Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Interfaith Symposium Countering Fear and Rise of Discrimination

Interfaith Symposium Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK

Dr. Mozammel Haque

“One conviction was clearly articulated here today and the International Dialogue Centre advocates this conviction as well. No religion tolerates violence, discrimination, or prejudice in its name. On the contrary we are motivated by the conviction that religion is, and must be, part of the solution,” said Mr. Fahad AbualNasr, Director General of the KAICIID, at his closing speech at the One-day International Interfaith Symposium Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK, which was organised by the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC), London in cooperation with the Vienna-based KAICIID (King Abdullah International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue), held at the Conference Library Hall of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London, on Thursday, 9th of November, 2017.

There were four sessions besides the Opening and Closing sessions. Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, addressed the Opening Session. After his Opening address, the Symposium started.

Opening speech of Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan
Dr. Ahmed al-Dubayan in his Opening Speech, addressed the gathering including the diplomats, representatives from different embassies and religious leaders by saying, “Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, Assalamualaikum wa Rahmatullahe wa Barakatuhu, peace be upon all of you. It is a great honour and privilege for us, here to have together this symposium with you which is very very important.”

He expressed his deep thanks to the Vienna-based KAICIID (King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue) for Interfaith Dialogue for their really continuous works throughout the world really to have more environment for interfaith for better understanding for dialogue and their activities are really remarkable and their works may be seen in many countries.

Subject or Topic of the Symposium
And its importance
Speaking about the subject or topic to be discussed today, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “Today’s subject or topic which we are going to discuss about and we have many experts, speakers to discuss this, is very very important. It is about many phenomena around us; one of them is Islamophobia, one of them is hate crimes; are they rising or not, and why? And what is the solution? And many other issues; such as: what are the roles of religious leaders, how can we expect from religion really to be a factor for better understanding; not a factor of misunderstanding; among our people.”

Dr. al-Dubayan also said, “Very important also today because the subject we are talking about today is really related to the life of societies everywhere in the world; because we have religions everywhere in the world. We have different communities everywhere in the world. It is also important because it is really related and touches the future. It is important because it is also related to the youth in our communities in the societies.”

Modern technology and the digital technology
Speaking about the modern technology and the digital technology and how it will remove the borders of knowledge among the societies, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan mentioned, “Interfaith today is very very important kind of activity. We believe also after this actually the removal of borders of knowledge among the societies within the modern technology, the digital technology. We expect this much of knowledge about others will bring better understanding than differentiation.”

All Religions call for peace and harmony
Speaking about the messages of all religions, the ICC chief maintained, “Religions, all of them of course in their messages call for peace, call for harmony, in one society or different societies; but what we see sometimes is really exactly the opposite. Religions sometimes are used to hate other people or interpreted sometimes to build orders among communities among societies. Now we have new phenomenon where we need more efforts not only from religious leaders, but we need from sociologists, from politicians also; and from religious leaders and any expert who have any knowledge in this field.”

Stereotypes in communities
Speaking about kind of stereotypes in communities, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned, “We have to really talk about this stereotype that is every community or every people around the world have this kind of stereotypes which of course build through sometimes decades, sometimes even from centuries, like about the old image of Islam in Europe in the old literature especially after the Middle Ages. All these stereotypes must be discussed and we have to really have room to discuss this; to talk about how to educate people and how we study this to bring harmony and peace for everyone.”

Issue of Identity
Speaking about the issue of identity, the ICC Director General said, “The issue of identity is very very important now and I myself think it is really one of the vital issues which may be affect even what we see about the youth when they go to be radical; I think this is one of the manifestations of the issue of the identity. If the person does not belong to the society or feels that he or she does not belong to a society where they live then this is really a problem; that means they are really go to too radical against the society whom they don’t belong.”

“Many things of course they are all related together; as I said sociology is there; religion is there; politics is there and many things are there and management is there sometimes. That’s why we have this symposium together,” said Dr. Al-Dubayan and added, “And that’s why, ladies and gentlemen, you are here today to discuss and talk about this. We have many experts talking today; we have also many penallists going to talk here. They are people of experts, either they work in this field; either they work in religious field or they have made studies about some of these phenomena I have just talked about.”

Concluding his Opening Address, Dr. Al-Dubayan thanks everybody on behalf of the Islamic Cultural Centre as well on behalf of KAICIID. He said, “On behalf of the Islamic Cultural Centre and of course on behalf of KAICIID I would like to welcome you and thank you so much for coming today and being with us today and I am sure, ladies and gentlemen, it is very important. That’s why we open our hearts and then we talk about this. If leaders of the society do not put their hands together I don’t think there will be solution for the future or in the future.”

Session 1: Identifying familiar patterns and situational differences in the UK
The topic of the First session was: Identifying familiar patterns and the situational differences in the UK: Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK. In this session, following questions were looked into and discussed:

-          Is it true that hate speech and hate crime is on the rise? How is it manifested, in which shapes and forms?
-          What, according to your community, have been the main drivers of fear? Towards whom?
-          How has religion, ethnicity or national origin been used to foster fear, feelings of superiority in the lead up to the increase of incidents?
-          How has religion been misused to justify discrimination and/or violence in a broad sense and in the UK?

