Saturday, 28 November 2009

Conference on Islam and the West - A Partnership for the Future in Brussels

Conference on Islam and the West: A
Partnership for the Future in Brussels

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The three-day International Conference on Islam and the West: A Partnership for the Future, was organized by the Paris-based Organization, “Islam and the West” headed by Dr. Francis Lamand in Brussels from 10-12th of November, 2009. The theme of the Conference was "Islam and the West: a Partnership for the Future." The Conference was supported by the European Commission, the Pontifical Council for the Inter-religious Dialogue, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Muslim World League (MWL), the World Muslim Congress (WMC) (Karachi), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the Islamic Institute of the Paris Mosque, the Al-Azhar University (Cairo), the Oxford Center of Islamic Studies and the Jeddah-based International Islamic Forum for Dialogue.

Dr. Lamand also mentioned about the focus of the Conference: “Our conference in Brussels will focus on the common inheritance of shared Abrahamic foundations, the convergent social values, the challenges of the new world order for Islam and the West, the economic stakes for the two entities and the spiritual dimensions," said Dr. Lamand.

Representatives of the international Muslim community and of Western Countries participated in the Conference. The Three-day conference has three parts: such as a).Two worlds reaching out for an interchange; b) Towards renewed solidarity between Islam and the West and c) Rekindled partnership opportunities. Thus the three days were devoted to three Rs: Reaching out; Renewed solidarity and Rekindled Partnership opportunities.

On the first day on Tuesday, the 10th of November, under the broad topic on “Two worlds reaching out for an interchange,” the following subjects were discussed: i) A common inheritance of shared Abrahamic foundations; ii) Evolution of the Islam and the West dialogue since 1965; iii) Convergent societal values and iv) Towards a multi-polar better understanding.

On the second day on Wednesday, the 11th of November, under the broad topic of "Towards renewed solidarity between Islam and the West," the following subjects were discussed: i) Complementarity and interdependence; ii) Western and Islamic legal systems interface; iii) Economic stakes: Islam and the West facing the new world order; and iv) The spiritual dimension: shared pathways.

On the third day on Thursday, the 12th of November, under the broad heading of “Rekindled partnership opportunities,” the following subjects were discussed: i) Mediterranean space and Islamic value; ii) Globalization and inter-civilizational rapprochement; iii) Neutrality of the media: current status and perspectives; and iv) The new bilateral pedagogy of societal values.

No doubt, it is an ambitious goal, but Dr. Lamand and his organization have accomplished much in the last three decades. During that time "Islam and the West" has played important roles in representing the interest of European mosques and creating an atmosphere in which the European Muslim community could have its own religious television programming. The organization also helped to organize the first tête-à-tête at the Vatican between Pope John Paul II and Dr Abdullah Omar Nasseef, the then Secretary-General of the Muslim World League.

The organization has also sought to re-establish the historical presence of Islam in Cordova, Spain, hosting the first world conference there in 1991 on Pakistani philosopher Allama Muhammad Iqbal and organizing the first Islamic art exhibition there in centuries. Dr. Lamand also played a leading role in the initiative to re-open the "mihrab" of the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordova.

An Interview with Dr. Naseef
I had the privilege to meet Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, President of Karachi-based World Muslim Congress and Secretary General of the Cairo-based International Islamic Council of Dawah and Relief (IICDR) at the Heathrow airport while he was passing through London to Saudi Arabia after attending the Conference on Islam and the West: A Partnership for the Future in Brussels.

“Islam and the West headed by Dr. Francis Lamand held the conference on how to create a new alliance between West and the Islam. There is no point that we should continue to fight. Creation of such cooperation is very very important for everybody. The world has become very small and we have to do that,” said Dr. Naseef and added, “Dr. Francis Lamand organized this conference Islam and the West. There were four sessions everyday: i) economic, ii) social; iii) interfaith and dialogue and iv) Media. Forty papers were presented.”

Dr. Naseef also gave his point of view. He mentioned that he gave some short hints. Dr. Naseef said, “There was an alliance between Islam and the West; between The Muslim World and the West during the Cold War period when there was Communist domination on some part of the world; because it was convenient for them to have an alliance with Muslims so that they can fight against Communism and they succeeded in toppling Communism and disintegrating the Soviet Union. And the Jihad in Afghanistan during that period was successful. That cooperation was very ideal. But after the disintegration of Soviet Union and the fall of Communism, they broke the alliance and turned the guns toward Muslims. There are many writers who claim that Islam is the enemy. But they don’t have any foundation nor any proof.”

