Occasional Papers: Bridging the Muslim and Western World for Peace and Development

Occasional Papers: Bridging the Muslim and Western World for Peace and Development

This issue highlights the keynote address ‘Bridging the Muslim and Western World for Peace and Development‘ from the World Muslim Leadership Forum: Muslim World in the Face of the New World Economic Order (organised by Faith Regen Foundation and the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute) given by His Royal Highness Raja Nazrin Shah, Crown Prince of Perak, Malaysia on 7th October 2010.

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News Release: 7th US-Islamic World Forum

Amidst nervousness at the sharpening of rhetoric against Iran and a frustration of the stalemate in the issue of Israel and Palestine, the 7th US-Muslim world Forum took place in Doha between the  13th – 15th of February in Doha, Qatar.

Conceding that the Obama Administration had not yet delivered  on some of its signature foreign policy goals, the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pleaded for patience saying that ‘Building a stronger relationship can not happen overnight or even in a year’.  Addressing the conference via video link President Obama  tried to focus on practical steps that the US had taken in trying to forge a new relationship with the Muslim World.  He also mentioned the appointment of Rashad Hussein  as his special envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Countries as a commitment to his seeking a new beginning with the Muslim World.

The 3 day forum which had a multitude of guests from all sorts of disciplines across the world included guests such as Anwar Ibrahim (Opposition Leader in Malaysia), Racep Tayyip Erdogan (Prime Minister of Turkey)  and Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah (Saudi Arabia) amongst others.

The forum explored issues  in 5 different working groups designed to generate dialogue, ideas and policy recommendations to address challenges such as democracy, interfaith relations, diplomacy and civil society development.  The working groups were:

  • Role of Religious Leaders and Religious Communities in Diplomacy
  • Democracy and Islamic Parties: Opportunities and Challenges
  • Transformative Partnerships in US-Muslim World Relations: Empowering Networks for Community  Development and Social Change
  • Scientific, Intellectual and Governance Cooperation on Emerging Environmental Challenges
  • New Media to further Global Engagement.

The event was not without its critics though.  Some  who expressed concerns over the sponsors of the  forum itself , whilst others expressed disappointment at the  lack of real sign for moving beyond rhetoric and at the failure of the US administration to address burning issues

For more information about the event, please click here

Event Report:Cordoba Seminars- Reflection of a Former Grenadian Revolutionary

Event Report:Cordoba Seminars- Reflection of a Former Grenadian Revolutionary

Major Leon ‘Bogo’ Cornwall, in his own words a ‘prodigal son’, was born as a Methodist. He would later become disillusioned with the church for ‘failing to be relevant to the issues of young people’, and in the early seventies, would be attracted to the Black Power Movement and later on to Marxist / Leninist ideals which offered him a new vision for the world and his country.

 

Speaking at the Cordoba Seminars organised by The Cordoba Foundation in East London on February the 1st, 2010, Major Cornwall explained how justice, peace and equality was what he was after, where the vulnerable would have a significant place in society. In 1979, Major Cornwall would leave his family and join the People’s Revolutionary Army, which overthrew the government and established what was essentially a socialist government and which would work towards ‘Grenada being a better, more prosperous and cultured nation’.

 

However the Revolution was short-lived as Cornwall admits, ‘the internal struggles between members and the failure to grasp the totality of the situation’, meant that disputes arose. By 1983, the leader of the Revolution (and president of Grenada) was himself overthrown and executed by his colleagues, prompting an invasion by the US army.  Major Cornwall and sixteen other colleagues were caught and imprisoned. Though they were sentenced to death, the sentences were changed to life imprisonment and Major Cornwall spent some 27 years in prison before being released in September 2009.

 

Today, Leon Cornwall is a changed man. Having rediscovered God and religion in prison, he says that ‘my vision for a world has not changed, but my philosophy of how to go about it has’.  He now professes non-violence and education as a movement of social change. So transformed is he, that everywhere he goes, he acknowledges his mistake for the Revolution and asks for forgiveness:  ‘I am deeply sorry for the pain, the sorrow, the loss, the chaos, the confusion that was brought to Grenada  through our impulsive, thoughtless actions’ he remarked at the seminar.

