News Release: Baroness Warsi’s Speech on Islamophobia – Welcome First Step

News Release: Baroness Warsi’s Speech on Islamophobia – Welcome First Step

The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) welcomes the speech made yesterday by Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Co-Chairman on the Conservative Party, at Leicester University, raising concerns about the growing anti-Muslim prejudice in Britain.

 

Anas Altikriti, TCF Chief Executive, said that Baroness Warsi’s speech “resonated with ordinary Muslims in Britain who privately or publicly experience anti-Muslim hatred with often no recourse to public support.  Warsi’s statement is proof that present day racism is still very real in the form of Islamophobia and it ultimately tests the fundamental values that are dear to our society.  Such a statement goes a long way towards providing people with the confidence they need that they are not somehow outcast from society

 

In these times of austerity, there is a need to revisit faith and spirituality in order to ensure that community relations are strengthened and those that are more vulnerable and without a voice are looked after.  TCF hopes that the speech yesterday marks the start of a genuine and open debate that changes the narratives and attitudes of hate, fear and distrust between cultures and communities.  In particular, “there needs to be a proactive first step taken by the government in this regard to show that it is also serious about accomodating diversity and tackling Islamophobia in all its manifestations” added Altikriti.

 

The Cordoba Foundation stands proud in its vision of facilitating the meeting of minds with the aspirations for cultures, civilisations, thoughts and lifestyles to thrive and strive for the common goal of understanding, celebrating, respecting and accepting diversity.

Event Report: The Role of Faith in Reconciling Post Conflict Sri Lanka

Event Report: The Role of Faith in Reconciling Post Conflict Sri Lanka

The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) has been working for the past 6 years in a consultation role with various stakeholders in Sri Lanka.  More recently, it has developed a working relationship with the North East Interfaith Forum (NEIFR).

 

The North East Inter Faith Forum (NEIFR) is a new group that has been set up in the aftermath of the conclusion of Sri Lanka’s 30 year old conflict by religious leaders (from all of Sri Lanka’s main religions) to identify the positive role that faith leaders can play in post conflict reconciliation.

 

The Forum believes that spirituality and common human values founded and strengthened by the different religious teachings can be used as a force to foster inter-ethnic relationships and promote inter-ethnic understanding and social cohesion.

 

The Forum is calling for a space in order to discuss and develop solutions to problems affecting the community and are calling for the support of faith based diplomacy which involves the follwoing:

* developing a committee of consciences to advise the local and national government on human rights, resource access and allocation of natural resources

* reconciliation and peace committees

* community steering groups who will take their own development into their hands.

 

The Cordoba Foundation along with the Mahatma Ghandi Centre, worked with NEIFR and religious leaders on the  4th of January 2011 to plan itheir work programme for the year.  Amjad Saleem, Head of Communications at TCF, presented models of interfaith reconciliation from other countries as he facilitated some of the discussions.

 

At the end of the meeting, religious leaders made a declaration to share with the rest of  the country, NEIFR’s conviction of bringing spirituality as an arbitrator in all future dealings, and as a means to ensure that no one in the country is marginalized on the basis of religion, race, caste, class, wealth, territory etc.

 

The NEIFR also reiterated need for the establishment of a National Committee of Conscience as an advisory body for the governments and setting up of village development committees with an oversight from the religious dignitaries in the area for ensuring trust and better accountability in all public affairs.

 

TCF has been advising  NEIFR prior to their establishment and will continue to provide the platform for faith leaders to come together to talk on issues of reconciliation

 

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The Imam and the Pastor

The Imam and the Pastor

 

“My hate for Muslims had no limits,” said the Pastor. “We had a zeal to protect and revive the glory of Islam,” said the Imam.

Emerging from the 1990s in Northern Nigeria after being on the frontlines of confrontations that saw thousands dead, Imam Muhammad Ashafa and Pastor James Wuye are two of the unlikeliest of allies.

They both came out of the heart of the religious teachings of their communities to become bitter enemies determined to kill one another. Imam Ashafa was committed to the total Islamization of Nigeria, and Pastor James to its total evangelization.

Please click here to read the full article

Going Beyond the Rhetoric: The Muslim Aid-UMCOR partnership in Sri Lanka

Going Beyond the Rhetoric: The Muslim Aid-UMCOR partnership in Sri Lanka

Poverty, inequity, and social injustice are matters of conscience and demand a systematic response.  Civil society plays a key role in development with Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) at the forefront of initiatives aimed at helping to achieve increased tolerance, social cohesion and understanding.

Faith communities have undeniably had as strong a history of internecine strife and  struggle as they have of cooperation and collaboration.  It is against this framework of internal and external disagreement that there is a need to build and sustain existing links and to explore new initiatives.

This paper highlights practical examples of dialogue and collaboration between Muslim Aid and UMCOR showing how different faith communities make natural allies for the promotion and success of cross border linking and play a part in making humanitarian work
more efficient and effective whilst showing that inter-faith cooperation means something practical as well as spiritual.

To read more, please click here

Measuring the State of Muslim-West Relations

Measuring the State of Muslim-West Relations

The ground-breaking report, based on more than 123,000 surveys conducted in 55 countries and areas between 2006 and 2010, explores areas of both respect and tension between Western and majority Muslim societies. It also examines the differences between individuals who express an interest in Muslim-West engagement and those who do not.

 

News Release:New report shows market towns pose threat to small Muslim Communities in the UK

Muslims and their mosques face a higher level of threats and intimidation in UK suburbs and market towns than in big cities, according to a new report. Case studies reveal that examples such as a Muslim woman who was punched and called a “terrorist” in front of her petrified daughter are not uncommon.

