Bin Bayyah: we seek internal change, dialogue with others and interfaith alliance
Bin Bayyah commends participants’ efforts to promote peace and tolerance
H.E Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah concluded the fourth annual Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, which was held in Abu Dhabi between 11-13 December 2017, with the participation of more than 700 scholars, intellectuals and religious dignitaries from around the world. His Excellency thanked the participants who submitted valuable contributions, designed to promote peace and instill the culture of tolerance as a way of life for the benefit of all mankind.
Dr. Ahmed Sennouni, coordinator of the forum’s Scientific Committee, delivered the final statement, which included a set of recommendations, notably the need to establish an international monitoring center to address and study Islamophobia, as well as the need to organize international forums for intercultural and interreligious dialogue, to evaluate achievements, share experiences and unify efforts.
The forum included open discussions to examine the symptoms, phenomena and differences in tackling the fundamental issues raised by the forum, and the mutual challenges to the humanitarian community. In its final statement, the forum indicated that fear of Islam causes major damage to the fabric of complex societies and to the social contract model, based on the principles of equal citizenship. The phenomenon of Islamophobia is also senseless and unethical, because it fuels hatred and discrimination in the West, which ultimately gives way to extremism; and with the prevalence of nuclear weapons and no assurance that such weapons will not be used in the future, this gives great cause for concern. However, this should not cause us to ignore the balanced voices in the West, which represent a decisive segment within the different parties and civil society organizations and confronted the violence and hate speech against Muslims with legal initiatives and awareness campaigns and solidarity.
The statement added that fear of Islam is a complex phenomenon, with diverse causes, most importantly lack of communication between intellectuals and scholars on both sides, to prevent hate speech and extremism and protect individuals and communities from both physical and moral terrorism.
It also noted that fear of Islam serves two types of extremists, one that distorts religious concepts, to fight the world and undermine coexistence among people; and another one that resorts to the same distorted concepts to accuse Islam and Muslims of violence, and of being incompatible with the values of the times. To claim that Islam is linked to terrorism will lead to unending wars.
The forum explained that fear of Islam can be addressed by looking with a new eye to the concepts of the Sharia, in light of the four governing values; notably mercy, wisdom, justice and interest; which may promote tolerance and coexistence and disclaim extremists. This is a necessary measure to be undertaken within the Islamic world, to defeat extremist ideologies that distort the real image of Islam; which is exactly why the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies has chosen the theme “World Peace and Fear of Islam: Countering the Spread of Extremism” as a theme for its fourth annual meeting.
Another approach to dealing with fear of Islam would be to encourage dialogue with others and agree on constructive forms of cooperation. Different is not bad; especially if dialogue is based on recognizing all religions and advocating common moral values. The right to disagree, the freedom of religion, the right to argue, and adopting peaceful relations with others, are values and principles that promote dialogue and rapprochement between Muslims and non-Muslims, and foster alliances between other faiths.
The statement said that the forum looks forward to a new approach to relations between Muslims and non-Muslims; and between the different cultures and religions in general – by being more accepting instead of exchanging criticism and mutual accusations, and building alliances for the service of mankind. When reconciled and united, Abrahamic religions can promote peace, justice and good in the world, and address grievances and injustice. Today’s world is experiencing a horrific moral deterioration that cannot be averted despite the scientific progress and technological development. Values should include the universal elements of tolerance, true acceptance of diversity, pluralism, dialogue and communication. To achieve constructive dialogue, the forum stressed the need to review education curricula in Muslim societies to include the authentic values of Islam, which encourage tolerance and respect for other religions. International curricula also need to be re-examined to ascertain the extent to which they respond to the requirements of coexistence and promote respect for differences, rapprochement, tolerance and solidarity. To this end, the forum called for a ‘global media charter of honor’ to include all those who support this vision, and endeavor to overcome the differences with their opponents in the interest of coexistence and peace among humans.
The forum concluded with the following recommendations:
- Establishing an international monitoring center to study fear of Islam, which will serve as a platform to study its causes and manifestations, and propose preventive methods to address it and raise awareness about its dangers;
- Organizing international forums to promote communication and dialogue between religions and cultures; to evaluate achievements, share experiences and unify efforts;
- Launching academic programs and scholarships to encourage rapprochement and exchange experiences between Islamic studies departments across universities in the Islamic world and universities that teach religious studies in the West;
- Encouraging scientific research in Islamic, humanitarian and social studies that tackle the topics of coexistence and rapprochement; and allocating an annual prize that recognize the best studies in this field.
Participants congratulated the Forum for Promoting Peace on hosting the American Peace Caravan – based on the Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Religious Minorities in Muslim Societies – as evidence on the need for a positive partnership to achieve happy coexistence. They expressed their hope to see the Peace Caravan develop into a global peaceful movement, similar to the pre-Islamic alliance ‘Hilf al-Fudul’, to embody the common values of peace, love and harmony between Abrahamic faiths and then include all religions and cultures for the sake of humanity and mankind.
Participants expressed their delight with the forum’s decision to award the ‘Egyptian Family House’ with the Imam Al Hassan bin Ali Award for Promoting Peace due to their lasting example of coexistence and partnership between Al-Azhar Al-Sharif and the Coptic Church to strengthen national unity.
