Heralded as Europe’s first collective response to Islamophobia, the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain’s European conference, aptly entitled ‘Islamophobia - the oldest hatred’, brought together an impressive line up of speakers, activists and scholars from across Europe. Over 1200 participants packed the conference, held on 19 October, to hear speaker after speaker analyse Europe’s record on Islam.
The tone of the conference was set by Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, Leader of the Muslim Parliament. In his keynote speech, he described how the hatred of Islam and Muslims had deep roots in European civilisation and psyche. He also contrasted the compassion and tolerance non-Muslims who lived in Dar al Islam enjoyed under Muslim rule, with the long history of intolerance and persecution of Muslims who have come to live in the west. His opening speech set forth how Europe’s relations with Islam were embedded in history and were determined by the changing power-balance between the two. “Western civilisation, in all its stages of evolution, has acted on the premise that Islam is incompatible with the West, and it is on this premise that the basis of Islamophobia lies”, Dr Siddiqui stated. “Any society that has no faith in Allah (swt) will always be a brutal civilisation at its core. Islam accepts that there will always be people in its society who will not accept this Divine faith. As such, their rights as a community are recognised and guaranteed. Other cultures and civilisations, on the other hand, merely tolerate diversity at best. In fact, those oppressed, if ever they found any abode of peace, found security in the lands of Islam. Let the West look at its own record before throwing stones at us.”
The key overseas guest speaker, Dr Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, sent his message to the conference. It was read out on his behalf by his special representative, Ifet Mustafic, a senior alim from the office of the Rais ul-Ulema in Sarajevo. In his speech, Dr Ceric said “I do not want to tell the people in the West whether to insist on perceiving Islam as a threat or otherwise. They have a right to their own perceptions or deceptions. But I do want to tell the Muslims that it would be a great mistake to perceive the whole of the West as an evil and to confront Islam with it. Of course it is easier to put Islam in front, than to be in the front of moral and intellectual demands. Muslims should be honest to recognise that they need Islam to defend them, rather than Islam needs their defense. Islam needs a genuine and sincere comprehension, not an apologetic cry”. His speech moved the audience.
Other speakers included Ahmad Huber from Switzerland who delivered a forceful condemnation of how the West has targeted Islam as its enemy number one. The overseas line-up also included Ahmad von Denffer from the Munich Islamic Centre, Germany, and Adil Mahdi, a senior scholar from France. All presented articulate and informative speeches reflecting concerns and issues from their countries.
Jahangir Mohammed, Deputy Leader of the Muslim Parliament, in a powerful speech on the historic roots of Islamophobia, described how Islamophobia was an age old problem. “To understand Islamophobia you need to go to its roots”, he said. “If European politicians and policy-makers genuinely wish to come to terms with Islamophobia, then they must first take a good look at their own civilisation and its long and bitter history of conflict with Islam, based on deliberate manipulation of Islam’s image for political and military purposes. They need to ask themselves why historically Europe has never been able to accept in its midst people of other faiths”.
Dr Yaqub Zaki, an historian from the Muslim Institute, explained how Islamophobia is endemic in Europe, but occasionally it becomes epidemic, citing the Rushdie affair and the Bosnian war. Rachid Messaoudi, an Algerian journalist spoke on how Islamophobia was at work in Algeria, and Dr Muhammad al Mass’ari from the CDLR, described how the Muslim client regimes promote Islamophobia by serving the west’s interests.
There were also presentations from researchers of Warwick and Manchester universities, who had studied the media coverage of Muslim issues during the past five years.
The conference once again showed the unity of the Muslims and the importance of an independent political platform on which all Muslims can discuss and pursue the common global goals of Islam. It was also an example of shura. Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui reminded the audience that Muslims are instructed by Allah (swt) to discuss amongst themselves the problems and issues of the day (Qur’an 3:159). “Shura must be used as a means of coming together to solve our collective problems, this creates a stronger and more confidence community of believers”, he said.
Muslimedia: November 1-15, 1997