The 9th of April 2013 will mark 10 years after the fall of Baghdad and in what was to be a symbolic justification for the intervention by Allied forces, the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad amidst televised scenes of ‘jubilation’.
Ten years on, Iraq continues to search for a unifying national identity. After 2003, Iraq’s different communities retreated to their sectarian and ethnic enclaves for protection and for the survival of their various cultures. Presently, the country is fast descending into de facto three separate entities.
A timely conference to be held on 8th April 2013 at The Commonwealth Club, organised by The Cordoba Foundation and The Sharq Forum will primarily review and examine the achievements and failures of a decade’s long intervention in Iraq by Western-led forces and regional powers. The conference will also examine the nature and shape of future international interventions in the region. Despite the huge cost to state and society, Iraq will continue to play a strategic role in the region provided it addresses its internal political and social challenges.
Speaking at the conference will be a number of dignitaries including the Rt Hon Ms Clare Short, former minister for International Development; Waddah Khanfar, former Director-General of Al Jazeera & Director, the Sharq Forum; Professor Norman Kember, Emeritus Professor of Biophysics at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry and a Christian pacifist activist, who was held hostage for four months after travelling to Iraq in 2005; Dr Anas Altikriti, CEO of The Cordoba Foundation, and, part of the team that successfully negotiated the release of Western hostages including Professor Kember in 2005; Mohamed al-Daini, former member of the Iraqi Parliament; and Professor Rosemary Hollis from City University, London, and former Director of Research at Chatham house.
The organisers hope that through this gathering of international stakeholders, it will help chart a course to a proper democracy and human rights, where all Iraqis feel safe, equal and enjoy the fruits of a real change.
For more information about the event, please click here
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) helped organise a two-day event in Brussels, Belgium, from 19-20 March, consisting of discussion and debates concerning fair treatment for all in Europe.
The main organiser, European Network on Religion and Belief (ENORB), is being consulted by the European Commission (DG Justice) on the current 10 year review of implementation of the Directives on Equalities and Fundamental Rights – which cover Religion and Belief.
Legal experts from member states and academic institutions as well as from R&B (Religion and Belief) organisations and networks at grassroots level took part in the two-day event. Conclusions and recommendations from the event will be submitted to EU officials.
Abdullah Faliq (Head of Research) and Noridine Bendou represented TCF in Brussels. Day one kicked off with a roundtable where chief guest, László Surján, Vice-President of the European Parliament, spoke about the need for communities to understand each other better for better community cohesion. The second day consisted of discussions, presentations, workshops, networking as well as site-seeing.
Please click here for a selection of pictures from the two-day event
Notes to editors:
1. Picture credits: Noridine Bendou, The Cordoba Foundation
2. Abdullah Faliq (The Cordoba Foundation) is a founding member of ENORB.
3. To find out more about the work of ENORB, visit www.enorb.eu
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) commemorates the UN designated World Interfaith Harmony Week which takes place annually in the first full week of February. The week provides a platform from which all people of goodwill can recognize that the common values they hold far outweigh the differences they have, and thus provide a strong dosage of peace and harmony to their communities
Commenting on this, the Chief Executive of TCF, Anas Altikriti said ‘The start of 2013 has been marred with inter and intra faith clashes across much of the world. More initiatives that can allow people to come together and acknowledge each other’s uniqueness whilst working for the common good needs to be encouraged’.
Now more than ever is the need to move towards a sense of peace and mutual respect for people of faith and no faith. Religious scriptures all envision a pluralistic world, mutual understanding and religious tolerance, emphasising love of the Creator and love of the neighbour in contributing towards meaningful peace around the world. This has to be realised in reality so that we treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.
Thus we need to collectively work to restore empathy and compassion to the forefront of our initiatives such that breeding violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate. We need to ensure that our youth are given accurate information about other traditions, religions and cultures. We need to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity. We need to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings.
Whilst recognising this week as a platform for dialogue leading to respect and understanding, TCF calls for multi-faith action that produces tangible outcomes for communities in the front line and that also engages practically with faith leaders in order to resolve and avoid conflict and bring about peace, tolerance and harmony at the grass roots.
TCF calls for the creation of more organised response mechanisms at all levels and the support of existing initiatives such as the Interfaith Harmony Week or The World Parliament of Religions in order to build momentum that can educate people about each other and that can condemn all forms of discrimination, intolerance and oppression against ethnic and religious minorities.
