Thursday, 30 April 2009

Seminar on the Life of the Prophet

Dr. Mozammel Haque

A Seminar on the life of Prophet Muhammad (Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him) was organised by the Union of Muslim Organisations of UK & Eire (UMO) at the Churchill Hotel, London, on Monday, the 16th of March, 2009, which was attended by the Mayor of Westminster, Simon Hughes, M.P., Hazzaa al-Hasher of the Saudi Embassy in UK; Mohamed Ali, CEO, Islam Channel and many other community leaders and diplomatic representatives.

Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha

Welcoming the gatherings, Dr. Syed Aziz Pasha, the General Secretary of the Union of Muslim Organisations of UK and Eire (UMO), said, “The UMO, for the last 39 years, has been consistently organising this Seminar on the Life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) as an important event in its calendar. People ask why Muslims are giving so much importance. We are giving importance for two reasons: one is mundane and another is spiritual. From the first angle, the whole world acknowledges that our Holy Prophet is the greatest benefactor of the humanity. During his prophetic life he brought about a huge transformation in the quality of life in Arabia whose ramifications were felt throughout the world and whose effects are being felt even today.”

Speaking about the equality of humans, Dr. Pasha mentioned, “The Holy Prophet (pbuh) brought about the concept of human brotherhood transcending the barriers of race, colour and ethnicity. In his Farewell Sermon he proclaimed that there is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab or a non-Arab over an Arab or a white over a black or a black over a white – that all are born from Adam and Adam was born out of clay.”

Speaking about the status of woman, Dr. Pasha mentioned, “The Prophet (pbuh) uplifted the condition of women who were treated like chattel in the Arabian society and instructed the Muslims to treat woman as equal partner in life. They have rights over you and you have rights over them. Now the women throughout the world are enjoying the right of equality because of the contribution of our Holy Prophet (pbuh). So, Mr. Geert Wilders, the Dutch M.P. who criticised our Prophet in his Film - Fitna - should be ashamed of himself and he should express his gratitude to the Holy Prophet (pbuh).”

Speaking on the recession, Dr. Pasha pointed out, “Our Holy Prophet prohibited usury and exploitation of the poor by the rich. Now because of the recession it is affecting the whole economic system. The Governments are forced to cut down the rate of interest to nearly zero percent which is exactly what our Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) has legislated more than 1400 years ago. We believe that our Prime Minister Gordon Brown who is engaged in reforming the economic and banking system and who is a great admirer of the Sharia-based economic system should seriously considered to introduce a total Islamic way of economics in his quest to have a new world order based on justice and compassion.”

Dr. Pasha also said, “Our Holy Prophet (pbuh) is acclaimed by friends and foes alike as a greatest champion of the cause of the poor, underprivileged, orphans, widows and all others who are still experiencing hardships in life.”

Regarding the spiritual side, Dr. Pasha maintained, “Our Holy Prophet (pbuh) is the last in the line of Prophets who gave us an ideology and a way of life which guarantees peace and happiness in this world and eternal felicity in the Life Hereafter. Allah the Almighty has designated him as a Prophet of Mercy unto All Mankind and as a role model for us to follow in order to obtain blessings of Allah the Almighty. His coming has been foretold by the Prophets – Moses and Jesus – peace be upon them – and is clearly mentioned in the Torah and Bible.”

Deputy Lord Mayor of Westminster

Deputy Lord Mayor of Westminster, Councillor Alan Bradley said, “You are celebrating the birthday every year. Your organisation truly exemplified Islam’s teachings of peace, humanity and universal brotherhood. I wish you all success.”

Lord Shaikh

Lord Shaikh said, “On my court of arms, I have a peacock holding a pen; why pen because pen is actually mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. So I have a peacock holding a pen and my motto is Iqra. Why Iqra, it is for two reasons: the first word revealed to the Prophet (peace be upon him) is Iqra. Iqra also means read, proclaim, it also means pen and I am very very keen on education.”

“I always give advice to my Muslim brothers and sisters, “Please educate your children. The Holy Prophet said, Seek knowledge even it is in China,” he quoted.

“My maiden speech was on environment,” Lord Shaikh said and added, “The Holy Prophet has said, the earth is green and beautiful and Allah has appointed you custody over it. Allah has made this planet and Allah has appointed us as people to look after this planet. It is important that we look after this planet because this planet otherwise will be destroyed.”

