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.

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