 

 

From his own life story, it is evident Major Cornwall believes that part of the problem associated with the demise of the Revolution was that the revolutionaries had turned away from God and therefore lacked a spiritual base. “The Revolution gave men and women power, with the gun as the source of that power. Many were accountable only unto themselves and few dared question the doings of the leaders. For many of the players, the Revolution was a god. This left us in deep trouble, unable to appreciate human weaknesses and unable to make sound spiritual decisions when they truly mattered”, reflected Major Cornwall.

 

Major Leon Cornwall’s story is incredibly moving and inspiring. It is not about social recognition or acceptance but it is about leadership taking responsibility for their actions on their people and for any catastrophe that may have been caused by their actions. In today’s climate, as world leaders are being challenged to take responsibility for their actions, they would do well to learn from Major Cornwall’s humility in acknowledging his mistakes.

 

 

The full speech by Major Leon Cornwall at the Cordoba Seminars is published here

Arches Quarterly: Vol 3 Edition 5 (2.29MB)

Arches Quarterly: Vol 3 Edition 5 (2.29MB)

A quarterly journal providing deeper and nuanced analysis of the issues and developments in the arena of dialogue, civilizations, and a rapprochement between Islam and the West

Download Publication (PDF, 2354kb)

In this edition, Arches Quarterly  provides deep analysis on war, peace and reconciliation. As individuals, groups and societies, we cannot circumvent these as they involve us all in some form or  another either through our beliefs, ideals or socio and geo-political circumstances.

Event Report: Launch of New Academic Centre adds to Research on European Muslims

Event Report: Launch of New Academic Centre adds to Research on European Muslims

The Cordoba Foundation welcomes the launch of the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC), which published their first ground-breaking report on ‘Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: A London Case Study’. Held at the London Muslim Centre on 28 January 2010, the report was co-authored by Dr Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Dr Robert Lambert MBE, of the University of Exeter. The report illuminates how the contexts of fear and prejudice against Muslims are providing a basis for violence against Muslim communities.

 

 

According to the report, Muslim Londoners face a threat of violence and intimidation from primarily three groups: a small violent extremist nationalist milieu that has broadly the same political analysis as the British National Party (BNP); street gangs with no allegiance with or affinity to the BNP and thirdly from a small  group of the general London public. All groups as illustrated by the report appear to be acting on prejudices gained via negative media portrayals of Muslims as terrorists and posing a security threat.

 

The report explains, “The perils of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime threaten to undermine basic human rights, fundamental aspects of citizenship and co-existing partnerships for Muslims and non- Muslims alike in contemporary Europe.”  Moreover, “routine portrayals of Islam as a religion of hatred, violence and inherent intolerance have become key planks for the emergence of extremist nationalist, anti-immigration politics in Europe – planks which seek to exploit populist fears and which have the potential to lead to Muslim disempowerment in Europe”, assert the authors of the report.  In addition, some “sections of the media have created a situation where… unfounded claims and anxieties of the other – such that politicians from Austria to the Britain, and the Netherlands to Spain, feel comfortable in using terms like ‘Tsunamis of Muslim immigration’”.

 

 

The report is intended to introduce politicians, public servants, police, media and the general public to Muslim community perspectives and thus comes up with some preliminary recommendations for dfferent key stakeholders within  the community. A detailed report with further recommendations is expected to be launched in July 2010.

 

The Cordoba Foundation will be working very closely with EMRC to ensure the research findings are publicised so as to empower marginalised and disadvantaged communities and promoting community cohesion.

 

The full report is available from here

 

 

 

 

 

Press Release: Leaders Condemn Church Bombings in Malysia

The recent attacks in Egypt and Malaysia on churches have raised concerns about the erosion of rights for religious minorities in Muslim countries.  Faith leaders and academics from both the Muslim and Christian communities have been united in their condemnation of the attacks and the calls for unity and greater religious pluralism, understanding and acceptance.

