Saturday, 18 December 2010

Celebration of National Inter Faith Week

Celebration of National
Inter Faith Week

Dr. Mozammel Haque

National Inter Faith Week took place in England and Wales from Sunday, 21 November to Saturday, 27 November, 2010. It is the second year that this Week was held to strengthen good inter-faith relations at all levels; increase awareness of different and distinct faith communities in the UK, in particular celebrating and building on the contribution which their members make to their neighbourhoods and to wider society, and increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious belief.

National Inter Faith Week
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (CLG), Eric Pickles, kicked off the National Inter Faith Week by urging everyone to get involved in inter-faith activities and make connections with people of different beliefs. Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said, “Inter Faith is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the fantastic practical work of faith communities – and also to recognise that it’s when they pull together in a shared endeavour that they can make the biggest difference in their community.”

“Collaboration builds stronger understanding and helps people to concentrate on the values they hold in common – without ever losing their unique strengths,” Pickles said.

As well as aiming to strengthen bonds between people of different faiths, Inter Faith Week also sought to increase understanding and collaboration between people of religious and non-religious beliefs.

The Rt. Revd Dr. Alastair Redfern and Dr. Manazir Ahsan, Co-Chairs of the Inter Faith Network for the UK, said, “Good inter faith relations and practical cooperation between different faith communities are vital to the wellbeing of our society in the UK. Faith communities have enormous amount to offer to their local communities and to national life: working both independently and together in ways which respect their distinctiveness.”

“Inter Faith Week shines a light on the rich possibilities of mutual engagement and offers a chance for encounter, learning and practical engagement. We are delighted that hundreds of organisations, such as faith groups, schools and institutions of further and higher education, local authorities and emergency services are planning events,” they said.

Events and Projects
Among the events and projects being arranged to mark the Week were: dialogues and debates; school activities and youth faith forums; inter faith football; exchange visits between places of worship of different faiths; faith and social action projects; special focus events on topics such as faith in the workplace, faith and family; aging and spirituality, spirituality and health, faith and disability, faith and the Big Society, freedom of speech, and compassion and social justice.

It also included a national photography competition, plays, arts and music festivals; story telling evenings; faith trails and interfaith walks visiting different places of worship; an interfaith exhibition on science and religion; bring and share meals and ‘faith and food’ events; inter faith salsa; youth evening exploring faith and diversity through film and tree planting.

ICC hosted and MINAB celebrated
National Inter Faith Week
The Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC) hosted and the MINAB (Mosques & Imams National Advisory Board) organised an Inter Faith Seminar entitled “Faith & Phobia in Modern Britain” which was held in the Library Hall of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, on Sunday, 21st of November, 2010.

Fuad Nahdi, the Executive Director of the Radical Middle Way and a Senior Fellow at the Muslim College, London, was the keynote speaker. Besides the keynote speaker, the meeting was also addressed by Revered Canon Guy Wilkinson, the Secretary for Inter-Religious Relations to the Archbishop of Canterbury; Rabbi David Hulbert, Rabbi of Bet Tikvah Synagogue, Berkingside; Sudarshan Bhatia, President of The National Council of Hindu Temples and Harmander Singh, who was awarded an Honorary Fellowship for outstanding achievements in community development and champions a range of issues concerning injustice, identity and social policy.

While opening the Seminar, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, the chairman of the MINAB’s Inter Faith Committee and the Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, said, “It’s great privilege and honour for me, for MINAB and the Islamic Cultural Centre. It is a day actually, when we talk about dialogue, interfaith, connections, relations and we believe these are really very important. Dialogue and relations between the faith followers is of course not something new. I am sure that in the histories of all the religions we will find many examples of relations, dialogue and connections between the faith communities.”

“But nowadays it is more important, I believe, than any other time in the past. Why?” enquired Dr. al-Dubayan and immediately replied, “Because the world now is of course attending a new history with advanced technology, more connections, more communications, and the societies now are more closer and getting closer day by day, more than any other moment in history. With more connections and more relations, of course, there is always understanding, and good relations are really needed. I think this is really a moment and this time we need to establish something for the future now.”

While speaking about the importance of religion in the present century, Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned, “Many political analysts have made reports and books have been written, all saying that it will be next century that we can call “The Century of Religion”. Since the last decade of the last century, of course, everybody has realised that the issue of religion has been raised everywhere in the world.. Many countries and nations are starting to get back their identities and to think again about their faiths and their religions. This means that religion is really coming back to play its role in society and communities everywhere. I believe also the Church and the Vatican can talk about this point because they ask for more of a role for religion within societies and communities in the world.”

“But when we talk about religion, we must also say which religion and how we build interfaith discussions and dialogue for followers. There is a lot of understanding but also a lot of misunderstanding, a lot of interpretations and a lot of misinterpretations around us, in all the faiths and in all the communities, mentioned Dr. Al-Dubayan and said, “These interpretations and misunderstandings never really move from the path unless we have positive dialogue among the followers, trying to get rid of some of the stereotypes and the pressure of history, by starting a new era, a new time rather than being caged by history.”

Speaking about the role and importance of Media, Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned, “When we talk about interfaith dialogue, only a few religious people are talking about it, such as Imams, Priests, Rabbis and Monks. But now interfaith is an issue of Media and this is good and bad at the same time. It’s good because it brings interfaith to the fore and into the public as an issue for everybody to think about. But at the same time it’s very very bad because the Media has become recently the only source of how we understand others as a reliable source. Muslim communities have really suffered a lot, perhaps more than anyone else in the Media because of interpretations and misquotations and trying to represent it as Islam.”

Dr. Al-Dubayan said, “if we, alongside the other faith followers, do not try really hard to raise our voice, there will be no way in the futurev for better understanding and for better light to come to our homes.”

Speaking about MINAB as the biggest organisation in the Muslim community in the UK, Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned, “It’s really been a mission from day one to concentrate and give dedication to the interfaith relations; to always open doors and ways for others, to listen to them and give them a chance to listen to the Muslims.”

Dr al-Dubayan hoped this event today is a “step in the right direction to do more work and create more chances to think about interfaith dialogue.”

Communities Secretary hosted
Inter Faith Week Reception
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles hosted a reception for faith leaders and faith-based community activists to mark Inter Faith Week (22-27 November) on Thursday, 25th of November, 2010 at Admiralty House, London. The reception provided an opportunity for Ministers, members of faith communities and local activists to network, strengthen relationships and forge new links with one another.

The reception was addressed by Rt. Revd Dr. Alastair Redfern Bishop of Derby, the Co-Chair of Inter Faith Network for the UK, reminded by saying that this faith is collateral and we contribute to the society for its development. “Let me tell you the faith landscape is a very complex society. Therefore we have to work hard for the betterment of the society,” he said.

Dr. Redfern mentioned, “We have national network, regional network and of course, we have lot of local activities. Recently, National Inter Faith Week, which the Government is again supporting,. is an opportunity to make all kinds of witnesses to be made; all kinds of relationships to be explored; and all kinds of engagements with the local communities and the focus of this particular gathering is to celebrate the local work and offering some interfaith works.”

Dr. Manazir Ahsan, the Co-Chair of the Inter Faith Network for the UK, while addressing the reception, said, “This is the second celebration of the Inter Faith Week. Last year, we had very colourful seminars, conferences, courses along with interfaith dialogues and so on and so forth. This year as well I am grateful to CLG and particularly the Secretary of State Eric Pickles, for hosting today. There are varieties of activities taking place and I am delighted to say that some of them have already participated and others I am looking forward to see. These include the meetings, seminars, workshops and exhibitions and exchange of visits between places of worship and faith and food events and interfaith learning events and schools; faith trails and interfaith works, arts and music activities and civic events and etc.”

Dr. Ahsan also mentioned, “This celebration is not only a one week celebration. This gives us an opportunity to explore how we can engage in more work. The work has been done locally, regionally, nationally and even internationally so important that we learn lessons and we try to support them.”

Dr. Ahsan also said, “The spiritual wealth which the faith communities have if we gather together they can do wonders indeed. I hope, our gathering this evening will be a great source of inspiration for all of us, for all faith groups and we will like another pledge that we will one to one work together, whatever challenges we face , whatever opportunities we encounter and I do hope that we work together and in fact then we will achieve our goal.”

Dr. Ahsan also mentioned that we are going to listen not only lectures , especially the input of the younger generations which is very important and I believe there are three or four members from Liverpool, and they will be able to give us a wonderful experiences of interfaith works.

Communities Minister
The Communities Minister, Andrew Stunell, mentioned that during the Week he had the opportunities to take part in number of interfaith events and observed, “They are all of high quality and great interest to me.”

The Minister also mentioned that we are looking at various opportunities to work with faith groups as being some kind of problem-solving forums. “We are very keen to make sure that those links are strengthened and we have very positive relationships with you and elsewhere.

Speaking about engaging fully with the faith groups, the Minister said, “We want to show very clearly that we do appreciate the works the faith groups do.” He also added, “It is not just the Churches, Mosques or Synagogues or Temples; it’s the people go to them and make contribution to the civic society and we hope that to be valued, appreciated and developed. So we are looking forward to develop that relationship between the government and the faith communities.”

“Of course, faith communities do a tremendous amount of spiritual work for their local communities. Of all the work you do individually as individual or religious institution, we can get more, we can do more; or we would be more effective being together,” Mr. Andrew Stunell, M.P. said and added, “We need to share our understandings, we need to share our experiences, and develop, knowledge and friendship with each other. But it is also very important indeed that we work together in our approach in society and the government together is very keen indeed to help you to play an active party what we call it a Big Society.”

Speaking about the Big Society, the Minister said, “We have got a Big Society in places. But what the Big Society is all about? - The best of society in civic action. We do available and active throughout the country. It is about to make sure that every community can prosper; every community can sense participation and fulfil it.”

“So Inter Faith Week is a very opportunity to celebrate the work you have done. It is going two years and done excellent work and looking forward what happened in the future. It gives chance to recognise our common values and develop partnership and get on with things together and I am looking forward very much to see some of the presentations which will follow illustrate and give us few surprise to the future,” the Minister concluded.

