Event Report – Roundtable on the Crisis in Egypt

Event Report – Roundtable on the Crisis in Egypt

On Tuesday 1st October 2013, The Cordoba Foundation hosted a closed-door high-level roundtable on the crisis in Egypt. The roundtable brought together representatives from the High Commissions of several Southeast Asian countries, and expert political reporters and analysts. The aim of the roundtable was to discuss the current situation in Egypt and to explore the role that the international community, in particularly Southeast Asian countries, could play.


The roundtable opened with an update on the current political and social situation in Egypt and a briefing on the key events which led up to the current crisis. Starting from the 25th January 2011, a series of protests were held across Egypt which called for social justice and demanded the overthrow of the regime of Hosni Mubarak. The ‘Revolution of the 25 January’, as it came to be known, resulted in the formation of a civilian state which was later dissolved on 3rd July 2013 when the opposition, fronted by the military,overthrew President Mohamed Morsi. Most recently events have included: a court ruling to dissolve the Muslim Brotherhood as an NGO and banning it from carrying out any activity in Egypt (which includes the social services that the socio-political group provide: schools, hospital and charities), and the freezing of all Muslim Brotherhood assets.  For further details about this, please click here


There has also been a clampdown on freedom of expression: the detaining of anyone calling for democracy which includes the detaining of at least 70 minors (Human Rights Watch); freedom of assembly: a series of attacks carried out by security forces on Muslim Brotherhood led protests which were held under the banner of the ‘Anti-Coup Alliance’in which over 6.000 people have been killed and over 15,000people have been injured; and freedom of press: 7 media outlets have been shut-down.Participants highlighted that the acute humanitarian conditions are indicative of the return of both a security state and an oppressive regime.

Participants in the roundtable applauded the role of The Cordoba Foundation in facilitating forums for such discussions, and pointed out that peace in Muslim countries would mean prosperity for the entire Muslim Ummah who, as a demographic, represent amajority in a number of Southeast Asian countries.

The representatives from High Commissions of the Southeast Asian countries expressed their hopes that the Egyptian military would carry out the road map that they proposed: which promised fair elections and a new and more inclusive government. However, they added that if the military failed to deliver on this then the international community would have the scope to change their stance. It was pointed out by participants that at this moment in time the military were not showing any goodwill signs to fulfilling their promised road map which is illustrated by not inviting the Muslim Brotherhood to join any ministry or the constitutional committee.

Participants expressed the was a need for key regional players, like Saudi Arabia, to change their political positions on Egypt in order to ensure a more unified international approach. It was mentioned that from the outset Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states miscalculated and antagonized the Muslim Brotherhood. Participants put this down to a number of reasons including: the superficial reading of the ‘Islamist’ label which generalised political Islam and the threat that democracy posed to the Gulf monarchs who, because they feared their own demise, took an active role in reversing the progress of the elected Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. It was argued that such regional players may reconsider their viewpoints if they were made aware of the real situation ion the ground in Egypt andobjections to their stance on Egypt by the public and key religious leaders. However, by taking local politics into consideration, one can question the impetus with which to work to muster people; Saudi Arabia, like many Gulf states, have large repression campaigns in which many people have been imprisoned because of their freedom of expression on social media.  For more information, please click here


web 2.jpgParticipants of the roundtable acknowledged that there has been a muted response by the international community, which could be partly down to turn of events in Egypt occurring at a time when many governments had adjourned for their summer recesses. In addition, participants also expressed the importance of the international community to agree on and address the following issues:
–    Failures in human rights and the need for investigations into the atrocities committed
–    The freedom to protest
–    The safety of president Mohamed Morsi, protesters and political prisoners
–    Release of imprisoned academics
–    Media control
–    The freezing of the assets of the Muslim Brotherhood as a political group, and their freedom to campaign
–    Promise of fair and free elections
–    The fear of the revolution of the poor because of the state of the economy

Event Report: Exclusive Citizenship and Contemporary Theories of Transnational Justice

Event Report: Exclusive Citizenship and Contemporary Theories of Transnational Justice

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

Event Report – UN Day of Peace 2013

Event Report – UN Day of Peace 2013

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.

Event Report: Global Religious Wisdom, International Law and Conflict

Event Report: Global Religious Wisdom, International Law and Conflict

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.

Event Report: ‘Polish Muslims: An Unexpected Meeting’ film launch and Iftaar at the Polish Embassy in London

Event Report: ‘Polish Muslims: An Unexpected Meeting’ film launch and Iftaar at the Polish Embassy in London

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 LN35.Image fixe002.jpgRepublic 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.

LN35.Image fixe001.jpgThe 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, thePolemb_7.jpg 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.

Polemb_21.jpgThe 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.