of this verse from the Holy Qur’an: “O mankind we created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you.”

United Nations Declaration
The UN on Thursday, the 13th of November 2008 acknowledged the world interfaith dialogue process initiated by King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, in Madrid earlier this year, and appreciated his proposals made at the General Assembly, Wednesday, to keep the dialogue going, free from any political interference.

A statement issued by the General Assembly at the end of its 63rd session on “Culture of Peace,” which was attended by some 80 world leaders, appreciated King Abdullah’s proposals for forming a steering committee of representatives of all religions and faiths represented in the Madrid conference in July, and for allocating a trust fund to guarantee the autonomy of the dialogue process and its continuation free from any political interference. At the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, the General Assembly convened a plenary high level meeting during its sixty-third session on 12 and 13 November 2008 under item 45 Culture of Peace.

The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, read out the following UN Declaration:
“At the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia, the General Assembly convened a plenary high level meeting during its sixty-third session on 12 and 13 November 2008 under item 45 Culture of Peace.

“Concerned about serious instances of intolerance, discrimination, hatred expressions, and harassment of minority religious communities of all faiths, participating states underlined the importance of promoting dialogue, understanding, and tolerance among human beings, as well as respect for all their diverse religions, cultures and beliefs.

“Participating states affirmed their rejection of the use of religion to justify the killing of innocent people and actions of terrorism, violence and coercion, which directly contradict the commitment of all religions to peace, justice and equality.

“Taking note of the initiative of the King of Saudi Arabia and the World Conference on Dialogue held in Madrid between 16 and 18 July 2008 under his patronage and graciously hosted by the King and Government of Spain, the General Assembly reiterated its call for promoting a culture of tolerance and mutual understanding through dialogue, and supporting the initiatives of religious leaders, civil society, and states seeking to entrench the culture of peace, understanding, tolerance, and respect for human rights among the proponents of various faiths, cultures, and civilizations.

“Participating states expressed their commitment to strengthening and supporting existing mechanisms within the United Nations for promoting tolerance and human rights, preserving the institution of the family, protecting the environment, spreading education, eradicating poverty, and fighting drug abuse, crime and terrorism, noting the positive role of religions, beliefs and moral humanitarian principles in tackling these challenges.”

NEW YORK – King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques

Monday, 24 November 2008

Launch of British Hajj Delegation 2008

Launch of British Hajj Delegation 2008

Dr. Mozammel Haque

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband has launched this year’s UK Hajj Delegation to Saudi Arabia, yesterday, Wednesday, the 12th of November 2008 from the Lancaster House, London, in the presence of Saudi Ambassador Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz, Lord Adam Patel and diplomats and other members of the Hajj Delegation, guests and community leaders. Twenty-five thousand UK Muslims will go this year to perform the annual pilgrimage in Makkah with the British government offering advice, support and medical care to its citizens going there. British Hajj Delegation is a team that will provide on the ground medical and consular support for British pilgrims attending the Hajj later this month.

British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, M.P.
The British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, M.P. said “There could not be a better example of 'people-to-people' diplomacy than the Hajj Delegation, I think it builds bridges, it builds links, and also sends a very strong message about the commitment we have to valuing our own Muslim citizens in valuing their heritage, making sure they're able to express their own religion in an open and tolerant way.”

David Miliband, M.P. also said, “I think the presence of twenty five thousand proud Britons on the Hajj Delegation as proud Muslims is a very important way of emphasizing those twin themes of diversity and unity that are so important.”

Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz,
Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom and Ireland, said, “We celebrate together the launch of the British Hajj Delegation to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for this year’s Hajj season.

“This special event of a great and deeply meaningful “Send off” for the British pilgrims is truly heartwarming and highly commendable. I believe that all Muslim will highly appreciate seeing similar events in other European countries,” said Prince Mohammed.

Speaking about the significance of Hajj, Prince Mohammed said, “During Hajj, millions of Muslims, from all over the world, gather in the same spots and at the same times, standing together on equal footing, and dressed as one. In this, Hajj is a true reflection of the exalted principles of equality, modesty and human brotherhood that are at the heart of Islam.”

“Hajj is an occasion where Muslims from all nations, races, countries and walks of life are endowed with a golden opportunity to know each other better and learn more about each other’s issues and concerns; thus emphasizing Islam’s teachings of compassion, cooperation, tolerance and caring for others. In short, Hajj is, by far, the most impressive manifestation of Islam’s cross-borders and cross-cultures nature, that is based on the equality of mankind in the eyes of God Almighty and aims for the good of all humanity,” the Saudi Ambassador mentioned.

The Saudi Ambassador also said, “In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we believe that God Almighty had truly blessed our nation with the honor and responsibility of being the custodians, stewards and servitors of Islam’s most sacred places; namely the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.”

Speaking about the recent development of the Haramain for the convenience of the Pilgrims, the Saudi Ambassador said, “Hardly a month passes by without a new project or a new service being launched to improve and care for the Holy places and, eventually, for the visitors to these places. As you are all well aware, each year, the Kingdom hosts more than two million Muslims who come from all over the world specifically to perform Hajj, in addition to several millions who visit the Holy places in Makkah and Madinah throughout the year.”

Mentioning about the development of the religious and holy sites, the Saudi Ambassador said, “It is no exaggeration to say that the moment one Hajj season ends, the authorities immediately begin working diligently in preparation for the next. For example, those who are leaving to the Holy Places with this blessed delegation will notice that the passage between Safa and Marwah – which the place for one of Hajj’s main rituals – is almost twice as spacious this year as it was last year. They will know that plans are already underway to significantly expand King Abd al-Aziz Airport in Jeddah and Prince Muhammad ibn Abd al-Aziz airport in Madinah.”

“Moreover, they will know of the Saudi Arabian Government’s plans to build a modern high-speed train system that connects the Holy cities of Makkah and Madinah with Jeddah and other cities. And the list goes on and on…,” mentioned Prince Mohammed and added, “By launching all of these projects and services, the greatest reward the Kingdom looks for is to ensure that Hajj is performed properly and comfortably, and that pilgrims return home to their families safe, happy and fulfilled.”

The Saudi Ambassador also informed, “Out of approximately two million Muslims in the United Kingdom, about 50,000 British citizens, on average, performed Hajj or Umrah last year and the year before it. A similar or larger number expected this year. I would like to take this opportunity to assure you that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will do everything it can to ensure that the mission of the British Hajj Delegation is a successful one.”

Prince Mohammed expressed his “sincere thanks and appreciation to Her Majesty’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office – with special thanks to the Hajj Desk – for the invaluable support they extend annually to the British Hajj Delegation; thus enabling it to travel to Saudi Arabia and play a significant role in looking after the welfare of the British Muslim pilgrims.”

The Prince also praised “the efforts of the Hajj Desk in producing and distributing thousands of leaflets that provide ‘Advice to British Hajjis’ – a very comprehensive and practical guide to the pilgrims” and expressed “thanks to all members of the Hajj Advisory Group and its Chairman, Lord Adam Patel, who has proven himself to be instrumental in the success of his group and the British Hajj Delegations throughout the years.”

The Saudi Ambassador also expressed thanks and appreciation to the Director of the Islamic Cultural Centre, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, to all of his staff and to the heads and staff of other Islamic centres for their invaluable efforts and the great work they have done, and continue to do.”
Praising the British Hajj Delegation, the Saudi Ambassador said, “The British Hajj Delegation has become a model for others to follow; due to its highly organized planning and effective execution on the ground.”

“Undoubtedly, the support offered by the British Government to the Hajj Delegation is a clear example of the high level of care and attention it gives to British Muslims at all times and in all fields, as an integral part of this country’s demographic combination,” mentioned the Saudi Ambassador and added, “This – as reflected in real life – strengthens British Muslims sense of belonging as citizens of this great country and re-enforces their commitment and dedication to the wellbeing and development of their communities and country as a whole.”

The Saudi Ambassador wished the “British Hajj Delegation, and all British Muslims who are performing Hajj this year, a safe journey, a blissful visit to the Holy places, an accepted Hajj and a safe return to their homes and loves ones.”.

Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn
Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn, the Leader of the British Hajj Delegation, said, “The British Hajj Delegation is a unique consular project and builds on work already undertaken by the FCO to support large movements of British citizens abroad, such as the World Cup. This aims and objectives of the delegation demonstrate clearly the commitment of the FCO to diversity and supporting British citizens abroad.”