Interview with Communities Secretary
I have the opportunity to interview Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, M.P. who said, “I was brought up in a large Muslim community in the area. I do not believe that certain bombers; they are not typical of your children, not typical of Muslim with whom I grew up with, still common friends.” The Communities Secretary also mentioned, “What we have to concentrate now is that we have to look to those things which unite us.”

“If we see every Muslim as a potential terrorist, that route leads to madness,” observed Communities Secretary.

“Big societies take part in faith communities, but goes beyond that faith communities;” said the Communities Secretary in an interview with me and added, “I want to tap into the pastoral side of the religious communities and to try and get into a kind of inter lapping way in which we can address a number of social issues together.”

Replying to my question about Big Society, Communities Secretary Mr. Pickles, M.P. said, “Our role is to look to the pastoral side and also to remove boundaries and barriers; and barriers to cooperation, barriers to creativity.”

“We want to ensure that your whole creative efforts can go into those things that they are important in the pastoral side about delivering and sister helps to the wider community and in particular to the vulnerable world,” said the Communities Secretary.

MCB celebrated Inter Faith Week
The Muslim Council of Britain held a Seminar on Inter faith dialogue and engagement on Wednesday 24th November at the House of Lords in Westminster as part of the National Interfaith Week 2010 celebrations. Dr Manazir Ahsan, Chair of the Inter Faith Relations Committee of MCB stated that “Partnership should not be only face to face and side to side, but heart to heart as well”.

Lord Sheikh of Cornhill, who hosted the event, said “Let’s have a nice civilised discussion and dispel misunderstanding”. He highlighted the importance of inter faith interaction and went on to say “I believe there is more similarity than difference between faiths”

Mr Brian Pearce, Former Director of the Inter Faith Network for the UK expressed his deep appreciation of the Muslim Council of Britain’s commitment and contribution to inter faith work. He also commended MCB’s excellent brochure ‘Celebrating Faith’ publicised to mark the event and the week. His talk was followed by a speech by Mrs Trupti Patel, Vice Chair of the Hindu Forum of Britain who said “Treat as you would like to be treated and respect as you would like to be respected. Let us work together and let us pray together, let us accept what God gave together”.

Professor Tariq Ramadan ended the evening by delivering the keynote speech on “Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) Role in Inter Faith Relations”. He highlighted many occasions during the Prophet’s (pbuh) time where he showed equality and fairness in diversity. The Prophet (pbuh) “taught us about diversity”. Tariq Ramadan stated that “Through this life, tolerance is not enough, tolerance is a rational positioning. The very meaning of tolerance is suffering the positioning of the other” (For the elaborate keynote speech of Professor Tariq Ramadan on Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) Role in Inter Faith Relations, see the earlier despatch in this blog).
Dr Harriett Crabtree, Director of the Inter Faith Network, who rushed all the way from North England to join the meeting, highly commended the MCB’s contribution in the Inter Faith Field.

Farooq Murad, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said “Creation is the family of God. We need to take care of all the things as it is very much our responsibility”. He encouraged discussion as a ‘faith community’ and added “Lets work together on all our communities”. He stated, “Let us all close our eyes and realise one thing, that we are all part of the same family”.

To commemorate the event, the MCB launched a special publication under the title, Celebrating Faith, which highlights the MCB’s continuous work towards developing inter faith relations and also includes narratives of MCB affiliates about their contribution towards inter faith activities.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Role of Prophet Muhammad Peace be upon him in Inter Faith Relations

Professor Tariq Ramadan on Prophet
Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) Role in
Inter Faith Relations

Dr. Mozammel Haque

On the occasion of Inter Faith Week 2010, The Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) Interfaith Relations Committee celebrated the week by organising a meeting at the House of Lords on Wednesday, 24th of November, 2010 and Professor Tariq Ramadan was invited as a keynote speaker to lecture on “Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) Inter Faith Relations”.

Dr. Tariq Ramadan is a Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford, Oxford, UK. He has been involved in interfaith dialogue for 25 years and he is among the leading Islamic thinkers in the West, with a large following around the world. Professor Ramadan has written an exceedingly beautiful book on the life of the blessed Prophet, entitled The Messenger: The Meanings of the Life of Muhammad (Penguin: London, 2007).

Messenger’s life
Professor Ramadan at the very beginning of his speech said that for us, as Muslims, it is very important to come back to the essence of religion and for us, the best example is our Messenger, Peace be upon him. He said, “For us, as Muslims, the best example is the Messenger peace be upon him and to come to this essence is to come to the Seerah which is not only the verses of the Qur’an and the message but the way he understood and implemented during his life. For us, all the Muslims, the Messenger’s life is an example, and we have to follow up the footsteps of the Messenger, to be witnesses; because at the end of the day he said something which is important.”

Faith should be visible
“We are all talking about faith; we are all celebrating faith; it is important. We very often speak about faith is something which is in our hearts;” said Professor Ramadan and added, “but when you follow the Messenger faith should be visible; it should be visible. Prophet came with revelations to make faith visible into our understanding but also of behaviour. So this is why it is important for us to understand that.”

Final message, diversity is our faith, our destiny
Professor Ramadan mentioned, “From an Islamic viewpoint, it is very important to understand what he said about the previous scriptures, about the previous Messengers and messages. The final Messenger is saying that it is not the only message; the final message and the Messenger respects all the Messengers. This is something which is central to the last Messenger who is telling you that you have to deal with diversity. Diversity is your faith; diversity is destiny and after diversity you have to learn first to understand and know yourself and to know the other. The verse quoted here means, ‘We made you tribes and nations for you to know each other.’”

Professor Ramadan also mentioned, “In between the conflict and knowledge there is humility. Diversity to understand that you do not understand the whole truth. Truth does not belong to you but you belong to Truth. You are trying to express the Truth. You can get that understanding from the very beginning and it is very important thing. Then also for our consistency out of this behaviour to get another understanding what the message is saying about other traditions; for other religions and for other messengers, it is very important.”

Tolerance is not enough
Professor Ramadan said that when he went through Prophet’s life and he wrote Book on “The Messenger: The Meaning of the Life of Muhammad”, he just realised two or three things which he put into two main important lessons; “first one is that through this life what you get is that tolerance is not enough; tolerance is a rational positioning; is that I tolerate your presence with my mind because I have no means to remove you from the picture and the very essence of tolerance is suffering of the presence of the other.”

Accept the Will of God
“This is the very meaning of tolerance from the Islamic viewpoint; you will find exactly the same in Christianity, in Judaism, in Hinduism and in Buddhism. You have to even accept beyond that,” said Professor Ramadan and added, “The acceptance is to accept the Will of God and God wants the diversity. He wants the diversity as your destiny; so you have to go from acceptance towards respect and the difference between acceptance and respect that you have to personally committed to this presence of the other, meaning respect is based on the knowledge of the other.”

Knowledge, listening and talk
It is important to understand every single step of the Prophet’s life. Professor Ramadan said, “It is not only to accept what God is showing but your deep acceptance through the spirituality to go towards knowledge, to know the other and to know the other is not for you to talk only but is for you also to listen, based on knowledge; listening what the people has to say. Dialogue is not I talk and you listen that talk; but I will listen.”

We have a message, There is one God
Professor Ramadan reminded the stories of Moses. According to the Qur’an, when Moses is facing the Christians, they are asking him: are you going to speak first or us? Show me what you have to say. Professor Ramadan said, “Even in the dialogue, the very beginning is to listen. So we get this overall understanding. When we come to the life of Messenger here we have message and we have behaviour. We have a way of dealing with it; we have a witness of this; we have an example and we have a model. What is important here is for us, that the Prophet peace be upon him was repeating and that comes a new message, what was coming before and for us the essential thing that was there that there is one God, the one God, it is the central, the Tawheed. This is why it is understood Ahlul Kitab, the people who were following Book that was revealed, are following this very message that there is one God.”

There is meaning in our life
“And there is one God means that there is meaning in our life. Professor Ramadan wanted to stress on this. He said, “Very often in our interfaith dialogue, Islah, life has a meaning. We are coming from God and to Him we are going back; so it means that we have a responsibility to keep this meaning. When Prophet peace be upon him came to Madina, what he did in Madina? In Madina when he was dealing with society is not just doing the is doing in the night is to change during the day. So there is a connection here between the spirituality and faith in action.”

Seerah of the Prophet – humility
What teaching we get from diversity? From this diversity what should we do and why it is important? Professor Ramadan said, “The first teaching of diversity that we had is the important of Seerah of the Messenger, the Prophet peace be upon him is really humility; is at the same time to belief that you have the Truth and you follow the Truth; because you are the believers and that this is the Truth that He is the Truth. So following something that I deeply belief in Truth but the Truth is telling me there are other religions and the other ways; so you have to deal with this diversity that it will help you to be better yourselves.”

“Someone telling us I am not learning despite of respecting, despite of their differences because they are different, your differences help me to be better. So the fact that you are helping me to know who I want to be,” said Professor Ramadan and added, “So the difference is an asset, as it could be if you don’t have faith, if you don’t have some understanding, something could be a liability, a problem and a challenge per se.

Confirmation of faith
Then Professor Ramadan mentioned some of the teachings we learned from the very beginning is that when the Messenger was first trying to get them answer; he left the people and went to Hera and he was asking God to give him an answer. “The first confirmation just after the first revelation that there is something what you are saying right, there is something what you got;” mentioned Professor Ramadan and said, “So confirming the very essence of faith and saying something that you will never and we should never forget, because something you are coming with Truth, as oath and love and you are going to be loved by people. Face animosity, face enemy. We have to be clear on that. We should spread peace knowing that some responses as we can see today are not outgoing with full of love. So this is the starting point.”

Face animosity, face enemy
Professor Ramadan also reminded, “It’s a Christian telling to a Muslim, the last Messenger that the people are going to reject what you are coming with because some people are moved by interest, money, power. Know that your responsibility: if you are coming with meaning is to resist this obsession of power, this idolatry. Idolatry is exacting this. So you got this from the Christian. The Messenger did not understand at the beginning; he said: ‘Are they going to reject me?’ He said, ‘yes, this is the fate of the Messenger.’ So it’s a Christian teaching and just telling that you are following the steps of a long tradition.”

