Sunday, 17 January 2010

Dr. Naseef attends Islam and The West Conference in Brussels

Dr. Naseef attends Conference on Islam and
The West: A Partnership for the Future in Brussels

Dr. Mozammel Haque

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

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

"This is not just another conventional forum but rather a valuable encounter that seeks to build a genuine partnership founded on common international, social, cultural and economic values that are shared or could be shared, with a view to generating real cooperation between Islam and the West," said Dr. Lamand to the press about the upcoming conference and added, "In a world which is in the grip of the globalization- related hazards and turmoil, this encounter may be a gateway to a new era of mutual understanding, fellowship and solidarity."

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

Invitations for the conference have been extended to all those seeking a mutually beneficial rapprochement between the two worlds. "Come, let us join this debate on the future and participate in the construction of a great arch of reconciliation and exchange between Islam and the West, which aims to bring together in the same spirit of concord Jews, Christians and Muslims," he said.

Representatives of the international Muslim community and of Western Countries participated in the Conference. The Three-day conference has three parts: such as 1.Two worlds reaching out for an interchange; 2.Towards renewed solidarity between Islam and the West and 3. Rekindled partnership opportunities. Thus the three days were devoted to three Rs: Reaching out; Renewed solidarity and Rekindled Partnership opportunities. .

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

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

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

Every day under the broad subjects, Social, Economical and media, four different aspects were discussed. In total forty papers were presented.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In a country with more than 6 million Muslims the largest Muslim community in Western Europe,”Islam and the West” is the only organization of its kind, trying to encourage communication and exchange to bridge the gap between the two communities as a whole: the Western community and the international Islamic Community, which is not limited to the Arab world, but extends to sub-Saharan Africa, central and south-eastern Asia. This organization emerged as the pioneer movement, created in 1977, in order to establish a multipolar dialogue and a better understanding between the two worlds.

It was a unique initiative of eminent Muslim and non Muslim personalities joining first in Geneva (1977), then in Paris (1980), determined to establish between Islam and the West a new and fruitful communication, based on the common or inner values of both civilizations, issuing from their common Abrahamic tradition. Thus, “Islam and the West” is thus a platform for communication and exchange between the two communities.

"For the last 30 years my organization has been working vigorously in favor of rapprochement between Islam and the West in religious value as well as cultural, social and economic values," Lamand told the press and added, "I may add that when we established our association in February 1980 with the objective and mission of acting to better the understanding between the two worlds, the public opinion in Europe followed us with a mixture of curiosity and skepticism. We felt the need to establish bridges between the two parties rather than seeing Islam and the West confronting each other and viewing one another as a threat."

Speaking about how he developed his interest with the Islamic world, Dr. Lamand said: "I was a professor at the French Faculty of Law and in 1970 I was appointed a diplomat in Kuwait where I worked until 1975. This was the first time I had traveled to the East. I began teaching in 1971 and taught international law to graduate students at the Faculty of Law and Shariah of Kuwait University. I had students from all over the Muslim world. In this atmosphere, I got a new image of Islam. I compared Islamic ethical values with those in the Western countries and it was in this context that I was attracted to Islam. I wrote a number of articles comparing the Islamic and Western legal systems. I now believe that the Western legal system could be enriched by incorporating Shariah law."

Dr. Francis Lamand, the President of the Paris-based "Islam and the West" rganization, has a mission and his mission is to promote understanding between Islam and the Western world. Since the organization's inception in 1980, the former French diplomat and international law expert has sought to develop cultural, social and economic relations between the Islamic and Western worlds, both in France and overseas.

According to Lamand, the answers that each side seeks come in part from a better understanding of the other side. "The West and Islam are traversing simultaneously, and for the first time in their history, a period of critical crises: a value crisis in the West ..., an identity crisis in Islam. Yet they can both find a reciprocal remedy to their malaise," he said. "Today, the West and Islam are two wounded worlds in need of each other's comfort, before they resume their common and long, onward march on a shared path of humanism."

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