Muslims will have to rely on their own diplomatic resources and institutions to resolve their internal conflicts-secretary-general of MCB(INTERVIEW)

Azerbaijan Materials 18 February 2009 18:04 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, Feb. 18  /corr. Trend  U.Sadikhova /

Trend  exclusive interview with Mohammad Abdul Bari, Secretary - General of Muslim Council of Britain

        Q: There are different approaches on the activity of Muslim Council of Britain. What is the main principle of this organization's work?

A: The Muslim Council of Britain's (MCB) guiding principle is that of cooperation in all that secures the common good of our society. This entails ensuring fairer and better position for Muslims in society, promoting an enlightened appreciation of Islam and fostering better community relations.

As a representative Muslim organization we fully appreciate the historical contribution of Muslims to the content of British culture. Today over 50% of British Muslims were born and raised in the United Kingdom. Our organization therefore recognizes that Britishness is not being white or Christian. As citizens of this country we aspire toward a strong, prosperous, safe and just society.

     Q: Presently, Muslims are well represented as an integral part of the European society, but there is still a widely spread notion of Islamophobia in the Western countries. In what way is it possible to eliminate notion of Islamophobia in Europe?

A: Islamophobia has been present in western culture for many centuries. It has manifested itself in different forms at different times. Its current manifestations are linked to the concerns of; asylum and refugees, integration and radicalization and security and terrorism.

Islamophobia is manifested not only in words and attitudes but very often in institutional practices. Islamophobia may be viewed as a form of racism. While it may manifest itself at the popular or communal level it does also have a presence at the institutional level. It reviles Muslims and discriminates against them. Although social ills of this kind may be curtailed and restricted, it is much more difficult to totally eliminate them. In Britain, there are centuries-old institutional barriers against Catholics from assuming certain pubic offices including the monarchy. We are no-where near in removing these.

In my view these prejudices can be reduced through a process of education. This begins with the recognition of Muslims as equals in humanity and citizenship. They must not be seen as 'the other' or 'alien' but as fellow citizens with equal rights based on law. In other words our organization does not advocate or seek special privileges for Muslims.

We are fully committed to this process and are encouraged by the efforts and level of understanding displayed by senior members of the judiciary and church leaders, particularly the head of the Church of England Archbishop Rowan Williams.

Q: How do you estimate the role of Muslim world in the current developments worldwide?

A: There is no doubt that the role of the Muslim world role is fast becoming indispensible for the achievement of global peace and global. Many of the world's so-called hotspots are Muslim countries. Despite the enormity of the challenges it appears that there is a growing realization that Muslims will have to rely on their own diplomatic resources and institutions to resolve their internal conflicts. Left to themselves they would succeed with the necessary political will. The cases of Lebanon and the latest Qatari led initiative on Dar Fur give us some reason to be hopeful. Similarly, the recent negotiations in Djibouti which resulted in the election of a new Somali president have also given further reason to be cautiously optimistic.

Without the reconfiguration of these so-called failed states global security would remain uncertain and tenuous. We must push for a comprehensive resolution of these long standing conflicts in Palestine, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Somalia. Conflict management is no longer an option.

On another level, the global financial crisis offers a unique opportunity for the Muslim world to play a more pivotal and meaningful role in tackling global issues. With its dynamic and flourishing system of Islamic finance, its vast markets, natural resources and manpower the Muslim world is well positioned to become a key player in global affairs.

   Q: Do the political relations between Muslim and Western countries affect on the understanding of two world civilizations: the Muslim and Western?

A: Yes, political relations between Muslim and western countries have influenced the discourse on our civilizations. This debate on the fate of Western civilization however began many decades ago, particularly after the two World Wars. In 1918 the German Oswald Spengler published the first volume of his The Decline of the West. After the Second World War the British historian Arnold Toynbee completed his Study of History. The latter did not only draw comparisons between Hellenic and western civilizations but also pointed out that the latter was not immune from a similar fate as the former

With the demise of US hegemony in Iran in 1979 and the launch of the Islamic revolution in that country the discourse took a new turn. From that point onward there has been a steady flow of literature surmising a clash of civilizations - Islamic and western. This debate continues to inform, albeit to various degrees western foreign policy and decision making.

    Q: Azerbaijan is well-known for its tolerance towards different religions. In 2008 Baku was announced a capital of Islamic culture of 2009. How will it contribute to Azerbaijan's integration in the Muslim world?

A: Azerbaijan as well as its sister central Asian republics have a long and distinguished history. Many of the early Islamic scholars in hadith and jurisprudence hail from this region. The naming of Baku as the capital for Islamic culture for 2009 offers Azerbaijan a great opportunity to show-case its history and create and awareness and appreciation of its contribution to Islamic arts, sciences and culture.

Given its strategic geographic location will inevitably be called upon a greater role in the Muslim world.

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