This session was moderated by Renata Nelson, Assistant to the Senior Advisor, KAICIID and the Panellists were Dr. Sayyed Ataollah Mohajerani, Religious Researcher and Writer; Reverend Bonnie Evans-Hills, Dioceson Interfaith Advisor, At Albans, Priest in Charge, Luton; Rev. Alexander Goldberg, Chaplain of Surrey, International Advisor and Director of Programmes University in Surrey and Aysha Esakji, UK the Home Office Counter Extremism.

There was a break for prayer and then the Session 2 started.

Session 2: Role of Religious Leaders and Establishments in Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK
The topic of Session 2 was: The Role of Religious Leaders and Establishments in Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK. Taking into account the background of the increase in hate speech/crimes in the UK, as well as the recent terrorist attacks:  the following points were looked into for discussion:
-          What are the potential causes within your own community that have led to discriminatory speech/actions or event hate speech/crimes?
-          How religious leaders and religious institutions in the UK do to counter these actions?
-          What can religious leaders and religious institutions do to try to address the drivers of these feelings and actions?
-          What are the responsibilities of the faith community, civil society more broadly, as well as the individual believer in countering hate speech/crimes? How?

In this Session 2, the moderator was Mohammed Abu-Nimer, Senior Advisor, KAICIID and the Panellists were The Archbishop Gregorios of Thyatriara and Great Britain; Rev. Mark Poulson, Secretary for Inter-Religious Affairs to the Archbishop of Canterbury and National Inter-Religious Affairs Adviser for the Church of England; Bhia Sahib Mohinder Singh, Chairman of the Nishkam Group of Charitable Organisations; and Sheikh Dr. Isa Jahangir, the Principal of Islamic College.

There was a lunch break and Prayer time. After that, the Symposium started again.

Session 3: Fostering Social Cohesion
After Lunch and Prayer, the Session 3 on Social Cohesion started, the moderator was Ahmed Shaheed, special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion and Belief. This session was going to look into the following:
-          What measures can be taken to build bridges across the gaps that have been created by Brexit, the conflicts abroad, religious extremism, etc?
-          What is needed in your community to support these measures?
-          Who is needed to support these measures?
-          How can we ensure that the most affected communities in the UK benefit from such measures?

Among the speakers in the panel of this session were Commander David Stringer, Metropolitan Police; Ven. Mahinda Deegalle, Professor of Religions, Philosophies and Ethics, College of Liberal Arts, Bath Spa University; Iman Abou Atta, Director of TellMAMA; Krish Raval, Director of Faith in Leadership and the Senior Faith Leadership Programme run in partnership with the University of Cambridge Divinity School programme.

Iman Abou Atta
While speaking in the session, Iman Abou Atta spoke about awareness, multiple factors played in the hate crime. She mentioned majority of the attacks are on the street; physical assault, following Brexit; holistic approach to find out – south Asian background, Turkish women and also Jewish heritage. Reasons are hatred and intolerance.

She said they are working in partnership with police forces; we try to match our data Muslim community and security forces. She also mentioned about backlash internationally terrorist activities – she said we have direct contact with police forces;
She also mentioned younger generation is often attacked; they are the victims.

Summing up: Documentation; outreach in terms of building bridges; trying to facilitate accountability; working with the police; multiple forms and multiple platforms.

Commander David Stringer, Metropolitan Police
Commander Stringer gave statistical figure of current hate crime in London. He said there is rise in hate crime after Brexit. He mentioned British crime services says actual level rising; every kind of hate crime is rising.

He also mentioned women are unreasonably target because they are clearly visible.
Speaking about how to deal with that, he mentioned Criminal Prosecutor Service (CPS) charges. People knew now they will be liable to have significant charges and punishment.

Summing up: Importance of solidarity; universality of values; human rights/equality framework; response to the aftermath and interfaith and intrafaith activities.

Krish Raval, Director of Faith in Leadership
Krish Raval said Xenophobia rise after Brexit; He mentioned to bring people together; to bring forth faith leaders together. He said we encourage pluralism; our answers are to be good; go deep; deep religious;

Summing up: Deep faith is better than shallow faith. Understanding the other faith.

Ven. Mahinda Deegalle, Professor of Religions, Philosophies and Ethics
Mahinda talked about Buddhism and Buddhist community. He mentioned Buddhist community in the United Kingdom is a tiny community; very few people; few temples – Sri Lankan temple.

He said important idea about media came out today but he mentioned media is full of religion in one way or other. When talking about what the religious leaders should do; he said feed the media with right and proper information.

He again said people emphasized the importance of mother. He said religious teachers cannot teach the young people; he emphasized on the importance of the role of parents, mother and father.