Two such statements are reproduced below:

 

PRESS STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

JANUARY 10, 2010

We are outraged by the tragic attacks on our Christian brothers and sisters and reiterate our unequivocal condemnation of the bombing of churches in Malaysia.  Today’s attack on the oldest standing church in Malaysia, the All Saints Church in Taiping, is an attack on our nation’s heritage.

As a nation we struggle to uphold the spirit of unity that our founding fathers envisioned at independence. We must hold fast to Article 11 of the Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of religion and the right of religious groups to manage their own affairs.  In such times the spirit of engagement and dialogue must transcend those voices that would seek to sow discord and enmity across our land.

The people of Malaysia must unite against those who exploit race and religion to incite hatred for political gain. We must renew our commitment to religious understanding and religious freedom. This is a time that tests the resolve of all religions for peace and mutual respect.  We must remember that the God who we worship is in fact the same God, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.

With respect to the use of the word Allah, for example, it cannot be disputed that Arabic speaking Muslims, Christians and Jews have collectively prayed to  God as Allah throughout the last fourteen centuries.  While sensitivities over its usage have arisen in Malaysia, the way to resolve these conflicts is not by burning churches and staging incendiary protests but by reasoned engagement and interreligious dialogue.

Muslims must recall the memory of our own tradition’s remarkable commitment to understanding and coexistence with the People of the Book.  Islam clearly grants respect to Christians and Jews.  In the Quran’s second chapter, God says:  Say: O People of the Scripture! Come to a common word between us and you: that we shall worship none but God (Aal-Imran, 3:64)  And in the 29th Chapter He says:

And dispute not with the People of the Book but say “We believe in the Revelation which has come down to us and that which came down to you…our God [Allah] and your God [Allah] is One, and it is to Him we bow (al-Ankabut, 29:46)

Jesus is himself revered as one of the greatest prophets whose noble example should be followed.  The Caliph Umar, who visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 638 AD, was careful to ensure that the Muslims respect the sanctity of Christian places of worship.  What then of our own Police’s hesitation to offer an assurance of safety and security for Malaysian churches?

Much of the blame for the recent attacks can be placed at the doorstep of the UMNO-led BN ruling party.  Its incessant racist propaganda over the Allah issue and the inflammatory rhetoric issued by government controlled mainstream media especially, Utusan Malaysia, are reprehensible.  Such wanton acts of provocation are indeed criminal  and demonstrate the duplicity of the 1Malaysia campaign.

I am encouraged by the swift condemnation of the attacks issued by Muslim organizations and leaders.  I likewise applaud our Christian leaders for their strong statements calling for calm and forgiveness and resisting revenge and retaliation.

The need for interfaith dialogue in Malaysia is an idea whose time is long overdue. We must now advance the spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood which is inherent in our religions and enshrined in our Constitution. Pakatan Rakyat will collectively take steps to ensure that the necessary dialogue and discussion take place throughout the country. Our fellow Christians must feel safe and secure in this country knowing that their freedom to worship is protected.

Anwar Ibrahim, the former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and the Opposition leader in the parliament, and former holder of the Malaysia Chair of Islam in S.E. Asia at the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding

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Muslim Puralism Problems

Recent attacks against Coptic Christians in Egypt and firebomb attacks on churches in Malaysia have raised major concerns about deteriorating rights and security for religious minorities in Muslim countries. In the town of Nag Hamadi, near Luxor in southern Egypt, seven people were killed when gunmen sprayed automatic fire into a crowd of churchgoers after a Coptic Christmas midnight mass on January 7. Egyptian officials believe the attack was in retaliation for the November rape of a Muslim girl by a Christian man. Clashes between Muslims and Christians are not uncommon in southern Egypt or, in recent years, in Cairo.In Malaysia, where Muslims make up 60 percent of the population, eight churches have been attacked with firebombs as bands of militants threatened further actions. Malaysia has long been cited as an example and model of a progressive multiracial Muslim country.

