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.
The full publication can be downloaded from here
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.
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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.
For more details of the forum, please click here
A one-day Forum on May 16th exploring Islamic teachings on Diplomacy in the light of global Peace & Security will be convened by IAIS-Malaysia with Malaysia’s INSTITUTE OF DIPLOMACY AND FOREIGN RELATIONS (IDFR) and THE CORDOBA FOUNDATION (U.K.). The Contributing Partners include The State of Qatar and the Global Movement of Moderates Foundation.
Ten scholars and officials offer insights into the concept and practice of the Islamic ideal of harmonious relations between nations. This Forum reflects the ongoing collaboration between IAIS chaired by the famous scholar Professor Dr. Mohammad Hashim Kamali (CEO of IAIS Malaysia), and IDFR helmed by YBhg. Ambassador Dato’ Ku Jaafar Ku Shaari (Director General, IDFR), along with a new partnership of UK based think tank, THE CORDOBA FOUNDATION whose CEO is Dr. Anas Altakriti.
Highlights of this Thursday’s Forum include the morning Keynote Address delivered by His Royal Highness Raja Dr. Nazrin Shah Ibni Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah, Regent of the State of Perak Darul Ridzuan as well as Royal Patron of IDFR. Also giving Opening remarks will be the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs from The State of Qatar, His Excellency Dr Khaled bin Mohammad Al Attiyah; and the Foreign Minister of Malaysia.
In the evening a Banquet will be held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Kuala Lumpur sponsored by the Embassy of The State of Qatar, where YABhg. Tun Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi (Former Prime Minister of Malaysia and Patron of IAIS Malaysia) will deliver the Keynote speech on ‘Islam and Peace Building in the 21st Century’. HE Khaled bin Mohammad Al Attiyah will also attend. Guests are by invitation only.
This Forum reflects serious attention devoted to issues of Islamic Peace by IAIS and IDFR. In October 2011 the two institutes held their first conference ‘ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVES ON PEACE AND SECURITY’. The May 16th Forum highlights the close link between security and peace, since the word “Islam” signifies these two closely related ideas. There are two Panels: the morning session chaired by Dr Anas Altakriti on ‘Diplomacy – The Islamic Legacy’ includes Tan Sri Professor Dr Mohd Kamal Hassan (Distinguished Professor, ISTAC), Dr Hassan Al-Muhannadi (Director – Diplomatic Institute, The State of Qatar), Dr Karim Douglas Crow (Principal Fellow – IAIS and Mr. Amjad Saleem (The Cordoba Foundation, UK). The afternoon session is a Round Table exchange with the theme ‘In Search of Human Security’ chaired by Professor Chandra Muzaffar (JUST), including Professor Dr M. Hashim Kamali (CEO of IAIS Malaysia), the Chief High Priest Venerable Datuk K Sri Dhammaratana, Tuan Haji Nasharudin Mat Isa (Chairman of Al-Quds Foundation) and Mr. Asrul Daniel Ahmed (Global Movement of Moderates Foundation [GMMF]).
The ISLAM & DIPLOMACY Forum seeks to energise efforts by Islamic governments and Muslim civic organizations to take peace building more seriously, as well as shared efforts at reconciliation and humanitarian needs. The following morning Friday May 17th a closed door Workshop will take place at IAIS to plan a common strategy for policy dissemination, capacity building, and joint future activities. It is proposed that a Network be established to be known as the Islamic Forum for Peace & Security. This Forum could be structured as a global network of institutions both private and public linking Ministries, think tanks and International NGOs to advance Islamic solutions to conflict and violence.
Notes to editors:
1) For media enquiries please contact the following people:
– MAJOR MOHD RIDZUAN MOHD SHARIFF (IDFR) – Email: email@example.com Tel: 019-3528127
– MR MOHD NURUDDIN ABD MANAP (IAIS Malaysia) – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 013-2573667
– MR AMJAD SALEEM (TCF – UK) – Email:email@example.com Tel; +44 7941 008738
Iraq is edging closer to civil war and break up into separate states, with almost none of its pre-invasion promises coming to fruition, experts warned at a ground-breaking conference held on the future of the country in Central London.
Ten years after the fall of Baghdad, policy-makers, politicians, academics, military experts, ex-senior military officials and voices from across the Middle East converged at The Commonwealth Club in London (8th April) to debate Iraq’s future and its bloody past decade.
Watched by international media, Dr Anas Altikriti, CEO of The Cordoba Foundation, reflected on his time as a hostage negotiator, attempting to secure the release of fellow conference speaker Professor Norman Kember and other hostages in 2005/6. He said: ‘The people of Iraq have been through quite a rollercoaster. But we didn’t just come and discover these problems in 2003: we have seen divisions for centuries.’