They also expressed their appreciation for the warm welcome and hospitality they received in the United Arab Emirates, and thanked His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, His Highness Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi, and to their Highnesses rulers of the Emirates; praying Allah Almighty to have mercy on the soul of the founding father late Sheikh Zayed and to maintain prosperity in the land of mercy and cohesion.
Day three of the forum tackled three key sessions each of which included three workshops.
1st Session – Fear of Islam: Causes and Contexts
The first session was based on the concept “Fear of Islam: Causes and contexts.” The first workshop discussed “Fear of Islam Today”, and was chaired by Dr. Yusuf Hmito, member of the forum’s Scientific Committee in the forum. Speakers at the workshop included Dr. Khawla Hassan, Adviser at the Islamic Council and Professor at Imam Online, United Kingdom; Dr. Joseph Mossad, Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University; Dr. Nasr Mohammed Aref, Head of the Islamic Civilization Studies Department at Zayed University; and Dr. Aisha Al Adawiya, President of the “Karamah” Association.
The second workshop discussed “Fear of Islam from a Western perspective” and was moderated by Prof. Dr. Amany Burhanuddin Lubis, member of the Board of Trustees of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies. Speakers included Dr Muhammad Al Bishari, member of the Board of Trustees of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies; Dr. Stephen Weidner, editor of the Fikrun wa Fann magazine; Dr. Sherman Jackson, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Michigan University; and Dr. Hisham Hiller, deputy chairman of the anti-extremism working group in the British government.
The third workshop tackled the topic of “Islamophobia, the Media and Communication”, and was moderated by Dr. Peter Welby, adviser at the Center for Religion and Geopolitics in Britain. Speakers included Dr. Rabia Chaudry, legal adviser and presenter at NewYork Times; Prof. Idriss Al Kanburi, expert at the Moroccan Diaspora Council’s research center; Dr. Mudassar Ahmed, Partner at UNITAS; and Dr Maqsoud Kruse, Executive Director at Hedayah Center.
2nd Session – Islam and the World – An Islamic Vision of Global Peace
The second session was based around the theme of “Islam and the World – An Islamic Vision of Global Peace” included three workshops. The first workshop was moderated by Dr. Mohammad Ahmed Al Khalayleh, Mufti of Jordan. Speakers included Dr. Abdullah Al Judai’, Director of the Al Judai’ Center for Research and Consultancy, Leeds, Brtitain; Dr. Ahmad Al-Haddad, Director of the Ifta Department in Dubai and member of the Muslim Council of Elders; and Dr. Ahmed Shehlan, Professor, Morocco.
The second workshop discussed “Jihad in the service of peace”, and was moderated by Dr. Abdul Karim Shawki Allam, Mufti of Egypt. Speakers included H.E Sheikh Aslamo Ould Sayed Al Mustafa, Adviser to Mauritania’s Prime Minister; Dr. Abdulhamid Ashaq, member of the forum’s Scientific Committee; and HE Dr. Qutb Mustafa Sano, advisor for diplomatic affairs for the President in the Republic of Guinea.
The third workshop titled “Peace in Islamic Law” was moderated by Sheikh Mohammad Mukhtar Ould Imbala, Head of Mauritania’s Fatwa & Grievances Supreme Council. Speakers included Mr. Ali Al Amin, Head of the Muslim Council of Elders; Dr. Abdul Majid El Saghir, Professor at Mohamed V University, Morocco; and Dr. Abdel Nasser Abou El Basal, Former President of the University of Islamic Sciences, Jordan.
3rd Session – Islam and The World – Ways to Rapprochement and Solidarity
The third session was themed on the topic of “Islam and The World – Ways to Rapprochement and Solidarity. The first workshop was moderated by Dr. Rafi‘ Taha Al-Rifa’i, Mufti of Iraq. Speakers included Dr. Ata’ollah Mohajerani, member of the Board of Trustees of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies; Dr. Ibrahim Mashrouh, member of the forum’s Scientific Committee; and Dr. Mohamed Sammak, member of the Board of Trustees of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies.
The second workshop was moderated by Dr. Dr Othman Batikh, the Grand Mufti of Tunisia. Speakers included Dr. Aicha Haddou, Director of the Center for Research and Training in Interfaith Dialogue and Peace Building at the Mohammedia Association of Moroccan Scientists; Eric Geoffrey, Professor of Islamic Studies in the Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Strasbourg; and Dr. Amineh Hoti is the Executive Director of the Centre for Dialogues & Action, USA.
The third and final workshop titled “Prospecting the future of international rapprochement and solidarity” was moderated by Dr. Mohammed Fatris Bakram, the Grand Mufti of Singapore. Speakers included Dr. Mostafa Sharif, Professor, Algeria; Dr. Abdul Jabbar Al Rifai, Professor of Islamic Philosophy at the Bagdad University; Dr. Brian Grim, President, Religious Freedom &Business Foundation, United States, and Dr. lwad Elman, Director of Programs & Development for the Elman Peace and Human Rights Centre in Somalia.