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     Volume 4 Issue 24 | December 10, 2004 |

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Promoting Peace

Srabonti Narmeen Ali

In the last few years, the Islamic community all around the world has suffered the stigma of being one of the world's most destructive. Words like terrorist, fundamentalist and extremist have been constantly linked to anyone who has a Muslim last name or shares the Muslim faith. However, there are a significant number of Muslims who believe that Islam stands for peace, and those who do anything deterring from that fact -- such as blow up buildings or bomb trains full of innocent people -- lack knowledge in what the real Islam stands for. On December 2, 2004, a group of such Muslims organised and attended a conference to discuss the role Islam should play in promoting world peace, and how to change the global image of Islam. The International Islamic Conference for World Peace was organised by the Institute of Hazrat Mohammad (SAW) at the Osmani Memorial Hall in Dhaka. "The Institute promotes the teachings and principles of the Prophet Mohammad (SAW), by holding classes taught in English for children, university students, adults and also special classes for the visually impaired. We try to incorporate these teachings into every day life," says Executive Director of the Institute, Ahmed Shafi Maqsood.

The all-day conference, which was a follow up of an all-religion conference held on October 1 of this year, was divided into two sections: a morning session, held from 9 in the morning to 1 in the afternoon, in which the Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Barrister Moudud Ahmed was Chief Guest; and an afternoon session, held from 2 in the afternoon to 4:30 in the afternoon, in which the Minister for Post and Telecommunications Barrister Md. Aminul Haque was the Chief Guest.

Scholars and philosophers from various Muslim communities around the world as well as within Bangladesh were present at the conference. In his opening speech, Lt. General (Rtd.) Mohammad Nooruddin Khan, Chief Advisor to the Institute of Hazrat Mohammad (SAW), said, "In the context of the present day, this conference is significant in more than one way. Islam continues to suffer mostly at the hands of misled followers and misinformed detractors. On innumerable occasions it has been stated and stressed that Islam stands for the promotion and protection of peace. Any deviation from this concept would be a negation of the tenets of Islam -- today's gathering of scholars, leaders and followers of Islam, and the exchange of ideas and thoughts among them will most certainly clarify and establish that."

Adding on to this train of thought, Daoud Rosser, Owen, President of the Association of British Muslims, said in his speech, "Terrorism is not an entity in itself, as the Americans would currently have us believe. It is a methodology born of desperation and constant and consistent humiliation and oppression. It has been termed 'the war of the flea.' It is, however, illegitimate under the Shari'ah, although certain authorities…have stated that in some circumstances it is 'understandable.' It is still, nevertheless, illegitimate."

Among the scholars and discussants were State Minister for Ministry of Religious Affairs, Mosharef Hossain Shahjahan, Former Ambassador and Secretary, Ahmed Farid, Dean of the Diplomatic Corporation, H.E Mohammad Shahta Zarab, President of the World Muslim Foundation, A.K.M. Abdul Mannan, High Commissioner of Pakistan to Bangladesh, H.E. Manzar Shafiq and Chairman to the Council of Ulems of the Religious Board of Muslims of Tatarstan, Yunusov Ramil Munavarovich.

In his speech, Ahmed Farid touched on the idea of "the clash of civilisations," a term first coined by Samuel P. Huntington, who claims that, "it is most important to recognise that Western intervention in the affairs of other civilizations is probably the single most dangerous source of instability and potential global conflict in the multi-civilisational world." Farid added that, "we should stress that all civilisations have an equal right to exist side by side. Instead of domination, accommodation should be the spirit of each one of them. Coexistence and cooperation, rather than clashes and conflicts should be the motto of each. No country, however powerful, should try to impose its system on others by dint of its arms might."

The words Islam and Muslim are loaded in today's society. There are two extremes: those who believe that the terrorism around the world is justified; and those who believe that all Muslims are barbarians. However, there are people who definitely believe that there is a balance. People who believe that terrorism and violence are unnecessary and wrong, people who are working hard to promote peace, while still staying true to their beliefs and their religion. Such people speak out, hoping that their voices are heard, and that they, in time, can unite with the world to bring peace forward and eradicate religion-based violence forever.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2004