Sunday, September 16, 2007

I am going for a paste up again I still can't find time to write a meaningful blog yet. I come across this article which I like to keep for future reference.

Opinion Sunday September 16, 2007
Re-shaping opinions on Islam
New York-based Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement is regarded as one of the most eloquent and erudite Muslim leaders. His mission: to help bridge the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims. Highly regarded for his ability to explain complex issues a way easily understood by the layman, the author of What’s Right with Islam will share his thoughts as a guest columnist in the month of Ramadan.
IN EARLY July last year, on the first anniversary of the London bombings, young Muslim leaders met in Copenhagen, Denmark, to discuss the identity of Muslims in the world and their relations with the West. The gathering could not have come at a more opportune time – just after the Paris riots and the Danish cartoons episode that had further heightened Muslim-West tensions.
The Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow forum saw the urgent need for a constructive movement among young Muslims to reject and marginalise extremism.
Among the participants was prominent Western Muslim scholar, author and American Muslim spokesman Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, of New York.

IMAM FEISAL...What makes Islam so attractive that it is the fastest growing religion in the world and even in the US. This is something Westerners need to understandSince Sept 11, 2001, he has made it his mission to bridge this growing divide between Muslims and the West.
The author of What’s Right with Islam, that was among the top four non-fiction books for 2004 reviewed by The Christian Science Monitor, moderated the roundtable “Iman’s Circle” comprising young Muslims from Italy, Denmark, the United Kingdom and the United States that debated the challenge of living the Islamic way in secular society.
Feisal, the founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (Asma) needs little introduction in the US where he is regarded as one of the most eloquent and erudite Muslim leaders.
He speaks frequently at major US think tanks and international conferences, including the Council for Foreign Relations, the World Economic Forum in Davos, and is a familiar face on TV talk shows and panel discussions.
The imam of Masjid al-Farah, a mosque located 12 blocks from where the World Trade Centre once stood, Feisal has been able to articulate the Muslim position well.
The distinguished-looking Feisal is a voice of reason. He is able to put forth his arguments in a logical and clear manner.
He listens carefully and goes to great lengths to explain issues in the simplest terms possible, in a way easily understood by the layman.
An American now, the charismatic Feisal was born of Egyptian parents in Kuwait and spent his formative years at the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur when his father, the late Tan Sri Abdul Rauf, was the first rector at the Islamic College in Klang and later with the International Islamic University.
When Feisal started Asma in 1997, his focus was to present the cultural dimension of Islam through art, culture and philosophy and to build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims within the American demographic.
After 9/11, the need to bridge the divide led him to form the Cordoba Initiative in 2002, an inter-religious blueprint for improving relations between the Muslim world and the West and America.
“The template of our initiative is to identify the areas which we believe have been exacerbating and fuelling this divide and then to create projects that can address them,” said Feisal, who was chairman of the Cordoba Initiative, in Kuala Lumpur recently.
The group identified three major areas to be addressed.
“The first was the political dimension that we believe to be the Israel-Palestine conflict that is exacerbating Jew-Muslim relations,” he said.
He added that relations between Jews and Muslims were far better than Christians and Muslims up until 1948 with the formation of the state of Israel.
The second was in the area of the media, in particular the Western media that had been projecting Muslims and Islam in a negative light.
“We need to create projects either by being in the media or being present in the media through writing articles and books to explain what makes Islam attractive to people.
“What makes Islam so attractive that it is the fastest growing religion in the world and even in the US. This is something Westerners need to understand.”
Feisal said there was also some intra-Islamic “in-house cleaning” that Muslims had to do within the community. These were important factors that had been shaping non-Muslim opinions about Muslims and Islam.
“There are three major issues. One is the identification in the non-Muslim minds of the association of Islam with terrorism and secondly, the association of Islam with the oppression of women.
To disassociate terrorism with Islam required the explaining of political conflicts.
“In the Islamic world, the war on terrorism is seen as the war against Islam. We need to see how we can refrain the discourse on both sides so that it is not framed in that language.”
He said it was important to explain why this had happened and how it could be addressed.
“The other is to de-link the oppression of women and for that we need the participation of Muslim women.”
Feisal said that another issue was the question of “Islamic state” that was troubling many people to the point that they were very frightful at the thought of Islamic states.
He said people in the West think that Muslims want to convert their countries into Islamic states.
“There are many ways to define an Islamic state. One was the demographic way or the method used by the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Conference), where if the majority of people in a country was Muslim, the country was deemed to be an Islamic state.
“Another was when the constitution called itself Islamic, like the Islamic Republic of Iran or the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The constitution in these countries says that Islam is the state religion.”
He said that some say that an Islamic state has to be a theocracy while others say it has to be a caliphate, and still others say as long as a country complies with the principles of governance of the Syariah then it is syariah compliant in issues of governance.
Some Muslim scholars recently said that there was a misunderstanding among the Muslim populous about what an Islamic state should be like.
“One of the misconceptions is that an Islamic state is a sinless state. At the time of the Prophet, Medina was considered the ideal state but there were Muslims who were hypocrites, drunks, murderers, adulterers, etc, and the Prophet was called to act against these people.
“Even in this community in Medina it was not a sinless state. The idea that an Islamic state is a sinless state is a popular misconception that needs to be corrected.
“There are many misconceptions that need to be clarified by Muslims as to what is an Islamic state even to the point of the Quran and the sunnah.
“That is why we need to put clarity around this issue.”
Feisal said that was why the indexing or benchmarking of Islamic countries is very important.
“There is no coherence in many of these things. People need to understand the basis of it.
On his Cordoba Initiative, Feisal said they had been able to increasingly win the respect of the people of the government and the private sector; their observation was that the project had its merits.
Many heads of state, both in the West and the Islamic world, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, are concerned with the notion that the divide between the West and the Islamic world began way before 9/11.
“Samuel Huntington wrote about this in his book The Clash of Civilizations and 9/11 brought into people’s consciousness that there were civilization differences between Islam and the West.”
People like Iranian leader Khomeni said there is no civilization difference between the West and Islam but there is a gap.
“This gap is the perception of the fear people have and this gap is dangerous. Political, institutional and NGO leaders recognise that it is of supreme importance to address this gap.
“Our capacity to shed light on this issue is increasingly gaining the attention of people in both parts of the world.”


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