Co-organiser, Wadar Khanfar of Al Sharq Forum and former Al Jazeera director general, recalled seeing the signs of a ‘new’ Iraq as part of Al Jazeera’s bureau in the country: ‘Ten years ago I was covering the war in Iraq. I remember as I entered Baghdad that all the state buildings were on fire. It was not the image of a free Baghdad that people wanted to see.’
‘Ten years later I don’t see Iraq and Baghdad as having moved forward.’ The failures, he said, could be traced back 100 years to the end of the First World War, with ‘deep suspicion’ among many observers about the latest conflict. He warned that three de-facto states could soon appear where now one (Iraq) exists.
‘Iraq is not at a crossroads,’ suggested Middle East Monitor director Dr Daud Abdullah, ‘it has passed it. The north is a de facto state, with Irbil not even talking to Baghdad about oil contracts. The world’s third-largest oil producer has 36% of its citizens living in poverty.’ He suggested that the presence of death squads and private militias was similar to the El Salvador “dirty war” in the 1980s, with current premier Al-Maliki concentrating power in his hands alone.
The attitude of the Americans and their allies was ‘naive, lacking depth and profundity’ prior to the 2003 invasion, said Professor Rosemary Hollis, former research director of Chatham House. ‘There was too much emphasis on elections, as though that would create democracy.’
Clare Short, former Minister for International Development, counselled against attempting to re-draw colonial boundaries, arguing it was time to ‘unite the region’ rather than recreate it. She referred to the former neo-conservative movement, the Project for a New American Century, and its ‘terrifying documents’ planning the (mythical) future of Iraq.
Various academic speakers, including Professor Phil Marfleet of University of East London, said that there was a dearth of academic research into Iraq post-2003, particularly the humanitarian costs, labeling this ‘the politics of denial’.
Dr Nabil Ramadhani of the Human Relief Foundation revealed shocking statistics showing the decline in living standards, increase in poverty, and the threats women face – attacks and sexual assaults – even travelling in their own neighbourhoods. ‘Iraqi women have paid a high price for the war and occupation of their country.’
Drawing the event to a close, Dr Altikriti said that the Iraqi people and the rest of the world had been offered a false choice between Saddam and what the Americans said they would bring afterwards. ‘There were other ways, other choices,’ he said, arguing that international law had been degraded and flouted, creating a world in which we were all now less safe and damaging democracy even here in the UK.
1) Please click the links to get the conference briefing, the speaker profiles and the schedule for the conference
2) Please see below for a selection of photos (courtesy of Richard Chambury; William Barylo and Noridine Bendou)
“non violence is a set of attitudes, actions, or behaviours intended to persuade the other side to change its opinions, perceptions and actions” was the message that was presented at a talk held on the 21st of January 2013 at St Ethelburgas Centre for Peace and Reconciliation and co sponsored by The Cordoba Foundation to commemorate Martin Luther King Day.The speaker was Dr Ayse Kadayifci from Georgetown University, an expert on Islamic peace building and non violence.
According to Dr Kadyifci, successful non violence requires great strength of character, perseverance and discipline. It is a means of awakening a sense of injustice and moral shame in the supporters of a power structure, showing them that they have more to gain by ending injustice and oppression than by maintaining them. It is also about exposing the unjust means of a power structure, the isolation of actions, changing the narrative that can be used for justification.
Strategic use of non violence thus is means to resist the power structure though long term social and economic policies including education and microfinance. You let the community acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to advance in society and challenge the status quo of the power structure and provoke it in order to expose its unjust means and illegitimacy by seeking to prevent the advancement of the community.
Noone communicated this moral priority more than Martin Luther King, who despite losing his supporter base would shift attention from the civil rights movement to economic injustice and the Vietnam war in 1965, which unfortunately have been erased from the cultural narrative of his life and legacy.
In his 1963 letter from Birmingham jail in particular, King drew inspiration from the gospel and biblical teachings in order to justify his fight against injustice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. He mentions just and unjust law and offers insight into how not only the church but other faith leaders and communities should act in the face of injustice. In King’s words, it is about being a thermostat that transforms the morals of society.
His phrase, ‘if the church of today doesn’t recapture the sacrificial spirit of the past, it will lose its authenticity. It will forfeit the loyalty of millions and will be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning’, is the challenge that he sets for us today, people of faith and no faith to see where we stand during times of challenge and controversy, rising above the narrow confines of our individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
‘Faith is a restraint against all violence, let no believer commit violence’ (Hadith, Recorded sayings of the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him)
This saying formed the backdrop for a seminar on ‘Peace building and Non Violence from Islamic Principles’ organised by Initiatives of Change, The Cordoba Foundation and Islamic Relief Worldwide on the 22nd of January 2013 where scholars Dr Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana (Georgetown University), Professor Mohammed Abu Nimer (Salam Institute and American University) and Imam Ajmal Masroor gave their unique perspectives on the subject.
