The Eight General Conference:Islam And The Future Dialogue Between
The Recommendations of the Eighth General Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs
The world is going through significant and decisive developments with regard to the history of humanity following huge international achievements as a result of the information and communications revolutions. Accordingly, the world has become a small village in which different cultures and civilizations meet, sometimes interacting and sometimes fighting one another. Those developments were accompanied by the emergence of economic and political blocks among neighbouring countries that have similar cultural origins. At the same time, cultural, ethnic and religious conflicts flared up ending with the outbreak of the phenomenon of violence and terrorism throughout the world, which threatens the path of social, political and economic development in most countries. This has become even more acute with the control of some superpowers over the world's destiny and their lack of commitment to a single criteria when dealing with events, their constant bias to a particular cultural type which is the western civilization and their attempt to impose it on the other countries of the world, when at the same time, the gap has widened between developed and other countries.
All those developments have been accompanied by a decline in the impact of religion and high moral standards on society and a lack of morals. Materialism based on one's own interest with no regard whatsoever to the interests of others, is now governing relationships on both the individual and State levels.
The effect of those developments has been reflected on the conditions of third world countries, most of which are Muslim and subjects the Islamic cultural heritage to various dangers. Thus, Al Azhar together with the Egyptian Waqfs Ministry have called for the convening of the Eighth General Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs on Islam and the future of dialogue between civilizations held in Cairo during the 8th to 11th of Rabie Al Awal, 1417 (the 24th to 27th of July I 996). Under the auspices of His Excellency President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, president of the Arab Republic of Egypt, the chairmanship of His Eminence, the Grand Sheikh of Al- Azhar and Dr. Mohamed Sayed Tantawy and Dr. Mahmoud Hamdy Zakzouk, Minister of Waqfs and head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs. With the attendance of his Holiness Pope Shenouda III, the Patriarch of the Coptic Church, a delegate from the Vatican and representatives of various Christian sects in Egypt in addition to former German Chancellor Dr. Helmut Schmidt. Representatives from the following countries, organizations and establishments took
part in this conference:
8- United Arab Emirates
20- Bosnia & Herzegovina
32- Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
33- Sri Lanka
51- Cote dIvoire
68- United States of America
1- League of Arab States.
2- Organization of Islamic Conference.
3- Conference of Islamic World.
4- League of Islamic World.
5- Islamic Organization for Education, Sciences and Culture.
6- World Council for Da'awa and Relief.
Dr. Mahmoud Hamdy Zakzouk, Minister of Waqfs and Head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, inaugurated the conference with a speech on behalf of His Excellency President Mohamed Hosni Mubarak, President of the Arab Republic of Egypt. The conference decided to consider the speech as one of its documents and resumed its plenary and sub-committees where 51 researches focusing on the following pivots, were discussed:
1- Dialogue or Struggle.
2- Dialogue among Religions.
3- Dialogue and Extremism.
4- Islam and co-existence among human beings.
The conference set up a committee under the chairmanship of Prof. Dr. Sufi Abu Taleb and the membership of the representatives of the participating delegations to draw up the draft recommendations from the speech of His Excellency the President of the Republic, the researches that were submitted and the outcome of the discussions.
The committee has put forward tile following draft recommendations:
1 - To emphasize shared values among cultures, foremost among which, believing in God, disseminating morals and virtues, honouring mankind, recognizing his rights, in particular, freedom of creed and its attribute, the freedom to exercise religious rituals as well as his rights to take part in decisive decisions which are important to the society he lives in. This is in addition to his right to lead a decent life and acquire a fair part of his country's wealth.
2- To bring closer different cultures so that they may complement each other and interact for the sake of humanity considering that diversity is God's sunnah in his creatures. This is achieved through stressing the need for mutual recognition among various cultures and revealed religions to facilitate dialogue among equals and relinquish the policy of cultural racist and religious superiority.
3- The conference confirms the right of all people to preserve their cultural characteristics when co-existing with other civilizations. The material aspect of civilization including inventions and sciences belong to all humanity and is transmitted from one civilization to the other. The moral aspect of civilization, which is its language and social and religious culture, represents its identity and the people have the right to safeguard it.
4- The conference recalls that revealed religions denounce violence and terrorism. This accusation should not be raised against Islam and no confusion should occur between the right to practise legitimate defence against aggression, which has been approved of in the international laws of oppressed and occupied people and the criminal acts that are committed out of racial or religious fanaticism under the cover of religion.
5- The conference condemns the atrocious acts committed by some countries against the Muslim people who defend their right to self- determination. The efforts exerted by the international community and its organizations are still incapable of alleviating the suffering and injustice to which those people are subjected. The conference asserts the necessity to respect the agreements that govern conditions in areas of conflict and calls for the need to abide by the Dayton Agreement with regard to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
6- The conference appeals to all the nations of the world to stand up to terrorism and extremism and eliminate their causes. It may be appropriate for the international community to introduce a system, acceptable by all, that realizes cooperation among countries to fight terrorism and adopt collective measures that hinder the accessibility to hide-outs and the provision of material or moral support to individuals and terrorist organizations.
7- The conference asserts the importance of preserving the Islamic cultural heritage and identity, respecting the provisions called for by tile Islamic Sharia, which grant the disciples of other revealed religions the right to raise their children according to their beliefs, highlighting the noble values shared by all religions in addition to emphasizing the continuity of various civilizations and cultures and the need for co-existence. The above- mentioned values should be taught in the schools and universities of Arab and Muslim countries as well as in any other country in the world.