“There are many countries with much larger Muslim populations, such as the USA, France and Germany. Yet they do not provide their citizens with this level of support. As far as I know only France and Germany send representatives from their Embassy’s to provide support in emergencies,” said the leader of the British Hajj Delegation.

“I cannot stress enough that these preventive measures result in great savings to the NHS (in early diagnosis) and employers (less time of work). It is estimated that over one million pounds are saved every year…We have now supported over 25,000 people over the last 9 years,” said Lord Patel and added, “This year the delegation will again comprise of 9 doctors (including a female GP) and 3 consular officials. This is in addition to support from consular officials in Jeddah and Riyadh.”

Speaking about the success of the delegation, Lord Patel, who is leading the British Hajj Delegation for the ninth year, informed, “In advance of the Hajj taking place the FCO along with the Department for Business Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR) and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) run an extensive campaign to inform pilgrims what they should look for when arranging a Hajj package so that they are properly protected if things go wrong on their Hajj.”

“This year, a number of meetings have been held with BERR and ATOL officials with members of the public to discuss a range of problems that are encountered during the Hajj and also Umrah,” mentioned Lord Patel and added, “One of the outcomes of these meetings is to form a co-coordinating committee with ATOL, BEER, FCO, UK tour operators and businesses to make recommendations to ensure the Hajj pilgrimage is as trouble free as possible for British citizens. I look forward to your support in this crucial area of work.”

Finally, the leader of the British Hajj Delegation expressed his “thanks to the Saudi government, Ministry of Hajj, Dr. Al-Dubayan and officials at the Saudi Embassy for the vital role they play in supporting the work of the delegation.”

The Second Islamic Finance and Trade Conference in London

The Second Islamic Finance and
Trade Conference in London

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The Two-days Second Islamic Finance and Trade Conference (IFTC), sponsored by International Holdings, Jadwa Bank, MAIC, UEM and Islam Channel and supported by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the Islamic Development Bank, the City of London, the Department of UK Trade & Investment and the World Islamic Economic Forum, was held at Park Plaza Victoria, London on 28 and 29 October 2008.

Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, M.P.
Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, M.P. said, “I represent a constituency with a very large Muslim community – one third of the population of Blackburn, in fact, are followers of the Islamic faith. It is also a great pleasure to speak to such an illustrious group of people – leading figures across the worlds of finance, business and academia – and to support a conference which is furthering the important aim of making the United Kingdom “the gateway to Islamic finance and trade”.

Speaking about the relationship between Islam and Britain, Lord Chancellor said, “The relationship between Islam and Britain is not a new one; this country has been greatly enriched over the course of centuries by the Muslim history and heritage and by its learned and vibrant culture. Chaucer refers to Islamic scholars and physicians in the prologue to his Canterbury Tales as early as 1386:

“With us there was a doctor of physic;In all this world was none like him to pickFor talk of medicine and surgery; …
Well read was he in Esculapius,And Deiscorides, and in Rufus,Hippocrates, and Hali, and Galen,Serapion, Rhazes, and Avicen, …”

“But an even earlier connection – with a financial connotation – between Islam and Britain exists in the form of a gold coin displayed not far from here in the British Museum. The coin dates back to the 8th century and to the reign of King Offa of Mercia. Because of what were believed to be good trade relations between this country and the Islamic nations of the East, the coin contains both the mark of England – “There is no deity but God, without partners” – and an Arabic inscription of the shahadah – the first pillar of Islam,” mentioned the Secretary of State for Justice.

Speaking about the Islamic faith in Britain, Lord Chancellor said, “The Islamic faith is also now a vital and established part of British life. Islam is the second largest and the fastest growing religion in the UK, and British people are, more than ever before, enjoying and experiencing its religious and cultural traditions.”

Speaking about the contribution of the British Muslim community, the Secretary of State for Justice said, “One of the most important contributions of the Muslim community – indeed, to the tune of over £31 billion each year, by some estimates – is to our financial sector and economy.”

“This Government is proud to have supported the development of the Islamic finance sector ever since 2003, when we first began to work towards establishing a level tax and regulatory playing field between conventional and Islamic finance. That same year, Howard Davies – then chair of the newly created Financial Services Authority – invited an audience of Middle East bankers to discuss the establishment of an Islamic bank in this country. As a result of this and the hard work of some in the audience, the first branch of the Islamic Bank of Britain opened in 2004 in Birmingham,” mentioned Jack Straw, M.P.

Lord Chancellor also said, “We have made significant progress since then; most obviously with the fundamental reform of stamp duty to facilitate Islamic mortgages and the extension of relief on those mortgages to companies as well as individuals. But also by introducing measures to remove barriers for other Sharia-compliant products and by addressing tax and regulatory issues so as to encourage the issuance of sukuk.”

Mentioning about the effects, the Secretary of State for justice said, “Islamic finance is now one of the most innovative financial service sectors in the UK. There are now five standalone Islamic banks, and over 20 conventional banks with Sharia compliant windows. A number of sukuk have been listed on the London Stock Exchange. And London has established itself as a major global hub for Islamic finance and the key centre in the Western world.”

Speaking about the Islamic Finance and Trade in the United Kingdom, Straw, M.P. said, “We, as a Government are committed to developing still further Islamic trade and finance in the United Kingdom. This is partly – of course – because we want this country to benefit from the many opportunities Islamic trade and finance afford. We see much to gain from this – for London, in reinforcing its reputation as the leading financial centre in the world, and for the United Kingdom as a whole, in making our economy stronger and our financial services more competitive.”

Speaking about the contribution Islamic finance world has to make, Jack Straw, M.P. said, “I was talking just before with colleagues about the important contribution the Islamic finance world has to make in redeveloping our institutions – to ensure that our financial instruments are asset based. But benefit to the economy – enormously important though it is, particularly in the prevailing economic circumstances – is not the sole basis for our commitment to Islamic finance and trade. It is also because we consider that everyone in the UK ought to have access to financial services which suit their faith, regardless of their faith.”

The Secretary of State for Justice said that there are “something worth repeating: British and Muslim are complementary not contradictory. The most eloquent, living proof of this is in the people that are here this afternoon – and in those who will shortly be accepting the esteemed Islamic Finance Awards. British Muslims are where Britain and Islam intersect. Celebrating their success is the best way of showing that these two identities can and do thrive in the same place, in the same person, in the same country.”

“I have spoken about Sharia compliant products. I now want to say a word about Sharia more widely. Because the same thinking which underpins our approach to both. Of course those who live in this country will always be governed by English law and will be subject to the jurisdiction of English or Scottish courts,” the Lord Chancellor said and added, “But given the fact that speculation abounds on this point, let me say once again: There is nothing whatever in English law that prevents people abiding by Sharia principles if they wish to, provided they do not come into conflict with English law. There is no question about that. But English law will always remain supreme, and religious councils subservient to it.”

While concluding his speech, the Secretary of State for Justice, said, “It is the very diversity of Britain – and the opportunities afforded to everyone – which underpins our success, our dynamism and what makes so many individuals and families want to settle here. Our policies in relation to Islamic finance and trade, like our policies across the board, must continue to promote that diversity.”

Straw, M.P. also said, “This Government’s commitment to embracing Islamic finance and trade also derives from the fact that it is a way of forging links between countries and building relationships between peoples across the world. A way of reminding us that there is far, far more that unites than divides us.”

“I would like to finish where I began, by paying tribute to the vital contribution of Muslims to life in the United Kingdom, not least in terms of Islamic trade and finance. I am enormously admiring of your achievements, your successes, and of the way you use your talent and your time in service of the broader community,” concluded the Secretary of State for Justice.

Stephen Timms, M.P.
The Labour M.P. for East Ham, Stephen Timms, made some points from his standpoint as a Minister in the Treasury at the Muslim Council of Britain’s Second Islamic Finance and Trade Conference. “At the first conference, when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown underlined his goal that London should be the world centre for Islamic finance – and we have made good progress since then. It is a goal which is even more important in a period of turbulence in the world economy like the one we are in at the moment,” Stephen Timms mentioned.

The Labour M.P. for East Ham said, “We are already the West’s major centre for Islamic finance. 18 sukuk have been listed in London, worth some $13 billion between them. We have five dedicated Islamic banks, and over twenty conventional banks that offer Islamic financial services. There are more banks in Britain offering Islamic finance than in the whole of the rest of Western Europe put together. Around the world, Islamic finance assets have been growing at a rate of almost 20% per year since 2000 – and are now worth perhaps $700 billion worldwide.”

