The 26th of June will mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Torture is one of the most profound human rights abuses that take a terrible toll on people and their families. An invasion of the privacy of an individual’s personality, intellect and body is one of the worst crimes that can be committed against human beings.
As Kofi Annan said, ‘This is a day on which we pay our respects to those who have endured the unimaginable. This is an occasion for the world to speak against the unspeakable’.
In the 21st century, The Cordoba Foundation deplores the fact that torture is still used in many parts of the world especially by countries that have signed up the Convention Against Torture.
The Cordoba Foundation encourages relevant agencies and countries to redouble efforts to address the issue of torture and put in place tangible measures to eradicating torture and abuse across the spectrum.
The death of Osama bin Laden, should signal the end of one of the most difficult phases in the relationship between the West and the Muslim world. It should bring closure to a painful 10 years after 9/11. It should lessen the need for mainstream Muslim organisations to feel always under pressure to condemn the ideology espoused by Al-Qaeda and like many other historical moments, should provide us with a chance to think, ponder and reflect.
The state of mistrust, lack of faith and goodwill between the West and the Muslim world should be reflected upon along with methods of reparation and how we espouse the values of justice and how we pursue them. Retributive justice that inspires cycles of violence becomes a ball and chain for a future without reconciliation.
The Arab Spring that brought peaceful protests and revolutions throughout the Arab world in the past four months are a perfect example of moving towards a sense of restorative justice.
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) emphasises that now more than ever is the need to move towards a sense of peace and mutual respect for and between people. Spiritual 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.
There will be those who will seek to divide the community but there is a need to ensure that community relations are strengthened so that we can collectively ensure that British society as a whole emerges from this turbulent time stronger in its moral and ethical fabric and able to lead the way in peaceful coexistence with mutual respect and understanding.
Commenting on this, Anas Altikriti, CEO of TCF said ‘We must, at all costs, avoid initiating a new era where recriminations and counter-recriminations coin West-Muslim relationships. If anything was learnt from the past decade, it is that violence begets violence and the cycle of bloodshed is virtually impossible to break. Western Muslims must join efforts with fellow country folk to reject policies which deem human lives dispensable and war an easily ready option.’
We at The Cordoba Foundation stand proud in our aspiration that different cultures, civilisations and, thoughts can thrive and strive for the common goal of understanding, respecting, accepting and celebrating diversity.
Anas Altikriti, Chief Executive of The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) has arrived in Cairo today to conduct exploratory consultations with civil society and political leaders following the ousting of Hosni Mubarak as President of Egypt .
Commenting on his visit, Altikriti explains that “the mandate of The Cordoba Foundation amongst other things is to facilitate a space for people with opposing ideas to come and explore ways of working together. We are hoping that we would be able to make constructive contributions in Egypt to help navigate Egyptian civil society to move forward towards a more stable future“.
TCF believes Egypt is facing a new and exciting future as a result of people’s power as recently evidenced in the streets of the country. “It is important that ordinary Egyptians are able to exercise their democratic rights, and determine their own future — free from external influences” added Altikriti.
The future of Egypt, like other countries where people are demanding an end to despotic rule and dictatorships, should foster political and religious pluralism to creating a more inclusive and cohesive society.
TCF will continue its dialogue with the main stakeholders involved in events unfolding in Egypt in order to ensure a peaceful outcome that meets people’s aspirations and ensures a smooth transition to a better and more human reality.
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) welcomes the publication of ‘The Edge of Violence‘ by DEMOS, which suggests a ‘radical’ approach to tackling home grown terrorism. The report which defines ‘radical’ as the ‘rejection of the status quo’ lays bare the myth that radicalisation is a linear path to violence and terrorism. As the report argues; ‘differentiating between types of radicalisation is extremely important because targeting the wrong people can breed resentment and alienation and erode the freedoms Western governments want to preserve’.
Using a combination of literature reviews and interviews across 5 countries (UK, Canada, Denmark, France and the Netherlands), the report seeks to cast light on how and why some types of radicalisation develop into violence and others do not; how the different types relate to each other and what implications this has for social and security policy. The report comes up with the following 3 recommendations stakeholders will find useful in addressing the challenges in question: encouraging positive activism, demystifying and de-glamourising Al-Qaeda as a structure and an ideology and encouraging a greater role for the involvement of non-governmental actors.
Commenting on this, Anas Altikriti, Chief Executive of TCF said: “This report is timely because it reminds us of the key complex issues that we are facing. Unfortunately, the discussions that have emerged from the weekend following David Cameron’s speech in Munich have been focused on one aspect: the failure of multiculturalism. It is all very well to abrogate responsibility to a single issue, but the real issue is that problems are not one-dimensional and do not belong to just one community. Social problems cannot be viewed through a security lens. We welcome DEMOS’ recommendation in particular that space needs to be provided for discussions and dialogue to take place in order to counter some of the established narratives”.