There is a need to speak out and stand for justice in the spirit of the following verse from the Quran “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” Surah An Nisa 4: 135
It is only with this type of attitude that the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community is possible.
1. If you are doing some events to celebrate this week, please do share your stories and photographs with us, so we can put it on our website.
The Cordoba Foundation launches, The MENA Report, the first in a series of monthly reports, providing insights and analysis of events and developments in the Middle East and North Africa. Aimed at European and Western readerships, the report provides impartial, accurate and authoritative content and analysis, through The Cordoba Foundation’s unique access to rare and highly important primary sources in the Middle East and beyond.
Head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at The Cordoba Foundation, Dr Fareed Sabri described the Middle East and North Africa an ancient place were religions, sects, communities and empires have risen, ruled, withered and passed over the past 7000 years. “Each historic experience, war, religion and rule carved its mark on the human topography of the region. Nowadays, democracy has become the rallying cry for the masses and the elite. It is not uncommon to hear the most ardent of dictators in the region talking about the democratic way of life, free expression and participatory politics making it very difficult and tricky to separate truths from deception and inaccuracy. The MENA Report seeks to unpick and unravel some of this, and provide objective and strategic insights into events and developments in the region.”
The first issue of The MENA Report focuses on some of the salient issues and developments in the region, including crises facing the new governments in Egypt and Tunisia; the situation on the ground in Bahrain and the role of Gulf countries; the Israel-Palestine conflict and the recent French operations in Mali.
Anas Altikriti, Chief Executive of The Cordoba Foundation, explained the launch of the new report as “being part of The Cordoba Foundation’s ever-expanding work, namely in the fields of research and publications. Our in-house experts and researchers are acquainted with the region’s traditions, its socio-political and cultural mosaic as well as the many layers of society. We hope to fill the void of academic and political analysis of events in the region through this new series.”
To download the report please click here
To order hard copies of the report, please click here
To offer feedback or to contribute to the report, please click here
For further information on this and the MENA program of The Cordoba Foundation, please click here
On the International Day of Peace, 21 September, The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) will be joining other organisations and faith institutions to express solidarity with all efforts intended to make this world more peaceful.
As the day falls on a Friday when Muslims gather for their weekly afternoon Friday Prayers, Salatul-Jumu’a, this year’s celebration will be particularly poignant as mosques and Islamic centres in the UK will open their doors to visitors wishing to join them during or after Friday prayers. People of different faiths and none will exchange messages of peace, celebrate local peace-building and share hospitality. They will be joined by others overseas, some as far as Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Abdullah Faliq, Head of Research at TCF, which has been working on this campaign from the outset, explained: “Unlike launching into war, establishing peace requires a lot of determination and continuous effort. We are delighted that people of all faith and none have come together to mark the International Day of Peace this year with so much vigor and passion.”
In such a turbulent period of global history, TCF Chief Executive, Anas Altikriti, stressed that “peace is not the absence of conflict and violence, but rather the establishment of justice through mutual respect, understanding and acceptance”.
Thus the International Peace Day is a reminder to all of us to find alternatives to what threatens peace and harmony and to provide a space for people to realise their own destinies.
TCF is particularly delighted to release a special edition of its Occasional Papers series, in commemoration of the International Day of Peace. Titled, Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future, it features an article by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and messages of support from Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury; Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Corporation (OIC); Jeremy Gilley, Founder of Peace One Day; Catriona Robertson from London Peace Network. The Occasional Papers will be released at a ceremony hosted by Lord Bates to mark the official launch of International Peace Day at Westminister Hall, Houses of Parliament (UK) on Friday 21st September at 11am.
TCF commends London Peace Network (and its partners), for undertaking such an unprecedented initiative of linking UK Islamic centres with other institutions.
Commenting further on this Anas Altikriti, said “We are taught that we do not inherit the earth from our forefathers but we borrow it from our grandchildren. We need to all collectively work towards the promotion of peace and understanding between cultures and civilisations. This initiative is the right and first step and needs all our support”.
Notes to editors:
1. For a full list of participating mosques and Islamic centres, see
2. Media / general enquiries about International Peace Day:
Catriona Robertson, London Peace Network, 07903 682 142, firstname.lastname@example.org
Julian Bond, Christian Muslim Forum, 07813 018 450, email@example.com
Abdullah Faliq, The Cordoba Foundation, 0208 991 3372, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ali Abbas Razawi, Majlis-e-Ulama Europe, 07894 277 658, email@example.com
3. Link to introductory film
4. For anyother enquries, please contact Amjad Saleem, Head of Communications, The Cordoba Foundation, 020 8991 3370 / media @thecordobafoundation.com
Call to Action: Rohingyas of Myanmar Need Support
From June 2012, deadly sectarian violence in western Myanmar’s Arakan State between the ethnic Arakan Buddhists and the Rohingya (and non-Rohingya Muslim) communities is part of a long running saga of tension, racism and oppression, which has seen thousands die and hundreds of thousands displaced over the last many decades.