“Those participants who attended the conference in Brussels said that we have to appeal and to strive hard to create a new alliance which is for everybody’s interest; not to benefit one side and not to other. Everybody will benefit from it; because the common factor which combines us is much greater than the differences. The differences are there historically. But the cooperation between the Muslims and the West has been proved successful before; we have to regenerate it.”

Dr. Naseef also mentioned that there are many misunderstanding. "There needs to be a sustained campaign to remove these misunderstandings,” said Dr. Naseef

Historical background
The “Islam and the West” is a non -governmental, non profit-making institution set up in Paris on 6th of February, 1980, with the aim of developing cultural, social and economic relations between the Islamic and Western worlds, both in France and overseas.

Since the formation of this Organization, it is managed by Dr Francis Lamand, an international lawyer, a scholar, a former French diplomat in the Arab States of the Gulf and a professor of the Islamic Law Faculty at the University of Kuwait (1970 - 1975).

”Islam and the West” is the only organization of its kind in a country with more than 6 million Muslims the largest Muslim community in Western Europe, trying to encourage communication and exchange to bridge the gap between the two communities as a whole. This is a pioneer movement in 1977 to establish a multipolar dialogue and a better understanding between the two worlds. Thus, “Islam and the West” is thus a platform for communication and exchange between the two communities.

Dr. Francis Lamand, the President of the organization, has a mission. His mission is to promote understanding between Islam and the Western world. Since the organization's inception in 1980, the former French diplomat has sought to develop cultural, social and economic relations between the Islamic and Western worlds, both in France and overseas.

"Today, the West and Islam are two wounded worlds in need of each other's comfort, before they resume their common and long, onward march on a shared path of humanism," Dr. Lamand said.

Eid-ul-Adha Greetings 2009 from Gordon Brown, David Cameron and Nick Clegg

Eid-ul-Adha greetings from the British Prime
Minister and the Leader of the Opposition

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Eid-ul-Adha, the festival of Sacrifice was celebrated by the Muslim community on the same day, on Friday, the 27th of November, 2009 all over the United Kingdom. On this auspicious occasion, The Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom as well as the leader of the Opposition and the leader of the another political party, Liberal Democrat wishes the Happy Eid to the British Muslim community.

While sending his best wishes to all Muslims in the United Kingdom and those around the world for the occasion of Eid ul Adha, which remembers the sacrifice of Abraham, the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, M.P. said, “Marking the end of the Hajj, this most holy occasion commemorates our common humanity and reminds us of the importance of devotion, fairness and the equality of all human beings before God.”

“It allows those of us of other faiths, and none, to reflect on the unique Islamic contribution to Britain and to share with you in celebration of all that has been achieved by British Muslims across so many walks of life. Today Muslims around the United Kingdom and the world will be reflecting on many challenges that face us and the deep moral issues like conflict, poverty and climate change,” said Brown, the Leader of the Labour Party and added, “Together we can stand up to these challenges and move forward to a better world. Eid Mubarak to you all.”

While sending his best wishes on the occasion of Eid-ul-Adha, the Leader of the Opposition, David Cameron, M.P. said, “This is an important time for fellowship and for reflecting on our responsibilities to others – our friends, families and wider society – in line with the origins of the festival as a time of sacrifice. It is also an occasion to consider all those involved in the Hajj, an important event for the whole community.”

“Britain’s Muslim communities have enriched our society immensely, and I would like to extend my warmest wishes to you and your families at this time,” Cameron, the Conservative Party leader said.

The Leader of the Liberal Democrat , Nick Clegg, M.P. also send his warmest wishes on this occasion and said, “Eid Al-Adha is preceded by the day of ‘Arafah and is one of the most important days of Hajj. Eid Al-Adha is a joyous time and reminds us of all of the importance of hard work, togetherness and family.”

“I send my warmest wishes at this very special time,” added Lib Dem leader.

British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, M.P. also send his good wishes to the Muslim communities all over the world on this occasion and said, “I am delighted to send my good wishes to Muslim communities in Britain and around the world for Eid al-Adha. Thousands of British Muslims have taken part in the Hajj. I am proud of the Consular support that we have offered them in Makkah.”