“The Holy Prophet also said when doomsday comes if someone has plum seeds in his hands, he should plant it. He commanded his armies not to harm women and children; furthermore, he instructed them not to harm animals or destroy crops or cut down trees. I repeat: don’t cut down trees; because he cared about the trees,” said Lord Shaikh.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Education and Women in Saudi Arabia

Dr. Mozammel Haque

History was made recently in Saudi Arabia throughany changes that took place. For the first time in the history of the country, a Saudi woman is appointed as deputy minister. While reshuffling the Kingdom’s Cabinet, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia appointed a Saudi woman, Nora bint Abdullah Al-Fayez, as the deputy education minister for girls’ affairs.
First Saudi Woman Minister
Al-Fayez began her career as a schoolteacher in 1982 working her way up to become in 2001 the director general of the women’s section at the Institute of Public Administration. Her long experience in the educational sector and her husband’s encouragement and support paved the way for her to reach this position.
Nora bint Abdullah Al-Fayez has been serving as director general of the women’s section of the Institute of Public Administration since 1993. She completed her master’s degree in educational techniques from Utah State University in 1982 and bachelor’s degree in social science from King Saud University in 1978.
Accepting the new position, Al-Fayez told Arab News, “This is an honor not only for me, but for all Saudi women. In the presence of a comprehensive operational team, I believe I’ll be able to face challenges and create positive change.”
Commenting on the historic appointment, Ali Al-Twati, a Saudi academic and writer, said having a woman occupy the position of deputy minister is a must. “It is compulsory, not optional, to have women occupy leadership positions. Since the number of schools in Saudi Arabia exceeds 10,000, girls need a reference in the ministry to listen to their issues and understand them,” said Al-Twati.
He also said that segregation makes it easier for women in the Kingdom to reach high leadership positions. There are more women in key positions in the country than in developed countries, he added.
Haifa Jamal Al-Lail, dean of Effat College, expressed her delight, adding that the appointment serves as an impetus for women to get into leading positions to contribute to the development of Saudi society.
“This is not just about having the first woman deputy minister. It’s about having more women in important positions. Al-Fayez’s presence in the Ministry of Education will make women’s voices heard,” said Al-Lail.
Despite optimism for a better future, Khaled Al-Radihan, Assistant Professor of Anthropology at King Saud University in Riyadh, said it would not be easy. “There is a conservative stream of people who won’t accept the situation easily. If the deputy minister proves herself and succeeds, then things might take a different turn. However, it’s a positive change and a good opportunity for a better future,” said Al-Radihan.
Asma Siddiki, Associate Dean for Development at the Dubai School of Government, congratulated Al-Fayez, describing her appointment as a milestone for women in Saudi Arabia.
“Our government is to be commended for recognizing women’s achievements. Given the remarkable progress women are making in the Kingdom, and the investment the government is making in education, I don’t doubt there’ll be many such senior appointments in the future,” said Siddiki.

The Jeddah-based English daily, Arab News, commented editorially on 15 February, 2009, “The Saudi government reshuffle announced yesterday is not just a changing of the guard — new faces replacing old with policies remaining the same. It is a clear sign of major transformation in the Kingdom.
“Most eyes, certainly abroad, will be on the appointment of the country’s first woman minister, Nora Al-Fayez, who takes over as deputy minister for women’s education. An exciting development, it shows the commitment of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah to empower women in society and bring them into the decision-making process. There may be some who are uncomfortable with that,” observed the editorial.
The editorial continued, “They have no reason to be. Saudi women have the same beliefs and values as Saudi men. They are just as capable of standing up for the country’s traditions as men. They are just as well educated as men — indeed in many cases, better — and they have much to contribute to the Kingdom’s future. The appointment is a guide to how Saudi Arabia is evolving.
It should be seen in the same light as that of Fatimah Al-Saleem, the new cultural attaché at the Saudi Embassy in Ottawa — another “first” for a Saudi woman. Both appointments are steps in a process that, one day, will see women heading major ministries and women ambassadors. The Kingdom is reforming, albeit at a pace society can cope with.”
Samar Fatany, a Saudi Radio Journalist, observed in the Arab News, “The appointment of Nora bint Abdullah Al-Fayez, the first woman as deputy education minister, is also a positive development. Women across the Kingdom are celebrating the fact that finally the ban has been lifted on women taking leading posts as decision-makers. For many years, the policy of excluding women and marginalizing their role was one of the major issues that kept the society behind and frustrated many educated and qualified Saudi women who represent 50 percent of the population. This negative policy also has projected a distorted image of Saudi and Muslim women across the globe.”
“Nevertheless, lifting the ban on the employment of women in leadership positions is still a good start that may open the door for more positions to follow. The bold and brave decision to implement major judicial and educational reforms and the appointment of forward-thinking officials has restored public confidence and demonstrated King Abdullah’s will to lead his country to a more prosperous future,” Fatany observed.
Sabria S. Jawhar writing in the Saudi Gazette, Jeddah, observed, “Al-Fayez and her colleagues in the Ministry of Education are faced with the monumental task of bringing Saudi education to a global standard. At the moment nearly 90 percent of the students are receiving an education in Saudi Arabia’s 25,000 public schools.”
Fawziah Al-Bakr, a professor of education at King Saud University reported recently that as much as 75 percent of the curriculum is studies in religion. Studies in math and science, not to mention studies of other cultures, are not a priority.
And Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah told a group of ministers recently that, “We need more efforts in strengthening Saudi Arabia’s position by building brains and investing in humans.”