President Thein Sein in July told the United Nations that refugee camps or deportation was the “solution” for the Rohingya.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
This unfolding humanitarian tragedy has an international dimension and requires determined support from all. By applying sustained pressure on the appropriate authorities, through our local
communities, we can bring about change to this apartheid.
This is a human tragedy, and one which affects us all, irrespective of our colour, creed, race or religion. Therefore, please be generous with your
time, wealth and support.
We can all help in raising awareness of the plight of the Rohingya people.
To find out more about what we can do, please click here
To get involved with the campaign, please visit the website of the RMCG
Faith-based organisations must take a lead in enabling youth to find meaning and purpose in their lives, recommends a report on the riots, which shook London and other cities in England a year ago.
Entitled ‘After the Riots: From Blame to Positive Action’, the report contains the conclusions of a national forum, jointly organised by Initiatives of Change UK, The Cordoba Foundation, Burning2Learn and the Civil Society Forum.
The forum, which was held on 1 February 2012, dealt with the moral and values dimensions of the problem.
The forum brought together some of the principal players, young and old, who were involved directly with the riots, either as perpetrators, victims or people who prevented the riots taking place in their communities.
At the forum, young people were given the chance to air their views and opinions in an open and safe environment and candidly expressed their frustrations about various issues; the relationships with authorities, such as the police, and the lack of job opportunities.
Stressing that ‘this is not the time to despair’, the report states: ‘Throughout Britain, there are seeds of hope. These are sown by community groups and organisations. Out of the bankruptcy of failed regeneration efforts, a new set of organisations are emerging in inner cities. Change and development is taking place at the local levels.’
One of the key segments in the forum, according to the report, was the sharing of initiatives of change, led by individuals and communities. The participants heard case studies of how, against all odds, individuals and communities have created small projects – some even big ones – to tackle issues such as, poverty, gun culture, drugs and unemployment.
The report concludes: ‘All efforts to tackle the root causes of unrest need to take into account these experiences.
‘Solutions to problems abound. The challenge for all of us, particularly decision makers, would be to ensure that such initiatives are sustainable and facilitate similar positive action throughout the country.’ (Don De Silva, Initiatives of Change)
To read the report, please click here
To find out more about the event, please click here
As the Srebrenica Memorial Day anniversary on the 11th of July approaches its 17th year, 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 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.
The Cordoba Foundation is issuing the special Friday sermon from the Mufti of Bosnia Herzegovinia on this occasion
Considered to have witnessed the dawn of western civilisation, the medieval city of Cordoba has for centuries been revered for its significant contribution to scholarship and learning. A cultural, economic and political metropolis, Cordoba is world-renowned for providing a haven for persecuted communities, an attribute which travelled far during Cordoba’s golden years.
In the spirit of the significance of the city of Cordoba in medieval times, The Cordoba Foundation in partnership with Muslim Writers Awards is proud to present ‘The Spirit of Cordoba’ prize, awarded to an individual who embodies the essence of Cordoba.
To award this prize, the organisers are inviting members of the public to nominate individuals/groups who have uniquely contributed in analysing the relationship between the east and west in an attempt to open the channels of communication and dialogue between the two. These individuals/groups will strive towards redirecting narratives to correct the presentation of the ‘other’ in an attempt to embody the essence of Cordoba’s peaceful co-existence, today.
Assessed by an esteemed panel of judges headed by The Cordoba Foundation CEO, Anas Altikriti, the prize will be awarded to the individual/group whose work in expressive arts (photography, writing, theatre, art) is proved to have made an impact on the wider society, building a strong following and changing public opinion, creating a media stir and even perhaps helping to change legislation.
Closing date: 20th July
The 2012 Muslim Writers Awards welcomes submissions from Muslim writers across the world. We have a broad range of categories from screen play to novel writing to journalism. Our awards ceremony is an opportunity to showcase talent from both published and unpublished writers. We also work with a number of literary agents and publishers who are eager to read and review writing submitted to us.