However, its peaceful coexistence has been strained by interreligious tensions and conflicts in recent years between the Malay majority and the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities who are mostly Christians, Buddhists and Hindus.In recent years, Malay militants have insisted that Christians stop using “Allah,” the Malay term for God, despite the fact that this has been an accepted practice in Malaysia as it is in Indonesia and the Middle East. Malaysia’s Home Ministry prohibited Catholics from using the word in their Malay-language publications since 2007. Customs officials seized 15,000 Bibles from Indonesia because they used the word “Allah” as a translation for God. However, Malaysia’s High Court overturned the government ban, ruling that the word Allah is not exclusive to Muslims and that others, including Catholics, who had been prohibited by the Home Ministry from using the word in the Malay-language edition of the Catholic monthly the Herald, could use the term. Incensed by the decision, militants attacked several churches and pledged to prevent Christians from using the word “Allah.” The High Court in response to the government’s appeal to the higher Court of Appeal to overturn the ruling, granted a stay of its order on Jan. 7; the government appealed.

This is not an isolated instance. Religious minorities in the Muslim world today, constitutionally entitled in many countries to equality of citizenship and religious freedom, increasingly fear the erosion of those rights — and with good reason. Interreligious and inter-communal tensions and conflicts have flared up not only in Egypt and Malaysia but also in Sudan, Nigeria, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan. Conflicts have varied, from acts of discrimination, to forms of violence escalating to murder, and the destruction of villages, churches and mosques.In the 21st century Muslims are strongly challenged to move beyond older notions of “tolerance” or “co-existence” to a higher level of religious pluralism based on mutual understanding and respect. Regrettably, a significant number of Muslims, like very conservative and fundamentalist Christians and Jews, are not pluralistic but rather strongly exclusivist in their attitudes towards other faiths and even co-believers with whom they disagree.

A key Islamic issue and debate today regarding pluralism and tolerance is the relationship of past doctrine to current realities. Many call for a reinstatement of the “protected” (dhimmi) status in the past in which Christians and Jews could practice their faith and be guided by their religious leaders in exchange for payment of a tax. Although in the past this was progressive as compared to Christian practice, in today’s modern nation state, it would amount to second class citizenship. Other Muslims insist that non-Muslims be afforded full citizenship rights because pluralism is the essence of Islam, revealed in the Qur’an and practiced by Muhammad and the early caliphs, and not a purely Western invention or ideology. They emphasize that the Qur’an envisions a pluralistic world, mutual understanding and religious tolerance. Jews and Christians are regarded as “People of the Book,” who have also received a revelation and a scripture from God (the Torah for Jews and the Gospels for Christians), a recognition that in later centuries was extended to other faiths.

Today Muslim reformers represent a vanguard that is facing resistance from many conservative religious leaders and movements, fundamentalist and extremist factions. Most reformers both build on and also transform notions of religious pluralism already present in the Islamic tradition. They turn to Qur’anic texts that reveal a pluralistic vision such as: “O humankind, We have created you male and female and made you nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.” (49:13) or “To everyone we have appointed a way and a course to follow” (5.48), and ”For each there is a direction toward which he turns; vie therefore with one another in the performance of good works. Wherever you may be, God shall bring you all together [on the Day of Judgment]. Surely God has power over all things.” (2.148) These verses support religious diversity in the human community and reflect support for pluralism, not exclusivism.Religious tolerance and equality of citizenship remain fragile whether in more secular Muslim countries like Egypt and Turkey or self-styled Islamic states and republics in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Iran states that too often limit the rights of non-Muslims, tolerate or foster religious intolerance of other faiths or of those Muslims with alternative interpretations of Islam.

The more pluralistic visions of Islamic reformers will need to be adopted and implemented in society. Substantive change can only come with strong leadership from government and religious leaders and government legislation; seminary and university curriculum in religious, particularly comparative religion courses, to counter religious exclusivism and intolerance by instilling a more inclusive, pluralistic and tolerant vision and values in the next generation of imams, priests, scholars and the general public.