7.5-billion-riyal campus for women
Saudi Arabia’s education is going through an important phase in its history as a result of the reforms introduced by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, to improve the country’s educational standard matching with its position in the comity of nations, the new education minister said.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah launched eight new educational and welfare projects worth more than SR14 billion at King Saud University (KSU), including a 7.5-billion-riyal campus for women, a SR1.8-billion medical city and a SR1.2-billion housing project.
The King Abdullah Project for the Development of Public Education has allocated SR4.2 billion to improve the educational environment and SR3.58 billion for extra-curricular activities. The training and development of teachers is another thrust of the project and for this purpose SR2.94 billion has been set aside. A curriculum development program will receive SR980 million. Academics and other experts are working on the project’s executive plan, which will be ready shortly.
Speaking to top officials at the ministry, Prince Faisal bin Abdullah, who was recently sworn in as the Minister of Education, said no compromise and negligence would be tolerated in the education sector. “We need more efforts in strengthening Saudi Arabia’s position by building brains and investing in humans,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted the Minister as saying.
Speaking about educational reforms, he said King Abdullah has allocated SR9 billion for a new general education development project, which is named after the king. “This project is being supported by Saudi and foreign experts,” he added.
7,200 women to be given Education ministry jobs
The Ministry of Education plans to provide women 7,200 administrative jobs in Girls’ Education at the ministry headquarters and 41 education departments across the country, a ministry source said. Nearly 70 percent of administrative jobs in Girls’ Education are already held by women. The Cabinet also approved measures to increase jobs for women. In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, Norah Al-Faiz was appointed as deputy minister for Girls’ Education. She is the first woman in Saudi Arabia to hold a ministerial post.

Two Smart Schools in Madinah
Another development that took place in the field of education is an agreement signed on 7th of March 2009 between The Knowledge Economic City (KEC) in Madinah with Al-Andalus Private Schools to build two smart schools in the new city. The two schools, one for boys and the other for girls, will be built on separate plots of land covering an area of 50,000 square meters. The schools will provide education to students from the kindergarten up to the 12th grade. “With an investment of around SR150 million, the schools will provide e-learning and the use of the latest technology to enhance the learning experience,” the owner of Al-Andalus Private Schools, Abdulghani El-Khereiji, said.
He said Al-Andalus Smart Schools would benefit from KEC’s modern infrastructure that will facilitate the speedy delivery of information and the optimum application of technology.
Chief executive officer of the KEC, Tahir Mohammed Bawazir, said the development of Al-Andalus Smart School “is a significant first step” toward the educational reforms introduced by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. “The KEC in Madinah is the new home of knowledge-based industries and Al-Andalus School will benefit tremendously from this location to lay the foundation for preparing our youth for a knowledge-based economy,” he said.
The Knowledge Economic City Company recently completed the design for its smart IT network infrastructure in conjunction with Cisco Systems and has also developed a study on the proposed smart services that will be provided there.
Integration of Saudi women into workplace
In the past three years, there have been fast changes in economy, the integration of women into the workplace, support for women’s issues. The Ministry of Commerce has opened up all fields for women to do business in. Women are said to be having nearly SR45 billion in banks in the Kingdom, more than half of it lying idle. Women can now participate and get license in all fields that are open to men. Many Saudi women are now directly involved in business. There are such Saudi women like Dr. Basmah Mosleh Omair, Chief Executive Officer of the Sayeda Khadijah Bint Khuwailid Center for Businesswomen at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), Princess Loulwa Al-Faisal, daughter of late King Faisal, who has either led or been a member of several businesswomen’s delegations abroad, Princess Mashael Bint Faisal Bin Turki Bin Abdul Aziz, president of the Business Women’s Forum of the Eastern Province, and one who is responsible for the establishment of the Gulf Businesswomen’s Committee (GBC), Dr. Lama Abdulaziz Al-Sulaiman, elected JCCI board member and Madawi Abdullah Al-Hassoun, JCCI board member, who has been in business for more than two decades
“Things are moving pretty quickly in Saudi Arabia. It is a booming economy although there is an economic crisis in the world but we are not affected here. Women are now more aware that they have to get involved early on into these investments and they now have the choice. What we have done is given them opportunities and removed as many obstacles as we could to give them the choice and opportunity to participate in the sector they like,” said Omair.
Madawi Abdullah Al-Hassoun, JCCI board member, who has been in business for more than two decades, said, “Most of us are highly educated. We have proved ourselves in many sectors, internationally. We have gained recognition from the government, the society that we are capable of shouldering responsibilities.”
“We have seen more changes as far as women’s workplace is concerned. Now there is nothing in the labour law that says men and women cannot mix in the work place. All it says is that we should work within the Shari’ah, which is fine. So now there is more integration of women in the private sector,” Omair said of the achievements coming out as a result of the recommendations.
Dr. Basmah Mosleh Omair, Chief Executive Officer of the Sayeda Khadijah Bint Khuwailid Center for Businesswomen at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI), the first women’s forum of its kind formed last year.