Question of meaning
Then oppression really and eventually came and after the oppression, what did the Messenger say and what did he do? Professor Ramadan said, “Wahi, this revelation, this inspiration coming from God, ‘Go to the Christian ruler; he is working with justice,’ saying to the Muslims it is not a question of love; it is a question of meaning, go and he will protect you; because he is a believer and he is acting as a just ruler.”

Halful Fadul Pact
Professor Ramadan mentioned another agreement, Halful Fadul pact which was made before the arrival of Islam. Professor Ramadan said, “Remember that when after years the Prophet got the revelation he said one day I was in a home and in this home was a jadal; we had a pact - the pact of the future, the Halful Fadul. It was all about justice; it was before Islam; but if now myself as a Muslim, I had to come back to this Pact, I will come back to it; why? Because it was before Islam but it is Islamic principle; telling you that it was not you follow only what is coming from your religion, because some principles are coming from outside; they are rooted in your tradition but coming from other people.”

Principles are principles from wherever they come
“You can find them in Christianity, you can find them in Judaism, you can find them in Jewish, Christian people, Hindu people, Buddhist people and even non-religious people and non-believers sometimes they abide by principles that you will find them what we are losing; this diversity could help you and this is what he was saying about Halful Fadul telling to Muslims: be careful principles are principles from wherever they come,” said Professor Ramadan.

Asking the Christians to come
Professor Ramadan mentioned some of the things which need education and understanding. He said we can get this from the life of the Prophet peace be upon him. He said, “We can get this teaching from his life and then also some of the stories that we had asking the Christians to come and the verse was just quoted now, Ya Ahlil Kitab, O, People of the Book, come to the common world; we have to talk and we want to listen. Then access is this that there is one God; but let us come together. It was said in some of the Traditions that you pray within the Mosque. It was allowed that the prophet and there was discussions mainstream is saying it happened this respect towards Christianity; and look at this because you are referring Khalifa Omar to Jerusalem and al-Quds; he refused to pray in the Church; why?”

Prophet allowed Christians to pray in Mosque and
Omar refused to pray in Church
Professor Ramadan narrated, “The Prophet peace be upon him welcomed the Christians and he let them to pray within the Mosque; but when Omar went to al-Quds he refused to pray in the Church and he said people after me win here and they will agree to destroy the Church; sending the message that we value the very essence of what the Church is, he knew human beings. The human beings are sometimes distorted memory and distorted respect. Here we have again story coming with someone who was Companion of the Messenger and telling us how we have to act and more than that.”

Madina Agreement with Jews – equality
Then Professor Ramadan also mentioned about the Madina Covenant with the Jews. He said, “When the Messenger arrived in Madina and he said to the Jewish tribes that he wanted to come into a common agreement; equality, respecting them; la ikraha fith deen; I am not going to convert people; respect who you are; so we have a common agreement. So this would be something which has to do with the rule of law; that we abide by the same law; same rights and the same duties at the same time.”

Political struggle
“Even after this, in some of the struggles with some of the Christians or Jewish tribes, the Messenger was able to differentiate between political reasons and the essence of mutual respect protecting some of the Jewish tribes while having problems with other tribes but he was not confusing,” mentioned Professor Ramadan and said, “It is very important for us not to confuse political struggle and not respecting the freedom of religion of the other. So I think this is something which is coming from his life and to end with this example in Madina and this is very essence of diversity and equality.”

Self-critical is important
Professor Ramadan said, “Self-critical is important. We are not coming back to the past to forget the failures of the present; we are coming back to the past to know our responsibility to change the present; it is the past to change the present and it is not the past to forget the failures of the present. This is something which is quite important in the critical thinking that is very important as Muslims.”

Secular society
Speaking about secular society, Professor Ramadan said, “We have to reach out, we have a responsibility to reach out within our society and to stop of talking about secular society which is not concerned with religion. Secular society does not mean that there is no religion; secular society means there is a neutral space where we respect each other, it is not disappear. So the people who are transforming a secular society into an ideology of secularism you have to disappear; it is dangerous for all of us.”

Love and Family
Then Professor Ramadan mentioned about his experience in South America when he met people who are connected to the Roman Catholic Church. Professor Ramadan said, “We are talking about love. If you love God, at the end of the verse is, God will love you. When you look at the Messenger and the Prophet, peace be upon him, it is all about loving God. It is just to serve Him because he loves Him. We have to come with this.”

Professor Ramadan also spoke about family. He said, “Come back to the centrality of family and I don’t know what you feel about this; but Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, we all care about the very essence of family life in our society and its future. We are following into the footsteps of people who told them: be careful about your wives, your husbands, your kids.”

Superficial of understanding of Religion
Professor Ramadan mentioned his dialogue recently with someone who wrote a book saying God is not Great. “Which kind of meaning? What are you attacking?” said Professor Ramadan and added, “Sometimes it is very much a question of people of misunderstanding and the very superficial of understanding of religion. People sometimes are rejecting religion because they have a very superficial understanding and we have to come to our principles to say this.”

Final word on Interfaith
Professor Ramadan said the final word on interfaith dialogue is “We have to work on this. Interfaith dialogue is not speaking about the common values, it is to put in the middle, challenges, projects and we have to be involved together and to come us together with our respective values.”

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Unparallel Successful Hajj 2010

An Unparallel Successful Hajj 2010

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Hajj 2010 was a record-breaking unparallel successful Hajj on many fronts: extraordinary turnout of pilgrims, major multi-million riyals developments including the Mashair Train and Al-Jamarat Bridge. The organisation, in terms of health, security, accommodation and transport, was also outstanding. Massive future developments are also under way which will see Makkah transformed into one of the most advanced cities in the world.

Hajj is one of the faith’s five pillars which require Muslims to undertake the pilgrimage to Makkah at least once in their lifetime if possible. World’s 1.6 billion Muslims obliged by religious duty to attempt the trip to the Holy cities but the host Saudi Arabia is only able to accept about 2.5 million a year due to the space in the surrounding areas of the holy places. Although the formal Hajj rituals only span five days, most go for a minimum of two weeks and some for up to two months, travelling to Madinah as well as to Makkah. However, beyond all the facts and figures, Hajj is an extraordinary spiritual exercise for all those seeking it.

Record number of Pilgrims
This year, Hajj 2010, there was an unprecedented number of pilgrims coming to complete the Holy Pilgrimage, as prescribed by Prophet Ibrahim and Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them). The General Statistics Department announced that there were officially over 2.7 million pilgrims on Hajj this year, according to a report run by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA). This year’s Hajj drew a record 1.8 million foreigners from diverse regions of the world like Nigeria, Russia and Indonesia and the remaining 989,789 were from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, most of them residents. This is apart from the illegal pilgrims coming for the Holy journey. This was unlike last year when many pilgrims were kept away over Swine Flu fears.

Prince Naif , the Saudi interior Minister, said, it is reported, that close to 1.8 million pilgrims arrived in the Kingdom, the highest number ever recorded. The figure included 977,583 males representing 54 percent of the total, and 822,018 females representing 46 percent of the total of pilgrims. This was an 11 percent increase – 180,746 pilgrims – compared to last year. A total of over 1.6 million pilgrims came by air, 117,363 by land and 12,916 by sea, from 181 countries, reported in the press.

India, this year, sent about 175,000 pilgrims, Indonesia 220,000 pilgrims, Pakistan 160,000 and Bangladesh sent 94,000 pilgrims this year. 200,000 or more Saudi citizens and residents also joined this year Hajj.

Mashair Train in Holy sites
The operation this year of the multi-billion Riyal Holy Sites Train, also known in Arabic as the Mashair Train, reduced the traffic on the roads by a staggering 3,000 buses, according to the Hajj Committee at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI). So, the most significant and high-profile development for Hajj this year 2010 was the completion of the first phase of the SR.6.5-billion Holy Sites Train, also known as the Mashair Train or Makkah Metro Train. The Train operated without any incident on the first two days of Hajj.

The Chinese-built dual-track light railway, with an initial nine stations, connects the three holy sites of Mina, Muzdalifah and Mount Arafat – areas that see massive congestion during the five-day pilgrimages will replace 4,000 buses previously used for Hajj. On Sunday, 14th of November, 2010, the Mashair Train, also known as Makkah Metro, rolled out to serve pilgrims, a move which is likely to see a major reduction in traffic congestion. This year Hajj 2010 the Mashair Train has already effectively tackled “unbearable” traffic jams at the holy sites.

The SR.6.5-billion train project was only operated at 35 percent of its full capacity at the moment in the first phase. When the project is complete, there will be 20 trains operational carrying up to 72,000 pilgrims an hour. They are estimated to transport more than 500,000 pilgrims an hour. The Train will eventually be linked to Makkah. It is also reported that the Train’s project has contributed to the development of Muzdalifah and also made it possible for several pilgrims to spend the night there.

The Train initially will run only from Mina, to the east, and on to Muzdalifah and Mount Arafat further east. The nine-trains can transport 30,000 pilgrims an hour.
Completion of Al-Jamarat Bridge
The completion of the top level of Al-Jamarat Bridge has also considerably eased the movement of pilgrims from the Tent City to perform the ritual of stoning of the devil. The stoning of the devil ritual at the massive Al-Jamarat Bridge started without any incident in the early hours of Tuesday, the 16th of November. The Saudi authorities also provided more than 124 free electric vehicles to take the sickly and elderly pilgrims to the Al-Jamarat Bridge.

It is reported that The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs allocated 124 free small electric ‘golf’ carts to serve the elderly handicapped and pilgrims with special needs at the entrance to the Al-Jamarat Bridge. Each vehicle accommodates 14 pilgrims, moving them to throw pebbles and returning them to their camps.

Accident-free Hajj/Healthcare
Everyone declared this year’s Hajj a resounding success. Hajj 2010 took place this year without any major incident. This is due to the organisation, in terms of health, security, accommodation and transport, which was outstanding.

This year’s Hajj was given a clean bill of health. There was no outbreak of epidemic diseases and that the vast majority of pilgrims enjoyed good health. The Ministry of Health, it is reported, mobilized all its physical and technical resources to provide the highest standards of healthcare and to maintain the well-being of the Guests of Allah so that they could perform their religious duties with ease, comfort and peace of mind.

The Ministry of Health has implemented a number of preventive measures, including setting health requirements and updating them regularly based on scientific evidence and endorsement by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The Ministry has also ensured early detection of infectious diseases by implementing a strict surveillance process at all ports of entry for pilgrims arriving by air, land or sea.

