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 Republic 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.
The 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, the 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.
The 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.
As thousands converge in Potocari today for the funeral prayers of over 400 bodies and the 18th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide, 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, Myanmar 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 (TCF) has written to the US Secretary of State and the UK Foreign Secretary expressing concern about the events in Egypt
Dr Anas Altikriti, the CEO of TCF expressed concern that cirumventing people’s freedom and violating their human rights will only lead to violence, instability and antagonism towards the democratic values, we all share and aspire for all over the world.
THe Cordoba Foundation urges a moral and ethically weighted position from both the UK and the US in dealing with the situation in Egypt
To read the letter to the UK Foreign Secretary, please click here
On Wednesday 26th June at the Osmani Centre, London, The Cordoba Foundation launched the latest in a series of the Cordoba Papers, titled “Meet the Challenge, Make the Change – A Call to Action for Muslim Civil Society in Britain”.
Authored by Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari – a leading figure in the Muslim community – the paper attempts a critical look at the Muslim community, particularly in Britain and the role and performance of Islamic organisations.
Providing a good mapping exercise, the paper charts a way forward through a bold and clear presentation but also raises interesting and pertinent issues for discussion and debate.
The publication was reviewed by writer and researcher, Dr Jamil Sherif and moderated by Dr Anas Altikriti, CEO of The Cordoba Foundation. In attendance were leading figures from Muslim organisations, charities, research institutions as well as community activists and youth. Dr Altikriti said “we welcome the open discussion and debate that took place during the launch of this timely publication, which is lacking in the community.”
Other discussants, including Dr Zahid Parvez – Rector of the Markfield Institute of Higher Education based at the Islamic Foundation in Leicestershire, pointed out the need for British Muslims to better engage with civil society on general interest issues. He said, “whilst we acknowledge a leadership-deficit in the Muslim community, new and credible leadership will emerge automatically in different spheres of our society.”
Lotifa Begum, Development Education Coordinator for Islamic Relief, commended Dr Abdul Bari for penning this paper and initiating discussion on this very important topic amongst stakeholders in the community”. Tarek el Diwany, consultant and analyst in the field of Islamic finance for Zest Advisory LLP, and author of The Problem With Interest, remarked that “we need to do away our fascination with labels and organisational bureaucracy and focus more on making real contribution to society, in the fields of media, medicine, finance and so on.”
Responding to questions and points addressed to Dr Abdul Bari, he stressed that “overcoming cultural and religious differences is a priority to building a better future together with different stakeholders, as demonstrated in the life of Prophet Muhammad since the very beginning of the Revelation.”
The Cordoba Foundation hopes that Dr Abdul Bari’s paper will inspire and probe those currently at key positions in the Muslim community to reflect on some of the issue and challenges highlighted but also to look forward to making the change for a better Muslim civil society in Britain.
Today, the Equal Rights Trust, The Cordoba Foundation and 75 other civil society organisations issued a joint statement calling for an end to on-going human rights and humanitarian abuses against the stateless Rohingya in Rakhine state of Myanmar. The statement, which is simultaneously being issued by organisations on five continents and sent to the President of Myanmar and Myanmar embassies around the world, is an expression of global civil society solidarity regarding human rights protection of the Rohingya.
The Rohingya, a stateless minority of Myanmar, have endured decades of abuse, persecution and discrimination. One year ago, on 3 June 2012, the massacre of ten Muslims travelling in Rakhine State, following the killing and reported rape of a Buddhist woman, marked the beginning of a series of violent attacks against the Rohingya and other Muslim communities. The violence of June and October 2012 resulted in deaths, destruction to property, large scale internal displacement and segregation within Rakhine state of Myanmar. While up to 800 deaths resulting from the violence have been documented, it is believed that the actual number is in the thousands. The subsequent mass exodus has led to a rise of the numbers of Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia and beyond.
One year after the violence began, its root causes, as well as on-going humanitarian and human rights concerns, remain largely unaddressed. Although both the Rakhine and Rohingya communities committed violence in June, the Rohingya were disproportionately victimised, including by security forces. Furthermore, discriminatory laws and practices against the Rohingya by the Burmese authorities, underpinned by their lack of citizenship, and their mistreatment in third countries, remain matters of concern.
The Joint Statement alerts the international community to several trends observed by civil society organisations over the past year, with regard to the crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Myanmar authorities; the lack of protection for Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers; the violence against the Rohingya and the impunity of perpetrators; the incitement to violence and government hate speech; the involvement of government officials and security forces; the displacement of the Rohingya; their urgent humanitarian needs; their statelessness; the segregation of the Rohingya and their property rights; the discriminatory restrictions on their family life and freedom of movement. The Joint Statement makes recommendations to the governments of Myanmar and refugee recipient countries and to the international community at large.