The Muslim News Award for Excellence 2009 Winners

The Muslim News Award for Excellence 2009

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Our life together in Britain cannot be a God-free zone and we must not allow Britain to become a world devoid of religious faith and its powerful contribution to the common good, remarked the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor, the chief guest at the Ninth ‘The Muslim News Award for Excellence’ evening, on Monday, the 30th of March, 2009, at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London. The importance of faith in guiding private and public morality is a message that has frequently and eloquently been made by him.

The event was attended by, besides the prominent members of the British Muslim Community, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, M.P., Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, M.P.; Shadow Secretary of State for Justice, Dominic Grieve, M.P., and Leader of Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, M.P.

While welcoming the guests and audiences at the Muslim News Award for Excellence, Ahmed J Versi, Editor and Publisher of The Muslim News, said, “Religion in Britain is passing through strange and challenging times. We might be amused at adverts on our city buses urging us to ignore God and enjoy our lives. And while surveys reveal that religious practice in Britain is declining, religion continues to hold sway over the lives of many in our society.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has praised Muslims for raising the profile of religion and ethical challenges in society. “I think Islam has made a very significant contribution to getting a debate about religion into public life, Dr. Rowan Williams said in an exclusive interview with the Editor of The Muslim News, Ahmed J. Versi. “And I think it’s very right that we should have these debates and discussions between Muslims and Christians and others in public,” he said.

The awards, the Ninth, organized by The Muslim News, bring together politicians, religious leaders, journalists, community activists along with representatives from the world of sport, culture, academia, amongst others, to celebrate the many talents and achievements of Muslim communities in such diverse areas as arts, sport, education, technology and business.

“Britain simply wouldn’t be the same without the achievements of Muslim entrepreneurs, doctors, teachers, writers, artists and sportsmen and women,” said Brown, who was guest of honour at the event in 2005. He also said he was impressed that the professionalism of the awards that were organised entirely by volunteers, most of the under 30 and 95 per cent of them women.

“Our Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s recent comments urging a ‘moral framework’ in business and the markets, reverberates in the pioneering work done by the financial sector in the UK to enhance and expand Islamic finance and the availability of Shari’ah compliant financial products in the UK. This month’s Vatican’s suggestion to western banks and financial institutions to learn from the ethics of Islamic economics is welcome and positive,” said the editor of The Muslim News.

Versi also mentioned, “The Vatican’s creation of a Catholic-Muslim Forum to debate important issues of our time, ecumenical and otherwise, is a fitting reminder of the common cause made between all the monotheistic religions. In reaching out to one another, in recognising the common objectives we share, by bearing testimony to our religious faith through the manner in which we lead our lives – making faith accessible and comprehensible to those around us – are aims we all share as adherents of revealed religions.”