The Saudi authorities during this year’s Hajj have an extensive network of hospitals and health centres, staffed by thousands of health workers to treat pilgrims. The Ministry of Health disclosed that there are 24 Health Ministry hospitals – seven hospitals in Makkah, 10 in Madinah, four in Mina and three in Arafat, with a total capacity of 4,005 beds. The Undersecretary of the Ministry, Dr. Muhammad bin Hamza Khushaim also said that 144 health centres in Makkah, the holy sites and Madinah were made readied for pilgrims. Of these, 127 health centres were in Makkah and the holy sites – 31 centres in Makkah, 46 in Arafat, 28 in Mina, six in Muzdalifah and 16 centres at the Jamarat Bridge. There were also 10 health centres at the Grand Mosque and its courtyards. The Secretariat of the Holy City of Makkah has assigned 12 pharmacies in Mina to provide medical services to the pilgrims.

Red Crescent Air Ambulances
Five air ambulances of the Red Crescent were flying over the holy sites as part of emergency services for the pilgrims, said the Director of the Saudi Red Crescent Air Ambulances organization’s air operations. A total of 140 personnel, including crew and medical staff, were ready 24 hours a day, with aircraft equipped with two beds and a mini emergency room. The aircraft was in a position to land at six hospitals with helipads, including Al-Noor, Hira, King Abdullah Medical City, Mina and Arafat, in addition to two other pads on the Jamarat Bridge.

A New Hajj Lab
The Saudi Health Ministry purchased for Hajj a world class laboratory that can detect over 10,000 viruses and other micro-organisms with its state-of-the-art technology. According to Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeah, Saudi Minister of Health, the equipment can identify all kinds of microbes, bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. He said the laboratory will be essential in its bid to keep pilgrims healthy during Hajj, it is reported. A total of 135 consultant doctors in various rare specializations was on duty around the clock during Hajj.

The Saudi Ministry of Health for the third year set up a special toll free call centre for Hajj pilgrims needing information and advice on health issues. The number to call was 800-249-4444.

Security measures
Over 50,000 security officials were deployed on the roads leading from Makkah to Mina to oversee the safety and security of pilgrims this year’s Hajj, according to a report carried by the Saudi Press Agency. There was top-level security at the Grand Mosque this year for Hajj, with over 8,000 male and female officials on duty, according to the Commander of the Grand Mosque’s Security Forces. Security officers had also helped in guiding pilgrims to the upper stories of the Grand Mosque, especially during the second and third days of Tashreeq when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims poured into the Holy Haram to perform the Farewell Tawaf.

Saudi-trained barbers at work
Over 100 Saudi graduates of the Vocational Industrial institutes, an affiliate of the General Organization for Technical and Vocational Training, who attended an intensive training course in hair shaving and haircuts, participated in this year’s Hajj in the “Safe Shaving Program”. Makkah Mayoralty allocated a special area for the young barbers who rendered their service to the pilgrims at “Al-Baiya Yard” west of Al-Jamarat Bridge in Mina.

More than 6,000 labourers provided with 1,000 cleaning machines and 46,000 containers were working to keep the holy sites clean, said Director General of the Cleaning Administration at the Makkah Mayoralty.

More Women Scout Guides Next Hajj
The number of women guides will be increased for the next Hajj, according to Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah, Minister of Education. He said women scouts played a crucial role during Hajj. For this reason he wants to double the number in future. He added that plans are being drawn up to convert the scout society into a civil body, as ordered by the King. He said the King’s decision will contribute to the development and progress of the society which currently has 125,000 members. He also said it is a ‘noble mission’ and sends out a strong message to society, particularly the children about the value of voluntary work.

Million Meals on Arafat Day
The “Ishan wa Al-Takaful Al-Ijtima’i” – Good Deeds and Social Solidarity – Society in Makkah provided pilgrims with one million meals on Arafat Day, according to the charity’s director general. Each meal consisted of a bottle of water, fruit juice, baked bread garnished with cheese and dates, a pack of biscuits, and a napkin and waste container.

Future Developments Plan
Massive future developments are under way, which will see Makkah transformed into one of the most advanced cities in the world, as outlined by Prince Khaled Al-Faisal, Governor of Makkah. Makkah is also expected to see massive new developments over the coming years. The plan includes removing slums and old buildings around Makkah and replacing them with a new generation of housing and hotels. Saudi authorities also plan to build new hospitals and improve transportation and communication structure, said the Governor’s deputy, Abdulaziz Al-Khedheiri.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Eid-ul-Adha Messages from three continents to Muslims worldwide

Eid Messages from Heads of States of
Three continents to Muslims worldwide

Dr. Mozammel Haque

SEOUL, South KOREA: I, Dr. Mozammel Haque, Media Advisor of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, wish you all happy and peaceful Eid ul-Adha, from Seoul, South Korea. More than 2,000 Muslims of different nationalities and languages attended the Eid-ul-Adha prayers at the Seoul Central Mosque, Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday, the 16th of November, 2010.

This Eid-al-Adha festival, the festival of sacrifice, comes after the successful performance of Hajj. Muslims throughout the world observe the sacrifices made by Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and celebrate the life of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and his remarkable work he has done. Prophet Ibrahim, the Patriarch of all the monotheistic religion, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, was commanded by Allah the Almighty to sacrifice his beloved son and both Prophet Ibrahim and his son willingly accepted this Divine decree.

Eid-ul-Adha is a day of joyous celebration. It is a sacrificial ritual, the feast of sacrifice, which comes from the time of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and which was followed and practiced by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

On this auspicious occasion, leaders of the Muslim countries as well as the heads of states of three countries from three continents sent their Eid Messages to the Muslim Community of the world at large.

From Europe, Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron
From Europe, the Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron, MP, sent his warmest Eid wishes to the Muslim community throughout the United Kingdom. “Eid al-Adha, celebrated all over the world, is one of the most holy festivals in Islam and celebrates the culmination of the Hajj,” said the British Prime Minister in his Eid message on 16th of November, 2010.

David Cameron, MP, also mentioned, “As families and friends come together in celebration, I want to recognise the immense contribution that British Muslims, over many generations, have made to our country.”

The British Prime Minister also wishes “a very happy and peaceful Eid”.

The British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, MP, also issued a press release on 16 November, 2010 on the occasion of Eid ul Adha wishing all a happy Eid-ul-Adha. He said in his Eid Message, “At this time of year Muslim communities across the globe will be celebrating Eid al-Adha and will be sharing their celebrations with friends and family.”

The British Foreign Secretary also mentioned, “The festival marks the completion of the Hajj pilgrimage to Makkah, one of the pillars of the Muslim faith. I am proud of the fact that the British government has sent a British Hajj delegation to Saudi Arabia to provide consular assistance to British hajjis. Eid-ul-Adha also commemorates the sacrifice of the prophet Abraham. It is a fitting opportunity for us to recognise and celebrate the common ground between faiths and look to what unites rather than divides us.”

British Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, MP, also sent a message of good wishes at Eid-ul-Adha. Communities Secretary wishes Muslims across Britain “Eid Mubarak” as the Festival of Sacrifice begins. Mr. Pickles said, “As the end of the Hajj pilgrimage approaches, I would like to send a message of good wishes to all British Muslims.”

The Communities Secretary also mentioned, “Eid ul-Adha is an important time for Muslims, both of deep reflection and celebration. It marks the end of the Hajj - the largest annual gathering of Muslims in the world - when Muslims demonstrate their belief that all people are equal and should live peacefully together.”

“The ideas of peace, compassion and giving, which are so important at this time, are common to us all and can serve to unite Muslims and non-Muslims,” Mr. Pickles said.

The Communities Secretary also expressed his willingness to “recognise the significant role that Muslims have played, and are continuing to play, in helping to create the vibrant society we live in.”

From Asia, Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah
Millions of worshippers gathered at the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madina – to celebrate the day of Eid-ul-Adha – the feast of sacrifice – and to perform the Eid-ul-Adha prayers on Tuesday, the 16th of November, 2010 in recognition of Prophet Ibrahim’s (peace be upon him) total faith in Allah the Almighty.

King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, has urged Muslims to use the Hajj as a standard for their behavior in future. In his message to the Ummah Wednesday, King Abdullah said Muslims should not lose the lessons they have learnt during the holy pilgrimage. This includes their unity during the pilgrimage, whatever gender, race, ethnic group or nationality.

He also called on Muslims to reject terrorism, which has nothing to do with Islam. The only way to counter terrorism is for Muslims to continue to have dialogue with each other and with those of other faiths, said the King.

King Abdullah thanked Almighty Allah for allowing pilgrims to perform their Hajj rituals “in ease and comfort and prayed to Allah to accept their good deeds, purify their souls and realize their hopes,” according to a report carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

Th King said Muslims should use the Hajj to “revive and renew their relations and strengthen the bonds of fraternity, love and cohesion”. The Monarch said he is always filled with “great delight and pleasure” to see Muslims from all over the world come together for Hajj.

He said Hajj is “a clear sign of the Divine Will to unite the Ummah and reaffirm the oneness of the Creator”. Hajj also embodies “equality and justice”. “Almighty Allah ordained this annual obligation to serve as a gathering place for the believers, the sons of one religion.”

The King said Almighty Allah has honoured the Kingdom with the chance to serve the Two Holy Mosques. He said this is a great responsibility which the country is willing to bear because it only seeks Allah’s reward for being of service to the Guests of Allah. “Almighty Allah has made matters easy for us to fulfill our obligations toward the worshippers,” the King said.

King Abdullah said the government will not “tolerate anyone who may try to tamper with the security of the pilgrims or contaminate the spiritual atmosphere”. “We will secure the safety of the pilgrims until they return to their countries safely,” the King added.

In Makkah, the worshippers were led by Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, Imam and Khateeb of the Grand Mosque, who explained in his sermon that this was a day on which Allah Almighty bestows His forgiveness and mercy on His worshippers.

Al-Sudais said that “one of the great Islamic rites on this glorious day is the sacrificial ritual” which comes from the time of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) and which was followed and practiced by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Al-Sudais said that in this era of globalization, there were many threats to world security and world peace.