8- The conference calls upon those in charge of educational affairs to attach more importance and attention to education, the history of the Islamic nations, the Arabic language and national education and enhance coordination with regard to educational curricula between Muslim countries. The aim behind this is to boost the sense of belonging and allegiance to one's homeland, thus paving the way toward a constructive dialogue with other cultures.
9- The conference further stresses the need for coordination between governmental and non-governmental organizations dealing with the Islamic da'awa affairs inside Muslim countries and out as well as exerting more efforts to provide non-Arab speaking Muslims and Muslim minorities outside the Islamic world with an accurate image and knowledge of Islam and its civilization translated into the main foreign languages.
10- The conference urges all Muslim countries and organizations in charge of the Islamic Da'awa Affairs to train preachers mastering the major foreign languages and capable of preaching the true principles of Islam and the solutions it offers to the problems of the era. This in addition to focusing on peaceful co-existence among civilizational religions.
11- It further appeals to non-Muslim countries to refrain from spreading the culture of hatred against Islam and Muslims and to present Islamic meanings and concepts accurately and honestly.
12- The conference welcomes the serious steps taken by many European countries and some countries of North and South America to accept the right of their Muslim nationals to act acquainted with Islamic culture and civilization and accurate Islamic teachings whether in private or public schools or in Islamic cultural centres.
13- It urges Muslim countries to adopt diplomatic measures with regard to the above- mentioned countries to enable Muslim nationals there to practise religious rituals. This is in conformity with those countries constitutions and human rights charters which stipulate the freedom to adhere to any need and to practise religious rituals. Thus, Islam and its civilization should be taught among other subjects in public schools while reconciling between work or study requirements and the performance of one's religious rituals.
14- The conference urges non-Muslim countries to enable their Muslim communities to abide by the provisions of the Islamic Sharia particularly in connection with issues of domestic law such as marriage and divorce, etc. as is the case in Muslim countries with regard to non-Muslim communities adhering to other revealed religions. This request is consolidated by the increase in the number of Muslim communities whose members or most of them bold the nationality of the country they live in and pay the blood tax.
15- The conference welcomes the serious efforts exerted by a number of official institutions and Muslim as well as Christian national associations to draw up a joint plan of action with the aim of strengthening and promoting dialogue between religions. The above- mentioned organizations are as follows:
a) The coordinating committee between Al Azhar and the Vatican set up in June 1996.
This committee has adopted the resolutions of the Sorboune conference held in June 1994 and organized by the General union of the three religious and peace education. One of the main resolutions of the Conference was to affirm the need to make way for Islam to be presented in its true image in Western countries. The General Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs has welcomed the last year proceedings and works of the above-mentioned conference.
b) The Catholic Islamic communications committee including Al Azhar, the Islamic World League, the World Islamic Council for Da'awa and relief, the organization of Islamic Conference and six persons from the catholic side appointed by the Vatican.
- The conference urges those two committees as well as others to double their efforts in order to reiterate peaceful co-existence between religions.
16- The conference assets the major role played by different media means in bringing closer peoples, religions and civilizations and urges them to be precise and objective and to keep away from issues that trigger feelings of superiority and adopt those that promote love, fraternity and tolerance among different religions and civilizations.
17- The conference urges media in western countries to abandon the cultural hatred policy against Islam and Muslims and to refrain from passing judgments on Islam and Muslims upon abnormal individual acts that run counter to the true tolerating image of Islam.
18- The conference appeals to governmental and non-governmental organizations in Islamic countries to provide all media means (Radio, T.V., Newspapers) in western countries with financial support to make specialized programmes on the definition of Islam and supply them with accurate information on Islam.
19- The conference calls upon Muslim countries to reinforce cultural programmes the aim at getting acquainted with Islam through their cable channels.
20- The conference appeals to Muslim countries to promote coordination between the programmes of cultural and media bodies and the curricula of religious and educational institutions to rectify the social upbringing process with regard to child and youth.
21 - One of the main issues that obstructs the way to peaceful co-existence and impedes cultural communications is the failure of the international efforts to radically solve the Palestinian problem in a way to ensure the safety and security of the people of the regions and the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. The conference welcomes the resolutions that resulted from the recent Arab Summit Conference regarding the Palestinian issue and the future of Jerusalem. It is deeply concerned over the stand of the Israeli government vis-a-vis the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to establish its own state with Jerusalem as its capital, in addition to Israel's insistence on normalizing relations with Arab countries before establishing peace the region.
The conference urges the international community to stress the need to implement international resolutions pertaining to the Palestinian issue. It reiterates that the religious sanctities in Jerusalem and Hebron, concern not only Palestinians, but are the sanctities of all Muslims who do not accept any violation of their historical rights and consider the establishment of settlements on illegal act that hampers the path of peace.
22- The conference welcomes the steps adopted by the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and Islamic encyclopedias to collect and exchange information between organizations concerned inside and outside the country. It recommends that the centre be provided with appropriate potentials to enable it to fulfill its task.
23- The conference asserts the importance of following up the implementation of those recommendations and consolidating the path of dialogue among civilizations as well as charging the general secretariat of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs with this mission. The conference calls upon participating countries to cooperate with the council's secretariat in accomplishing its mission.