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) rejects accusations made by Andrew Gilligan against our organisation in the Telegraph on 1 June 2013. Neither the TCF nor its partners recognise the picture painted by Mr Gilligan.
We have been accused as a ‘front organisation’ for the Muslim Brotherhood. Mr Gilligan tells his readers that this allegation was made by the Prime Minister when he was Leader of the Opposition in 2008, a time when hard-right ideologues such as the Policy Exchange (a think tank who was exposed for forging evidence in its report on ‘Islamism’ in 2007) would advise the Tories on its dealings with Muslims. We wrote to David Cameron in 2008 asking for him to substantiate his accusation. Other than a polite acknowledgement, nothing was forthcoming.
We are not surprised by Mr Gilligan’s latest missive against our organisation. The article containing his accusation against us is exactly the kind of cover that far-right extremists need to mask their campaign of hate since the horrific murder of Drummer Lee Rigby on 23 May. While mosques and British Muslims have been attacked and abused, Mr Gilligan has deployed Stalinist double-speak to play down these incidences. Mr Gilligan plays down these incidences even though Drummer Lee Rigby’s family and regiment has been moved to caution against reprisal attacks, in addition to showing their gratitude for the massive show of support given to the family by the Great British Public.
Just as the rest of the British Muslim community, we too condemn the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. There is no cause that should justify his killing. It is a real shame that Mr Gilligan has deployed these underhand tactics to further his own divisive agenda. As before, we are in no doubt that the far-right will use Mr Gilligan’s words for their own messages of hate. We, on the other hand, will continue to to promote dialogue and understanding between cultures and civilisations, as well as fostering discussion with our collective efforts to stop this violence ever happening again.
TCF works to promote dialogue and understanding between cultures and civilisations as per its mission statement. Seeking to help resolve conflicts and tensions, TCF has been working (directly and through partner organisations) in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Middle East and North Africa, Bosnia, Sudan, amongst other places. Dr Anas Altikriti, CEO of the foundation, helped successfully negotiate the release of eleven hostages to date, including Western Christian peacemakers taken hostage in Iraq in 2005.
A One Day Forum THE SEARCH FOR HUMAN SECURITY was held on May 16th at Malaysia’s Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (IDFR) which explored Islamic teachings on Diplomacy in the light of Peace Building and Human Security. The chief organizers were International Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies (IAIS) Malaysia, IDFR, and The Cordoba Foundation (TCF). Their contributing partners were the Foreign Ministry of The State of Qatar and the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation (GMMF). Twelve scholars and officials offered insights into the relevance of Human Security for the Islamic ideal of harmonious relations between nations.
Outstanding highlight of the Forum was the morning Keynote address “Islam And Peace Making: Legacy And Promise” delivered by HRH Raja Dr Nazrin Shah Ibni Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah – Regent of Perak Darul Ridzuan, as well as the Royal Patron of IDFR. HRH gave an exemplary comprehensive overview of the current conditions of Muslim nations regarding human security. HRH stated that many Muslim nations are gravely lacking in its basic aspects, since “the comprehensive wellbeing of the people in a number of Muslim-majority countries leaves much to be desired.” Shortcomings include poverty, income inequality, poor educational and health care opportunities, political repression, and violent conflict. He pointed especially to the destabilizing effects of sectarian rivalry and tribal animosities which plague large areas of the Muslim world. HRH provided valuable insights into how our understanding of security should transcend the nation-state security paradigm, by adopting human and social requirements for developmental wellbeing and flourishing in harmony with Islamic teaching
In the evening of May 16th a large Banquet was held at the Ritz Carleton Hotel in KL hosted by the Embassy of The State of Qatar, where Y.A.Bhg Tun Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi (Former Prime Minister of Malaysia & Patron of IAIS) gave his Keynote speech on ‘Islam and Peace Building in the 21st Century’. HE Khaled Al-Attiyah was in attendance along with HE Dr Hassan Al-Muhannadi (Director of The Diplomatic Institute, The State of Qatar) and many other dignitaries. In his remarks Tun Abdallah Badawi spoke of the “Muslim dilemma” which hinders Islamic nations from contributing effectively to Peace Building and promoting effective human security. He cautioned those present not to be complacent about conditions prevailing in Muslim societies, and to creatively re-think the need for fresh approaches to security and peace.
This SEARCH FOR HUMAN SECURITY Forum reflects expanded engagement with contemporary issues of Islamic peace and security by the two institutes IAIS and IDFR, who held their first conference in October 2011 on ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVES ON PEACE AND SECURITY. These two Forums highlight the close link between security and peace, for the word “Islam” signifies both closely related principles.
This 2013 Forum was intended to energize efforts by Islamic governments, Muslim civic organizations, and international NGOs to devote more resources to peace building efforts, and to actively pursue shared efforts at reconciliation and humanitarian needs.