He said Islam was a religion of moderation and if practiced correctly creates a “balanced society that takes into consideration both the needs of the individual and the community”. He said the embodiment of this balance was in the person of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

In Madina, in the presence of Prince Abdulaziz Bin Majed Bin Abdul Aziz, Emir of Madina, Muslims performed Eid Al-Adha prayers in the Prophet’s Mosque. The prayers were led by Sheikh Salah Al-Bedair, Imam and Khateeb, who praised Allah the Almighty for His blessings bestowed on Muslims, congratulating all Muslims around the world on the advent of Eid Al-Adha and especially those who performed the Hajj rituals in “tranquility, security and safety”.

In his sermon, Al-Bedair urged all Muslims to commit themselves to the teachings of the Holy Qur’an and Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and to be careful of deviant ideas or faiths.

He also called on Muslims to educate the ignorant, guide those who have questionable faith, promote virtue and prevent vice. He urged Muslims to pay Zakat, visit the sick and feed the hungry. Al-Bedair also warned Muslims about giving or taking bribes. He urged those who are addicted to smoking, alcohol and drugs to abandon these habits.

In concluding his sermon, he called on all Muslims to display tolerance, compassion and be servants of Almighty Allah..

From America: Statement by the US President
On the occasion of Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha, US President, Barack Obama, issued a statement saying, “Michelle and I extend our greetings for a happy Eid-ul-Adha to Muslims worldwide and wish safe travels to those performing Hajj. This year, nearly three million pilgrims from more than 160 countries – including the United States – have gathered in Mecca and neighboring sites to perform the Hajj rituals and stand together in prayer.”

President Obama also mentioned, “On Eid, Muslims around the world will commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, and distribute food to those less fortunate – a reminder of the shared values and the common roots of three of the world’s major religions.”

“On behalf of the American people, we extend our best wishes during this Hajj season – Eid Mubarak and Hajj Mabrour,” concluded by President Barack Obama.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Wishing a safe journey, a blissful visit to Holy Places and an accepted Hajj

Wishing a safe journey, a blissful
visit to Holy Places and an accepted Hajj

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland, wished a safe journey, a blissful visit to the Holy Places and an accepted Hajj to the British Hajj delegation and to all British Muslims who are performing Hajj this year. He said this at the launching of the British Hajj Delegation at the Durbar Court of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), on Wednesday, 27th of October, 2010, in the presence of Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Minister without Portfolio and Jeremy Browne, M.P. Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Office 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 consular services to its citizens going there. British Hajj Delegation is a team that will provide on the ground consular support for British pilgrims attending Hajj next month.

Mr. Ahmed Patel from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) will be leaving on November 3rd and he will be in Makkah from 7th of November 2010. He will be joined by one staff from the British Embassy in Riyadh and another staff from the British Consulate Office in Jeddah.

British Hajj Delegation was started in 1999 and Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham led the first British Hajj Delegation to Saudi Arabia. From next year, 2000 to last year, 2009, Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn led the British Hajj Delegation. “Lord Patel has done tremendous amount of work and Lord Ahmed who set up the delegation also did tremendous amount of work,” said Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Minister without Portfolio, at the launching of the British Hajj Delegation on Wednesday, the 27th of October 2010 from the Durbar Court, Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), London.

Twelve years ago the Hajj Delegation was set up, especially focused around the provision of medical services, said Baroness Warsi. Since then not only the medical services but other services, such as travel arrangement and other facilities became much better. “I think all of us have to pay tribute to the way Saudi Arabia conduct that particular gathering of Hajj and Umrah” observed Baroness Warsi.

Minister of State for Foreign & Commonwealth
Office, Jeremy Browne, M.P.
Minister of State for Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Jeremy Browne, said in his opening speech, “My first observation is to say thank you very much to the government of Saudi Arabia for the services and facilities provided. Hajj is obviously a very significant event for your country but it is also a significant event for millions of people around the world, including the tens and thousands of British people who will be attending and who will be going to you for preparation of works into making the whole event the whole pilgrimage as successful as it has been and I am sure it will be this year as well.”

Consular Hajj delegation
That’s why, it was felt that a consular Hajj team, not medical delegation, will be going to Saudi Arabia. Baroness Warsi said, “We will have consular staff available on a 24 hour call-line effectively.”

The Foreign Office announced that it will provide the full range of consular services and will be sending the British Hajj Delegation to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj. The British Hajj Delegation will be located at the Elaf Al-Khalil Hotel, Makkah. You can find contact details and a travellers’ checklist in the FCO’s travel advice for Hajj pilgrims in the Foreign Office website.

Cabinet Minister Baroness Warsi said, “It is important that British Muslims going on Hajj this year check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s travel advice and the requirements set out by the Saudi government. Most pilgrims will have a trouble-free trip but, given the sheer numbers of people due to be present; people should take sensible precautions and plan carefully before they travel.”

24-hour emergency helpline
Mr. Jeremy Browne said, “We have provided a number of supporting materials including this booklet (Hajjis) which I am holding in English but it is also produced in other languages as well. 24 hour emergency helpline; the number will be available in the foreign office website.”

Browne also mentioned, “We will be working closely with the Saudis on the whole package of support that we are offering to people.”

Travel Insurance and inoculation for meningitis
“We are encouraging people to make sure that they take out travel insurance;” said Mr. Browne and added, “to make sure that any necessary inoculation but in particular the meningitis which is essential for getting visa that is needed to travel to the Hajj.”

In reply to a question, the Minister of State again mentioned that people should have travel insurance. “We are talking about inoculation that is compulsory but we also recommended, for example, for flu, which is not compulsory for obtaining visa. We recommend people to have before they left.”

24-hour emergency number
“People also need to look carefully for terms and conditions of your travel and accommodation just as you do for other circumstances. We are keen to be an assistance; that’s why we have British brochures like this one. We also have, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, a 24 hour emergency number; the number is 014822800. So we are in many different ways trying to make sure that people have trouble-free visit possible,” said Mr. Browne.

Baroness Warsi
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Minister without Portfolio, said in her opening speech, “Many of you know performing Hajj is a huge moment. 25,000 British Muslims travel to perform Hajj every year. It’s extremely demanding moment physically and spiritually and what we, our government, want to make sure that British citizen who performs Hajj supported adequately.”

Tour operators
Baroness Warsi mentioned about some tour operators. “There are some real challenges about some tour operators who are operating at the time of Hajj and Umrah. This has been an ongoing issue now for many many years. People travels to Saudi Arabia are not satisfied with the level of services that are given or the level of services that have been promised. The government of Saudi Arabia has done maximum amount of work in trying to make sure that only authorised agents are taking part in providing the Hajj and the Umrah package. There are also other organizations, for example, Association of British Hujjaj; they are doing tremendous amount of work in trying to bring this in forefront. “

“There are good Hajj tour operators and bad Hajj tour operators,” mentioned Baroness Warsi and added, “We will have to isolate those rogue tour operators from the genuine operators.”

Baroness Warsi mentioned that 12 years ago the Hajj Delegation was set up especially focused around the provision of medical services. She also said that year on year those services, not just medical; travel arrangement year on year is getting better.

Consular staff available on 24-hour call line
In reply to a question by the Media Advisor of the Islamic Cultural Centre, Dr. Mozammel Haque, Baroness Warsi started saying about the nature of Hajj Delegation. “I think all of us has to pay tribute to the way Saudi Arabia conduct that particular gathering of Hajj and Umrah but this year it was felt that it was appropriate for the delegation to go ahead but not to be a medical delegation but we will have consular staff available on a 24 hour call-line effectively; people who go for Hajj and Umrah I want them to pick up the phone and make a call on the line who can help me that is available.”

Baroness Warsi also mentioned, “We also make sure; that people speak various languages speaking by the British potential Hajjis, so Urdu will be spoken, Arabic will be spoken, and Bengali will be spoken.”

Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf, Saudi Ambassador
Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom and Ireland, said, “The support offered by the British Government to the Hajj Delegation is an embodiment 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. Undoubtedly, this attention strengthens British Muslims sense of belonging and re-enforces their commitment and dedication to the well-being and development of their communities and country as a whole.”

Hajj – true reflection of the principles of
equality, modesty and human brotherhood
Speaking about the significance of Hajj, Prince Mohammed said, “During Hajj, millions of Muslims, from all over the world, gather in the same places, to perform the same rituals, at the same times, standing together on equal footing and dressed as one. This renders Hajj a true reflection of the exalted principles of equality, modesty and human brotherhood that are at the heart of Islam, and truly embodies Islam’s cross-borders and cross-cultures nature. Many of our dear British Muslim brothers and sisters must have experienced this first hand.”

Islam’s teachings of compassion, cooperation
Tolerance and caring for others
“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,” the Saudi Ambassador mentioned.

Initiation of new massive infrastructure
and transportation projects
Speaking about the huge administrative, organizational, logistical and safety challenges the Hajj season posed in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Ambassador said, “The government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, constantly puts forth great efforts to face these challenges that require the allocation and effective management of sizeable human and financial resources. Hardly a month goes by without a new project or a new service being launched to continue improving the level of care provided to the visitors of the Holy Places.”

“Those who will perform Hajj this year will see Holy Places that are different even from last year’s Hajj, as the continued expansion and the initiation of new massive infrastructure and transportation projects will make stunning developments that are all aimed at making Hajj easier, safer and more comfortable for our honored guests,” mentioned Prince Mohammad.
Prince Mohammad assured that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia “will spare no effort to ensure that this year’s pilgrimage begins and concludes safely and peacefully, that the mission of the British Hajj Delegation is successful, and that the British pilgrims’ journey to the Holy Places in Saudi Arabia is a safe and fulfilling one.”
Wishing a safe journey, a blissful visit
to the Holy Places, an accepted Hajj
The Saudi Ambassador concluded his speech wishing 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 loved ones.”

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Hajj is much easier and comfortable due to expansion

Hajj is now easy and comfortable due to
Expansion of Holy Mosques and other holy sites

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Expansion of the Two Holy Mosques was given top priority by King Abdul Aziz and his successors for the service of Islam and Muslims. They were aware that Holy Mosque could not support the growing numbers of worshippers and also overseeing the well-being of the pilgrims undertaking the annual Hajj. The implementation of the expansion projects aimed at enabling pilgrims, Umrah performers and visitors of the Holy Places to perform their rituals in comfort and ease. A long and glorious tradition of expansion surrounds the Haram Mosque, dating back to 638 AD, when the increasing number of conversions to Islam led the second Caliph, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab, to develop the site.