“Over the past five years we have made a series of reforms to establish a level playing field – in tax and regulation – between conventional and Islamic finance. There has been real progress, enabling development of genuinely competitive Sharia’ compliant mortgages, Individual Savings Accounts and Child Trust Funds,” Timms, M.P. said and added, “We have been looking at the potential of the Government offering its own, sterling-denominated, sovereign sukuk. We will be providing an update on progress at the Pre-Budget Report in a few weeks time.”

The Labour M.P. for East Ham also mentioned, “Before the end of the year, arising from our work with the Islamic Finance Experts Group, we will be publishing a document with UK Trade and Investment, setting out clearly the UK Government’s future approach to Islamic finance, and focusing attention on what needs to be done to make further progress. We have in Britain community and commitment; skills and scale; expertise and connections around the world. It’s an opportunity that we want to see realised for the benefit of Britain as a whole – strengthening London’s position as – not just one of the world’s leading financial centres – but as the world centre.”

Sir Iqbal Sacranie
Earlier, while opening the Islamic Finance and Trade Conference, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the chair of the Advisory Group for the Islamic Finance and Trade Conference, said, “ The IFTC was launched in 2006 when the then Chancellor of the Exchequer and present Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, M.P. set a challenge to make Britain the gateway to Islamic Finance and Trade. This has remained at the heart of our aims and objectives for this initiative.”

Speaking about the purpose of the IFTC, Sir Iqbal said, “The primary purpose of this platform is to promote, enhance and expand the trading relationships between the UK and Muslim countries. We do this in order to attract inward investment for Britain whilst creating business opportunities for our trading partners in Muslim countries. The result of which, we believe, will be to generate prosperity for both. Seeking international solutions to the current financial crisis, “This requires a global framework for managing our economies and setting up international rules and regulations for finance and trade. It is only right that British Muslims be offered an opportunity to contribute to the establishment of such frameworks.”

“We believe that cross-fertilisation of ideas of people of diverse backgrounds and experiences offer us the best chance of discovering the most effective solutions to the challenges we face today. With a growth rate of 15% per annum, Islamic finance has been attracting some of the best minds and leading experts from the financial and banking community in the last few years,” said Sir Iqbal and added, “This conference will debate how we can build a more stable world economy. We call upon all delegates to contribute to this exciting agenda and help face the challenges of the future.”

Sir Iqbal also said, “The Islamic principles that govern trade and finance seek to promote investment and unlock cash flow. As a result of recent rise in oil prices there has been a significant increase in the liquidity of many Muslim countries.”

“London, with its unique reputation and unrivalled expertise in structuring customized financial transactions for a diverse range of clients has the ability to unlock the potential of this increased liquidity through Islamic finance. The IFTC is not a place to only talk business but to do business,” noted Sir Iqbal.

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari
Mentioning about the contribution of two million strong British Muslim community, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), said, “The IFTC is but another demonstration of what Muslims are doing to contribute to the wellbeing of our nation. In this gathering of investment bankers, lawyers, policy makers and business people we hope to create new partnerships and strengthen existing ones between the UK and Muslim countries.”

Dr. AbdulBari hopes the Second IFTC (Islamic Finance & Trade Conference) “will serve to rekindle interest in the nascent Islamic finance provision which has started in this country over the last few years. The government has pledged to provide a level playing field for Islamic financial products and the emerging framework for their provision in the UK will serve as a solid starting point.”

Referring to the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Dr. AbdulBari expressed his happiness that “The IFTC organizers have found areas where Islamic financial products can potentially be utilised to help actualize the 2012 Games, despite the credit crunch.”

“I am confident that this initiative will serve us all well. I am also hopeful that the broader debate on Islamic finance and trade during the two days of the IFTC will be followed up by meaningful co-operation by participants to help us chart our way out of the present financial crisis,” concluded Dr. AbdulBari.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Launch of National Hajj Awareness

Launch of National Hajj Awareness
Week at House of Lords

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham, Patron of the Association of British Hujjaj (ABH) launched the National Hajj Awareness Week at the House of Lords on Wednesday, the 22 October 2008. The launch was attended by Lord Hunt, deputy leader of the House of Lords, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action, Hazzaa Hasher, in Charge of Islamic Affairs, Saudi Embassy, representatives from the Department of CAA, Department of BERR, Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), diplomats, community leaders and journalists.

Lord Ahmed
While launching the Hajj Awareness Week, Lord Ahmed mentioned some of the achievements of the ABH: 25,000 British Muslims go for Hajj every year and many thousands do Umrah and there was a need for British Muslims facilities not only consular advice but more important health advice and other kind of advice which is now available in Mina, Muzdalifa and Arafat and particularly in Makkah.

While thanking the British government, Lord Ahmed said, “It was our government, the British government which is pioneer in this particular field that the Foreign & Commonwealth Office at that time under the leadership of Baroness Symonds who first established this service for the British Hujjaj. Now Muslim staffs from the Consular Office in Jeddah actually go to Mina, Muzdalifa, Arafat and Makkah to provide not only No Objection Certificate (NOC) to those people who die by natural causes in these places but also provide other kinds of support when people lose their documents, they need financial help or any medical help required.

Lord Ahmed also said, “This is very important that we held this event in this Parliament every year but this also sent a message to the entire British communities that there is somebody who cares in terms of providing facilities for Muslims who was there on Hajj. The most important is the documents they need; our communities are not usually organised and usually forget that we need meningitis, jabs, we also need to make sure that health and safety aspects. But even now we have these rogue travel agents that have been operating since last year.”

The department of BERR has organised seminars and they have taken some action. Lord Ahmed said, “They are sending the message across the Trading Standard that if anyone is involved with any of that corruption again or any of that mismanagement again they will be prosecuted and they will not be allowed to get away with taking money from the British Hujjaj.”

Referring to Saudi Arabia, Lord Ahmed said, “Saudi government is helping to make those facilities the best possible and I say thank you to the Saudi authorities. When we had influx of 50,000 refugees from Bosnia and Kosovo and we had to make arrangements, we were in a chaos. And here you have made arrangements for three million people. Sometimes things are not so easy but most of the times things do work out well. We want to say thank again to them.”

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action, said, “I am here to learn today. It is extremely important subject; it is something I am getting letter and email every year from people who travel for Hajj and Umrah and the difficulties they face and the concerns they have. And I think that in terms of my own brief, in terms of Community Cohesion and Social Action, it is absolutely essential that I understand this area and understand it well. I hope it will be going to be a learning exercise.”

Lord Hunt
Lord Hunt, deputy leader of the House of Lords and Minister of Environment and Rural Affairs, who have been attending and giving speeches from the very beginning of the ABH, said, “The ABH have done a lot of efforts and energy into the health awareness campaign. It’s not something that stops after a few meeting; it’s a continuous round the year effort and I do on behalf of the government thank you for all the work that you have done. I have no doubt that it is hugely beneficial impact on pilgrims and on the health and safety aspects of the pilgrimage that they have undertaken. “

While mentioning about the travel agents, Lord Hunt said, “When I went to the meeting in Birmingham which must have been in last autumn I was struck by the report of the pilgrims and some of their concerns about the travel agents and some of the issues that were raised. I said then and I say again to you that if any help that I can in terms of discussion with government about these issues I am very keen and anxious to help you.”

Stephen Gregory
Mr. Stephen Gregory, from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spoke on behalf of the CAA, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR), Trading Standards, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for Communities and Local Government. “They are considering the issues affecting Hajj pilgrims and to jointly agree initiatives and actions with the aim to improving business awareness of consumer protection regulations, as well as consumer awareness of their rights,” said Gregory.

Mr. Gregory also mentioned, “We are currently involved in a series of Seminars around the UK to raise awareness levels of both Pilgrims attending Hajj and Tour Operators. We have already seen an increase in the number of Hajj specialists applying for ATOLs and we now estimate that around 12,000 pilgrims are protected under the ATOL system, which ids approximately 50% of the UK market worth around £35M a year. We still have a way to go but things are improving.”

It is also mentioned that in July, Gareth Thomas hosted a summit at BEERR for Travel organisers to give them the opportunity hear more about the responsibilities placed on them and to share their views with us on how they believe the Hajj travel industry can improve its reputation and achieve greater levels of consumer confidence.

