ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates-Tuesday, December 12th 2017 [ AETOS Wire ]
The Fourth Annual Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies continued in Abu Dhabi. The second day of the forum included three panel discussions on ‘Islam and the World’, ‘Islam and The World – Ways to Rapprochement and Solidarity’ and ‘Fear of Islam: Causes and Contexts’, and were attended by senior officials, ministers of Islamic countries, and an elite of high-level scholars, decision-makers, and intellectuals.
The first theme, discussed during this morning’s session, participants discussed ‘Islam and the World – An Islamic Vision of Global Peace’. The session was moderated by H.E Dr. Mohammed Mokhtar Juma, Egypt’s Minister of Religious Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf), who led the discussions with Ahmad Al Ebadi, the Secretary General of the Muhammadiyah Association of Scholars, and member of the Board of Trustees of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies; H.E Mustafa Ceric, former Grand Mufti of Bosnia, and member of the Board of Trustees of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies; Dr. Radwan El Sayed, Professor of Islamic Studies at the Lebanese University and member of the Board of Trustees of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies; and Minister for Religious Affairs and Civil Society of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nurlan Yermekbayev.
H.E. Ahmad Al Ebadi
Dr. Al Ebadi said that religions in general and especially monotheism were the greatest gift given to humanity. Religion allows precognition and promotes balance between good and evil, right and wrong; with the ultimate goal of achieving happiness of mankind, in this world and the next. He added that the most notable problem is interfaith fear. “The ‘budget of fear’ is stupendous; global military expenditure stands at over $1.3 trillion, a sum sufficient to feed more than half of the world's population. Only 7 per cent of weapons purchased are used in times of war, which means that fear is expensive; putting an end to fear will allow us to use the wasted billions of dollars towards more useful goals,” he continued.
H.E Mustafa Ceric
H.E Mustafa Ceric, former Grand Mufti of Bosnia and member of the Board of Trustees of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, noted that Muslims have one option, and their future depends on achieving reconciliation between their past and their future, to advance human life. Not withholding any restraint, he set the outline where the East and West misunderstand each other. He five important facts that the West ignores about Islam, notably; (1) the Holy Quran; the West does not understand that the Holy Quran cannot be changed or altered; (2) the Sharia; the West fails to understand that the Sharia is a universal vision, and religious and secular legislation; (3) Prophet Muhammad, the Messenger of God: Christians and Jews in the West could not accept Muhammad as a messenger of God; they see him as a great religious teacher and they mock him; (4) the Jihad; is popularized by the West as violence and war against the West and its institutions; (5) the status of women; the West does not understand that women in Islam enjoy their own identity and personality. He then went on to cite the five facts that Muslims don’t understand about the West, notably; (1) freedom; the East does not reject freedom as a factor of human and historical progress but has a different view of freedom;(2) democracy; the East is still hesitant to accept the principles of democracy, based on the citizen's right to vote; (3) Institutions; the East does not understand the importance of institutions in the West; (4) human rights; the East still has to assume its responsibilities in this regard; (5) Policies; the West's policies with respect to Muslims is still unclear for Muslims. He ended with a positive note: “It seems that the human today has been corrupted by various ideological forces. Please remember that we share the same spirit which ultimately is the fundamental crux of global peace.”
Dr. Radwan El Sayed
Dr. Radwan El Sayed, Professor of Islamic Studies at the Lebanese University and member of the Board of Trustees of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, indicated that the push for reforming the values, ethics and work methods in Islam throughout the past century are no longer sufficient to mend the rift, and that a new vision to get the Islamic system back into shape is needed. He spoke about the incompatibility and falling-out between the "coexistence jurisprudence" and the "religion jurisprudence"; pointing out that Muslim scholars have endeavored for more than 100 years to address this problem but have yet to attain the ultimate goal.
H.E Nurlan Yermekbayev
H.E Nurlan Yermekbayev, Minister for Religious Affairs and Civil Society of the Republic of Kazakhstan, explained that the spectre of a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West has loomed after 9/11, which produced distorted images of Islam, caused by the use of Islamic slogans by extremists and terrorists to cover their crimes. He said that problems related to religion are not caused by Islamic thought, but by the misinterpretations of the Islamic teachings, which underlines the need to shed the light on the peaceful and tolerant nature of Islam. He also emphasized the need for religious moderation, “The solution to Islamophobia depends on Muslims themselves and their efforts to combat extremism,” he said.
H.E Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar
H.E Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar, Secretary-General of the Vienna-based King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), chaired the second session, under the theme Islam and The World – Ways to Rapprochement and Solidarity’. The session featured a panel discussion led by H.E Ahmed Ould Ahl Dawood, Minister of Islamic Affairs and Traditional Education of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania; Dr. William Fray Vendley, Secretary General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP); Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Media Company; and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, Vice President of the Forum, and President of Zaytuna College, USA. Dr. Al Muaammar opened the session with a speech by which he said: “Following the Iranian revolution and the rise of political Islam, extremists have sought to use religion to serve politics. Another global issue, was the deepening prejudice against Islam in the post 9/11 era, when the terms Islam and the West appeared.”
