On Wednesday 23rd and Thursday 24th October 2013, the University of Wroclaw in Poland hosted a public conference, titled “Exclusive Citizenship and Contemporary Theories of Transnational Justice,
Multiculturalism, Neutrality, Contract, Free Speech, Neo-racism and Deliberation”.
The conference was organised jointly with the University of Tromsø, Norway. The aim of the conference was together authors approaching the problem of transnational justice on local, state, regional and global perspectives, using a range of approaches including socio-political, cultural and religious.
This is a summary of the proceedings of that timely conference.
The conference was attended by William Barylo, Research Assistant at The Cordoba Foundation
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly of the United Nations declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The International Day of Peace was established in 1981.
During the International Day of Peace, local schools, churches, synagogues, temples, gurdwaras and community organisations are invited to observe the day by accepting visitors. Last year, thousands of Islamic centres in the UK and overseas led their local communities in observing the day.
This year, on Friday 20 September, the London Muslim Centre and The Cordoba Foundation invited visitors from various organisations after Friday Prayers (Salaatul-Jumu’a) to exchange messages of peace, to celebrate local peace-building activities and to enjoy the hospitality offered.
In a thought-provoking lecture Sri Lanka’s internationally-renowned jurist, academic and author, Prof. Christie Weeramantry warned that if the 21st continued in its destructive and bungling ways there would be no 22nd century
Describing the modern day as the most rapacious in history Prof. Weeramantry blamed the power of money, the power of science and the military for pillaging the earth.
He said that thousands of years-old religious teachings that called on rulers and the ruled to protect and preserve the environment and safeguard natural resources are being neglected or rejected, breaking the age-old nexus that existed between religion and human conduct.
A former Judge of the International Court of Justice in the Hague, a professor of law at Monash University in Australia and a justice of the Supreme Court of Sri Lanka, Prof. Weeramantry was speaking to an audience of barristers, solicitors, law students and others in London last week on global religious wisdom as an enrichment of international law and an aid to the solution of current conflicts.The lecture was organised by the Association of Sri Lankan Lawyers in the UK and The Cordoba Foundation.
Referring to the world’s major religions- Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism- he said that the wisdom expressed by these religions and the religious leaders 3000-4000 years ago had anticipated today’s international law.
Whereas the wisdom of those religions should have formed the foundations of international law and the conduct of countries and rulers, those wise words are in reality ignored or relegated to the background despite the lip service paid to religion.
Prof Weeramantry also debunked the belief among some in the western world that international law was essentially a creation of the west. Such a conclusion, he said, is untenable because several thousand years earlier all major religions had reflected on and pronounced on a whole gamut of human activities.
Citing various religious teachings Prof. Weeramantry showed modern international law had already been anticipated by these religions which originated in Asia.
Drawing on his experience as a teacher and an international judge Prof. Weeramantry lamented that the teaching of law today remained an arid discipline and appealed to the legal profession to help rebuild the bridge between religion and international law.
The Cordoba Foundation and the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in London launched a new film about Islam in Poland, directed by William Barylo. Hosted by Witold Sobków, the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in London, the screening of the film and Iftaar (breaking of the fast) took place at the Polish Embassy in London on Thursday 18th July.
The film, “Polish Muslims: An Unexpected Meeting”, was directed and produced by William Baryło, a doctoral candidate at the EHESS, Paris and Research Assistant at The Cordoba Foundation.
The film gives insights to the sheer diversity of the Muslim communities in Poland and provides a glimpse of the relationship between Muslims and the whole Polish society. More than describing the centuries-old Muslim legacy in Poland and presenting the current challenges for the Polish society, ‘Polish Muslims’ explores the building of bridges in a multi-cultural society.
In attendance were leading figures from Muslim, Jewish and multi-faith organisations, charities, research institutions as well as community activists and youth.
The event was moderated by by Dr Anas Altikriti, CEO of The Cordoba Foundation and opening remarks from His Excellency, Mr Witold Sobków, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland in London.
Dr. Altikriti remarked that “it is more than a happy coincidence that the name of the Ambassador coincides with Prince Witold, who welcomed in the 14th century the very first waves of Muslim Tatars to Poland.”