When King Abdul Aziz established the modern Saudi State, one of his primary concerns, like that of the early Caliphs, was his role in overseeing the well-being of the pilgrims undertaking the annual Hajj. He initiated a refurbishment and expansion programme. The achievements of King Abdul Aziz were unparalleled since the last expansion of the Holy Haram 1,096 years ago in the era of the Abbasid Caliph, Al-Muqtadir Billah. Efforts of the Ottoman Sultan, Saleem and his son Sultan Murad (1576) were confined to refurbishing the Mosque, not expanding it.

The expansion begun by King Abdul Aziz and completed during the reign of King Saud, was aimed at building a path 394 meters long and 20 metres (65 ft) wide close to the Masaa, and a 9-metre (30 ft) high second floor over the Masaa, in addition to a 2-way barrier and a path for disabled people in wheelchairs in the Masaa. The Masaa has 16 gates on the eastern side in addition to two entrances for the second floor, one at Al Safa and the other at Al Marwa.

The expansion of the Two Holy Mosques was given priority by King Abdul Aziz, Saud, Faisal and Khalid and totaled 131,041 square metres (157,250 square yards), compared to the Mosque’s previous area of 29,127 square metres (34,800 sq. yards.). This raised the total area to 160,168 sqaure metres (192,000 sq.yds.)

The King Fahd’s expansion of the Haramein project had a number of aims primarily the improvement, redecoration and expansion of the Holy Mosque, its courtyards and facilities, so that it can accommodate the largest possible number of worshippers. The most advanced technical innovations were used to facilitate movement and prayer for pilgrims and visitors to the Haram and access to the cooled, pure water of "Zamzam".

Work on the project began on September 13, 1988 when the King laid the foundation stone. The project included the addition of a new part to the Mosque from the Western side between the Umrah Gate and the King’s Gate. The area of the expansion floors totaled 76,000 square metres including the ground, first and basement floors, accommodating some 152,000 worshippers. The projects also include furnishing the mosque’s outer yards for prayer, an area totaling 85,000 sq. metres and accommodating 130,000 worshippers.

This raised the Sacred Mosque’s total area to about 365,000 square meters, accommodating 773,000 worshippers on normal days and more than one million during Hajj season and the holy month of Ramadan. The project also included the construction of a 750-metre long, 24 to 36 metre wide basement under the prayer area to the east of the Masaa.

A new air-conditioning system was devised. For that purpose, a station was setup in Ajiad with a total capacity of 13,500 cooling tons. A new 2-storied toilet building covering an area of 14,000 sq. metres was built to the north of Masaa area. It contains 1440 toilets, 1091 ablution points and 162 drinking water taps. Separate toilets have been set aside for women complete with separate entrances.

The area of the basement totaled 20,000 squares, accommodating 33,000 worshippers. The area of the first floor totaled 47,000 square metres, accommodating 77,000 worshippers, the area of the roof after improvements totaled 42,000 square metres, accommodating 90,000 worshippers. There are 56 escalators.

The Tawaf area was tiled with heat-dissipating marble, doors were renewed and the Mosque’s library was established at a total cost of SR. 80 million. There are 55,000 lighting lamps connected by wires, whose combined length totaled 35,000 metres.

Haramain Expansion Projects by King Abdullah
To further improve both Hajj services and pilgrims’ facilities, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah ordered additional expansions to the Grand Mosque.

Described as the largest in Muslim history, the project will create additional prayer space for nearly a million worshippers. More than 1,000 properties in the areas of Shamiya and Shubaika have been demolished in order to make room for the expansion.

Masaa, the area between Safa and Marwa, which is located inside the mosque has been expanded to help pilgrims perform the sa’ie ritual more easily and comfortably.

King Abdullah allocated SR10 billion for the new projects at the Grand Mosque and the holy sites.

He also ordered another expansion at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah at a cost of more than SR4 billion. It includes the installation of 182 sunshades in courtyards around the mosque for the benefit of 200,000 worshippers. The mosque’s eastern courtyard has been expanded, creating additional prayer place for 70,000 worshippers.

With the completion of the new expansion project, all residential areas of old Madinah will become part the mosque complex. As part of the government’s efforts in the service of pilgrims, several projects have been carried out in Makkah and also at the holy sites of Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa.

Projects for comfort and ease
at Tawaf, Masa’a and Jamarat

With the increasingly overcrowded during Hajj in Tawaf and Masa’a area and also in Jamarat, the Saudi authorities took many projects to find solution in these areas.

Tawaf area and Maqam Ibrahim
Tawaf (circumambulation around Ka’ba) has now become more comfortable because of the Tawaf area being tiled with heat dissipating marble. But from a long time, the area of Tawaf (circumambulation around Ka’ba) was getting increasingly overcrowded during Hajj and other seasons. A solution had to be found requiring the removal of buildings close to Ka’ba such as the building over Zamzam well, the pulpit and the building over Maqam Ibrahim (the stone over which Prophet Abraham stood while raising the walls of Ka’ba).

To achieve this, the building over Zamzam was removed leaving the well beneath the ground with pilgrims descending to it using stairs leading to the chamber housing the Well below the Tawaf area. The pulpit was relocated eastward.

Ibn Katheer said: “Maqam Ibrahim is the stone standing at which Imams lead the prayers. It is the stone on which Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) stood while building the House. When the wall went up, Ishmael (peace be upon him) brought it to him to stand on while taking the stones from him and aligning them with his hand to raise the wall. Upon completing one side, he would move to the other, circumambulating around the Ka’ba while still standing on the stone. Upon completing one wall, he would move to the side nearest to it until he finally completed the walls of Ka’ba.”

In 1964, the Constituent Council of the Muslim World League discussed the issue of removing the structure over Maqam Ibrahim and concluded that most of the overcrowding was caused by the unnecessary buildings and that their removal would ease the hardship and greatly help people performing Tawaf and prayers.

In a memorandum to King Faisal the Muslim World League proposed the removal of these structures and that a strong, round-shape crystal box of suitable height be placed over Maqam Ibrahim. This will make this part of Tawaf area more spacious, remove the hardship and enable people to see Maqam Ibrahim, refuting the generally held belief that a tomb of Prophet Ibrahim (peace be upon him) was inside the existing structure.

The importance of this achievement in facilitating Tawaf and performance of prayers is distinctly evident if one sees that the area of the removed building was 6x3 meters while the area of mosque itself is 40x40 cm.

Expansion of Masa’a
The Sa’i between Safa and Marwah has also become easier and comfortable. Now, the Masa’a area has not only been expanded but there are now four story. You can do Sa’i now in the basement, ground floor, first floor, second floor and on the roof also.

The Masa’a in the first Saudi expansion consisted of two stories, a futuristic approach taking into consideration the annual increase in the number of pilgrims.

It was 394.5 meters long and 20 meters wide. The first story was 12 meters high and the second 9 meters high. This not only made Sa’i easier but also provided wide space accommodating big numbers of worshippers, thus easing the overcrowding in the mosque. The building of the Masa’s upper story was approved by a religious ruling.

A barrier was built to divide the Masa’a into two parallel parts: one for performing Sa’i toward the direction of Safa and the second toward Marwah. A two-way narrow path between the two parts was established for the disabled and those who could not walk or stride.

There are stairs for ascent and descent at both Safa and Marwah.

The Masa’a has 16 gates on its eastern side. At the second floor, two gates, one at Safa and the other at Marwah, lead to the Holy Haram from outside. The two gates are raised above the ground to the level of the praying surface. Inside the mosque, two stairs lead to the second floor, one at Safa Gate and the other at Al-Salam Gate. Below the first floor there is a 3.5 meters high basement with its roof at the level of the ground.

King Abdullah took expansion projects of Masa’a. Masaa, the area between Safa and Marwa, which is located inside the mosque has been expanded to help pilgrims perform the sa’ie ritual more easily and comfortably.

King Abdullah initiated the improvement and development of facilities for pilgrims in Makkah and Madinah. This included the building of a new five-storey Jamarat Bridge in Makkah as well as a Monorail between the key sites of the new Haram Railway.

Stoning at Jamarat
The symbolic stoning of Satan at Jamrat is no longer a nightmarish task for pilgrims. The construction of a four-story high-tech bridge in the area and the expansion of its surroundings have made things much easier for them.

The Jamarat is the area where ritual stoning of Satan takes place during Haj. The building of helicopter landing pads at the highest level of the Al-Jamarat Project, including other construction works, have been completed. The helipads will be used in emergencies.

The company carrying out the Jamarat project started to erect oval tents on its fifth floor a week ago. The project will be finished in October this year and will be used for the next Hajj season. “All floors have been air-conditioned. An advanced cooling system will be installed on the fifth floor through which water will be sprinkled over the main and surrounding areas. This is expected to lower the temperature by about 29 degrees Centigrade,” it is reported..

The Arafat expansion has also been finished, it is also reported that the project, which started last year, provides a capacity for a further 900,000 pilgrims. The additional area is equivalent to about 25 percent of Arafat’s total initial area. The project involved paving main and subsidiary streets, establishing drainage and trimming trees, the deputy minister said.

Makkah Monorail
Monorail will bring remarkable improvements in the transportation of pilgrims between the holy sites of Makkah, Mina, Muzdalifah and Arafat.

The Saudi Arabian authorities are working relentlessly on the construction of a Metro project to transport over 70,000 pilgrims in an hour between the holy sites of Makkah, Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifa during the peak days of Hajj.

The daily Arab News quoted the President of the Saudi Railway Organization (SRO), Abdul Aziz Al-Hoqail, to have said that the “first phase of the Makkah Monorail project is expected to be completed before this year’s Hajj. This will enable Hajj pilgrims to use 35 percent of train service.”

The $1.74 billion monorail project will be ready for use to 35 per cent of its capacity by the Hajj season in November 2010 and should be fully operational in two years. The 18.1 Km railway will transport about 72,000 passengers an hour. It will help withdraw about 53,000 buses and other vehicles being used by pilgrims coming by land from within the kingdom and neighbouring countries. There will be three railway stations in each of the holy sites.

