“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
The following speakers have now been confirmed to speak at the forthcoming conference ‘Iraq 10 Years – Examining a Decade of Turbulence’ on the 8th of April 2013.
- Wadah Khanfar – Director, The Sharq Forum (former DG of Al-Jazeera)
- Clare Short – Former Minister for International Development
- Jonathan Fryer – British writer, broadcaster and academic
- Dr Basil Hussein – Expert on Iraqi politics
- Professor Rosemary Hollis – City University; formerly with Chatham House
- Professor Norman Kember – Christian pacifist activist, held captive in Iraq in 2005
- Ahmed al-Hemyari – Head of Public Relations, Al-Shaheed Al-Sadr Office, London
- Professor Phil Marfleet – Director, Refugee Research Centre, University of East London
Places still available. Please click here to register
For further information about the conference, please click here
The 9th of April 2013 will mark 10 years after the fall of Baghdad and in what was to be a symbolic justification for the intervention by Allied forces, the statue of Saddam Hussein was toppled in Baghdad amidst televised scenes of ‘jubilation’.
Ten years on, Iraq continues to search for a unifying national identity. After 2003, Iraq’s different communities retreated to their sectarian and ethnic enclaves for protection and for the survival of their various cultures. Presently, the country is fast descending into de facto three separate entities.
A timely conference to be held on 8th April 2013 at The Commonwealth Club, organised by The Cordoba Foundation and The Sharq Forum will primarily review and examine the achievements and failures of a decade’s long intervention in Iraq by Western-led forces and regional powers. The conference will also examine the nature and shape of future international interventions in the region. Despite the huge cost to state and society, Iraq will continue to play a strategic role in the region provided it addresses its internal political and social challenges.
Speaking at the conference will be a number of dignitaries including the Rt Hon Ms Clare Short, former minister for International Development; Waddah Khanfar, former Director-General of Al Jazeera & Director, the Sharq Forum; Professor Norman Kember, Emeritus Professor of Biophysics at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry and a Christian pacifist activist, who was held hostage for four months after travelling to Iraq in 2005; Dr Anas Altikriti, CEO of The Cordoba Foundation, and, part of the team that successfully negotiated the release of Western hostages including Professor Kember in 2005; Mohamed al-Daini, former member of the Iraqi Parliament; and Professor Rosemary Hollis from City University, London, and former Director of Research at Chatham house.
The organisers hope that through this gathering of international stakeholders, it will help chart a course to a proper democracy and human rights, where all Iraqis feel safe, equal and enjoy the fruits of a real change.
For more information about the event, please click here
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) helped organise a two-day event in Brussels, Belgium, from 19-20 March, consisting of discussion and debates concerning fair treatment for all in Europe.
The main organiser, European Network on Religion and Belief (ENORB), is being consulted by the European Commission (DG Justice) on the current 10 year review of implementation of the Directives on Equalities and Fundamental Rights – which cover Religion and Belief.
Legal experts from member states and academic institutions as well as from R&B (Religion and Belief) organisations and networks at grassroots level took part in the two-day event. Conclusions and recommendations from the event will be submitted to EU officials.
Abdullah Faliq (Head of Research) and Noridine Bendou represented TCF in Brussels. Day one kicked off with a roundtable where chief guest, László Surján, Vice-President of the European Parliament, spoke about the need for communities to understand each other better for better community cohesion. The second day consisted of discussions, presentations, workshops, networking as well as site-seeing.
Please click here for a selection of pictures from the two-day event
Notes to editors:
1. Picture credits: Noridine Bendou, The Cordoba Foundation
2. Abdullah Faliq (The Cordoba Foundation) is a founding member of ENORB.
3. To find out more about the work of ENORB, visit www.enorb.eu
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) commemorates the UN designated World Interfaith Harmony Week which takes place annually in the first full week of February. The week provides a platform from which all people of goodwill can recognize that the common values they hold far outweigh the differences they have, and thus provide a strong dosage of peace and harmony to their communities
Commenting on this, the Chief Executive of TCF, Anas Altikriti said ‘The start of 2013 has been marred with inter and intra faith clashes across much of the world. More initiatives that can allow people to come together and acknowledge each other’s uniqueness whilst working for the common good needs to be encouraged’.
Now more than ever is the need to move towards a sense of peace and mutual respect for people of faith and no faith. Religious 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. This has to be realised in reality so that we treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.
Thus we need to collectively work to restore empathy and compassion to the forefront of our initiatives such that breeding violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate. We need to ensure that our youth are given accurate information about other traditions, religions and cultures. We need to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity. We need to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings.
Whilst recognising this week as a platform for dialogue leading to respect and understanding, TCF calls for multi-faith action that produces tangible outcomes for communities in the front line and that also engages practically with faith leaders in order to resolve and avoid conflict and bring about peace, tolerance and harmony at the grass roots.
TCF calls for the creation of more organised response mechanisms at all levels and the support of existing initiatives such as the Interfaith Harmony Week or The World Parliament of Religions in order to build momentum that can educate people about each other and that can condemn all forms of discrimination, intolerance and oppression against ethnic and religious minorities.
There is a need to speak out and stand for justice in the spirit of the following verse from the Quran “O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” Surah An Nisa 4: 135
It is only with this type of attitude that the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community is possible.
1. If you are doing some events to celebrate this week, please do share your stories and photographs with us, so we can put it on our website.
