Posted by: Administrator | 28 July, 2006

President at Seminar on Promoting Inter-Civilization

President’s Visit to Turkey/DAVOS (Switzerland) – Address at the Seminar on Promoting Inter-civilization

23 January 2004

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is really my honour and privilege to be talking to all of you. I have been a bit of conscious of the time factor, there is so much to say, so I will be going, I will say less and I will say it very fast. But I will be open to any kind of question later on whatever I missed talk.

Remark so by you that Islam is certainly not primitive but Muslims may be living in backwardness, that has to be differentiated. The Islam and the condition of the Muslims has to be differentiated, of course.

I was obviously going to talk about promotion of inter-civiIizational dialogue. But before going into the methods or actions required to promote dialogue, I would firstly like to touch on what factors impede dialogue really. Because they only will be clear on how to promote dialogue.

Let me say without any doubt that it is misperceptions, negative mindsets and attitudinal problems and rigidity at both ends, on the end of the Muslims as well as on the end of the West.

I will take on the West first of all. What is the West’s perception of Muslirns and Islam? First of all perception that Islam is a religion of extremism, terrorism, fundamentalism, intolerance. Secondly, that Islam is in conflict with democracy, modernism, secularism. And thirdly, that Muslims refuse to assimilate into the global family.

These are the perceptions but I call them the misperceptions because each one of them is wrong. And I would like to say few words. First of all no religion can ever teach, preach militancy and extremism. And so does Islam not preach militancy and extremism. Islam is a religion of peace and of moderation. We must not be misled by the action of the few extremists and also that the basis of extremism, I would like to say, is really political dispute. It is not the religion which is preaching extremism or intolerance. So, therefore, coming to the next point of misperception that Islam is in conflict with democracy, secularism and modernism. Again I would like to say, Islam is most democratic in concept. It believes in human rights, it believes in freedom of speech and expression. It also believes in reaching decisions through system of consensus. Ijmah and Ijtihad are words in our religion that we develop to go to decisions through consensus, so it is most democratic.

When we are talking about modernism, Islam believes in continuous process of reviewing thought, in accordance with time and environment. Therefore, Islam is modern, it remains current, it can never be anchored in the past.

And thirdly, as far as secularism is concerned, Islam believes in equal rights to minorities. So, therefore, without going into details, when a country like Pakistan is known as Islamic Republic of Pakistan it inherently implies that we ought to be democratic, we ought to be secular, and that we ought to be modern in concept.

Now, two elements of modernism and assimilation in Iqbal family, this needs a little elaboration, I would like to do this.

Ladies and gentlemen,

If you see it from a very narrow point of view in the context of the dresses or social customs and habits, then, yes indeed there are differences between the West and the Islamic world.

But I call this a narrow context, very narrow minded and a short sighted context which should not be and which is not really the real modernism.

Muslim would like to modernise in thinking and thought process, in the acquisition of knowledge for development and progress. So, therefore, one has to differentiate between modernism, modernisation and westemisation. While Muslims may not want to westernise, they certainly want to modernise.

And modernisation need to be taken in its broader context, in its real context of modernisation, of progressive thought, of progressive vision, of knowledge for development and progress of humanity. And therefore, Muslims believe in modemisation.

Now I said this is the misperception of the West. Let me come to the misperceptions of the Muslims. I would like to say that there are mindsets on the Muslims side also.

As far as educated class is concerned, there is no problem. They adjust wherever they are living in. But the problem is with the unenlightened, those who hold bigoted views among the Muslims. The problem is with them. Because really they tend to shun every thing, whether it is acquisition of modern knowledge or even learning of English language or even for that matter showing interest in music, all these are taken as anti-Islamic. So, therefore, the problem of this mindset, negative mindset is with a minority of the bigoted Muslims. It is a minority. It is not the vast majority. Now as I said both of them are wrong and we need to correct these misperceptions.

Now, how do we do? What actions do we take to promote this dialogue?

First of all, I would like to say that there is a requirement of an attitudinal change. A change in mindset, moderation, tolerance, accommodation of each other, this is what is required to promote dialogue. And within this context, I have been talking of a strategy of Enlightened Moderation. What this strategy really is? It is a two pronged strategy that I propose, one of the prong of the strategy is to be delivered by the Muslim world. In that we need to reject extremism and militancy and go for socio-economic development. And other prong of the strategy simultaneously has to be delivered by the Western world.

In that all political disputes involving Muslims must be resolved with justice. And also the Western world or the developed world must assist in the socio-economic development of the Muslims. So this is what I called strategy of Enlightened Moderation. We have to develop a correct economic asymmetry. That is very very important. We must share wealth equitably and bring, distribute the fruits of globalisation equally or evenly, more towards have-nots. And to close, I would like to say if we go to analyses why communism failed, it may be an issue of harmonising equity with wealth.

Communism failed may be, as I understand, they focused a lot on equity, equitable distribution of wealth or advantages or resources, but they did not develop wealth itself.

But when we look at capitalism, there is tremendous amount of wealth, but I am afraid there is no equity in that. Islam really, in its broadest context, broad economic theory that propounded in Islam, believes in harmony of wealth and equity. And this needs to be analysed because otherwise we know that capitalism can be extremely ruthless with the poor.

With this I would like to end and that is as I said is the reason. I gave out the reasons for no dialogue taking place and the way forward.

Thank you very much.


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