Officials from BERR and ATOL are currently attending and giving talks at some local regional meetings of pilgrims during October and November.

Finally,. We would encourage you to advise any pilgrims you came across to bring all cases of wrong-doing by Hajj tour organisers to the attention of their Local Authority Trading Standards Department. However, any accusations or threats of dire consequences or bullying where a consumer has suggested they might bring these cases to the attention of the authorities should be brought to the attention of the police.

In reply to Questions & Answers session, Hazzaa Al-Hasher of the Saudi Embassy, said, “We welcome Hujjaj and we wish them to perform Hajj and come back home safely. I am making it clear that The Saudi embassy does not charge fees for Visa or any other services. If somebody charge fees for visa, they are cheating.”

An Interview with Lord Ahmed
Lord Ahmed told me in an interview, “First of all, let me pray for long life and good health for the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah, because he has done fantastic improvements already in the Haram, first of all, in Safa and Marwah and also in Mina as well and the greater arrangements that has been made. This will make Hajj easier for the Hujjaj. Already Saudi Government for many years, late King Fahd, may Allah bless him and give him the highest place in Jannah (Heaven), made fantastic arrangements and also extended the facilities and therefore we are getting the facilities which have now being created will never have the kind of accidents or sort of mishaps that have happened in the past, only small one.”

Lord Ahmed also said, “The Government of Saudi Arabia has really being providing fantastic facilities. We know that in Western Europe when we have influx of 50,000 refugees from Kosovo and Balkans we had great difficulties in dealing with it and to say a temporary arrangement for two and a half million people is made in Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat. It is almost impossible task fir many many western countries and for Saudi Arabia to provide such good facilities in providing infrastructure, food, healthcare and providing of this great facility of making people relax and pray to Allah the Almighty. Well, I only say thank you them but also pray for their success.”

An Interview with Hazzaa Hasher
Mr. Hazzaa Al-Hasher, In charge of Islamic Affairs, the Saudi Embassy in London told me in an interview, “First of all we are willing to listen and to address all the concerns of the British Hujjaj. Our concern is that the British Hujjaj go to Makkah al-Mukarramah and perform Hajj and come back safely to their country.”

As regard Rogue Travel Agents, Mr. Al-Hashar said, “We always said and advised people to go to the well-known registered travel agent and to have the contract written with them of the services they promised. We also told that Hajj and Umrah visa is free. We do not charge fees for visa or services.”

Mr. Al-Hasher emphasized, “Visa and services are free; if anybody is charging fees they are cheated.”

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Motherhood is one unique gift that only women possess

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Singapore: Exemplary Mother Awards 2008 was held at Raffles Convention Centre (Swissotel The Stamford) on Saturday, 18th of October, 2008. The Guest of Honour was Mr. Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Defence. This was a very significant awards presentation event of honouring outstanding women organized by Jamiyah Singapore.

Universal values are the mainstay of human civilization. One of the highly cherished universal values is ‘Reverence for mothers’. While mankind can take pride in this 21st century world for the grest achievements that we are able to make in all walks of life, there are certain things which need to be given prime importance. Kindness, love and concern for mankind regardless of race or faith are such values that we should assiduously inculcate in the minds of people, especially our younger generation so that they grow with a firm belief and faith in the paradigm of peace and harmony,” said Hajah Saripah Kasmani, chairperson of the Organising Committee of the Exemplary Mother Award 2008 Presentation Ceremony.

She also mentioned, “Families are the basic and the best schools that can teach its members the highest values. In families, it is Mothers, who are the pillars and who can play an eminent role in transmitting these eternal values to their children. We have to encourage and motivate such role model mothers, who have not only been successful in transmitting such values to their own children and families, but find time to spare their time, talent and skills for the community and society they live in.”

Mr. Teo Chee Hean, Minister For Defence
The Minister for Defence said, “There are two important aspects to these awards. First, this is a pioneering initiative in Singapore, which started as early as 1992, with the noble objective of honouring mothers and womanhood. Second, although this award is organized by Jamiyah, this award is open to all eligible women regardless of race or faith.
This reflects the multi racial and multi religious ethos that we strive to nurture and maintain in Singapore.”

Speaking about the women in Singapore, Mr. Hean said, “Women play important roles in all areas in our society. Women have made tremendous strides and contributed immensely to Singapore’s development and growth. Women in Singapore have broken out of the old boundaries of their traditional roles. They now have equal opportunity in education and employment. Women have risen to the top of many major private and public sector organizations. And there are a significant number of woman entrepreneurs who have started and run successful businesses in a range of areas.”

“The new opportunities open to women have also raised expectations about what being a successful woman means, not least among women themselves. Women are succeeding at work, in business, in community work, and in raising families. But for women, as it is for men, it is hard to do everything and to do everything well. Perhaps what is the most important achievement for women in Singapore today is that they not only have opportunities, they have choices. Women can decide what they want to make of their lives – whether they want to do it all, all at once, or they can choose which parts they want to give more emphasis and focus to in each phase of their lives.”

Referring back to the Exemplary Mother Awards organized by Jamiyah Singapore, the Defence Minister for Singapore said, “These awards recognize and honour mothers who are successful in their careers, in taking care of their families and at the same time actively involved in helping the community.”

“Motherhood is one specific and unique gift that only women posses – the ability to bring forth new life and to nurture it through its tender years. Stable and strong families where father and mother mutually support one another are the best environment for raising children. Strong families are the nurseries where children who are well brought up learn social discipline, know how to love and share with others, and are motivated to do well not only for themselves but also for community,” maintained Mr. Hean.

The Defence Minister for Singapore also appreciated the role of women: “The recipients of Jamiyah’s Exemplary Mother awards as well as the finalists this year, as in the previous years, are fine examples and role models for mothers, present and mothers to be.
Each has balanced family responsibilities, career and community service. The struggles that they have undergone, the challenges that they have surmounted, the sacrifices they have made to see that their loved ones are better off and successful in life are lessons that everyone can learn.”

Finally the Singapore Defence Minister congratulated the “Jamiyah Singapore, particularly the women’s section of Jamiyah for organizing this event successfully for the last 16 years. My congratulations also to the winners and finalists of this year's Exemplary Mother Awards.”

Mr. Abu Bakar Mohyeddin
Earlier, while welcoming Guests of Honour, Honourable Minister Teo Chee Hean and his gracious wife Mrs Teo for their presence at the Award presenting ceremony, Mr. Abu Bakar Mohyeddin, President of the Jamiyah Singapore, expressed his happiness and pleased to organize this event for the sixteenth year in honouring and recognizing outstanding mothers in particular and womanhood in general.

Mohyeddin said, “This event is a symbolic expression of our eternal devotion and love to our mothers. Mothers are the fountain head of unconditional love and affection. The sense of peace and security that we have experienced in the presence of our mothers is precious and genuine. They teach us the basics of peace and the sweetness of harmony. Occasions like this reaffirm our gratitude in this regard.”

“With our rising standards of living, a dual-career family has become more of a necessity than a choice. Moreover the educational achievement of women has led to their need to seek self-fulfillment through their careers. However, it is a fact that their role as home-makers and child-minders has not been entirely compromised by their pursuit of education and career. The need to balance both work and family roles remain as challenges that women face in our society. However, the challenges of child development for working mothers is lightened by the pro-family and pro-children policies of the Government,” the President of Jamal Singapore said.

“Thus the challenges faced by the mothers in the past are not entirely similar to the ones faced by mothers today. In spite of such challenging circumstances we have women who have proved to be more than capable in this difficult area, and are pillars of family, the community and society at large,” said the President of Jamiyah Singapore and added, “With such excellent qualities we see children reflecting the exquisite love and sacrifice of their mothers. They are grateful for the maternal blessings which cannot be repaid. Indeed the children as the future of the nation are the symbols of the universal values which their mothers have infused in them, not just by words alone but by dint of personal example.”

Mr. Mohyeddin also said, “Balancing their house hold and career responsibilities, and also giving their free time in volunteering for community service. They are indeed role models in our society. We appreciate them and appeal to all mothers and mothers-to-be to emulate their shining examples.”

Mr. Mohyeddin also expressed his thanks to the Guests of Honour for their kind and gracious presence and also thanks the esteemed Lee Foundation, Singapore Buddhist Lodge and Asia Industrial Development Private Limited for their munificent support to this annual exemplary mother awards event.