This Awards ceremony is about recognising those individuals who aspire to attain their very best as members of the British Muslim society. It is those British Muslims and non-Muslims that have proven themselves worthy of recognition for their contribution to Britain that we are here to honour this evening.
Allama Iqbal Award for Excellence in Creativity in Islamic Thought was given to Professor Dr. Muhammad A S Abdel Haleem, a prolific writer and scholar, who has dedicated a distinguished career to the study of Arabic culture and literature and to inter-faith understanding. The author of some ten books, his latest, The Qur’an: A New Translation, published by Penguin, has become a bestseller and is the first Qur’an to be translated by an Arab Muslim to be published by a prestigious international academic publisher. As an academic at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, Professor Abdel Haleem played a key role in establishing the School’s Centre of Islamic Studies. He was awarded an OBE in 2008 in recognition for his scholarship and work. The Allama Iqbal Award for Excellence was presented to him by the Community Cohesion Minister, Sadiq Khan, M.P.
Annemarie Schimmel Award for Championing a Muslim Cause was given to Reverend Gilleasbuig Macmillan, the Minister of St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh. He is recognized for this Award because of his determination to welcome Muslims to his Cathedral. In October 1991, St. Giles held a service of Repentance in memory of the victims of the first Gulf War, which was also attended by Muslims. Instead of simply allowing the Muslims to leave the service to carry out their prayers, Reverend Macmillan decided to stop the service twenty minutes after its start and led the Muslims perform their prayers in the Cathedral next to the altar. The Adhan, the Muslim call to the prayer, was made from the pulpit of the cathedral and the prayers were performed in the midst of a Christian congregation of over 1,000. This Award was presented to him by UK Manager of Islamic Relief, Jahangir Malik.
Sankore University Award for Excellence in Education was awarded to Zafar Iqbal. A pioneer well ahead of his time, Zafar Iqbal helped found the Southwark Muslim Women’s Association (SMWA). The SMWA aims to counter disadvantages and discrimination faced by Muslim communities with special emphasis on meeting the social, educational and cultural needs of women, children and elders. Zafar is noted here for this Award as he has focused on education as the means to empower Muslim women to lead a full and active life. This Award was presented to him by S.L. Hassanain, Chairperson of Muslim Hands.
Uthman Dan Fodio Award for Excellence in Community Development was awarded to Black and Asian Service in Alcohol and Narcotics (BASIAN). The Joint winner is Shereen Williams. Having arrived in the UK only three years ago, Shereen quickly made her mark as Director of the Council of Ethnic Minority Voluntary Sector Organisations, securing over £1.5 million in grant funding for Muslim and other community organizations. She has been at the forefront of opposing Islamophobia in Wales and has given presentations to the Welsh assembly Government. In the field of inter-faith dialogue, Shereen founded the Swansea Faiths Forum in South Wales in the immediate aftermath of 7/7. She has recently been appointed to the All Wales Convention. The Award was presented to them by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Hazel Blears, MP.
Alhamra Award for Arts was awarded to Ahmed Mukhtar. Born in Baghdad, Ahmed is a world acclaimed composer and master Oud player. Since 1990 he has been performing teaching and touring throughout the Middle East and Europe, and has written music for theatre, film and television. The United Nations chose Ahmed and sixteen other musicians from all over the world to release a CD for the benefit of victims of terrorism and wars. This Award was presented to him by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, Archbishop of Westminster.
Imams Hasan and Husayn Children’s Award for Excellence was awarded to Imran Sidat. The 15-year-old has excelled in freestyle karate and kickboxing. He has been a regular member of the England team for the last four years, competing worldwide and winning medals every year. This year he has already won the European title and many British and regional titles. Imran has been elected as the youngest sporting ambassador for the Special Olympics, which will be held in 2009 in his home town of Leicester. He is also a cadet coach and was recently voted Mercury Junior Sportsman of the year. This Award was presented to him by the Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, Kay Carberry.
Ibn Battuta Award for Excellence in Media was awarded to Mehdi Hasan. Londoner Mehdi Hasan is a rising star in the British media and one of this country’s leading young television journalists in an industry once described as ‘hideously white’. He is an editor for the news and current affairs department at Channel 4. At 29, he is the youngest editor in commissioning at Channel 4 and has been nominated for the Royal TV Society Young Journalist of the Year Award. Since joining Channel 4 last year, Mehdi has commissioned five different ‘Dispatches’ documentaries, all of which has generated headlines in the press. Mehdi commissioned the Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ film, ‘It Shouldn’t Happen to a Muslim’, which addressed the issue of rising Islamophobia since 7/7. The Joint Winner was Yvonne Ridley. She went to Sudan with Lord Nazir Ahmed to work on a joint venture to develop a peace initiative in Darfur and in August 2008 joined international peace activists as part of the Free Gaza Movement. This Award was presented to him by Leader, Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, M.P.
Alija Izetbegovic Award for Excellence in Good Citizenship was awarded to Mohammed Amran. As the youngest member of the Cabinet Office Advisory Panel on Futurebuilders and the youngest Lay Advisor to the National Police Improvement Agency, at the age of 22, Mohammed was appointed the youngest ever Commissioner in the Commission for Racial Equality. During the Bradford Disturbances of 1995 and 2001 he was at the forefront of conflict resolution, after which he set up the Young People’s Forum. At the age of 26 he received an Honorary Doctorate for his work with disadvantaged young people in his hometown of Bradford, his community workand contributions in the field of race relations. This Award was presented to him by the Chief Executive for the Crown Prosecution Service, Peter Lewis. Ibn Sina Award for Excellence in Health was awarded to Mohammed Mujahid Ali. This Award was presented to him by Shabbir Panju.
Al-Biruni Award for Excellence in Community Relations was given to Ikram Malik. A founding member of Building Bridges Pendle and the Lancashire Forum of Faiths, Dr. Malik has been a key leader in bringing faith communities into the public and political framework. Dr. Malik was recognized for his services to community relation by being awarded an MBE in 1999. This Award was presented to him by the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith. Malcolm X Award for Excellence in Youth was given to Faizaan Ahmed. This Award was presented to him by Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Chairman, Muslim Aid. Ummul Mu’minin Khadijah Award for Excellence in Enterprise was awarded to Muslim Enterprise Development Service (MEDS). This Award was presented to the winner by the Shadow Justice Secretary, Dominic Grieve, MP.
Fazlur Rahman Khan Award for Excellence in Engineering, Science and Technology was awarded to Professor Mohamed El-Gomati. As an internationally renowned scientist and researcher based at York University, Professor Mohamed El-Gomati has written more than 180 articles, patents and books. He has excelled in the field of novel instrumentation, developing and building several state-of-the-art instruments in surface analysis and microscopy. He has acted as a scientific referee to the British Government and UNESCO. Among his inventions are the world’s first multi-spectral analytical microscope and the world’s first parallel electron energy analyser for surface analysis. This Award was presented to him by Prof. Mark Welland from the Ministry of Defence.
Faezeh Hashemi Award for Excellence in Sports was awarded to Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation (MWSF). This Award was presented to the winner by Faezeh Hashemi herself. And lastly, Iman WA Amal Special Award was given to Mohamed Ali. This Award was presented to him by Councillor Salma Yaqoob of the Respect Party.
The Editor of The Muslim News said, “It has always been my firm belief that Islam engenders in the life of a Muslim the desire to do well, to succeed and to persevere patiently and with faith. Not just for the sake of oneself, though this is important, but to do well for the sake of others so that through one’s own example one might motivate and inspire others. This Awards ceremony is about recognising those individuals who aspire to attain their very best as members of our society.”
The Muslim News, monthly newspaper, launched its first awards ceremony in 2000. The awards fall into 16 categories of Muslim achievements, ranging from science and engineering to community development and the Arts. Nominations from Britain's 1.8 million Muslim community are made by members of the public and the shortlist and winners are decided by an independent panel of seven distinguished judges.