“This is an important moment of reflection for Muslims the world over, though the message of Eid - of sacrifice, of charity, and of concern for others - is universal. I send my warmest regards to you and your families on this important occasion. Eid Mubarak,” the British Foreign Secretary added.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Training of Imams and Islamic Preachers of the Balkan Region

Training of Imams and
Islamic Preachers of the Balkan Region

Dr. Mozammel Haque

TIRANA, ALBANIA: After attending the International Conference on Foreign Investments in Albania which was held at the Tirana International Hotel at Tirana from 3rd to 5th of November, I was also invited to a Seminar on the Training of Imams and Islamic Preaches of the Balkan regions. This Seminar was held at the Hotel Chateau Linza, Tirana from 5th of November until 8th of November, 2009.

For the first time in Albania, a Seminar on the Training of Imams and Islamic Preachers of the Balkan region with the theme: Presentation of the values of dialogue and moderation, organized by the Islamic Organization for Education , Science and Culture (ISESCO), in cooperation with the Ministry of the Temples and Islamic Affairs of the State of Kuwait, was held under the auspices of the Albanian Islamic Institute of Thought and Civilization (AIITC) and the Muslim Community of Albania, in the Hotel Chateau Linza, Tirana from 5 November until 8th November, 2009.

Deputy Chairman of Albanian Muslim Community, Mr. Bujar Spahiu, Prof. Dr. Abduselam Muhammad Al-Ahmer, ISESCO's representative, Advocate Rasim Hasanaj, Chairman of State Committee on Cults took part at the opening ceremony of the Seminar and representatives of the diplomatic corps of Arab and Islamic countries accredited in Tirana, representatives of humanitarian and cultural organizations active in Albania and abroad attended the ceremony. The activity was also attended by a large number of Muslim religious leaders and Islamic intellectual elite from Albania, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Sandzak, Greece, Cyprus, Romania, Croatia etc.

This Seminar was part of the ISESCO’s projects and strategies for the benefit of education and presentation of Islamic culture in the West and all over the globe in general. They give priority to the building of Mosque and the role of worship that takes place there. Some of the goals of this activity are also the recognition of religious staff, their education with higher standards which are required from them to manage the contemporary challenges.

In this Training Seminar, 35 Imams were given training for 4 days with the best and the most efficient methods ordered by Islam, already incorporated in the modern methodologies, including the respect for different opinions, the worthy dialogue about these important religious topics and their balanced relations with the public whether Muslims or non-Muslims. Participants in the seminar was given practical lessons on how to prepare the religious lectures, by clarifying the basic principles of a public lecture and a selection of appropriate topics that should be treated for the societies where they live. Theoretical lectures were also given to the participants how a religious leader could fulfil his holy mission.

In his speech at the opening ceremony, Dr. Ramiz Zekaj, Director General of the Albanian Institute stressed that the role of Imams and Muslim scholars educated in Islamic capitals, especially in Istanbul and Cairo, has been very crucial in the presentation of the values of Islam in the population of the Balkan areas in general and Albania in particular. Dr. Ramiz also mentioned that Muslim scholars were not only engaged in their personal contributions to their mission as presenters of Islam, but they also paid special attention to the good cultures and local traditions. These values of Islamic culture and also those of local cultures would later serve for the next generations as the basis on which to build their modern civilization that we live in today.

Prof. Dr. Abduselam Al-Ahmer, representative of ISESCO for this Training Seminar, said that ISESCO has a wide experience in events for education, science and culture. It has dedicated a significance to the mission of the Islamic religious leadership and its importance in the monitoring of Islam in the everyday lives of Muslims around the world.

Prof..Ahmer also mentioned that with recent global developments and with the expanding phenomenon of globalization, many questions and challenges arise about modern Muslim societies, especially outside the Islamic world. Thus there is a need for training the imams and religious leaders to face these challenges, to present the fair presentation of Islam in the societies where they operate, as well as to clear any extremist ideas which, in fact, are not in the nature of Islam, to avoid them from the Muslim societies. This Training Seminar aims precisely at this mission, he added.

Prof. Ahmer also mentioned that today, more than ever, it is important to give evidence to the role of the institution called Mosque and also to the importance of worship and the selection of the Imams and religious leaders, as well as their training in the highest standards as educators and leaders for their societies.

Prof. Ahmer said that we can mention that Imam should not only be a leader of religious rituals in the Mosque but he should even be the educator of the society. He should be the reference-epicenter in the Muslim society. He must take care of the general interest of society where it operates. The imam should also be the main activist in favour of issues relating to this society.