Talking about young generation, he said: ask the young participants in the meeting; we are not successful in reaching out to them. Then he talked about alienation.

Summing up: Media is responsible but we have the responsibility. Character forming; Alienation – community.

Session 4: Closing Session
Closing Address by Fahad Abualnasr
Fahad Abualnasr, Director General of KAICIID gave the closing speech. In his closing address on Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the United Kingdom, he said, we have all heard today, we share a commitment to champion policies that help citizens appreciate diversity as a beneficial pillar of a robust and resilient society.

Speaking about the role The Islamic Cultural Centre London and the International Dialogue Centre in Vienna are playing, Mr. Fahad said these two institutions place the “the greatest importance on inclusive dialogue. Today’s forum has been enriched by the active participation of religious community leaders, representatives of the Metropolitan Police, the Home Office, the academic community and civil society.”

Xenophobia is growing
Mr. Fahad mentioned today’s dialogue revealed plainly that xenophobia is growing. Xenophobia diminishes the rights and the prosperity of citizens in Europe as well in some other parts of the world. This xenophobia is expressed in prejudice against minorities, including religious minorities. In certain cases, here in Europe, religious minorities face discrimination.

Report says at least 25% of the Muslims
surveyed faced daily discrimination
Mr. Fahad also mentioned, “Some forms of religious prejudice are monitored by European Institutions such as the Fundamental Rights Agency. The Agency’s surveys show that some religious minorities in Europe report that they avoid religious events or sites because they fear for their safety. At least 25% of the Muslims surveyed by the Agency faced daily discrimination in the past year. The reported discrimination occurs on the street and in job interviews.”

“Research shows that if we tolerate a public discourse that divides citizens into groups, into ‘us’ verses ‘them’ based on skin colour, religion or ethnicity, then we will harvest conflict and greater prejudice,” he said.

KAICIID promotes dialogue
Mr. Fahad also talked about the KAICIID. He said, “At the International Dialogue Centre, we promote dialogue that addresses existing prejudice and stereotyping. The Centre’s multi-religious Board includes representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism. Inclusivity and diversity is at the heart of our identity. The Centre’s interreligious and intergovernmental structure fosters constructive, equal cooperation between religious communities and governments.”

Works of KAICIID
Speaking about the works of the KAICIID, Mr. Fahad mentioned, “We work in four conflict regions in Africa and Asia. We also pilot a project to support the integration of people seeking refuge in Austria to support the people seeking refuge in Europe. Their integration means that religious and cultural identities will be part of coming together with their host countries.”

“Integration is a two-way process between newly arrived and established citizens. In this program, we train women with a migration history to support newly arrived women and girls in pursuing their integration proactively. We will also support the interreligious education of young people seeking refuge. In this work, dialogue helps both sides, the new and the established citizens, acquire a full and accurate understanding of the other,” he explained.

Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors
Speaking about their Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actors, Mr. Fahad mentioned, “Together with our partners, the UN Office on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, the World Council of Churches, and the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers we are in the midst of implementing the Plan of Action for Religious Leaders and Actor to Prevent Incitement to Violence that Could Lead to Atrocity Crimes.”

Mr. Fahad said, “We have been involved in the Action Plan since its inception in Fez in 2015. It is a remarkable undertaking, because it is the international community’s first initiative that creates a coalition of religious, governmental, intergovernmental, and civil society organizations to prevent and stop incitement.”

KAICIID’s programmes in the Arab world
Talking about some of the programmes in the Arab world, Mr. Fahad briefly mentioned those programmes which may offer good practices in approaching European challenges. He said, “For instance, we support religious educators in institutionalizing interreligious dialogue in the training of future religious leaders. We help facilitate the network with key Christian and Muslim religious higher education institutions in the Arab region to jointly formulate a curriculum to train future religious leaders to use interreligious dialogue. And we are currently training more than 400 young religious leaders to utilize social media to create a dialogue that pushes back against hate speech online.”

Religion is, and must be, part of
the solution – Mr. Fahad
Mr. Fahad also said, “One conviction was clearly articulated here today and the International Dialogue Centre advocates this conviction as well. No religion tolerates violence, discrimination, or prejudice in its name. On the contrary we are motivated by the conviction that religion is, and must be, part of the solution.”

In conclusion, Director General of KAICIID said, “We need to invest in building the capacity of religious community leaders, educators, policy makers and civil society to correct stereotypes and combat prejudice. This is an ethical commitment. It is a commitment to build resilience and respect to build an inclusive, peaceful future.”

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Interfaith Lecture on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as Mercy for Mankind

Interfaith Lecture at St. John’s Wood Church on

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as Mercy for Mankind

Dr. Mozammel Haque

During last one month many important conference, symposium, seminar and lecture were held in London, among which the most important was Two-day Chatham House London Conference; One-day Interfaith Symposium on ‘Countering Fear and the Rise of Discrimination, Hate Speech and Hate Crimes in the UK’ and many talks, lectures, seminars and conferences on Balfour Declaration 1917. And lastly, an Interfaith lecture on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as Mercy for Mankind was held at St. John’s Wood Church, Park Road, London.