We have come a long way in inter-religious dialogue and relations both nationally and globally. Major religious leaders and scholars meet at gatherings, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Al-Azhar University, the Vatican, Organization of the Islamic Conference, the World Economic Forum, UN Alliance of Civilizations, to discuss and address and issue statements of concern. In a major global initiative, Muslim leaders sent an open latter, A Common Word Between Us and You,” to the heads of major Christian churches. They emphasized the importance of the two largest global faiths on the basis of the foundational principles of both faiths, the two great commandments: love of the One God, and love of the neighbor, to join together to contribute “meaningful peace around the world.”Finally, religious discrimination, conflict and violence cut across all the world’s religions affecting Muslim minorities in the Philippines, Thailand, Greece, Croatia, Serbia, India, and Jews and Muslims in Europe and America where Islamophobia and ant-Semitism are on the increase.

To more effectively address critical issues of religious freedom, a more ad hoc, a rapid response mechanism must be initiated. Modern technology and communications can be used as a more powerful tool for major religious leaders and organizations of all faiths. They need more initiatives to join together, condemning all forms of discrimination, intolerance and oppression against ethnic and religious minorities. Together they can speak out whenever and wherever abused occur, whether it be their own religion or government or someone else’s that is the oppressor or the victim.

By John L. Esposito, University Professor and Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University

Originally Printed in the at the Washington Post-On Faith:

News Item: Call for Action from the Parliament of Religions

News Item: Call for Action from the Parliament of Religions

On closing the World Parliament of Religions on the 9th of December after 6 full days of deliberation, discussion and celebration, The Dalai Lama challenged the participants to put what they had discussed to action.  In order for love and compassion to become a reality, he said that there would need to be a new type of ‘secularism’ – not a secularism that denies the importance of religion but one which respects the practitioners of all religions and of none.

‘Beliefs may differ, but the core practices of love and compassion are common in all traditions’ he concluded.

The Dalai Lama’s comments put an end to a highly successful gathering where the theme was on coming together despite differences to show unity in common challenges.  That unity was displayed with a gesture of solidarity with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and also showed solidarity with representatives of indigenous people from around the world.  One of the main discussion points throughout theParliament was an Islam 101 series which focussed on improving people’s understanding and perceptions of Islam.  The series featured contributions from Professor Tariq Ramadan; Dr Chandra Muzzafer; Imam Faizel Abdul Rauf; Imam Khalid Griggs amongst other leaders and civil society activists.  TCF also featured prominently in the Parliament sitting in on 4 panel discussions.

For more information on the Parliament’s events, please click here

News Item: TCF Endorses Christian and Muslim Youth Forum Statement on Climate Change

News Item: TCF Endorses Christian and Muslim Youth Forum Statement on Climate Change

As young people of the Christian and Islamic faiths we call upon those negotiating on our behalf in Copenhagen to acknowledge our voice and to attend to the critical matters of man-made climate change with urgency and vigour.

Although we are individuals from a great many backgrounds, ideals and variances of faith, we draw upon our collective moral and religious conscience to take responsibility for the condition of our planet and its people. We are aware of the evidence, understand the issues, and recognise that global warming will produce numerous unacceptable repercussions; in particular we are aware that changes in our climate will have disproportionate effects on the poor and irreversible consequences for future generations. Our faith obligates us to care for the earth and to attend to those who are in need and as our representatives we call on you to take heed of this and act effectively.

To help mitigate climate change…

As a growing number of your constituents, we are ready, willing and able to do our part in mitigating the effects of climate change and are calling on you to lead us in immediate action.  Action must start now.  It is unacceptable that the majority of the country does not know the true extent of climate change and you must address this through developing a stronger awareness at all levels(including individuals, communities, and businesses).

To drive these changes we want to see stronger policy incentives for sustainable practises and deterrents against harmful practises (especially through greater accountability and penalties). We demand a refocus toward greener technology and innovation through more investment as well as responsiveness to the effects of the total production process. Furthermore we demand a fair global deal with developed countries taking the lead in responsibility. Failure to act adequately will impinge on future generations and account for millions of lives worldwide.