Dr. Melanie Chew, Chairperson of the Panel of Judges for the Exemplary Mother Awards 2008; Dr. Della Lee, Chairperson of the D.S.Lee Foundation and wife of Dr. Lee Seng Gee, Chairman of the Lee Foundation; Mrs Wee Kim Wee, wife of late President of Singapore Dr. Wee Kim Wee; Mr. Lim Kok Eng representing Mr Lee Seng Tee, Director, Lee Foundation; Mr. Lee Bock Guan, President of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge; Mr V.R.Nathan, Chairman of the Inter-faith committee, Hindu Endowments Board; Dr. Abdelillah Benarafa, Expert, Manuscripts and Cultural Diversity Division of ISESCO and Dr. Abdus Salam Al Ahmar, Member of the Executive Council of Mohammadiah Association for Ulama, Morocco

Exemplary Mother Competition
The Exemplary Mother Competition started in 1993 with the Wee Kim Wee Shield which was presented to Jamiyah by the late former President Wee Kim Wee. From 1993 to 2004, 12 mothers were honoured for their perseverance in enduring hardship and sacrifices in raising their children. They toiled throughout the early years of their life to provide a better future for their children, in terms of education and well-being, as they did not want their children to go through life, the same way they did. The Wee Kim Wee Shield completed its 12 rounds in 2004.

In May 2004, The President of Singapore President S.R. Nathan presented a new Shield to Jamiyah to continue honouring exemplary mothers for another twelve years. At the suggestion of the President S.R. Nathan, the criteria for selection of the Exemplary Mother will include her contribution towards community service in addition to her ability to balance career and family.

The Exemplary Mother 2007 was held on 23 June 2007 at the Grand Ballroom of the Ritz Carlton Millenia Singapore. President Nathan and Mrs. Nathan were the Guest of Honour. President Nathan presented the winner with the President’s Shield, a plaque and $5,000 cash. The First and Second Runners-Up received cash prize of $3000 and $2000 respectively, and a plaque each.

Role of Muslim NGOs in Asia-Pacific

Role of Muslim NGOs in Asia-Pacific Region

Dr. Mozammel Haque

SINGAPORE: The Three-day Seminar on the theme of “Networking For Development: Role of Muslim NGOs in Asia and the Pacific Region” organized by the Muslim Missionary Society Singapore (Jamiyah Singapore) in cooperation with the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) and Qatar Charity was held at Jamiyah from 15-17th of October 2008.

A large number of diplomats and diplomatic personnel and representatives of major religions in the country, journalists and Muslim leaders and leaders from other faith organizations and individuals attended the opening ceremony in addition to delegates of cultural centres and Islamic organizations from Australia, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myannar, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Timor Leste, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

Around 50 delegates and observers representing NGOs from 20 countries from Asia and the Pacific Region participated in this Seminar. There were seven sessions besides the opening and concluding sessions.

The opening ceremony of the three-day Seminar started with recitation from the verses of the Holy Qur’an and welcoming address by the President of Jamiyah Dawah Islamiyah Singapore, Mr. Abu Bakar Mohyeddin who touched on the policy of Jamiyah Singapore in enhancing harmony and dialogue by inviting other religions and races in the country.

In his welcome address, Haji Sheikh Abu Bakar Mohyeddin said, “Imams play an important role in society, especially in promoting greater interaction amongst mosques, the community and the general public for the objective of promoting moderation, peace and harmony. We are happy that Qatar Charity is also supporting us in the Training Workshop for Imams from the region concurrently with this Seminar.”

“Today mankind is facing new challenges both in the economic and social fronts. While we have succeeded in harnessing science and technology for progress and higher standards of life, much more can be done for durable peace and harmony. In this regard we are working continually to strengthen the infusion of the correct values in our society,” said the President of Jamiyah Singapore.

Haji Sheikh Mohyeddin also said, “All religions have one perfect theme in common: that is to work for peace and tranquility, in every area of human activity and consciousness. We cannot allow deviationists to disrupt the noble purpose of all religions. Consequently due to the urgency of the call for durable peace, His Majesty King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI have met to discuss this crucial need and well-publicized initiative have begun.”

He also said, “We are happy to hold this three day seminar to discuss positively the prospects of Muslim NGOs pooling resources and expertise for the welfare and development of the people in our respective areas of work.”

The keynote address was delivered by the guest of honour, the Minister for Law and Second Minister for Home Affairs, Mr. K. Shanmugam who confirmed Singapore’s policy in prioritizing the co-existence and peace among races and religions in Singapore.

It was followed by ISESCO address delivered by Dr. Abdelillah Benarafa who emphasized the importance of adhering to the values of Islam, moderation, wisdom, harmony and cooperation with all races, faiths and civilizations. It also called upon those working in the cultural field to give their utmost commitment towards reinforcing civilizational identity of Muslims in the midst of world challenges. It is the responsibility of those involved in cultural work to put in perspective the correct image of Islam and Muslims, by emphasizing the Islamic reference which highlights the importance of principles especially in strengthening the values of co-existence, harmony and peace among various civilizations.

Dr. Benarafa also called upon the leaders of the cultural centres to urgently explain correctly to the Muslim Ummah values and culture of broad-mindedness in Islamic civilization and to introduce the real teachings of Islam and Muslims.

Country papers on the following countries: Australia, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Sri Lanka Timor Leste, United Kingdom, Vietnam, Singapore were presented. Besides these, Dr. Bibi Jan, President of Singapore May Teachers Union presented a paper on “Education and Development of the Muslim Ummah: Role of Muslim NGOs”; Dr. Faisal Yahya, Visiting Fellow Institute of South East Asian Studies (ISEAS) Singapore presented a paper on “Economic Development of the Muslim Ummah: Role of Muslim NGOs”.

Dr. Isa Hassan, Executive Director (Education and Welfare), Jamiyah Singapore also presented a paper on “Capacity Building for Muslim NGOs”; Mr. Mohd Anuar Yusop, Executive Director, Association of Muslim Professionals Singapore presented a paper on “Networking and Muslim NGOs: Issues and Challenges”; Mr. H. M. Saleem, Executive Secretary, Jamiyah Singapore presented a paper on “Touch and Harmony: Jamiyah’s Initiative for promoting Inter-racial and Inter-faith Harmony” and Dr. Mozammel Haque, Director General, World Muslim Congress, President’s Office; Jeddah, presented a paper on “The Muslim Community in Britain: An Overview”.

At the end of the three-day discussions and deliberations, the Seminar called for cultural and Islamic organizations “to project the moderate images and the tolerance of Islam and to correct its distorted images through the media, school book/curriculum and various forums and gatherings.”

The Seminar also resolved to “confirm the urgency of conducting dialogue among other faith followers in order to create understanding and cooperation for the sake of global peace based on humanity brotherhood and to make the culture of peace as theory and way in interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims.”

The Seminar also resolved to “prepare database for Muslim competencies in the West and the world and also called upon the leaders of cultural centres and Islamic organizations to take part in circulating these form of Muslim competencies.”

The Seminar also resolved “to enhance the existing understanding and cooperation by adopting a pro-active approach towards empowering the Muslim Community through the participating NGO’s in principally Muslim minority countries through the sharing of resources, information, databases and the organizing of developmental activities that cater to the changing needs of time.”

The Seminar also resolved to “continue focusing on life-long balanced education as a conduit in elevating the Muslim Ummah towards uplifting their status as Ummatan Wasatan, the middle and moderating people.”

The participating NGOs were very enthusiastic and highly motivated at the need to collaborate and network amongst themselves to develop the resources endowed upon them by Almighty Allah and support the resolutions passed and endeavour to enhance that action plans decided upon are conscientiously implemented.

In view of the level of interest shown by the NGO’s and the pressing need for actions, Jamiyah Singapore as a coordinating body in cooperation with ISESCO announced that an initiative to collaborate with the NGO’s from the following countries in implementing developmental programmes that will bring about benefits to the Muslim Ummah in particular and humanity in general will be implemented promptly.

Muslim leaders of Timor Leste, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia will work together, as a team, in ensuring that the project is run successfully with the support of ISESCO and the collaboration of Jamiyah Singapore.

Jamiyah Singapore also expressed its readiness to support justifiable projects including the IMAM Training Program which is aimed at ensuring that the standard and quality of our imams are uplifted to become more competent, committed, comprehensive, cohesive and complete in serving the Muslim Ummah.