The entire train system, the SRO Chief added, including stations, will be elevated and pilgrims will have access to escalators and staircases to reach it. “Each of the five lines of the monorail project will have an hourly capacity to carry 60,000 to 80,000 passengers between Mina, Arafat and Muzdalifah, and later between Mina and Makkah. All trains will have 12 large compartments, each of which will be 23 meters long and 3 meters wide,” said the Chief Executive of this project.

“Thirty-five percent of its capacity would be used during this year’s Hajj season. It will have 20 trains next year when it operates within full capacity. Each train will have 12 carriages,” Hoqail reiterated. The project, he said, includes construction of nine railway stations in Arafat, Mina and Muzdalifah, each 300 meters long. “One station will be located near the Jamarat Bridge in Mina where the stoning ritual takes place. Pilgrims will be able to board the train from the bridge’s fourth floor,” he concluded.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Foreign Office Travel Advice for Hajj Pilgrims


Dr. Mozammel Haque

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued a press release announcing travel advice to the British nationals travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj this November, urging them to have a valid vaccination certificate for Meningococcal Meningitis, to be vaccinated against Seasonal Influenza and also to consider having a flu vaccination before they set off on their travels. The FCO also advised the British Pilgrims to take out fully comprehensive travel insurance and also take the responsibility for their own pre-travel preparations.

The FCO also informs the British Pilgrims that “the FCO will provide the full range of consular services and will be sending the British Hajj Delegation – a team of FCO volunteers from the British Muslim community, including consular staff – to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj.”

As regards medical facilities, the press release said, “The Saudi Government has advised that they have ample capability and resources to provide full medical facilities this year which British Hajjis will be able to use.”

Before the British Pilgrims set off on their journey, the FCO recommends that all pilgrims check the FCO travellers’ checklist and keep themselves up-to-date by visiting Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) website at or call 0845 850 2829.

Please read and follow the Travel Advice detailed below announced by the Foreign Office for the British Hajj Pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia this November: The following is the FCO press release as announced yesterday, the 13th of October, 2010.

Foreign Office Announces
Travel Advice For Hajj Pilgrims

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is urging British nationals travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage this November to be fully prepared and take heed of up-to-date travel advice before embarking on their trip.

A Meningococcal Meningitis vaccination certificate is a compulsory visa requirement for the estimated 25,000 British Muslims expected to travel to the Hajj this year. Pilgrims are also being strongly advised to ensure they are vaccinated against Seasonal Influenza before they set off on their travels.

Taking out fully comprehensive travel insurance is also strongly advised.

Cabinet Minister, Baroness Warsi, said: “It is important that British Muslims going on the Hajj this year check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's travel advice and the requirements set out by the Saudi government. Most Pilgrims will have a trouble free trip but, given the sheer numbers of people due to be present, people should take sensible precautions and plan carefully before they travel.”

Consular Minister, Jeremy Browne, said “We are providing a Consular team on the ground in Saudi Arabia to offer assistance, but British Pilgrims going on the Hajj need to take responsibility for their own pre-travel preparations and ensure they have a valid vaccination certificate for Meningococcal Meningitis and also consider having a flu vaccination.

We will be updating our Travel Advice on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's website on an ongoing basis and all travellers should ensure they check it regularly.“

The Saudi Government has advised that they have ample capability and resources to provide full medical facilities this year which British Hajjis will be able to use.

A spokesperson for the Saudi Embassy in the UK, said: “The Embassy of Saudi Arabia appreciates the support provided to British pilgrims by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office through the Hajj delegation and hopes that all British pilgrims will observe the travel advice published by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.”

The FCO will provide the full range of consular services and will be sending the British Hajj Delegation – a team of FCO volunteers from the British Muslim community, including consular staff – to Saudi Arabia during the Hajj.

In addition to the requirements from the Saudi government, the FCO recommends that all pilgrims use the following travellers’ checklist:

Check the FCO travel advice to make sure that you are up-to-date with the situation in Saudi Arabia at or call 0845 850 2829.

Check that you have the correct tickets and ticket details.

Make sure that you book your tickets through an ATOL registered tour operator to avoid unnecessary difficulties. For more information please visit
Have contact details for your tour operator in the UK and their representatives in Makkah.

Get travel insurance for all aspects of your journey. Check that you have had the required vaccinations for your pilgrimage and that you have vaccination cards with you.

Ensure that your passport is in good condition and the necessary visas are in place.

Make copies of your passport, insurance policy plus emergency numbers and ticket details. Leave these copies, your itinerary and correct contact details with family and friends.

Individuals on medication should make sure that they have adequate quantities to get them through the Hajj period. Existing medication should be clearly labelled for each individual.

Ensure you have good quality footwear as you may have to walk long distances.

Ensure all your luggage is clearly labelled by placing stickers both on the outside and inside of your luggage showing your name, nationality, passport number, air carrier, flight number, hotel name and a contact telephone number.

Make sure you have the contact details of the Hajj Delegation and local consulate.

Please note any kind of photography (still or video) is strictly prohibited inside and around the two Holy Mosques. Anybody violating this will have their equipment and material confiscated.

International Conference on Islamophobia, Integration and Identity in Dublin

International Conference on
Islamophobia, Integration and Identity

Dr. Mozammel Haque

DUBLIN: IRELAND: The first-ever Three-day International Islamic Leadership Justice and Peace Conference on “Islamophobia, Integration & Identity,” organised by The European Muslim Council for Justice, Peace and Equality, was held from 28-30 September, 2010 at the Academy Plaza Hotel, Dublin, Republic of Ireland. The participants who presented papers came from many countries of the world such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Finland Italy, etc. About 200 people attended the conference.

Sheikh/Prof Shaheed Satardien, the President of the European Muslim Council for Justice, Peace and Equality, Dublin, Ireland, introduced Qari/Sheikh Muneer Satardien who recited verses from the Holy Qur’an in his melodious voice to the gathering of all faiths and Muslim scholars, academics, politicians and media people from all over the world. Sheikh Satardien gave a hearty welcome to the dignitaries, delegates and guests. The Irish Minister of Finance the honourable Brian Lenihan TD opened the conference and was awarded with the Lenihan family coat of arms shield and the “Visionary of Peace” award from the conference.

Then the Lord Mayor of Dublin councillor Gerry Breen officially started the proceedings for the day by welcoming the delegates to Dublin city and he elaborated on what peace and justice would mean to everyone, followed by the conference awarding him with the plaque of the Breen family.

The special guest of honour and keynote speaker Prof/Dr Hamid bin Ahmad Al-Rifaie, President of the International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, addressed the conference on the role of dialogue and the role that King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud founder and king of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia played to promote dialogue with civilizations.

Waseem Satardien read the history of dialogue between Sean MacBride (former Irish Minister of Foreign Affairs and advisor to Pope Paul the sixth); and Sheikh Muhammad Ali Al-Harakan (former Minister of Justice from Saudi Arabia) and the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in promoting peace, tolerance and understanding in the world. Fawaaz Jones read the World Islamic Charter and spoke on the role of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in promoting the charter.

Then Dr Sean MacBride was honoured by Prof/Dr Abdullah Omar Nasseef, the President of World Muslim Congress and Prof/Dr Hamid bin Ahmad al-Rifaie of the International Islamic Forum for Dialogue of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Dr Sean MacBride was also honoured by the Intercultural Peace Centre and the Sheikh Shaheed Satardien Justice and Peace Foundation. All the awards of Dr Sean MacBride were received by his grand-son Mr. Dara White.

Then the speech of Dr Abdulaziz Othman Al-Twaijri of ISESCO was delivered on his behalf by Dr Abdelila Benarafa of Morocco. The conference then honoured Dr. Al-Rifaie with the “Lifetime Achievement” award for outstanding services towards the upliftment of Islam. The “Lifetime Achievement” award was also received by Fayez Al-Rasheed of Saudi Arabia on behalf of H.E. Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef President of the WMC; and by Dr. Abdelila Benarafa of Morocco on behalf of H.E. Dr Abdulaziz Othman Al-Twaijri the Director of ISESCO. Dr. Abdelila was also given the “Distinguished Ambassador of Islam and Visionary of Peace” award for his sterling efforts towards justice, peace and dialogue.

Dedication to the memory of Sean MacBride
The Conference was dedicated to the memory of late Sean MacBride, one of the first Western figures of note to really engage with Islam. He led a tremendously varied life, the Ist stage of his life beginning joining the IRA at the age of 15 years, becoming Chief of Staff of the IRA at the age of 32 and he resigned from the IRA at the age of 33 and becoming a barrister. In the 2nd stage of his life, he became the Minister for Foreign Affairs at the age of 44 in 1948 – the period during which MacBride served as Minister for Foreign Affairs. He helped draft the European Convention on Human Rights and he continued in politics until 1961.

He was the founding member of Amnesty International and Secretary General of the International Committee of jurists from 1963 to 1971, Chair and then President of the International Peace Bureau in Geneva from 1968 to 1985, and President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974, American Medal of Justice in 1975, Lenin Peace Prize in 1977 and he was also awarded the UNESCO Silver Medal for Service in 1980.

While accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974, MacBride said: “There is nothing more damaging to the concept of world order and peace than the massive violations of human rights that continue to occur in various parts of the world.” This is as true in 2010 as it was in 1974.

Welcome Address by Professor Satardien
Professor Satardien welcomed the honoured guests, esteemed Ambassadors, ministers and representatives of different faith communities. In his welcome address, Prof. Satardien emphasised the inter-related and inter-dependent nature of the human community, and the inability of any culture or any economy to folly.”

Speaking about Islamophobia, Prof. Satardien said, “The Issue of Islamophobia – the fear of Islam – is an issue that must be tackled whether we like it or not. This is not an optional extra, an intellectual luxury or theological chess. We are talking about nearly quarter of the population of the world - now more than 1.5 billion people and perpetually growing. The portrayal of Muslims as ‘backward’, as ‘inherently violent’, and other similar descriptions is destabilising, on a communal and global level. In the ‘West,’ it leads to isolation – the opposite of integration.”