To help us adapt to climate change…

We ask that all people are educated on climate change to give them the knowledge that they need to engage with strategy and policy making, and that knowledge and good practices developed locally are shared and fed into government strategy and policies for adaptation.  A political and economic system more conducive to adaptation must be pursued which removes barriers to adaptation by promoting trade justice, transparency and the provision of sufficient resources (money, technology, skills).

We ask that your approach to the negotiations in Copenhagen ensures that local economies and agriculture are developed.  More policymakers should work with farmers, equipping them to keep food in production locally.  They should be empowered to maintain ecosystems and bio diversity and to share resources among their communities, so they are able to work together on the ground. Policymakers need to also recognise that faith based organisations are a catalyst for empowerment and delivery.

To tackle the issues on funding our response to climate change…

When signing the UN Convention, countries agreed to the principle that as developed countries with worldwide climate debt they are morally, politically and legally obligated to take full financial responsibility for their actions.

This responsibility should be two fold; ensuring that our future development puts climate justice at its centre alongside enabling countries in the south to fulfil their right to develop.

Two hundred billion dollars a year is urgently required to tackle this critical environmental crisis. This should be raised through public finance and administered by the UN to ensure transparency and democratic representation of all nations. We see no place for the World Bank’s involvement in raising the required funds. We need to make it explicit that this is not charity but a historical debt that developed nations have incurred through overconsumption. It is clear that this is achievable based on the recent bail out of financial institutions costing $3-7 trillion and the Iraq war which cost $1 trillion. We call for developed nations to commit a minimum of 1% of their GDP to climate finance without conditionality.

Just financial implementation is necessary by using the most appropriate community-based and sustainable solutions to lead to a low carbon future. These include partnering with faith groups and young people, the future generation, who will be left with the consequences of inaction. Communities can propagate and maintain hope, raise awareness and morals and contribute to a changed mindset. Furthermore they can promote a rights-based approach to climate change based upon shared belief, openness, responsibility and accountability.

We believe in a global green deal that will deliver real economic benefits for all.

Technology Transfer

Technology is the right of all and as we are called to be stewards of nature, so we are also called to be good stewards of the ideas and technology that we have developed. This is a crucial time for the global north to use its technologies in partnership with the global south to ensure growth on an environmentally constructive pathway.

Western countries are too possessive of technology so we need to give access to our resources. This should include the creation of a fund to buy out patents and restructuring patents to take advantage of the long-term benefits of their utilisation by developing countries. Governments need to commit to investments through small businesses and social entrepreneurs to provide green sustainable jobs and transferring technology abroad; this will have long term benefits to all including themselves and all other stakeholders. Accountability and responsibility should be undertaken by a partnership of stakeholders including world leaders, grass roots community leaders, faith leaders, NGOs and business people. These proposals will instil a sense of justice which is not defined by short-term economic incentives.

For more information on this subject (and other related issues) please click here

Minarets and Europe’s Crisis

Minarets and Europe’s Crisis

The mind is boggled by the fact that Switzerland, a country renowned for its tolerant nature, could come to see less than a handful of minarets as a threat to its identity and culture.

The main campaign poster used by far right groups to rally against the construction of minarets in Switzerland depicted a Muslim woman in niqab standing before a multitude of minarets graphically rendered to look like missiles.

Switzerland’s Commission Against Racism said that the campaign poster defamed the country’s Muslim minority.

Neither the niqab nor the minaret is characteristic of the Muslim community in Switzerland but both have been regularly used to stoke the flames of hatred and fear against Muslims throughout Europe in recent times.

And it was that fear which pushed over half of Swiss voters to choose, by a majority of 57 per cent, to support the minaret ban called for by the Union Démocratique du Centre (UDC), a right wing populist party.

The only way forward is for a realisation that Europe is not built solely on a Judeo-Christian heritage, but that Muslims too have played a vital and significant role in shaping modern day Europe through contributions of culture, arts, politics, law, theology, science, medicine and dozens of other disciplines.

There must be a realisation too that the 30 million or so European Muslims have become part of the European social fabric, through an invaluable contribution which they have made over decades if not for centuries.

To read the full article, please click here

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