I decided to pick up the last one on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). There are three reasons; first of all, this is the month of Rabi al-Awwal, the month of the birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Secondly, I used to write on him in the month of Rabi al-Awwal every year without fail, like Khaled al-Maeena, the former editor-in-chief of both Jeddah-based Arab News and Jeddah-based Saudi Gazette. Thirdly, this time an interfaith lecture on the Prophet peace be upon him) as a Mercy for Mankind was delivered in a Christian Church.

Speech on Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) at
St. John’s Wood Church, Park Road, London
On Sunday, the 12th of November, 2017, an Interfaith Lecture on the Mercy for Mankind Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was organised by St. John’s Wood Church, Park Road, London and was held at the Church premises where the Director General of The London Central Mosque and Islamic Cultural Centre, Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, was invited to give a talk on Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  The Vicar of St. John’s Wood Church, Fr. Anders Bergquist, introduced Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan who was the guest to give a lecture on the subject, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) as Mercy for Mankind. Guests included Senior Rabbi Alexandra Wright – Liberal Jewish Synagogue and many others. The talk was followed by a Question and Answer session.

Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan
Dr. Ahmad al-Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre, London started by saying, first of all, ‘bismillah hir rahman nir rahim’ this is the word meaning  ‘in the name of Most Merciful the Most Compassionate God.’ Then he addressed the gatherings by saying ‘Assalamualaikum wa rahmatullah,’ which again he explained, this is also the way that we greet in Arabic, that means ‘peace be upon all of you and with you all of you’. The nice lovely day thank you very much.

Then he said, “My friends and neighbours, thank you for this invitation. I am so happy to be here today with you and I am sure what is actually brought us together here this feeling that is we have; we have lot of things in common and that’s why I am happy to come here to speak and say to you. We are neighbours; always neighbours support actually well—connected time.”

Why I have chosen the Prophet
In the very beginning, Dr. al-Dubayan explained why he has chosen Prophet Muhammad as a subject to talk about. He said, “There are two reasons; the first one is really the highest personality for Muslims and in Islam. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the model for all Muslims; they try to follow, to learn from his behaviour as well as from his manners. Secondly, he is also a person, who actually in many ways misunderstood, sometimes misinterpreted, not only by non-Muslims but by Muslims themselves, some times. That’s why it is very important and I am sure, not sure, may be some never read anything about him; so that’s why I chose this personality to talk about.”

Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned that the talk will not be about his biography rather he has chosen all those things of his life which is related to mercy. He said, “I have chosen or picked up, lets say, about the dimension of mercy in Islam. This is very important. I have chosen this, particularly, actually mercy has spiritual value. It is one of the well-known qualities in Christianity itself; it is also one of the higher values in Islam. It is actually the Mercy when it is in your heart you will feel that is really if in peaceful time and peaceful life. It is also the value the thing that is asking from Allah Himself from God Himself. When we ask for mercy we have to give mercy first. We have actually asked for mercy itself.

“Also there is another reason for choosing mercy. Mercy; it is the value; may be one of the most, not only the most ever, important value for us to live in harmony in one society, to love each other to be actually well-connected to have better understanding. Because without this value of mercy things will be really miserable and life will not be good at all,” he mentioned.  

Then Dr. al-Dubayan talked about the social side of mercy itself. He said, “There is also the social side of the mercy itself. Today actually, in our modern life, mercy becomes even more important, with more this connection we have around, all this technology; with all this what we hear, what we do, and what we do every day now, we are very busy may be more than anybody else in the history in the past. Because of all these things we are having and we have in our hands. We have lot of overwhelming news coming from the media, from the internet etc; so this value is very very important which keep us in right direction of our campus where to go.”

About the Prophet peace be upon him
After giving introduction about mercy and its importance in today’s life and in today’s society, Dr. al-Dubayan started talking about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He said, “Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was born in Makkah. He actually was called to Islam when he was forty. He was not like Jesus Christ that he was young. He actually started calling to Islam at the age of forty. At the age of forty he received revelations, the Message. He was asked to call people. He stayed in his home town Makkah 13 years calling people, telling them and giving them guidance to give up all actually the old religion of the Arabs who used to worship idols and paganism all those things at that time. He actually suffered a lot. His first followers suffered here.”

First Generations of Companions to Abyssinia
Dr. al-Dubayan then mentioned the Hijrat or migration of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to Madinah. He said, “After this he moved to Madinah; this is another city which is 400 kilometres away; then he stayed there ten years only and then he died. So the whole actually the age of Islam with the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was 23 years only - 13 years in Makkah and ten years in Madinah. All these 23 years he actually used to tell people little by little, verse by verse, chapter by chapter the Qur’an the Holy Book of the Muslims.”