His Excellency, the Ambassador, studied Islamic Studies and Arabic Language in SOAS, welcomed the audience with a respectful “As-Salaam Alaykum”. He underlined the importance of knowledge to “fight prejudice, ignorance and stereotypes.”
Describing himself as an advocate of “the peaceful coexistence of cultures”, he asserted that Islam is a “peaceful religion, not a threat”, and highlighted its key values of “justice, compassion and solidarity.” The ambassador stressed the need for a society that is respectful of cultures, and urged all to “do our best to fight Islamophobia”, and that “the corrosive effects of Islamophobia should be recognised as unacceptable and not tolerated.”
The Ambassador extended its words of appreciation to The Cordoba Foundation “for their initiative, innovative approach and the clear vision of the work they have been carrying out since 2005”. He further commented: “The objectives of the Foundation are relevant in the times we have come to live and I hope that by the means of systematic and strategic steps we can ensure the progress of a peaceful and respectful coexistence of cultures, ideas and people.”
About the film, the ambassador admitted that “the lives and experiences of the Muslims in Poland is in many ways an unknown territory to many people” and thus congratulated the film director, William Barylo, for “all his efforts in bringing this part of Poland closer to us.”
His Excellency, Mr Sobków described the film as “fantastic”. Whilst there was a lot everyone learned from the film, he pointed out the film’s objectivity, which showed both the positive side and the challenges facing the Muslim communities in Poland.
Providing an overview of Poland’s cultural wealth and complexity, the film raises interesting and pertinent issues for discussion and debate. Precisions have been given especially on the general open-mindedness of the Polish society and government towards minorities, the activism of young Polish Muslims and the different Muslim representative organisations.
Rabbi Herschel Gluck, founder of the Jewish-Muslim Forum, said “this is an important perspective about a community which many are unaware of. It’s very important as an European that there is a thriving Muslim community in Poland which is respected and which is very engaged with Polish life. It’s actually an integrant part of the Polish narrative.”
Alicja Kaczmarek, head of the Polish Expats Association, commented: “The film was very beautiful and very interesting. A real eye-opener, proving communities can actually exist together. There is something we can learn whatever part of the world we are from. It generated an interesting conversation after.”
Catriona Robertson, convenor of the London Faith Boroughs Network (LFBN) and An executive member of the European Network on Religion and Belief (ENORB), said “I loved the film, because it is very particular. It doesn’t fall into the trap of generalisations.”
Dr AbdoolKarim Vakil, lecturer in Kings College London found “a wonderful film for opening up a window in a country and a context I don’t really know much about. I hope there will be a sequel of this movie.”
The Cordoba Foundation hopes with optimism that this film, questioning perceptions of cultural and religious differences, could foster a more lucid look onto the world’s 21st century multi-cultural society. The Cordoba Foundation is pleased that this event signals, hopefully, the beginning of future collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Poland.
The organisers thank the Polish Embassy in London for hosting the screening of this documentary at the embassy during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The event ended with a call to prayer and breaking of the fast (Iftaar), with a delicious Polish buffet.
As thousands converge in Potocari today for the funeral prayers of over 400 bodies and the 18th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, we are once again reminded of the lengths that man could potentially go to when immersed in a state of fear, hatred and division
The Memorial Day puts to rest any naivety that the lessons of the past have not only been learned, but well and truly headed. Not only are human beings chronically capable of committing the most repugnant of acts against fellow human beings, regardless of the advancement of time, the catalysts for these crimes are invariably similar whatever the different and unique circumstances of each.
The Cordoba Foundation has been working tirelessly to raise awareness of the threat man poses against his fellow man, should particular conditions become established on the ground. Whether Srebrenica, Auswitz, Rwanda, Gaza, Kashmir, Myanmar or Somalia, and whether in the last century, this or the one coming, injustice establishes fear which breads suspicion and ultimately hatred. From there, the move on to violence is neither a difficult nor inconceivable step to undertake. Our objective is to work in common collaboration to remove the very initial elements on that tragic path, and to counter the root causes for clashes based on false and misguided understanding and implementation of the concepts of ‘self’ and ‘the other’.
The Srebrenica Memorial Day provides a timely reminder to us all of the challenges that can only be met in a sense of togetherness and community.