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Interfaith Dialogue Conference Begins in Mecca | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Mecca, Asharq Al-Awsat- King Abdullah Bin-Abdulaziz, the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, inaugurated today the International Islamic Conference for Dialogue at Al-Safa Palace in Mecca in the presence of more than 500 Muslim figures from various Muslim countries. The aim of the conference is to draw up the bases and principles for the Muslims’ dialogue with other nations and cultures.

The Muslim World League [MWL], which is organizing the first conference of its kind and its status in the Muslim world, announced the completion of all the organizational preparations and the arrival of the clerics and jurisprudents representing all the Muslim doctrines and minorities in the world at a press conference held by its Secretary General Abdullah al-Turki on Monday.

Dr. Abdullah Bin-Abdul Muhsin al-Turki, the MWL secretary-general and member of the Senior Ulema Commission, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Holding the international conference for dialogue, which starts its proceedings today, is connected to the need to open channels of dialogue and discussions so as to reach common bases which serve humanity and spare the world and nations the evils of conflicts, polarization, and divisions. The interest of the Islamic institutions, among them the MWL, in the dialogue at this time is in response to the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ call, which came on time and as the world was witnessing expanded dialogue forums, to lay down the bases for an objective dialogue that blocks the way before anti-human institutions that are acting to shuffle the cards.”

He pointed out that Islam is a religion of dialogue, persuasion, and being convinced for many reasons, foremost of them because it respects the human intellect and urges its use. For Muslims, dialogue is the fruit of the Islamic concept of man which is based on determining the purpose from the human existence, that of worshipping and submitting to God, and spreading this awareness in man to beyond the short life, that is, to the eternal life.

He said the conference is an occasion for asserting to the world that Islam has no problem with dealing with the other parties. Our venerable forefathers succeeded in creating the nucleus of a great nation that included several peoples and colors and in which old civilizations coexisted and worked to support the one religion without being compelled to abandon what was good in their cultures, languages, and traditions.

He stressed that the rules of civilized dialogue, which is based on the concept of Islam’s universalism, make it incumbent on us to manage the dialogue in the best possible way while adhering to the truth when dealing with the reality. He said history is full of the bright sides in the relationship between Muslims and others and testifies to Islam’s tolerance and fairness with non-Muslims.

The MWL secretary general went on to say that the Muslims’ welcome of the dialogue opens for them the door for spreading the common values of humans while setting out clear points for the dialogue and for renouncing cultural or racial superiority while introducing in turn the principles of Islam and presenting its rules on the various issues. This makes the discussion and dialogue one of the tools of preaching and spreading Islam’s values for confronting the injustice and materialism’ conquering of the human in this age.

He pointed out that intercourse with the nations and dialogues with the others are an Islamic responsibility. God the Almighty ordered us to this with His saying: “Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious. For thy Lord knoweth best who have strayed from His Path and who receive guidance.” [Koranic verse]

He pointed out that the world suffers today from the spread of wars that do not abate and the rampant spread of different kinds of injustice and aggression in several regions which only increase the anxiety of the entire humanity while the massive media machine utilizes the resources to propagate wrong and misleading information that deepens the differences and widens the estrangement between peoples and nations. All this, Al-Turki added, put us before the responsibility of laying down the bases for dialogue and contact with the others so as to explain our stands on many common human issues from the premise of presenting what God Almighty said about justice: “And remember Allah took a Covenant from the people of the Book, to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it.” Al Imran Surah 3, Verse 187.[Koranic verse]

He added that Islam’s universalism has its rules and bases, among them preaching to all humans from all races, colors, and languages. Islam’s principles do not grant an ethnic or national privilege and do not have promises favoring a certain race or ethnic group. The divine promise is for all humans, one of success in this life and happiness in the Hereafter it they believed and did good work in their lives.

On their part, several Islamic cultural centers in the world underlined the importance of the conference which is held at a sensitive time through which the Muslim nation is going in addition to thanking and praising the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ call for and sponsorship of the conference, which they said unites the entire spectrum in the Islamic rank and also achieves the principle of understanding and peaceful coexistence between the world’s nations and peoples.

Dr. Ibrahim al-Zayd, director of the Islamic Cultural Center in Madrid, Spain, said the Islamic establishments and societies in Spain hail the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ call for dialogue and appreciate his deep desire that understanding between Muslims and others should prevail. They are also waiting for the outcome (of the International Islamic Conference for Dialogue) and will act on its recommendations and adopt the dialogue course on which the participating ulema and thinkers will agree.

He added that the MWL is a big Islamic institution that has a great asset of relations with the institutions of dialogue, research centers, and universities in the world and is qualified today to organize the conference’s tasks and deliberations.

He went on to say: “The aim is to achieve the Islamic objectives of acquainting others about Islam, limiting the campaigns against it, and then achieving understanding with the others through the common denominators of joint action, cooperation, and understanding so as to strength and boost the chances of coexistence between peoples regardless of their religions, countries, races, and languages.”

On his part, Dr. Abdulaziz al-Yahya, director of the Islamic Cultural Center in Brussels, Belgium, expressed the desire of the Islamic establishments and societies in Belgium and the Netherlands to cooperate with the MWL by organizing joint dialogue seminars and pointed out that the themes of the conference are very important because they will map out a Shariaa course from which Muslim interlocutors will benefit in the dialogue seminars and conferences.

He added that one of the important issues which Muslims in the West are looking for is to have a higher Islamic term of reference on the affairs of the Islamic dialogue with followers of various other religions and cultures. He said: “The issues announced by the MWL and the participants’ discussion of the dialogue issues, its legitimacy, and controls will create a unified approach that the Islamic establishments will rely on in their dialogue with others.”

Farid Khutani, director of the Islamic Cultural Center in Vienna, praised the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ interest in the dialogue and his support for the Muslims’ dialogue with others and pointed out that there are many benefits from this for Islam and Muslims.

He underlined the importance of interaction between Muslims and others and the impact of this on understanding and coexistence and said: “The MWL held several Islamic activities at the Islamic Cultural Center in Vienna and invited non-Muslims to participate in them. One of the most important of these activities was the conference on the image of Islam in school curricula in the West.”

He explained that the MWL was able to acquaint the Westerners participating in the conference with the wrong ideas of Islam in several school books from which students in the West acquire knowledge and praised the MWL’s continued contacts with Western organizations to acquaint them with Islam.

From South America, Jumah al-Ghamidi, director of the Islamic Center in Brazil, said the dialogue with non-Muslims has many benefits which Muslims living outside the Muslim worlds’ borders can feel, adding that the MWL decision to hold the conference is a major Islamic work and it is hoped that several dialogue sessions and seminars would be held after it.

He added: “Because there is in this many benefits, most importantly acquainting the world with the fact that Islam renounced the language of conflict and does not accept the theories of clashes but is a religion of tolerance which calls for understanding and coexistence between peoples through dialogue.”

Dr. Zuhayr al-Khatib, director general of the MWL branch in Canada, focused on the need of the Muslim minorities and societies in the West for an Islamic term of reference which adopts a clear methodology for the objective dialogue with non-Muslims.

He expressed the hope of the Muslim societies’ peoples outside the Muslim countries that the participants will reach this methodology and pointed out that the custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ call” is a successful Islamic tool for intellectual persuasion and an explanation of the Islamic vision to non-Muslims of the common humanitarian issues.”