His contact with Christians
Dr. al-Dubayan then mentioned the Prophet’s first contact with Christians. He mentioned, “Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself actually had the first contact with the Christians when he sent his Companions, the early generation of his Companions, the first Companions actually, sent them to African country where Christian king was ruling at that time. He said to them, ‘Just go there; there is a king, the Christian king; he is very just king; live here; it is more peaceful than Makkah in your people.’ And about 18 people - men and women with their husbands and with their children - sometimes went to Abyssinia, at that time; Ethiopia now or Somalia. They stayed there two years till the situation in Makkah becomes better. Later they came back. They stayed there as Muslims under the protection of Christian king in Ethiopia at that time. Ethiopia and Somalia they are now argue where that was actually.”

His contact with Jewish community
Speaking about his first contact with the Jewish community, Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned, “When he moved to Madinah then he had contact with the Jewish community. There was a big Jewish community, lived and well in Madinah many years before the Prophet came to Madinah; they were living with some Arabs. The population of Madinah at that time was actually some Arabs who were not Christians but they were not Jew; but they followed their own religion before the beginning of Islam and a big Jewish community. When the Prophet peace be upon him came to Madinah, he signed a treaty which is called Madinah Treaty; it is a Convention between him and the Muslims and the Jewish community. In the text of this Convention it was said, “It is today Muslims and Jews are one nation. It means we defend you something happened to you and you defend us when something happened to us.”

Dealing with wives
After mentioning about Prophet’s first contact with the Christians during his Makkah period and then his contact with the Jewish community when he moved to Madinah, Dr. al-Dubayan was talking about the value of mercy in his actions, his relations and sayings. He said, “During his life, we can see the value of mercy in many aspects; in actions; in relations; in his sayings also. For example, he had more than one wife  but we don’t know about harm doings with his life; in fact, he never hit any of them; he never did anything harm to any of them; he never hit a child; he never raised his hands on animal or a child.”

Dealing with servants
After citing his mercy towards his wife, Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned how the Prophet (peace be upon him) dealt with servants. He gave an example, “When Prophet (pbuh) came to Madinah, a widow who has child ten years old, his name is Anas, came to the Prophet. She said to the Prophet – ‘Can I leave my boy to you to stay between my home and your home as servant to stay with you and then to help you if you need things whatever;’ then the Prophet said, ‘yes, okay’. The boy stayed there. He used to go between his home and Prophet’s home everyday serving the Prophet, bringing something, sending here and there; and after ten years Prophet died. The servant himself, Anas the boy said himself, ‘I stayed with him ten years, he never hit me; he never said to me why did you do this; or why didn’t you do this; that was really very good treatment I got from the Prophet’. Even people used to call him the companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) of his life about 80 years; When the prophet died he was at the age of 20 years; he lived 80 years more to reach 100 after the prophet.”

“The Prophet (pbuh) used to walk on the street; then a woman stopped him to talk to him; he used to stop to listen to her; old ladies, young ladies sometimes even teenagers, they stopped him on the street and he used to stop to listen to them. To give hear to them, to listen to their some complaints; some needs they need from him; then he said, yes, I will do it; he tried to do it,”  Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned.

Dealing with children
Then Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned about his dealings with children. He gave an example, “Once Prophet was actually sitting in his house; then his grand son al-Hassan who was about five years old; he was playing around him. He used to carry him from the floor and kiss him and put him back and play with him again and hug him as we all do it with children. A man from the desert, a Bedouin, came to visit the Prophet; when he saw this, that was something unusual to him; he said, ‘Muhammad, I never did this to my children that you were doing with him.’ It happened more than one time. The Prophet said, ‘what shall I do to you if Allah does not put mercy on your heart. Your problem; you have to have mercy’.”

Dr. al-Dubayan then mentioned about the first Hadith, the tradition of the Prophet (peace be upon him). He said, Muslims used to study the Qur’an and after this they used to study the Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet (peace be upon him). The chief of the Islamic Cultural Centre (ICC) said, “The first Hadith tradition started always with is the Hadith when he said those who have mercy in their hearts Allah will give them mercy. Merciful people will have mercy from Allah. We have to have mercy on people on earth Allah will then have mercy.”

Dr. al-Dubayan also mentioned another incident when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) shortened his prayer so that the mother can take care of her crying baby. He mentioned, “Once the Prophet was in the mosque praying; he decided at that prayer a long prayer. When he started, then a child took crying in the back with his mother; then the Prophet did the prayer quickly; the companions enquired what happened Rasoolullah that you prayed very quickly today. The Prophet said, ‘Have you heard the child crying? The mother was worried about him, so I made my prayer quickly; so that she can make her prayer quickly and go to the child to see.’ This is an example.”   

Adopting or fostering an orphan
Dr. al-Dubayan also mentioned another saying of the Prophet (pbuh) regarding adopting or fostering an orphan. He said, “The Prophet (peace be upon him) also said; ‘Anybody who adopts an orphan or fosters an orphan he will come with me in paradise the distance is like this two fingers together.’ That means together in paradise.”

