Sunday, 12 February 2017

Islam and Democracy - Civic Responsibility

Islam & Democracy - Civic Responsibility

Dr. Mozammel Haque

Last month in January, two events were held at the Islamic Cultural Centre, London. The first one was a meeting on “Islam & Democracy – Civic Responsibility,” organised by Islamic Cultural Centre, London, in collaboration with the UK Home Office, on Thursday, 26th of January, 2017. The second one was a conference on “Fifth Forum of Imams in Britain,” organised by Islamic Cultural Centre, London, in cooperation with the Dawah Office of Britain, on Saturday, 28th  of January, 2017. Followings are the write-up of those two events prepared on the basis of the draft reports of both the events received from the Islamic Cultural Centre. First is the meeting on Islam & Democracy – Civic Responsibility.

Islam & Democracy - Civic Responsibility
On Thursday, 26th of January 2017, Islamic Cultural Centre in cooperation with the UK Home Office held the first of four community question sessions under the theme of Islam and democracy; civic responsibility in the library Conference Hall of the Centre.

The event was attended by Trustees of the Centre, Cultural attaches, academics, researchers and many youths. With the sole aim of promoting dialogue to support the knowledge and understanding of the audience members in relation to pertinent issues as well as to provide communities with the opportunity to ask questions to specialists and government representatives and to offer their own views and reflections. The event was also designed to guide grievances towards positive and legitimate channels of democracy.

Each panellist was presented with a certain timeframe to present relevant views and points in relation to the theme of Islam and democracy which was followed by Q & A (Question and Answer) session and then dinner. 

Keynote speakers & Event Dignitaries
The Islamic Cultural Centre was pleased to welcome and host the following Trustees and Embassy/High Commission Representatives:
v     His Excellency Sheikh Fawaz Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain London.
v     His Excellency Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Haji Aminuddin Ihsan Bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin, High Commissioner for the Brunei Darussalam.
v     His Excellency Mr. Md Nazmul Quaunine, High Commissioner for the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.
v     Mr Saud Al Hamdan, Counsellor of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia
v     Mr Asif Khan, Head of Chancery, High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
v     Mr Muneer Ahmed, Press Attaché, High Commission for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
v     Professor Dr Reem Baghat, Cultural Counsellor and Director of the Egyptian Cultural Bureau of the Embassy of the Republic of Egypt.
v     Mr Mohammed Higair, 1st Secretary, Embassy of The Republic of Sudan London.
The evening was entertained by a host of speakers with a collective rich vast background of skills and expertise; the panellists for the evening discussion include the following:
v     Director General of The Islamic Cultural Centre: Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan
v     Chair of Panel: Mr. Hassan Mujtaba – London Tigers Community Development officer, London Tigers is an award winning registered charity that engages with disadvantaged communities across London and beyond with community cohesion projects.
v     Panellist: Hon Rehman Chisty MP, Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham.
v     Panellist:  Mr. Hashi Mohamed, Barrister with No5 Chambers, and special advisor to the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation.
v     Panellist: Sheikh Shafi Chowdury, Imam and religious advisor for Her Majesty’s Prison Services.

Forum Proceedings
The event was opened by Dr Ahmad Al Dubayan, Director General of the Islamic Cultural Centre. In his opening speech, Dr Al Dubayan addressed the audience and highlighted how the moral and teaching of Islam does promote democracy and stressed on the pertinence of this Forum in addressing the challenges and common misconceptions with democracy and provides the opportunity for detailed Q & A (Question and Answer) sessions with the panellists.

The ‘Islam and Democracy: Civic Responsibility’ event is a response to two local concerns expressed by some community members. The first is theological: specifically, a concern that Muslims cannot be both British and Muslim and that Muslims should not engage in mainstream British society, including democratic processes. The second is practical: even if individuals want to become more engaged in society and affect change it is not possible and there are no opportunities to do so. The event sought to challenge such narratives and to highlight the importance of democratic and civic engagement, from a theological and practical perspective, and the ways in which this can be achieved.

Panel Chairman Hassan Mujtaba explained the parameters of the discussion and how the discussion will be run and invited the speakers onto the stage to present their key points to the audience.

Rehman Chishti MP covered ‘How to affect change locally and nationally – ways to engage with society and the importance and benefits of democratic participation’.

Sheikh Chowdhury gave a Theological discussion regarding ‘the importance of participation in society and a deconstruction of arguments about non-engagement’.

Hashi Mohamed spoke about the ‘Importance of engagement with the democratic process at a local level – practical ways to do so’.

Speeches were preceded by half-an hour Q & A (Question and Answer) session with the audience and Dr Al Dubayan concluded by thanking all for their attendance and participation within the Forum and was delighted to see such engagement and enthusiasm during the evening. Dr. Al Dubayan paid tribute to the Trustees of the Centre for their invaluable support in the activities of the Centre and thanked the UK Home Office for their collaboration in the Event and also thanked his colleagues in the Islamic Cultural Centre for their hard work and diligence in preparation of the event.

Forum Feedback and Data Analysis:
The participants of the event were asked a series of question in terms of how they felt towards the event with the first question that was answered being “Has this event improved your awareness of Islam and Civic Responsibility” and the results can be seen below:

Question “Has this event improved your awareness of Islam and Civic Responsibility”

It can be deduced from the results that attendees had their awareness of Islam and civic responsibilities improved overall throughout the event. Participants were then asked two comparative questions before and after the event:

Question: What were your feelings on your ability to engage with civic democratic processes Before and After the event:


How confident were you that you could influence positive local and societal change Before and After the event?

No Confidence

How did you feel about the event overall?

Evaluation & Recommendations from Results:
The Results displayed in the Data Analysis shows that overall an improvement from before the event to after the event in the following sectors:
o       Advocating for better understanding of Islam and Democracy 
o       Promoting The Civic Responsibilities of all in the Community
o       Creating awareness of civil rights of all communities in Britain
The results also indicate a high satisfaction rate in the participants’ attitude towards the event itself which help promote a positive atmosphere in the event itself.

General Comments and suggestions:
v     Most participants relayed to the Centre in the additional comments section that they much enjoyed the discussions and found it most informative.
v     It was also mentioned that the topics covered were highly relevant and important topics as they were current affairs facing the Muslim community was highlighted in the feedback.
v     Many people mentioned how they enjoyed appreciating the views of the speakers as each one came from a different professional background thus providing the forum with a wealth of knowledge and information.

Areas to improve on in future events:
v     Include perspectives of youth and ways in which youth can better connect and engage with the Muslim Community.
v     Include more women in events and promote initiatives to promote women and to inspire women in the community
v     Allocate timeframe and monitor length of speeches to better allow for the flow of punctuality in the forum.

No comments: