Friday, 15 October 2010

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.

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