Harmony Peace and Universal Values: Buddhism and Islamic Perspective

Dr. Mozammel Haque

A Two-day Seminar of "Harmony, Peace & Universal Values: Buddhism & Islamic Perspective", organized by the Jamiyah Singapore and Singapore Buddhist Lodge in co-operation with the International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, Saudi Arabia in Jamiyah Singapore recently. The seminar was attended, besides others, by His Excellency Mr. Zuhair Al Idrisi, from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Prof Dr, Hamid Bin Ahmad Al Rifaie, President of International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, Saudi Arabia, Mr. Lee Bock Guan, President of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge, Ven Dr Sik Chang Qing from the Singapore Buddhist Federation, Mr. V R Nathan, Chairman, Interfaith Committee of the Hindu Endowments Board and Venerable Buddhist monks from Singapore and neighbouring countries and Islamic scholars from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Ireland and Singapore and representatives of temples, mosques and voluntary welfare organizations.

This seminar of Islamic leaders and Buddhist monks from Saudi Arabia, Singapore, China, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Ireland and Morocco held at Jamiyah Singapore discussed and deliberated on the importance of continuous dialogue between the religious leaders and followers of these two fastest growing faiths and acknowledged that unless and until both religious groupings focus more on the similarities and common values, the differences in opinions and ideologies will be good grounds for resentment and misunderstanding to erupt in the future. This must be avoided by understanding the beauty of the teachings of these two religions and embarking on educational and awareness programmes in a more organized way!