Abu Bakar Mohyeddin, President of Jamiyah Singapore said that Jamiyah Singapore has decided to take one more step by working out specific community need based projects in countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and Nepal in the near future in cooperation with ISESCO and requested Dr. Benarafa to strongly recommend to Dr. Abdelaziz Othman Altwiajri, Director General of ISESCO to support this initiative with the much needed financial support.

ISESCO thanked the President of Jamiyah Singapore, Tuan Haji Abu Bakar Mohyeddin for its readiness to support justifiable projects including the IMAM Training Program and for his dedication in advancing the interest of the Muslim Ummah and humanity and his tireless efforts to look at new initiatives in strengthening the position of the Muslims in the world.

The Seminar also expressed its sincere thanks to the Qatar charity for the support that they have extended to the Imam Training Program that take place in Singapore.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Eid al-Fitr is a festival that we can all learn from -british Prime Minister Gordon Brown

Dr. Mozammel Haque .

LONDON: The British Muslim Community is celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr on Tuesday, the 30th of September 2008. On this auspicious occasion, the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, MP. has sent his Eid Message on 30 September 2008 to the British Muslims wishing them all best wishes. “I am aware that Eid al-Fitr is a special time of year for Muslim communities in the UK and all across the world. It marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan - the month of fasting for Muslims, which is also the month of charity, family, contemplation, and recitation of the Qur'an.”

“I know Eid al-Fitr is a joyous occasion but also a day of gratitude for the everyday blessings we enjoy in life. It brings together friends and families, and encourages Muslims to continue the teachings from the month of Ramadan throughout the rest of the year- particularly the lessons of giving, community and charity. These shared values are reflected in the generosity that British Muslims have shown over the years in helping those less fortunate than themselves across the world,” said the British Prime Minister.
Gordon Brown, MP, also said, “At this special time for Muslim communities we can also reflect on the tremendous contribution of British Muslims to British life over many decades.”

British Prime Minister also said, “Eid al-Fitr is a festival that we can all learn from.” He sent his “Best wishes to you and your family. Eid Mubarak.”

Eid Message from the Muslim Council of Britain
The Muslim Council of Britain, the umbrella organisation of the British Muslims has issued also Eid Message on 29 September 2008. “All praises are due to Allah Almighty alone who has made it possible for us to fast and enjoy the fruits of another Blessed month of Ramadan. We praise and thank Him as we should. And we send our best greetings of peace upon our beloved Messenger, Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), his family, companions and righteous followers,” the press release said.
The Secretary General of the Muslim Council Council of Britain (MCB), said, “Eid al-Fitr, a most joyous occasion on the Muslim calendar is with us once again, and I on behalf of the Muslim Council of Britain, take this opportunity to send my choicest greetings to all Muslims and humanity during this auspicious time.

“The day of Eid is rooted in the sacrifice and self-awareness cultivated in the month that has gone before, and our celebration marks a time when we give thanks to God for partaking in the spiritual feast that was offered to us during the month of Ramadan,” He said.

Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, the Secretary General of the MCB, said, “During this month, the MCB encouraged all its affiliated mosques and community associations to use the opportunity to open their doors to the local community. We encouraged British Muslims to engage open heartedly with our neighbours, whether Muslim or not, and of course in striving to make a real positive impact on the lives of countless millions around the world who suffer needlessly. The day of Eid is also a timely reminder that we can share our joy and happiness with others. In London, the MCB will be assisting the Mayor as he invites thousands of Londoners to celebrate Eid in the world-famous Trafalgar Square.”
"We hope such initiatives are repeated across the country. When our community comes under sustained attack from cynics keen to expose our supposed separatism and our inability to integrate we must remain steadfast, reach out to our neighbours of all faiths and none, be vigilant in upholding our rights but be ever ready in discharging our responsibilities to all those around us, with humility and compassion,” Dr. Abdul Bari said.
Dr. Abdul Bari also said, “The month of Ramadan has seen numerous accounts of British mosques and charities raising record amounts for the needy around the world. Eid al-Fitr translates as the 'festival of charity'; I hope each and every one of us can uphold this spirit of charity in the year to come. I urge those in power to also strive to provide a better world for the millions that rely on their generosity and kindness.”

Ramadan: The Month of the Qur'an

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The Noble Qur’an was revealed in the month of Ramadan (Al-Qur’an, 97:1-3.). The Qur’an was sent down in the month of Ramadhan on the Night of Power Lailatul Qadr. (Al-Qur’an, 91:1-3.).
It is the month of Ramadhan that Allah has honoured by revealing the Qur’an. Because of this strong relation between the Qur’an and the month of Ramadan, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) used to read the Qur’an to Archangel Jibreel every Ramadan. I think this is the right place to discuss the purpose and objective of the revelation of the Qur’an, its importance, the campaigns against it and the do’s and don’ts of the Qur’an.
First of all, Allah the Most High, created mankind and gave him the gift of expression. For the guidance of mankind Allah sent Prophets to every single community. In the words of the Qur’an, "There has been no community to which God’s messengers have not come" and "Muslims should make no distinctions between them." So it is the duty of a Muslim to honour all the prophets equally.
The Qur’an represents the culmination of all other earlier Revealed Books. The Qur’an is the last of the Revealed Books. The Qur’an is the first religious book in the world, which requires the belief in other revelations, a part of its Faith. This Sacred Book was revealed to the last Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the month of Ramadan. Allah Himself said in the Qur’an: “Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to Mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong).” (2:185).
Allah the Most High has especially mentioned the exact date and month of the revelation: “We have indeed revealed This (Message) in the Night of Power.” (97:1) So the purpose of the revelation of the Qur’an was for guidance of Mankind.
The Qur’an is emphatic in proclaiming that Islam is the religion of Jesus, Moses, Abraham and the Prophets Jesus and Moses were not Jews but Muslims. "Surely those who believe (in that which is revealed to Muhammad Peace be upon him) and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabaeans – whoever believes in Allah, and the Last Day and does good, surely their reward is with their Lord, and there is no fear for them nor shall they grieve." (2:62). "A Guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and judgement (between right and wrong)." This is the most important characteristic of the Qur’an, the Book that Allah has revealed in the month of Ramadhan. It is guidance for mankind. It is clear proof, clear proof of guidance and of judgement.
Before the revelation of the Qur’an, it was preserved and guarded from corruption in the "Mother of the Book". Allah Himself said: "Nay this is a Glorious Qur’an (inscribed) in a Tablet Preserved" (85:21-22). When Allah wanted to give this Trust to someone, the Heavens, the Earth, and the Mountains, i.e. other creatures of Allah, besides man, refused to undertake this Trust or responsibility. They preferred to submit their will entirely to Allah’s Will, which is All-Wise and Perfect, and which would give them far more happiness than a faculty of choice, with their imperfect knowledge. Allah says in the Qur’an: "We did indeed offer the Trust to the Heavens and the Earth and the Mountains; but they refused to undertake it, being afraid thereof: but man undertook it: He was indeed unjust and foolish." (33-72).

So it is the human beings who took the responsibility of the Trust without realising its importance. This Sacred Book was revealed to the last Messenger Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the month of Ramadhan. The Qur’an is the revealed book of God which has been in existence for more than four hundred years and the Word of Allah is available in its original form. There has not been an iota of change in this unique historic record. Its originality and authenticity has been guaranteed by no other than Allah the Almighty who challenges in the Qur’an itself.
Allah said, "This Qur’an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah: on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelation) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book - wherein there is no doubt – from the Lord of the Worlds." (10:37). In another verse of the Qur’an Allah challenges, "Or do they say, "He forged it?" Say: "Bring then a Surah like unto it; and call (to your aid) anyone who can, beside Allah if it be you speak the truth!" (10:38). "Or they may say, "He forged it." Say, "Bring you then ten Suras forged, like unto it, and call (to your aid) whomsoever you can, other than Allah! – if you speak the truth!" (11:13).

Allah said in the Qur’an, "And if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant then produce a Sura like thereunto, and call your witness and helpers (if there are any) besides Allah, if your are truthful." (2:23) Allah places many verses before you. Can you produce one like it?
The world is challenged to produce a Book like it and has not produced one. It is the only Revealed Book whose text stands pure and uncorrupted today. Allah said, "Say: "if the whole of mankind and jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support." (17:88)
Since the revelation of the Qur’an, the enemies of Islam have been trying to distort it. Firstly, they said, it is not revelation, it is written by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Then they started attacking its authenticity and originality. In spite of their conspiracy, the Qur’an has been preserved in its original form.