The imam should convey the message of evaluation of reality in a balanced way and operate with the highest principles of moral, being thus an example fir the public with whom he lives. In this way, he applies the Word of God in the Qur’an where it is ordered: “Call in the way of your God with wisdom and beautiful advice and discuss with them in the best way,” Prof. Ahmer added.

Hafiz Shaban Salihaj on behalf of the Albanian Muslim Community thanked the organizers and stressed the enormous need of the choice of the middle way in the daily practice, without extremism of any kind. He also stressed the great importance for the creation of opportunity “for our Imams to be trained about the ways of preaching and the techniques to be used by them in relation to the masses.

While Mr. Rasim Hasanaj, Chairman of the State Committee on Cults, in his speech highlighted the very good interfaith relations and the mutual respect and tolerance among religions in Albania, being this an example to be taken as a model for the rest of the Balkans and Europe. He also stressed the excellent reports of the state regarding the religion in general and that of Islam in particular.

ISESCO has devoted a special importance to the issue of Islamic call and the awareness by implementing a clear strategy for the Islamic cultural and educational work outside the Muslim world. In the ninth session of the Supreme Council for Education, Science and Culture of ISESCO, which took place in Moscow in June 2008, it resolved to appoint a special programme for training and education of Imams and religious leadership.

ISESCO presented the same project before the Council of Heads of Islamic Centres in Latin America and the Caribbean in their Seventh session held in Venezuela in the same year. In October, 2008, it was carried out into effect its first training workshop for Imams of the East Asia and the Pacific Ocean held in Singapore in which I had the privilege to participate and present a paper entitled “British Muslim Community: An Overview”. The same workshop was also held in the town of Essen in Germany last month, i.e., October, 2009.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Sixth Biennial Conference on The Qur'an

Three-day Sixth Biennial Conference on the
Qur’an at the Brunei Gallery in London

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Three-day Sixth Biennial Conference on the Qur’an convened by Professor MAS Abdel Haleem and Dr. Ayman Shihadeh from the Centre of Islamic Studies, SOAS, was held from Thursday, the 12th of November 2009, at the Brunei Gallery, SOAS, University of London, London.

Besides the opening address and closing remarks which was delivered by Professor MAS Abdel Haleem of the Centre of Islamic Studies, there were twelve sessions, four sessions everyday and every session had three papers..

On the first day, there were four sessions. The first session was on Structure and Composition. In this session, besides other papers, a paper on “From the Chaotic to the Chaordic: Rethinking Chaos and Quran”.was presented. In the second session, there was Presentation. In the third session on The Qur’an and Medieval Philosophy, besides other papers, a paper on “Aby Bakr al-Razi on Prophecy” was presented. In the fourth session on Theological Approaches to the Qur’an, besides other papers, a paper on “God created Adam in His image” was presented. .

On the second day, Friday, the 13th of November, there was four sessions again and each session had three papers. The first session was on Tafsir. In this session, besides other papers, a paper on “Reading the Qur’an with the Bible in Mind” was presented. In the second session on Tafsir, besides other papers, a paper on “Al-Sharif Al-Radi’s Contribution to Qur’anic Exegesis: An Analysis of Talkhis Al-Bayan fi Majaz Al-Qur’an” was presented. In the third session on Ethics in the Qur’an; besides other papers, a paper on “Defining Good in the Qur’an: A Semantic Inquiry in Qur’anic Ethics” was presented. In the fourth session on The Qur’an in the Contemporary World, besides other papers, a paper on “Whither Averrorism: Does Ibn Ruhd’s Interpretation of the Qur’an Provide the Basis for a Modernist Rereading of Islamic Law?” was presented.

On the third day on Saturday, 14th of November, besides the closing remarks, there was four sessions and each session had three papers. In the first session on Early Manuscripts, besides other papers, a paper on “On Chronology and Provenance in Early Qur’ans” was presented. In the second session on Early Qur’anic Text, besides other papers, a paper on “A Neglected Aspect of the History of the Qur’an: The Wakf Rules and the Redaction of the Qur’anic Text” was presented. In the third session on Cultural Expressions, besides other papers, a paper on “The Early American Qur’an: Islamic Scripture and U.S. Canon” was presented. In the fourth session on Literary Perspectives, besides other papers, a paper on “The Fantastic in the Qur’an: A Structural Approach to Study the Story of Moses and al-Khidr (18:60-82)” was presented.