Mr. Hawazi Daipi from Ministry
Manpower and Health Singapore

While officially opening the two-day Seminar as Guest of Honour, Mr Hawazi Daipi, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Health and Manpower of Singapore, "Issues, such as places of worship and cultural practices of communities and groups, are erupting as major issues affecting peace and good-will among people. These issues are causing the loss of lives and damage to properties and valuable historical monuments, in the process causing severe strains in relationships, confidence and trust among communities, groups and individuals."

Mr. Daipi mentioned the commonalities in Islamic and Buddhist teachings and said, "The Qur'anic concept of peace has several levels, namely, peace with oneself, peace with the members of the family, peace with the members of the society, peace with the members of the world community and peace with the rest of the created world. In general, mankind has been asked not to partake in any action which disturbs the overall peace and harmony of society. There is no denying the fact that one needs a philosophy of living that ensures peace with others."

Mr. Daipi also said, "Islam forbids its followers from defaming the beliefs and faiths of other religions. The Holy Qur'an proclaims in Surah 6 Verse 108 “And insult not on those whom they worship besides Allah, lest they insult Allah wrongfully without knowledge.”

Speaking about Buddhism, Mr. Daipi said, "Buddhism is a way of life. According to the Buddhist analysis of human situations, although problems may have local, regional or global dimensions, they are fundamentally and basically human problems. Compassion is the hallmark of Buddhism. The doctrines of Buddhism emphasise the need to help all human beings. We can see Buddhist organisations in Singapore putting this into practice by having kind thoughts and performing kind actions through actively supporting various types of charity and welfare work, not only for the needy among the followers of their faith but also for every one in need, regardless of race or faith. These ideologies and practices are concurrent with those of Islam. In fact if we analyse them, we would realize that there is more convergence of ideas and thoughts in religions than divergence."

Mr. Daipi also observed, "Peace and harmony in human society are possible when different faiths show mutual respect and work together for the common good of humanity. If leaders of different religions visit various places of worship, participate in festivals of each other and do not misrepresent other faiths, the effect of these acts will leave a salutary impression on their followers. This will drive home the message that spiritual experiences are universal even if the path chosen may differ."

Mr. Daipi also mentioned, "There should also be greater love and compassion founded on human feelings regardless of race, language or religion. Poverty, illiteracy, hunger, and backwardness are colour blind. They can be the cause of resentment between religions or on the contrary be good reasons for common endeavours. Universal values which are present within all religions are a positive conduit for dialogue. Different peoples may have different emphases with regards to these universal values but they remain the basis of wholesome civilisation. It is when we deviate from the universal values that we become parochial or communalistic, which all religions deride."

Mr. Daipi also mentioned, "Daily interactions as neighbours, schoolmates and working colleagues among people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds make for better understanding, enhance tolerance and build acceptance in each other. In Singapore, this has been a formula of our racial and religious harmony. But we should always find new ways to strengthen further the cohesion among people of our multi-racial and multi-religious society. I am sure this is equally relevant to all other non-homogeneous societies. Apart from promoting inter-faith dialogues, wider and deeper interactions among people of different cultural and religious backgrounds, are critical if we are to achieve harmonious relationship."

Welcome Address
President Jamiyah Singapore

Haji Abu Bakar Mohyiddn, President of Jamiyah Singapore, in his welcome address, said, "Buddhism and Islam are estimated to be among the fastest growing world religions in the world. Therefore, it is essential that Buddhists and Muslims must seize the opportunities for the moral and spiritual emancipation of mankind and enable millions to lead a life of mutual respect, harmony and loving-kindness."

Haji Mohyiddin also said, "Our faith in our respective religions should lead us to love, care and mindfulness of the needs of fellow human beings. When we get to know one another in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect we will realize the similarities in the thoughts and ideals of different faiths and such understanding will lead us to greater co-operation for the benefit of humanity. For Muslims, religion is a vehicle of love, peace and understanding not only with regard to co-existence of other religions but also for those without any religion. It is incumbent upon us to work in an orderly and sagacious manner to portray to the world the right path that will profoundly inspire human beings to become peace loving people, reconciliatory and forgiving."