H.E Ahmed Ould Ahl Dawood
H.E Ahmed Ould Ahl Dawood, Minister of Islamic Affairs and Traditional Education of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, highlighted the universal and noble message of Islam, which extends way beyond globalization. Islam recognizes that there are a plurality of religions on this earth, and gives the right to individuals to choose the path which they believe to be true. It believes that there shall be no compulsion in (acceptance) religion, and that nations have their own particularities. He pointed to the most important characteristics of Islam and its message, “the message of Islam is timeless, yet suitable for the developments of modern world. It is a humanitarian and moderate message, which seeks to achieve balance between this world and the next.”
Dr. William Fray Vendley
Dr. William Fray Vendley, Secretary General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace (WCRP), shared his experience with religions and said that humans share the human dignity that God bestowed upon all mankind. He called upon everyone to see the good in others, and stressed the need to exert concerted efforts to fight the evil that divides people:
“We need to honor our faiths and be in solidarity. God has made us relational which is the essence of being a person. God’s peace is our shared well-being. We as religious people need to build a community of shared well-being. All Abrahamic faiths recognize that human dignity is linked to common good which peace must be premised on because it is a God-given value. We are all subsidiaries to one another. When we work together we can achieve remarkable things. After working for years with other faiths it seems to me that believers become more in love with their religion. It involves embracing each other’s religion extramentally as well as intramentally. Lastly, we need to own our responsibility to not restraining our goodness with the evil that charges us today. Ultimately we should resonate with the Quranic verse: ‘And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.’”
Dr. Ali Bin Tamim
Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Media Company pointed out that the religious discourse in the Quran addresses people regardless of their color, race, sex or religion. He noted that the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan advocated cohesion and solidarity, out of his firm belief that humans are equal and enjoy a common destiny:
“The UAE has overtly pledged to combat intellectual extremism; not only through military action, but by addressing the intellectual and educational sources of extremism, which is a growing threat for all countries around the world,” he noted. He also stressed the need for moderate scientists to try and change the stereotypical image that links Islam to terrorism and extremism.
Sheikh Hamza Yusuf
For his part, Sheikh Hamza Yusuf noted that despite the growing fear of Islam, Muslims still enjoy freedom of religion, regardless of what extremists do. He referred to the peaceful greeting of Islam, and shed the light on texts in the Qur'an and the Sunnah that mention peace in Islam:
“This is one of the best times where we see non-Muslims talking at least positively about the Muslim world from a historical perspective, despite what we see in terms of negativity from various bodies and individuals. Since Islam recognizes things through their opposites, we can’t understand peace without understanding the nature of war. The Prophet (PBUH) used to wish peace in routines of his life. War is about perishing and annihilation whereas peace is about sustenance and free from blemish. We have two options: we either choose to be at peace with our lower selves and war with others or have war with ourselves and peace with others. Most of us will never go to war thank God but we will always be fighting ourselves. The reason is supposed to regulate the appetitive (anger) and irascible soul (desire). Justice is the balance of these internal faculties that governs ourselves as well as the society at large. Imam Baihaqi referred to Adam as the man as one who did not raise his hand and shows that the first shariah of man was to be in a state of peace. Between jihad of the soul and jihad of property is where peace lies. Jihad is a noble word in the Muslim world and its fundamentally points to gentleness.”
The third and final session was moderated by Dr. Mohamed Senoussi, member of the Board of Trustees of the Forum, who led the discussions with Dr. James Zogby, President of the Zogby Center for Research and Studies, USA; Dr. Besa Ismaili, dean to the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Pristina, Kosovo; Catherine Osborne, Executive Director of the ‘Shoulder to Shoulder’ Organization; and Qary Asim, British advisor in the anti-Muslim hatred working group. The session featured an open dialogue between guests and the audience, and included an overview on the history of the ‘Should to Shoulder organization, and the reasons that led to its inception in the wake of the widespread attacks against Muslims in the post 9/11 era. The session also explored ways to put an end to fear of Islam in non-Muslim societies. The following is what some of the members had to say on combatting Islamophobia through practice:
“President of the Shoulder to Shoulder organization which is a coalition of various religions to combat anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic movements in the American context. This is enacted through discussion, media and conversational reform. Unfortunately, our work has not been institutionalized by the government so we are working on building momentum together to develop the proper infrastructure for the communities that we are seeking to effectively serve.”
Rabbi David Saperstein
“We treat fellow brethren to help each other and understanding each other. We collectively celebrate each other’s holidays. Jews and non-Jews live together, distribute charity together, visit the sick together and visit the dead together. We find it very important to lift our teachings from one another to solidify one another. However, we have sometimes different foundational structures which requires a lot of work and education to get over some obstacle.”
Dr. Besa Ismail
“70 % of the Muslims in Kosova are the youth. We have created constructive content that helps the youth with not only reconfiguring the radical ideas that do persist but also with the difficult cultural context that they live in. We are trying to provide a correct native whereby the positive constructions of Muslim and Islam are reinforced.”
Dr. Imam Qari Asim
“I have worked with many religious leaders from others where we had the opportunity to be placed on platforms where certain myths of the respective religions were displaced. Additionally, as a specific case in point, a senior Rabbi and myself worked together showed solidarity and lived together in a tent to show support for refugees. We also have a food banks where members of the Abrahamic faith work together to serve food to the homeless. I am also working in anti-Muslim groups that is supported by the government of the UK in making this more manageable and serviceable for the Muslims and the wider non-Muslim community.”
Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies
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