The Qur’an is the only Book in the world which has remained for the past fourteen centuries pure without any interpolation or change and will remain so till the Last Day as Allah has guaranteed its purity. (15:9).
The purity, preservation and propagation of the Qur’an were maintained by two methods: memorization of Qur’an in Qur’anic schools and the recitation of the complete Qur’an in Ramadan. In the month of Ramadan every year the Noble Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked by Archangel Jibreel to recite the whole of it twice. It was a Muzakira between the two.
Abu Huraira reported that Jibreel used to repeat the recitation of the Qur’an with the Prophet once a year, but he repeated it twice with him in the year the Prophet (peace be upon him) died. The Qur’an was recited in the Taraweeh for the first time during the era of Caliph Omar.
So far as the memorization of the Qur’an in Qur’anic schools is concerned, many Huffaz and Islamic scholars have been killed in different parts of the world at different times. But still there is no dearth of Islamic scholars who can recite the complete Qur’an from memory. Severe campaigns have been launched against the Qur’anic schools, which teach the study, recitation and memorization of the Qur’an. The Qur’an is the main Book of the Muslims; it is the duty of the Muslims to learn Qur’an, which contains their code of life and ethical values whose benefits have been experienced by mankind throughout the ages.
I have already mentioned the objective and importance of the Qur’an and how its originality and purity have been maintained. Our Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions dedicated their days and nights for worship. Their lives revolved completely around the Book of Allah, the Qur’an, reciting it in and out of Salah.
The Qur’an is the basis of the religion of Islam, and on the preservation and propagation of the Qur’an depends the very existence of this Faith. Hence the virtue of learning and teaching the Qur’an is self-evident and does not need further elucidation. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “The best amongst you is he who learns the Qur’an and teaches it.” (Bukhari, Daud and Tirmidhi).

Madrid Conference - Its importance and Significance

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The first International Conference for Dialogue was held in Makkah al-Mukarramah, Saudi Arabia last June, that was inaugurated by King Abdullah at Al-Safa Palace in Makkah. That was a meeting attended by representatives of the different Muslim schools of thoughts. Before the Saudi Monarch invited the followers of all revealed religions and other cultures and civilizations, he wanted to get a mandate from the Muslim Ummah to come and say - I am now coming to you on behalf of the religious leaders, religious callers from the Muslim Ummah.

The Saudi King wanted to bring Muslims together and wanted to ask them what is your opinion and what do you think about dialogue with the non-Muslims from all over the world. There was dialogue and free discussions. Muslim scholars and representatives of Muslim communities, not only from the Muslim and Arab countries, but also of those who live in minority areas like the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, attended the free discussions at the Makkah meet and unanimously agreed to give King Abdullah the mandate to speak on behalf of the Muslim Ummah.

That’s why King Abdullah was very strong. He was not coming on his own but he made Shoura and free discussions and got the free authorization. The Makkah conference told him to “go ahead in the name of Allah the Almighty. Allah blesses you and we are behind you.”

King Abdullah immediately within a month came to the West, to Europe and selected the most suitable country, Spain. Spain has the golden history in this kind of dialogue and has religious freedom for followers of different religions. The World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid took completely a new direction. All previous conferences for dialogue were held between religions where participants presented views of their religions. This was not successful experience because people or followers of religions were stick to their beliefs. The Madrid gathering was completely different. It assembled the followers of different religions, cultures and civilizations, who presented their views on issues facing mankind.

The Madrid Conference on Dialogue was significant in many respects. Firstly, the venue selected for this conference was Spain, known for its historical symbolism as a place where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together in peace. It was “a natural place for this type of dialogue” since for centuries it has been home to members of three of the world’s great religions, said the Saudi Ambassador to Spain, Saud bin Naif.

Secondly, it was indeed a historic and unique occasion because the two heads of state, the King of Saudi Arabia and the King of Spain, inaugurated this World Conference on Dialogue. “Your Majesty, your personal presence gives new impetus to broaden the dimensions of existing inter-religious dialogue and reinforces the premise that religious communities and leaders can and must play a role in easing tension,” said Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President, Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Member, UN Alliance of Civilizations High Level Group and Senior Rabbi, Park East Synagogue, New York.

Thirdly, the conference was attended by around 300 eminent personalities and representatives from among the followers of the three revealed religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, as well as by representatives of Oriental philosophies, cultures and civilizations, and especially by those who are specialized in dialogue and issues related to the human societies, international cooperation, human rights and issues and issues of peace, security and co-existence in the world. So the participants were not only the followers of revealed religions but also the followers of some specific philosophy, cultures, thoughts and civilizations. Among the attendees were the Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress Michael Schneider and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, in charge of dialogue between the Vatican and Muslims and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has recently launched his own Tony Blair Faith Foundation. This is the first time in history that such a gathering took place.

Fourthly, the world is facing countless challenges that threaten the very existence of mankind. The conference focuses on a common vision and principles acceptable to all as its aim was to focus on human issues and challenges facing the world and avoid theological questions. The Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Dr. Abdullah Mohsin al-Turki, said “the aim of inter-faith conference is for us to get to know each other and to look for ways to cooperate.” The MWL chief said the conference would not interfere in religious and political issues but focus on the common factors shared by followers of divine religions and different oriental cultures. The conference stressed the need to build a bridge of mutual understanding and co-existence between various people so that the world would be free from the evils of war, injustice, violence, terrorism, drugs and depravity, the MWL chief said.

Fifthly, King Abdullah had initiated the dialogue in order to discuss and seek solutions to the myriad problems facing humanity, such as erosion of family norms, weakening of moral values, and conflicts among nations, peoples, societies and civilizations. Speaking about the Madrid conference, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Vatican City, said, “Since the very beginning of our meeting, King Abdullah has focused the objectives of this conference on Dialogue with a courageous speech when he declared: “If we wish this historic meeting to succeed, we must focus on the common denominators that unite us, namely faith in God, noble principles, and lofty moral values which constitute the essence of religion.”

Sixthly, King Abdullah made a tremendous move by demonstrating both to the Muslims and the rest of the world that it is possible, in fact, it is sacred to be both the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, defender of the faith and also as the promoter of peace and harmony with other faiths. Speakers at the conference praised King Abdullah as a peacemaker and initiated debate about establishing the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Global Centre for Inter-Faith Dialogue. “No statesman realizes the need for peace more acutely than King Abdullah whose Kingdom lies in the vortex of an imagined clash of civilizations,” said Jose de Venecia, a Filipino who is Vice-President of Christian Democratic International and Chairman of CDI-Asia Pacific International Conference of Asian Political Party.

Last but not least, religion is blamed for war, conflicts and confrontation, which is not correct. “The tragedies we have experienced throughout history were not the fault of religion but were caused by extremism, which has been adopted by some of the followers of all religion and all political systems,” said King Abdullah while opening the three-day international conference. “Many disputes seem to have been caused by religion, but in reality these are caused by reasons outside religious beliefs,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

King Abdullah was confident of the success of dialogue: “Our dialogue will be a success of faith against atheism, of virtue against vice, of justice against injustice, of peace against conflicts and wars, and of human brotherhood against racism.”

World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid

World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid

King Abdullah Calls for a constructive
dialogue between religions

Dr. Mozammel Haque

MADRID: I came to Madrid, the capital of Spain, on Tuesday, the 15th of July 2008 to attend the World Conference on Dialogue, organized by the Makkah-based Muslim World League, under the patronage of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, held at the El Pardo Palace on Wednesday, 16 July 2008. The conference was attended by more than 300 eminent personalities and representatives from the followers of different revealed religions and also of different philosophies, cultures and civilizations and especially those who are specialized in dialogue and its issues related to the life of human societies, to international cooperation, human rights and issues of peace, security and co-existence in the world.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
The King of Saudi Arabia has made a call to achieve a constructive dialogue between different religions. The event took place at the El Pardo Palace with King Juan Carlos I as the host, during the inauguration of the World Conference on Dialogue. King Abdullah is the promoter of this conference which lasted till Friday, the 18th of July, 2008 when the Madrid Declaration was announced.