The ICC Director General also mentioned another saying of the Prophet (pbuh) about taking care of children, especially daughter. He mentioned, “The Prophet said, ‘Take care of children, especially daughters. Anybody who had two daughters, three daughters or four daughters; then he takes care of them till they are adult; their life is okay; then I guarantee that you will be in paradise.’ Specially the daughters; why? Of course boys have mercy; but why daughters, because in that society at that time daughters and women they really need support in order to have their life in order.”

Take care of three things, the Prophet said
Dr. Al-Dubayan mentioned, “One of the last word the Prophet said, ‘Take care of three things; number one prayer, never forget it; number two, you have to treat woman very well, very good way; number three, do it the best with the servant; the people who worked; stay most of the servant slaves sometimes; let them to eat from your food; let them have clothes like yours clothes; whenever you cook something or they help you to cook have them first because they are the one who cook it; they are the one who serve in the fire, in the smoke; and you just come in and eat it and they don’t. These are some of the practical things he used to have doing in his daily life.”

Mercy on Animals and Birds
What about animals? Animals are also important. Dr. al-Dubayan spoke about the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) mercy on animals. He gave an example. He said, “I will give you a story which shows how much mercy he had. Once when he went to Makkah about ten thousands people was going towards Makkah that time and when they returned back in one of the valleys between the two cities they found a dog actually with puppies in one of the valleys; when this ten thousands people or the armies come it will destroy all of them. When the Prophet (peace be upon him) saw the female dog; he advised people, ‘hold on’ and then he changed the direction of the army all of it ten thousands people and he asked one of his friends ‘to stay there to guard the dog and their puppies till everyone was moved from that area’. Think about the change of direction of the whole army because of the dog in the way.”

The ICC chief mentioned another instance to show Prophet’s mercy on birds. He said, “Once the Prophet (pbuh) was sitting with one of his companions; then he saw a bird there flying around from this wall to that wall in this area. The Prophet said, ‘anything have happened to this bird; someone has taken the chick of this bird’. One of the men sitting there said, yes. The Prophet said, ‘Put the chick back and children or something.’ All these stories and others show that this man had mercy for everything around him.”

Earlier Dr al-Dubayan mentioned one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, wherein the Prophet said, ‘Those who have mercy Allah will have mercy on them’. In order to elaborate that, Dr al-Dubayan gave an example, he said, “Once a woman who used to be working as a prostitute profession or word in Arabic which shows that this woman is working or doing this work. She was walking happily. She found a dog. This story was told by him. She found a dog, the dog was so thirsty; there was a well; you know the wells were too deep; and then the dog was going around the well because she was so thirsty trying to find a way to quench thirst; or access to the water but the water was so deep down. The Prophet said, ‘When the woman sees the dog; she thought my god; the dog is very thirsty; then she took her shoes, went down to the well, put water into the shoes and give it to the dog’. Actually, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Allah thanks for this and everything she has done’; compare between the sin itself is very big and see the action for which she was forgiven is very small compared to that, just giving water to the dog. How merciful is Allah. God Himself is very Merciful.”

Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned another story which was said by the Prophet peace be upon him. The Prophet (pbuh) told the story: “A woman actually was put in fire because she locked a cat in her home. She did not feed the cat, she did not release the cat out; she locked the cat that is a very big sin of the woman.” Another example was: “A man said, ‘I wanted to slaughter a goat for food, when I saw her, the goat, I had mercy on my heart. He hesitates to slaughter. He has mercy; because of this mercy Allah will have mercy for him.”

That’s why, because of this, in the Qur’an Allah Himself told us that ‘We only send you, Muhammad, as Rahmatullil Alamin, Mercy for Mankind.’ The Prophet (peace be upon him), all his life, he never treated people in his house or Companions, or children or women in a bad way at all. This is actually always encouraging people talk in the mosque because for everybody the value of mercy is very important. This is very important for all of us or for all religions and all religions by the way talk about mercy,” mentioned Dr. al-Dubayan.

The ICC chief said, “The problem comes always in the practice; when it comes to implement this actually into in our daily action, in our daily communications; in our daily sayings what we say; what we talk; it is not easy. We have to remember this value. I believe Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself throws this aspect that I have mentioned to you in his life; is a very good model or the best model actually with the value of mercy.”

Dr. al-Dubayan also mentioned, “We connect this, of course, with Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) who also well known for his mercy; his messages on mercy; of course I am not going to preach Jesus Christ in the Church. If we connect also to other Prophets - Zakariyah, Jacob, Joseph, Abraham, Moses (peace be upon them all) - all of them we will find actually this aspect - taking care of other people - is always there; and always valid and always available; you may see it here, you may actually hear here very clear; see it here; no way hidden or written but need some interpretations. It is always there. Because we believe Allah chosen these people; God chosen all these Prophets because they have the ability; they have actually spread this message; they can deliver this message to us; firstly the value is the only thing that we really need today in connection with other people. This is not only, the Prophet said, this is not only for Muslims; this is for everyone; it is for mankind; for any human being; for all the mankind.”