Such attacks often go unreported, and in this case the woman was too scared to inform the police. She also played down the incident to reduce her child’s distress, and avoided explaining why she was singled out for wearing a burka and being a Muslim woman.  The new study Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: UK Case Studies, published 27 November reveals that this kind of unprovoked incident is a largely hidden experience that is insufficiently acknowledged and understood outside of the communities where they occur.  The report  is part of a ten year academic research project led by the University of Exeter’s European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC). It captures a snapshot of these experiences which are often unrecognised by the media, politicians and wider British society. The research also combines an academic approach to identifying world events and policy information that inform the way reactions and actions towards Muslims can be influenced.

Findings show that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, arson, criminal damage, violence and intimidation against mosques has increased dramatically and smaller or isolated Muslim communities in places like Colchester, Bishop Stortford and Boston have become especially vulnerable.

Dr Jonathan Githens Mazer, co-Director of the EMRC said, “Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime are very real problems for British Muslims going about their everyday business. Through our research we have found that in smaller and more isolated mosques in many suburbs and market towns there is a feeling of being under siege. Some local councils who are made aware of the situation say to mosque officials, ‘we can see this is bad, why don’t you move the mosque?’”

The report also analyses the local activity by the British National Party, English Defence League and sister organisations. Anti-migrant and random attacks that have impacted on every poor urban community where most Muslims live have also been studied.

Dr Bob Lambert, co-Director of the EMRC said, ‘Evidence has also indicated that the galvanising report of the Stephen Lawrence Enquiry changed police response to hate crimes.  Whereas, because the war on terror is viewed as a security risk, Muslims do not have the support that is now widely accepted in other areas of hate crime.  Muslims are not requesting special treatment, just equal rights with their fellow citizens.

Professor John Esposito from Georgetown University, USA argues against the anti-Muslim rhetoric and has recently been commenting on the furore surrounding the negative campaigning against Park5l, the co called Ground Zero Mosque in Lower Manhattan.   He will be attending the launch of the new report and recognises the need to unite UK and US citizens in a common purpose.  He said,‘US and UK citizens should distinguish the faith of mainstream Muslims from the claims of a minority of extremists who justify their acts of violence and terrorism in the name of Islam. Blurring this distinction plays into the hands of preachers of hate (Muslim and non-Muslim) whose rhetoric incites and demonizes, alienates and marginalizes and leads to the adoption of domestic policies that undermine the civil liberties of Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

The report will be presented to community audiences around the UK, commencing with the following engagements:

  • Saturday, 27 November, 2010 – London Muslim Centre, Whitechapel, London
  • Sunday, 28 November, 2010 – Birmingham Central Mosque, Birmingham
  • Friday, 10 December, 2010 – Woodfarm Education Centre, Glasgow
Event Report: An African Answer to an African Problem

Event Report: An African Answer to an African Problem

On the 12th of November, a new documentary, ‘An African Answer’, featuring the reconciliation work done in Kenya of Imam Ashafa and Pastor James from Nigeria, was screened in London.  Those not familiar with the ‘The Imam and The Pastor’, will be struck by their story.  Emerging from the 1990s in Northern Nigeria after being in the frontlines of confrontations between Christians and Muslims which saw the killings of thousands in inter-religious warfare, Imam Ashafa and Pastor James are two of the most unlikeliest of allies, forging new grounds with their   Interfaith Mediation Center, responsible for mediating peace between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria’s Kaduna state.

 

Once bitter enemies, determined to kill each other (The pastor had his hand hacked off while defending his church against Muslims and the imam had his spiritual adviser and two of his brothers killed by Christian extremists), the two men are now embarking upon an extraordinary journey of healing and forgiveness.   Through talking to each other, they questioned the cost of the violence finding passages in the Bible and the Koran which showed common approaches of working together and more importantly started teaching about it to others, despite staying faithful to their religion.

 

In fact it is this demonstration of the importance of staying faithful to one’s own religious principles whilst reaching out to others of a different faith, is what has been the appeal of their story over the last decade or so.  This and the fact that their solution is a home grown solution that has not had any external influences, means they talk not only with credibility but with a refreshing sense of uniqueness.  This credibility is important especially for a continent that has suffered from being told how to solve its problems rather than being provided with a space and facilitation in order to solve the problem for itself.

 

An African Answer is a continuation of their story and how they have now transferred those skills outside of Nigeria, to helping the people in Kenya in the aftermath of the electoral violence  in 2007.  The video is a powerful testament to the fact that people in the developing world or the global south pretty much know how to solve their own problems if they can be provided a space to do so.

This is not just something that should be left to the politicians or the institutions but really no one can be ruled  out having a part in contributing to the solution of a conflict.

 

Imam Ashafa and Pastor James were hardly candidates for setting an example for their country or for peace building or unlikely to be described, as they are now, by the Archbishop of Canterbury as ‘a model for Christian Muslim relations’ there, yet today they are examples of how individuals can take bold steps to further understanding and dialogue between us to help heighten our peacemaking potential

 

 

The story of the Imam and the Pastor shows that strong ethical commitment in religious traditions can sharpen identity politics but more importantly can form the basis of inter and intra faith collaboration.  Thus religious pluralism can not only lead to an absence of violence mainly due to better understandings and interaction but it opens a space for discussion, dialogue and engagement.  In short, we must learn to listen closely to one another, not simply because it is polite, but because it is just possible that we might learn something important about ourselves, and build a better global village in the process.

 

 

Undertaking this offers an antidote to sectarianism and the polarisation of different faiths in multi-cultural societies . This will never be easy, but remains vitally important for creating the very ‘ideas and institutions that will allow us to live together as the global tribe we have become’.  This is perhaps the greatest lesson we can get from the story of the Imam and the Pastor.