While speaking about the situation of Singapore, Haji Mohyiddin said, "Singapore practices a benign form of secularism. Propagation is allowed provided it is not defamatory, and does not create antagonism, ill-feelings or disharmony. The Penal Code has provisions with regard to this. The Constitution provides that legislation passed by Parliament must be scrutinized by a Presidential Council for Minority Rights to ensure that there are no measures which discriminate against a minority community. Arising from the parliamentary Act for the Maintenance of Religious Harmony, a Presidential Council for Religious Harmony exists to look into this important issue. It consists of representatives from the government and inter- faith organizations. Over and above such safeguards, Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCC) were established in 2002 .IRCCs are intended to be informal bodies that can formulate strategies and initiatives to promote greater knowledge and understanding among different races and religions. They also assist in the formation of Harmony Circles and provide them with guidance and information on inter-racial and inter-religious confidence building. They complement the work of interfaith organizations such as the Inter-Religious Organisation, Singapore and Jamiyah Singapore."

President of the Jamiyah Singapore also mentioned, "In Singapore the establishment of the Inter Religious Organization of Singapore, under the visionary guidance and leadership of eminent persons like Jamiyah’s founder Moulana Abdul Aleem Siddique was an important milestone which would not have become a reality without the co-operation of the non - Muslim leaders such as the late venerable Seck Hong Choon of Kong Meng San Temple. Today representatives of ten (10) different religions come together quite often to promote multi-faith harmony, educational and welfare services and address topical issues."

"Jamiyah Singapore, for example, has been doing its part in promoting inter faith harmony through its multifarious programmes and services. It’s educational and welfare programmes and services are open to all regardless of race or faith. The Touch of Harmony programme initiated by Jamiyah in 2004 in cooperation with the Singapore Buddhist Lodge, Hindu Endowments Board and the Singapore Catholic Archdiocese. This programme has given opportunity for students from New York University to visit Singapore and experience themselves, through an experiential learning process, the harmonious relations that prevail in our multi racial society of Singapore. This programme also gave opportunity to multi-racial Singaporean students at the University level to visit New York to get to know the vibrant culturally diverse American society, especially the youth with the primary objective of promoting peace and harmony," Haji Mohyiddin mentioned.

The gathering noted that the differences should not be the reasons for followers of both faith, and for that matter, other faiths not to respect one another. In fact on the contrary the followers must endeavor to correct any misperception that may prevail or any distortion of facts about other religions that may arise.

The 2 -Day seminar on Harmony, Peace and Universal Values: Islamic and Buddhist Perspective passed the following resolutions: "The Muslims and Buddhists have many overlapping noble values and traditions that complement the beliefs of each other. These common values should be profoundly explained to the respective followers so that there will be greater appreciation and understanding. Better still if these could result in initiatives that strengthen the trust between these two religions

"To the Muslims Islam is a way of life and likewise to the Buddhists. Both religions emphasize that they reinforce the truth and nothing but noble truth. Despite this fundamental point the matter can be distorted by unscrupulous individuals who may want to exert their own views and thoughts. The two religions must be safeguarded against this by embarking on more planned and orderly programs to promote religious tolerance and forbearance. The programs should have three phases i.e immediate, short-term and long-term range.

"According to Islamic and Buddhist’s analysis of human situations, although problems may have local or global dimensions, they are fundamentally and basically human problems. Muslims also acknowledge that human beings are the servants of God; they therefore need to be treated with respect and there should not exist at all any ill treatment or unfairness whatsoever. In fact Islam emphasizes that all human beings are brothers from “Adam”. Therefore, we must be free from practicing extremism, fanaticism, violence, hatred and suspicion towards one another. We should always focus on better inter-faith cooperation based on common values shared by all."

The 2-day seminar also noted the need to use the advanced technological communications and information dissemination approach to counter any attempt by any irresponsible parties at distorting information and misleading people for reasons they know best.

It was also resolved that the seminar endorses the points stated and agreed collectively to make such a seminar a regular event so as to work towards inter-cultural, interfaith and harmony in the interest of promoting durable and lasting peace. The seminar also place on record the appreciation of the representatives present with the initiative of Jamiyah Singapore, Singapore Buddhist Lodge and the International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, Saudi Arabia for organizing this seminar.

The Seminar also resolved, "The participants would also like to express their appreciation and support to the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz regarding the dialogue and understanding among the followers of different religions and cultures. True to the spirit of religion, this was a watershed seminar that is hoped to set the pace and pave the way to more such initiatives in the future in the interest of the entire mankind!"

The Seminar also resolved, "The participants would also like to express their appreciation and support to the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah Bin Abdel Aziz regarding the dialogue and understanding among the followers of different religions and cultures. True to the spirit of religion, this was a watershed seminar that is hoped to set the pace and pave the way to more such initiatives in the future in the interest of the entire mankind!"