TCF believes that the issues facing the Muslim communities – both internally and externally- are multi layered and replicated in other immigrant ethnic and faith communities and thus cannot simply be written off as a failure of multiculturalism. Adequate attention needs to be paid first to normalising social structures whilst at the same time providing a space for establishing dialogue and facilitating partnerships that will give communities the confidence they need to address their real concerns. This needs the involvement of all stakeholders in society without exception to ensure the promotion of respect, understanding and acceptance of diversity.
This is indeed the challenge for the Big Society to overcome.
The wave of popular uprising sweeping the Middle East is indicative of a rising empowerment of people dissatisfied with decades of corruption, poverty, lack of democracy and the freedom of expression.
Commenting on this, Anas Altikriti, Chief Executive of The Cordoba Foundation (TCF), said “What we are seeing is a raw and basic example of people power that has come to symbolise turning points in world history. The people can be pushed into a corner so far until they start pushing back”
TCF endorses the appeal made on 27th January of more than 2200 Arab scholars, politicans, activists, from over 20 Arab countries, issued an ‘URGENT APPEAL’ to the US Administration for the defence and consolidation of human rights and democracy in the Arab world. TCF also appeals to other Western governments and institutions to support the popular movements against the embattled regimes. According to Altikriti, “We in the West also have to bear the brunt of responsibility for sowing the seeds of discontent that led to these riots. We have continuously supported these illegitimate regimes who have suppressed and tortured their own people leading them to extreme poverty whilst the ruling elite lived in luxury. We cannot simply pursue our interests at the account of suppressed and subjugated nations, and assume that there will not be a backlash“.
It is clear that these demonstrations have culminated in the emergence of a new ‘people-based’ power throughout the Arab region, which calls for an open dialogue to be developed ifor the futures of the region and its relatoinship with the West. As a result, Britain and the West’s responsibility comes from seizing the opportunity to create new dynamics for this relationship based firmly on the essential support for the Arab people and their political aspirations.
The Cordoba Foundation calls for:
- All stakeholders (including leading dissidents; exiled figures; women,student and youth leaders; civil society leaders; academics; business leaders; religious leaders) to be involved in a serious and open dialogue of mutual recognition which involves all strands of political, social, cultural, ideological and religious life. It is of great concern that already some commentators from Britain and elsewhere are calling for the exclusion of some groups from any future discussions thereby not only betraying a naive comprehension of the root causes of unfolding circumstances on the ground but also ensuring challenges for peaceful future Arab-Western relations.
- A sufficient space to be provided and facilitated for these discussions to take place without any external interference. TCF strongly believes that given the space and support, people will be able to find the solutions to their own problems and thus we should not attempt to ‘influence’ outcomes according to our desires and preferences.The exiled political figures and dissidents who have spent invariably lengthy periods of time abroad and particularly in the UK, to be urged to unite with the popular tide within their respective homelands in setting a national agenda for progress and are made use of and fully included in the process of rebuilding their countriesThe British Government and Western Governments in general, to support the development of these countries through supporting the people’s choice in ensuring a smooth transition towards better governance and democratic principles as well as providing aid to support the people who have suffered during these tough times.
The Cordoba Foundation, in its vision of thriving and striving for the common goal of understanding, celebrating, respecting and accepting diversity, will continue its dialogue with the main stakeholders involved in events unfolding throughout the countries of the Arab region in order to ensure a peaceful outcome that meets the peoples’ aspirations and ensures a smooth transition to a better and more human reality. TCF will also continue to advise various governments throughout Europe and beyond on methods that are best in dealing with the present fluid situation and its possible outcomes.
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.
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
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.
he Cordoba Foundation along with Forward Thinking and Global Peace and Unity organised a one day conference entitled ‘Moving Beyond the Rhetoric: Increasing Trust between Faiths, Beliefs, Cultures and Communities’ which brought together academics, faith leaders, practitioners and activists to share their experiences, knowledge and expertise on building bridges between communities in the context of promoting understanding and dialogue.
The aim of the conference was to:
* highlight problems cause by fear and mistrust of different faiths, beliefs, cultures and communities
* encourage and highlight advantages of increasing trust, respect and understanding
* promote best practice between stakeholders
* provide a space for contentious issues to be discussed
Panel discussions were divided into the following geographical regions:
* USA and Europe
*The Middle East
* Pastor Bob Roberts (USA)
* Mustapha bargouti (Palestine)
* Daniel Levy (USA / Israel)
* Dr Ram Puniyani (India)
* Shams Deen (NIgeria)
* Dr Salauddin Atbani (Sudan0
* Prof Tariq Ramadan (UK)
* Anas Altikriti (UK)
* Ebrahim Rasool (RSA)
* John Ging
The conclusions of the conference included sharing ideas of best practice and emphasising the need for local grassroots initiatives to be supported and encouraged in order to ensure trust between communities is built.