On the opening ceremony at the El Pardo Palace, addressing the King of Spain and the eminent personalities of different religions, cultures and civilizations, King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz said, “I extend my deep appreciation to my friend, His Majesty King Juan Carlos, and the Kingdom of Spain and its friendly people for welcoming the convening of this conference on their land, a land that has a historic and civilized heritage among the followers of religions, and which has witnessed coexistence between people of differing ethnicities and religions and cultures, and contributed, with other civilizations, to the advancement of humanity.”

King Abdullah also said, “I came to you from the place dearest to the hearts of all Muslims, the land of the Two Holy Mosques, bearing with me a message from the Islamic world (Ummah), representing its scholars and thinkers who recently met in the confines of the House of God. This message declares that Islam is a religion of moderation and tolerance; a message that calls for constructive dialogue among followers of religions; a message that promises to open a new page for humanity in which – God Willing – concord will replace conflict.”

The Saudi sovereign underlined in the presence of the Spanish monarch, the Spanish government, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and a series of religious leaders, the common points of the three main monotheistic religions. “We all believe in one God, who sent messengers for the good of humanity in this world and the hereafter. His Will, praise be to Him, was that people should differ in their faiths. If the Almighty had so desired, all mankind would have shared the same religion. We are meeting today to affirm that the religions that God Almighty desired for the happiness of man, should be a means to ensure that happiness,” declared King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al- Saud.

Kind Abdullah also said, “It is therefore incumbent upon us to declare to the world that difference must not lead to conflict and confrontation, and to state that the tragedies that have occurred in human history were not attributable to religion, but were the result of extremism with which some adherents of every divinely revealed religion, and of every political ideology, have been afflicted.”

“Mankind is suffering today from a loss of values and conceptual confusion, and is passing through a critical phase which, in spite of all the scientific progress, is witnessing a proliferation of crime, an increase in terrorism, the disintegration of the family, subversion of the minds of the young by drug-abuse, exploitation of the poor by the strong, and odious racist tendencies. This is all a consequence of the spiritual void from which people suffer when they forget God, and God causes them to forget themselves. There is no solution for us other than to agree on a united approach, through dialogue among religions and civilizations,” said King Abdullah.

“Most of the past dialogues have failed because they have deteriorated into mutual recrimination focusing on and exaggerating differences in a sterile Endeavour that exacerbated rather than mitigated tensions, or because they attempted to fuse religions and creeds on the pretext of bringing them closer together. This is likewise a fruitless effort, since the adherents of every religion are deeply convinced in their faith, and will not accept any alternative thereto,” said the Saudi Monarch and added, “If we wish this historic meeting to succeed, we must focus on the common denominations that unite us, namely, deep faith in God, noble principles, and lofty moral values, which constitute the essence of religion.”

Likewise, the Saudi King stressed the value of religion in order to combat the problems of modern societies: “Terrorism, the disintegration of families, drugs, exploitation of the weak: all these are a consequence of a spiritual void,” he declared.

King Abdullah also declared, “Man is capable – by the Grace of God – of vanquishing hatred through love, and bigotry through tolerance, thereby enabling all mankind to enjoy the dignity that the Almighty has bestowed upon all of them.”

After the speech of both the Kings and the speech of the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Dr. Abdullah Bin Abdul Mohsin Al-Turki, there was lunch at the Palace of the King of Spain.

Dialogue and its Religious & Civilizational Foundations
The five sessions and the concluding session were held at the Auditorium Madrid Hotel in Madrid. The first session on “Dialogue and its Religious & Civilizational Foundations” was held under the chairmanship of Dr. Bawa Jain, Secretary General of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. Dr. Hussain Hamed Hassan, Legal Adviser, Dubai Islamic Bank spoke on Dialogue in Islam; Dr. Najeeb Gabriel, Head, Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights spoke on Dialogue in Christianity; Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier, Founder and Chairman of Conscience Foundation Call, USA, spoke on Dialogue in Judaism and Dr. M.M. Verma, Director of Interfaith Foundation, India, spoke on Dialogue in Oriental Creeds (Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism).

Dialogue and Its Importance in Human Society
The second session on “Dialogue and Its Importance in Human Society” chaired by Salih bin Abdullah bin Humaid, the Speaker of Shoura Council, Saudi Arabia on 17th July. Rev. Nichiko, President of Japan Committee of World Parliament for Religion and Peace, spoke on Dialogue and Interaction of Cultures and Civilizations; Dr. Abdelhadi Al-Tazi, Member of Royal Academy of Morocco, spoke on Dialogue and its impact on peaceful co-existence; Congressman Jose De Venecia, Jr. Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives, spoke on Impact of Religion on World Ethical Promotion and Dr. Redwan Naef Al-Sayyed, Chairman of the International Institute for Islamic Studies, Lebanon, spoke on Dialogue in the face of Calls for Clash of Civilization and End of History.

Common Human Values in Areas of Dialogue
The third session on “Common Human Values in Areas of Dialogue” chaired by Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. Dr. Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, USA, spoke on Ethical Reality in Contemporary Human Society; Sheikh Muhammad Ali Taskheeri, Secretary General of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, Iran, spoke on Significance of Religion and Values in Combating Crimes, Drugs and Corruption; Shankaracharya Onkar Anand Saraswati Ji Maharaj, leader of Sanatan Dharm, India, spoke on Role of Religion and Family in Stability of Society and Rev. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, Rector of Pontifical Institute for Arabic Studies, Vatican, spoke on Protection of Environment as a Common Human Duty.

Evaluation and Promotion of Dialogue
The fourth session on “Evaluation and Promotion of Dialogue” chaired by Rabbi Caudio Epelman, Secretary General of Jewish Congress in Latin America & Caribbean, Argentina. Dr. Izeddin Ibrahim Mustafa, Adviser to President of United Arab Emirates for Cultural Affairs, UAE, spoke on Muslim-Christian-Jewish Dialogue: Its Future and Horizons; Master Xue Cheng, Vice-Chairman of Buddhist Association of China, spoke on Dialogue with Oriental Creeds: Its Future and Horizons; Father Econos Nabbel Haddad, Executive Director of Jordanian Centre for Religious Co-Existence Researches, Jordan, spoke on Efforts of World Countries and Organizations in Augmenting Dialogue and Overcoming Its Obstacles and Mr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, President of the Cultural Foundation of Peace, Spain, spoke on Dialogue: Its Impact on Peaceful Co-Existence.

Disseminating of Culture and Co-existence of Dialogue
The fifth session held on 18th July on “Disseminating of Culture and Co-existence of Dialogue” chaired by Dr. Ahmed Talib Al-Ibrahimi, former Foreign Minister of Algeria. Dr. Nabil Luka Bibawi, Member of Shoura Council of Egypt spoke on Media and Its Impact on Disseminating the Culture of Dialogue and Co-existence; Dr. James Kidner, Director of Co-existence Foundation, UK, spoke on Dialogue: Its Impact on Co-existence and Dr. William Baker, President of Christians and Muslims for Peace (CAMP), USA, spoke on Dialogue, Peace and Co-existence.

The Madrid Declaration urges for
a special UN session on Dialogue

The three-day World Conference on Dialogue concluded here on Friday, 18th July by calling for forming a working team to study the problems hindering dialogue and proposing an international agreement to combat terrorism. The Islamic, Christian and Jewish leaders appealed for a special UN session to promote dialogue among the followers of religions, cultures and civilizations.

The Madrid Declaration, read by Dr. Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah Al-Zaid, Deputy Secretary General of the MWL, demanded an international agreement of defining terrorism, addressing its root causes and achieving justice and stability in the world. “Terrorism is a universal phenomenon that requires unified efforts to combat it in a serious, responsible and just way,” it said. It rejected the call for the clash of civilizations and cultures and warned of the danger of campaigns seeking to deepen conflicts and destabilize peace and security.

Delegates said legal and political negotiation must proceed the establishment of a Centre for dialogue named after King Abdullah in view of his role as a promoter of peace and constructive dialogue. “No statesman realizes the need for peace more acutely than King Abdullah whose Kingdom lies in the vortex of an imagined clash of civilizations,” said Jose de Venecia, a Filipino who is Vice-President of Christian Democratic International and Chairman of CDI-Asia Pacific International Conference of Asian Political Party.

The Madrid Declaration called upon the UN General Assembly to conduct a special session on dialogue. They said, “Dialogue is one of the essentials of life. It is one of the most important means for knowing each other, cooperation, exchange of interests and realizing the truth, which contributes to the happiness of humankind.”