The Cordoba Foundation launches, The MENA Report, the first in a series of monthly reports, providing insights and analysis of events and developments in the Middle East and North Africa. Aimed at European and Western readerships, the report provides impartial, accurate and authoritative content and analysis, through The Cordoba Foundation’s unique access to rare and highly important primary sources in the Middle East and beyond.
Head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at The Cordoba Foundation, Dr Fareed Sabri described the Middle East and North Africa an ancient place were religions, sects, communities and empires have risen, ruled, withered and passed over the past 7000 years. “Each historic experience, war, religion and rule carved its mark on the human topography of the region. Nowadays, democracy has become the rallying cry for the masses and the elite. It is not uncommon to hear the most ardent of dictators in the region talking about the democratic way of life, free expression and participatory politics making it very difficult and tricky to separate truths from deception and inaccuracy. The MENA Report seeks to unpick and unravel some of this, and provide objective and strategic insights into events and developments in the region.”
The first issue of The MENA Report focuses on some of the salient issues and developments in the region, including crises facing the new governments in Egypt and Tunisia; the situation on the ground in Bahrain and the role of Gulf countries; the Israel-Palestine conflict and the recent French operations in Mali.
Anas Altikriti, Chief Executive of The Cordoba Foundation, explained the launch of the new report as “being part of The Cordoba Foundation’s ever-expanding work, namely in the fields of research and publications. Our in-house experts and researchers are acquainted with the region’s traditions, its socio-political and cultural mosaic as well as the many layers of society. We hope to fill the void of academic and political analysis of events in the region through this new series.”
To download the report please click here
To order hard copies of the report, please click here
To offer feedback or to contribute to the report, please click here
For further information on this and the MENA program of The Cordoba Foundation, please click here
On the International Day of Peace, 21 September, The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) will be joining other organisations and faith institutions to express solidarity with all efforts intended to make this world more peaceful.
As the day falls on a Friday when Muslims gather for their weekly afternoon Friday Prayers, Salatul-Jumu’a, this year’s celebration will be particularly poignant as mosques and Islamic centres in the UK will open their doors to visitors wishing to join them during or after Friday prayers. People of different faiths and none will exchange messages of peace, celebrate local peace-building and share hospitality. They will be joined by others overseas, some as far as Sri Lanka and Thailand.
Abdullah Faliq, Head of Research at TCF, which has been working on this campaign from the outset, explained: “Unlike launching into war, establishing peace requires a lot of determination and continuous effort. We are delighted that people of all faith and none have come together to mark the International Day of Peace this year with so much vigor and passion.”
In such a turbulent period of global history, TCF Chief Executive, Anas Altikriti, stressed that “peace is not the absence of conflict and violence, but rather the establishment of justice through mutual respect, understanding and acceptance”.
Thus the International Peace Day is a reminder to all of us to find alternatives to what threatens peace and harmony and to provide a space for people to realise their own destinies.
TCF is particularly delighted to release a special edition of its Occasional Papers series, in commemoration of the International Day of Peace. Titled, Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future, it features an article by the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and messages of support from Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury; Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organisation of the Islamic Corporation (OIC); Jeremy Gilley, Founder of Peace One Day; Catriona Robertson from London Peace Network. The Occasional Papers will be released at a ceremony hosted by Lord Bates to mark the official launch of International Peace Day at Westminister Hall, Houses of Parliament (UK) on Friday 21st September at 11am.
TCF commends London Peace Network (and its partners), for undertaking such an unprecedented initiative of linking UK Islamic centres with other institutions.
Commenting further on this Anas Altikriti, said “We are taught that we do not inherit the earth from our forefathers but we borrow it from our grandchildren. We need to all collectively work towards the promotion of peace and understanding between cultures and civilisations. This initiative is the right and first step and needs all our support”.
Notes to editors:
1. For a full list of participating mosques and Islamic centres, see
2. Media / general enquiries about International Peace Day:
Catriona Robertson, London Peace Network, 07903 682 142, email@example.com
Julian Bond, Christian Muslim Forum, 07813 018 450, firstname.lastname@example.org
Abdullah Faliq, The Cordoba Foundation, 0208 991 3372, email@example.com
Ali Abbas Razawi, Majlis-e-Ulama Europe, 07894 277 658, firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Link to introductory film
4. For anyother enquries, please contact Amjad Saleem, Head of Communications, The Cordoba Foundation, 020 8991 3370 / media @thecordobafoundation.com
Call to Action: Rohingyas of Myanmar Need Support
From June 2012, deadly sectarian violence in western Myanmar’s Arakan State between the ethnic Arakan Buddhists and the Rohingya (and non-Rohingya Muslim) communities is part of a long running saga of tension, racism and oppression, which has seen thousands die and hundreds of thousands displaced over the last many decades.
President Thein Sein in July told the United Nations that refugee camps or deportation was the “solution” for the Rohingya.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
This unfolding humanitarian tragedy has an international dimension and requires determined support from all. By applying sustained pressure on the appropriate authorities, through our local
communities, we can bring about change to this apartheid.
This is a human tragedy, and one which affects us all, irrespective of our colour, creed, race or religion. Therefore, please be generous with your
time, wealth and support.
We can all help in raising awareness of the plight of the Rohingya people.
To find out more about what we can do, please click here
To get involved with the campaign, please visit the website of the RMCG