“This mercy is not only for human beings, not only for animals; but of course for everybody; it is even for nature around itself; there are rules in Islam about nature; how to protect natural resources; not wasting things,” said Dr. al-Dubayan and mentioned one of the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), “If anybody kills a bird or small bird (sometimes people do it just for fun), who kills a bird without any need a small bird like the small sparrow as we see in the garden, whatever that may be, he will be asked in the day of judgement, ‘why you kill this bird.’ We have to remember this in our communication in our relation.”

The Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre said, “That’s the message of today and that’s the message I have taken today only particularly from the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him); of course there are lots of stories, there are lots of sayings by him besides the verses of the Qur’an about mercy; how beautiful how important how must do we have all these things are around everything.”

Dr. al-Dubayan mentioned another Hadith. He said, “In another Hadith, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, ‘Allah will reward you for anything, even if you have one date and you cut it into two and then you give it to somebody;’ just half of a date can you image; something very cheap; sometimes we think it’s a easy thing, a silly thing; but Allah counts everything; everything is counted. Any soul you feed or give it is a charity; even the good words you say it to somebody; it’s a charity. Even the smile when you meet somebody in the street, you just smile to make other people happy; this is a charity. This the Prophet (pbuh) said. Even when you take a food and you give it to the mouth of your wife to show her your love; to show her that you love her and appreciate everything that she did for you. This is a charity. Allah will also give you reward. Even the small thing we sometimes forget. All time all that somebody wants to be remembered how value the charity is for the cause of God. That’s why I am doing it.”

Questions & Answers sessions
After this, there was a Questions & Answers session when many questions were asked for more elaborate discussions and clarifications; these included about definitions of Mercy and distinctions between mercy, generosity and compassion. Dr. Al-Dubayan was also asked to explain charity and its distinction and differences between charity and sadaqa and also the differences between sadaqa and Zakat. There was a lively discussion on many other related topics.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Chatham House London Conference - Part - One

The 2017 Chatham House London Conference at St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London – Part One

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Two-Day The 2017 Chatham House London Conference was held at St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London on Monday and Tuesday, 23rd and 24th of October, 2017 respectively.  The report of this Two-Day conference will be covered in two issues – this is part one report of the conference to be followed by Part Two report.

Why this Conference held at this time?
The organiser of the Chatham House London Conference explained why they thought this conference should be organised. According to them, the followings were the scenario for which The 2017 Chatham House London Conference was organised to work together to build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.

“In the Balance: A Future World (Dis) Order
World Order is fundamentally changing. The Trump Presidency has left a vacuum in global leadership; developments in the Middle East are intensifying the struggle between Gulf states and Iran; Russia persists in reasserting power while Europe remains preoccupied with its internal recovery; the North Korean threat become thornier; and China seeks to balance its growing international ambitions and internal dilemmas. This is all taking place against a backdrop of accelerating technological advances and ever-expanding flows of information, bringing unprecedented change and uncertainty to how we work, compete and relate.

The 2017 Chatham House London Conference will focus on how world order is shifting under these pressures and how societies and leaders can best adapt. This is a vital moment to convene leading thinkers and actors from across the world to compare best practices and chart ways to work together to build a sustainably secure, prosperous and just world.”

There were two Keynote Speeches: One on the Day One. Topic: A Vision For Global Britain by Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson, MP. Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, UK and another Keynote Closing Speech on Day Two: By His Excellency Adel al-Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Saudi Arabia.

Similarly, there were five Plenary Sessions: three on Day One; such as Plenary Session One was on America First – America Alone: The End of World Order;  Plenary Session Two on People VS Politics: Building and Breaking Trust Plenary Session Three – How Can States Navigate the Global Disruption? Take Aways From Day One

And there were two Plenary Sessions on Day Two, they are as follows: Plenary Session Four – The Liberal Economic Order: Will the Centre Hold? Plenary Session Five – Alternative Views on Future World Order, chaired by Robin Niblett, Director, Chatham House.

Besides the Keynote speeches and the Plenary sessions, there were two Break-Out Sessions-Round One and Break-out Sessions – Round Two.

Proceedings of the Conference
The Conference was started by Robin Niblett, Director of Chatham House, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, an International Think Tank, welcoming the guests, delegates and dignitaries on behalf of the Chatham House. The Agenda of the Conference was as follows:

Day One, Monday, 23rd of October, 2017
After the welcoming address by Director of the Chatham House; it was followed by Brain Storm: What is on your mind? By Nik Gowing, Visiting Professor, Department of War Studies, King’s College, London.

Keynote speech:
A Vision For Global Britain was delivered by Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson, MP., Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, UK.

Plenary Session One was on America First – America Alone: The End of World Order; 
Plenary Session Two on People VS Politics: Building and Breaking Trust

There was a lunch break and after the lunch break, following sessions were held.

