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.

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