Dr. Abdullah Naseef and Dr. Hamid Al-Rifaie
Dr Hamid al-Rifaie laid down the principles of dialogue and argued for an intensification of dialogue with the West. While presenting joint paper by Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, President of the World Muslim Congress and Prof. Dr. Hamid A. Al-Rifaie, President of International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, they stated, “It is worth mentioning that the dialogue in Islam is not an end in itself. Indeed, it is a wise approach to achieve a venerable aim; it is the acquaintance among the followers of religions and cultures which opens a big door for the understanding among them. Mutual understanding in its turn creates a safe climate among individuals and communities for cooperating and competition in the fields of life in order to achieve the best for people and for achieving a safe co-existence among communities.”

Dr Adrian Page of London Metropolitan University’s paper which outlined the impact of Islamophobia on the Muslims in the West was delivered by Sheikh/Prof Shaheed Satardien of the Muslim Council of Ireland.

Shaykh Abd al-Wahid Pallavicini
Shaykh Abd al-Wahid Pallavicini, President, Islamic Religious Community, Italy, outlined the way forward in increasing dialogue and urged the conference to work harder in bringing about understanding, tolerance and peace amongst civilizations. Shaykh Pallavicini said in his lecture, “true peace comes not only from justice and is not obtainable at any price – it will be based on higher justice that can only come from the mutual recognition of the spiritual validity of our different faiths within the Abrahamic tradition to which we all belong. What can really bring together sincere believers is the sense of ‘sacrifice’ in the original and etymological meaning of the word that of sacrum facere; to make every moment of our lives sacred, by means of the religious forms that God has given to each of us.”

Shaykh Pallavicini received the “Distinguished Ambassador of Islam and Visionary of Peace” award on behalf of his son Imaam Yahya Pallavacini. The conference also honoured Dr Vivian Ibrahim and presented her with an Irish Independence Declaration.

Shaykh Pallavicini also mentioned, “In these very special times that seem to “undermine” even religions, we have a responsibility to intervene and learn how to make good this “crisis” that touches us all. We mean “crisis” in the etymological sense of the term that refers to “judgement”, or the moment of truth contained within the revelation of the true nature of things. For us as men of faith, evils dwell only in the deception that wants to make us look elsewhere and forget God. On the other hand, our familiar eschatology does not describe “the end of the world” but, in the words of Shaykh Abd al-Wahid Yahya Guenon, only “the end of a world.””

The conference then had a break for lunch and then went into workshop to discuss and debate the papers of Dr Vivian Ibrahim and Dr Adrian Page on Islamophobia in the Nally suite; and to discuss and debate the papers of Prof Al-Rifaie and Sheikh Abdul Wahid Pallavacini in the Cusack suite.

Origin of Islamophobia and
the rebirth of a culture panic

The next session was on the “Origin of Islamophobia and the rebirth of a culture panic” with Sheikh Musa Admani as the moderator. Dr Farid Younus of California University gave an overview of the world situation on Islamophobia and its origins and how to remedy it.

Abd al-Wadoud Gouraud
Dr Abdul Wadoud Gouraud of the Islamic Institute for Advanced Studies of France analysed different ways of dealing with Islamophobia and its off-shoots like the banning of the head-scarf in France, the banning of minarets in Switzerland, the furore over the so-called ground zero Mosque and the attempted burning of the Holy Qur’an in America.

Abd al-Wadoud Gouraud of the Islamic Institute for Advanced Studies, while presenting his paper on “The Role of Muslim Western Scholars” said, “More than a social convention, it is for us a religious responsibility to love harmony and unity, and to work for insuring them between God’s creatures. On the other hand, it is important to promote interfaith dialogue between representatives of Abrahamic religions in Europe, as an effective key to widely disseminate the spirit of respect and faithful cooperation that can counter religious-based discriminations, such as Islamophobia, and radicalisations. These disturbing and increasing phenomena are both far from the real knowledge and practice of the religious teachings and virtues that are common to true Judaism, Christianity and Islam; and so are they from civil rules and human values, which are as indispensable as the latter for achieving mutual respect, cultural and religious diversity and social cohesion.”

He also said, “Making the religious dialogue a qualified and through communication not only leads to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect but also find common interests and ways of and contribution in the societies.”

“That is why it is necessary to maintain a preventive plan of information and training on Islam and Muslims because several difficulties still remain in the European context. Indeed, the lack of knowledge about religion in general, and about Islam in particular, risk creating grave confusions, prejudices and unjustified amalgams between terrorism and Islam, provoking phenomena of racism and Islamophobia. Because one cannot think that all immigrants and foreigners of Islamic culture and origin represent a potential danger for the EU’s security and its individual States,” he said and added, “In front of such an ignorance and misunderstanding, as Western Muslim Theologians and believers, we work hard to change wrong ideas and representations by clarifying and reminding our brothers as well as fellow-citizens what Islam teaches, for instance, as the true meaning of Jihad instead of the so-called Jihadists, the worth of peace over violence, the priority of knowledge over blind ignorance.”

Dr Fawzia Al-Ashmawi of the University of Geneva spoke on the Islamophobia that has been created by Muslim extremists and how the Ummah has to respond to it. Sheikh Abdul Wahid Pallavacini delivered the paper of his son Imaam Yahya on the unification of the Ummah and creating a voice for them in tackling Islamophobia. Dr Adil Khan of Cork University then gave a report on the workshop of Islamophobia and Dr Josephine O’Brien of Al-Ain University delivered a report from the workshop on dialogue.

Dr Farid Younus, Dr Fawzia Al-Ashmawi and Dr Abdul Wadoud were all honoured with the “Distinguished Ambassador of Islam and Visionary of Peace” award and Dr Josephine O’Brien was honoured with the “Visionary of Peace” award. That was in the session of 28th September, 2010.

Day Two:
The History of Islam in the West
The theme of this session was “The history of Islam in the West” and the moderator was Dr Adil Khan of Cork University. Sheikh Satardien of the Intercultural Peace Centre delivered a paper on Muslims feeding Islamophobia and also gave a power-point presentation. Dr Josephine O’Brien spoke on the history and the impact immigration had on the identity of the people and the lessons learnt from it.

Dr. Mozammel Haque
Dr. Mozammel Haque, an Islamic writer, columnist, presented a paper on “Leadership, Islamophobia and Dialogue.” He spoke on how Muslims were affected in the West and especially in Western Europe by Islamophobia and how to remedy it. He has also shown how misleader can sow the seeds of hatred, mistrust and Islamophobia and how through proper leadership an atmosphere of communal harmony and tolerance can be fostered.

Dr. Haque has also elaborated in details the measures taken by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding. He has also narrated the course adopted by President Barack Obama of the United States of America to bring communal harmony between Islamic World and the West.

Then Dr. Farid Younus from America presented a paper on “The Role of Government in the Promotion of Dialogue” and Mufti Dr. Walid Hammoud from Finland a paper on “The reality and future of Pluralism and Co-existence.” In his paper Dr Walid Hammoud, gave an outline of how Muslims in Finland dealt with Islamophobia and referred to the Intercultural Peace Centre and Interfaith Roundtable model of Ireland to be implemented all over Europe as it delivers positive results in bridge-building.

Presentation of Lifetime Achievement Award
The Life-time achievement Award was given to Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, President of the World Muslim Congress, Dr. Hamid bin Ahmad al-Rifaie, President International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, Dr.Abdulaziz Othman Al-Twaijri, Director of ISESCO. They got the award for life-time achievement, award for excellence for the services they rendered to Islam. These Awards were presented in the first session of the first day of the Conference.

Presentation of Ambassador of Islam Award
On the second day of the Conference, on 29th of September, Dr. Mozammel Haque, Media Advisor of Islamic Cultural Centre, London; receives "Distinguished Ambassador of Islam and Visionary of Peace" Award for his efforts for dialogue, justice and peace in the world. The Award was presented by Professor Dr. Hamid Al-Rifaie, the President of the International Islamic Forum for Dialogue of Saudi Arabia

The European Muslim Council for Peace, Justice and Dialogue has given Award to Dr Mozammel Haque for his “sterling efforts for peace and justice in the world and the promotion and well-being of Islam. Your hard work for the Deen of Allah SWT and the well-being of the Ummah has been noticed and we would like to honour you with a very humble award of appreciation.” said the Award. The Prize was awarded to Dr. Mozammel Haque at the Intercultural Centre, Dublin in the presence of international gathering of distinguished personalities.

Dr. Farid Younus from America and Mufti Dr. Walid Hammoud from Finland also received the “Distinguished Ambassador of Islam and Visionary of Peace Award at the same session.

Session on The Dynamics and
scope of existence of cultures

The conference resumed the session of “The dynamics and scope of existence of cultures” with Sheikh Satardien as the moderator. Dr Adil Khan delivered a paper on identity and referred to some Muslims as experiencing an identity crisis in the West. Jamil Usman of New York elaborated on the onslaught of the media on Islam and the necessity of creating our own news channel to broadcast in the West.

Dr Al-Rifaie from Saudi Arabia then spoke again on the importance of dialogue and educating the people of the West in true Islamic principles. Dr. Bekir Cinar from Turkey’s paper was read by Sheikh Musa Admani. Dr Adil Khan was presented with a manifestation plaque and Jamil Usman was honoured with the “Distinguished ambassador of Islam and Visionary of Peace” award.

Following resolution was unanimously passed at the end of the Conference: “Based on what we felt from the great outcome of the International Islamic Leadership Justice and Peace Conference, held in the city of Dublin - the capital of the Irish Republic at the period from 19-21 Shawaal 1431 H, corresponding to 28 - 30 September 2010; the Muslim leaders who participated in the conference - and with the support of other leaders - have decided this conference is to be a lasting International institution under the name of the International Islamic Leadership Conference for Justice and Peace and adopted Dublin as the headquarters of the Conference. Other branches of the conference can be opened in other countries all over the world.

We have also decided unanimously the following‫:‬
1 ‪‫.President of the Conference / Prof. Dr. Hamid Ahmad Al-Rifaie.
2 ‪Secretary-General of the Conference / Prof. Dr. Shaheed Satardien.‬
3 ‪Advisory Board Chairman / Prof. Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef‬
4 ‪Participating Islamic leaders are founder members of the Conference.‬

The following morning of 30th September a closed session was held and all the delegates were taken on a Dublin Bus tour and a River Liffey Cruise.