Speaking first, Ayse painted a theoretical picture of the concept of peacebuilding from an Islamic Perspective. Whilst Muslims agree that Islam is a religion of peace and the application of Islamic precepts will bring justice, harmony and order, consequently peace to the world, academic scholars often paint Islam as a religion of peace and tolerance, which permits the use of violence only under certain well-defined conditions focussing instead on the specific conditions and circumstances under which Islam allowed the use of war to settle conflicts.
Prof Abu-Nimer contends that, although these scholars have attempted to present a more balanced perspective of Islamic traditions, they have “approached this topic from a framework of security, power politics, strategic studies or classical Islamic studies, not peace and conflict resolution” (Abu-Nimer 2003, 26) and therefore failed to pay sufficient attention to inherent traditions of non violence and peaceful resolution of conflicts which have been an integral aspect of Islamic tradition since the time of the Prophet Mohammed ( PBUH). In particular, the practice by Prophet Mohammed’s (PBUH) attitude towards peace and his diplomacy, can be summarized as the “reconciliation of hearts” which meant “coming to terms with adversaries and enemies and the contractual guaranteeing of agreements”, and that he preferred peaceful regulation of conflicts and peaceful resolution of enmity. Based on the Qur’anic verse “We did raise among every people a Messenger (with a teaching): Worship God and Shun the Evil one” (Q16:36), scholars such as Jawdat Sa’id of Syria argue that “the Prophets come with the message to avoid wicked tyranny and they disclosed that the tyrant could not continue to exist without our obedience to him.”
Derived from the Quran, the Hadith and the Sunna, an Islamic conception of peace begins with its attribution as a divine name since the Arabic word for peace, as-Salam, is one of the ninety-nine names of God (Qur’an – Q 59:23). There are many references to peace (salam, silm, sulh, etc.) in the Qur’an that suggest that peace, together with justice (adl) is a central message of Islam (Q 3:83; 4:58; 5:8; 10:25; 16:90; 41:11; 42:15; 57:25) These references make it clear that peace in Islam is not limited to a negative understanding of peace that is often defined as the absence of war, oppression or tyranny but it actually refers to a process in which human beings strive to establish foundations for interacting with God’s creation – human and non-human alike—in harmony and to institute just social, economic and political structures where they can fulfil their potential . Such an understanding of peace thus requires a condition of both internal and external order that encompasses both individual and social spheres as “the individual must be endowed with the necessary qualities to make peace an enduring reality, not only in the public sphere but also in the private domain”.
Dr Kadayifci then spoke about some of the values that drive Islamic principles of peace building and non violence including the quest for justice (political / social / economic) or Adl; the concept of social empowerment or Ihsan ( benevolence); the concepts of : compassion or Rahmah; wisdom or Hikmah; service or Amal; faith or Yakeen; love or Muhabbah and patience or Sabr.
Ajmal Masroor presented his own experiences growing up in the UK of tackling prejudice and extremism on the road to peace building. He spoke about the need first to reconcile within ones heart as the first step towards peace building and non violence and finding peace with enemies.
Resolving conflicts in different Muslim contexts requires an understanding of the dynamic relationship between the Islamic tradition that unites Muslims and the unique geographical, cultural, historical and political contexts of each Muslim community that impacts specific tools for resolving conflicts. Islamic culture is not an ‘object’ that can be reified into one objective or dimension;” nor is it distributed uniformly among all Muslims. Culture is not a static entity that can be identified as a constant, but it is always in the making, constantly evolving and changing with the experiences and context of society. Furthermore, there is more than one Islamic culture depending on geography and demography as well as various subcultures, within each community. Therefore, conflict resolution practices in different Islamic countries such as Egypt, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and Palestine, amongst others, have various differences due to their unique contexts. Such an understanding of culture allows us to recognize that each Muslim community will have many internal paradoxes, subcultures, and identities. This perspective also recognizes that each Muslim responds to the realities and challenges of life in their own unique way influenced by the many identities and subcultures s/he is a part of. These contextual factors and cultural differences have also led to different understanding of Islamic teachings and practices. In fact, as long as they do not contradict Islamic teachings, local customs (urf) are often considered a source of Islamic law.
In this regard, Professor Abu Nimer addressed some key issues surrounding the context of peace building within Islam. Looking at peace building within an Islamic context has to deal with the concept of justice and dignity. There is heavy emphasis on public image and the role of third parties cannot be underestimated whilst a lot is dependent on relationship building. Professor Abu Nimer also pointed out that a lot of the communities where peacebuilding is needed are burdened by colonial history adding additional challenges to narratives of coexistence and non violent resolutions of conflict.
The seminar touched very briefly on various community conflict resolution mechanisms that have been developed and effective applied to resolve conflicts in the Muslim world such as wasata (mediation), sulha (reconciliation) and hewar (dialogue).
Please click here to view a video of the proceedings (video courtesy of IoFC)
A selection of photos are presented below courtesy of Jonty Herman and Amaani Niyaz