Break-Out Sessions – Round One
Session on Beyond Oil: New economies in the Middle East and North Africa took place in ‘The Quarters’;
Session on Hacking Elections: Politics and Cyber Security took place in the ‘Ladies Smoking Room’ and
Session on Fear the Future? What’s Next for International Trade took place in ‘Hansom Hall’.

Break-Out Sessions – Round Two
Session on New Business Models: Disruption and Opportunity took place in ‘Hansom Hall’;
Session on Agendas and Agency: Africa’s Influence in an Uncertain International Order took place in the ‘Ladies’ Smoking Room’, and
Session on Lessons from Latin America: Conflict and Co-existence took place in ‘The Quarters’.

Plenary Session Three – How Can States Navigate the Global Disruption? Take Aways From Day One

Day Two – Tuesday 24 October 2017 – St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Open Round Table Discussions
Table A – Why Does Ukraine’s trajectory matter for Europe and the whole post-Soviet space; Host: Orysia Lutsevych, Manager Ukraine Forum, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House.

Table B – What are the challenges tomorrow’s leaders see themselves confronting and what capacities do they need to address them? Host: Andrew Swan, Assistant Head, Queen Elizabeth II Academy for Leadership in International Affairs, accompanied by Academy Fellows.

Table C – Rethinking the state in the Middle East; Host: Neil Quilliam, Senior Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House

Table D – Developing Businesses of Scale in Sub-Saharan Africa; Host: Chris Vandome, Research Analyst, Africa Programme, Chatham House

Plenary Session Four – The Liberal Economic Order: Will the Centre Hold?

In Conversation with Armando Iannucci.
Armando Iannucci, writer, producer and Director, The Thick of It, Veep, Saturday Night Armistice, The Day Today and The Death of Stalin. Chair: Robin Niblett, Director Chatham House.

Closing Keynote:
His Excellency Adel al-Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Saudi Arabia

Plenary Session Five – Alternative Views on Future World Order, chaired by Robin Niblett, Director, Chatham House.

Report on the Keynote Speech of Boris Johnson, MP,
Secretary of State for Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs,
Rt Hon Boris Johnson, MP, Secretary of State for Foreign And Commonwealth Affairs, UK said in his keynote speech as follows:
The Foreign Secretary highlighted the success of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in limiting the spread of nuclear weapons.

He pointed to the success of the nuclear deal with Iran and expressed his confidence that the deal can be preserved despite President Trump’s announcement of decertification.

He urged North Korea to change its current course, and rejected the examples of Libya and Ukraine as cautionary tales for Kim Jong Un of giving up his nuclear programme. In contrast, he argued that Kim’s current course is the biggest threat to his regime.

He cited the willingness of China to adjust their policy and bring economic pressure on North Korea as the biggest reason to be optimistic about a diplomatic solution – though he supports the US in keeping a military option on the table.

When asked about Brexit, he reiterated his support for the Prime Minister’s Florence speech as the basis of a way forward in the negotiations with the EU.
When asked about the annexation of Crimea, he admitted that an adequate response has not yet be found, but emphasized that the UK has strongly insisted that Russia must continue to pay a price. He said he regrets the deterioration with the relationship with Russia but expressed his hope for constructive talks when he visits in December.

Key Quotes from Secretary of State
for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Followings are the ket quotes from the keynote speech of Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, UK:

‘When you consider that every previous military development – from firearms to fighter jets – has spread among humanity like impetigo, you have to ask yourselves: why? Why have nuclear weapons been the great exception? …the answer is partly that many countries wisely decided, after the war, that they were going to take shelter under the nuclear umbrella provided by the US… it was that American offer – that guarantee – that made possible the global consensus embodied by the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty… It was an effort in which the UK – as one of the leading upholders of the post-war rules based international order – played a crucial role... That diplomacy has helped to make the world safer, more secure, more confident and therefore more prosperous… That far-sightedness is now needed more than ever, not only to keep the NPT, but also one of its most valuable complementary accords, the nuclear deal with Iran.’

‘That is the model – [the Iran deal model] of toughness but engagement, each reinforcing the other – that we should have at the front of our mind as we try to resolve the tensions in the Korean Peninsula. It is right that Rex Tillerson has specifically opened the door to dialogue. He has tried to give some sensible reassurances to the regime, to enable them to take up this offer.’

‘This is the moment for North Korea’s regime to change course – and if they do the world can show that it is once again capable of the diplomatic imagination that produced the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – arduously negotiated – and that after 12 years of continuous effort produced the JCPOA nuclear deal with Iran. It won’t be easy, but the costs of failure could be catastrophic.’

‘The NPT is one of the great diplomatic achievements of the last century. It has stood the test of time. In its restraint and its maturity it shows an unexpected wisdom on the part of humanity, an almost evolutionary instinct for the survival of the species. It is the job of our generation to preserve that agreement, and British diplomacy will be at the forefront of the endeavour.’                                                
[To be continued …] .