Engage into dialogue and work within the system
Dr. Ahmed Saifuddin's message to Muslims in the West
Dr. Mozammel Haque
“I think the real understanding of the message of the Prophet which is the message of peace is to be given to the Muslims. Dr. Adel Al-Shaddy pointed out correctly that part of our mission in this programme is to go to the Muslim community in the West, among the youth in particular and to tell them not to resort to any act of violence. Because that is not the way. If you are frustrated with the system; go and work within the system, not from outside the system. The way to get to the heart of the matter is to engage into dialogue and work within the system and not from outside,” said Dr. Ahmed Saifuddin, Consultant for International Affairs of the Global Program of Introducing the Percy Prophet (peace be upon him) at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inter-faith Conference at the Chameli Room in the House of Parliament, London, on Monday, 25th of June 2007.
On invitation from Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham and Lord Harris, former Bishop of Oxford, Dr. Saifuddin along with Dr. Adel Al-Shaddy, Secretary General of the Global Program of Introducing the Mercy Prophet, came to London to attend the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inter-faith meeting held on Monday, the 25th of June, 2007. While thanking Lord Ahmed and Lord Harris, Dr. Al-Shaddy said, “This meeting will be a bridge between Europe and the Muslim world, specially in the area of culture and better understanding among the civilizations.”
The All-Party Parliamentary Inter-faith Group brought people from all the communities, the Hindus, the Sikhs, the Christians and the Muslim communities and other communities, together to create better understanding between parliamentarian and the government on the faith issues in the United Kingdom. There are two presentations, one by Dr. Adel Al-Shaddy and Dr. Ahmad bin Saifuddin.
While speaking about the Prophet (peace be upon him), Lord Ahmed said, "I normally tell people when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was only eighteen years old, he reached out to the communities in Makkah and founded Halfal Fazul. He was trying to achieve peace and prevent war and conflict; he was trying to achieve justice for the poor, justice and equality for women and also for minority. Four hundred years ago a young man was trying this and when he established an Islamic State in Madina, he said, 'Even today, if I have to reach out to the people with other faiths and no faiths, I will do it very happily.' That's why; I am very honoured to be working with Lord Harris and all my colleagues in Parliament for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Interfaith."
Lord Ahmed also said, "London, I tell you, is one of the greatest cities and most beautiful cities in the world, because it has 14 major religions and there are 300 languages spoken and we all live together. Is it not nice to bring everybody together for this lunch? The Sikh communities, the Hindu communities, the Buddhist communities, Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities all together and many other faiths that are represented here at this lunch time."
Dr. Adel Al-Shaddy
Dr. Adel Al-Shaddy, the Secretary General of the Global programme of Introducing the Prophet (peace be upon him) came to London on invitation from Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham to attend the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inter-faith meeting. While thanking Lord Ahmed of Rotherham and Lord Harris, former Bishop of Oxford, Dr. Al-Shaddy said, “This meeting will be a bridge between Europe and the Muslim world, specially in the area of culture and better understanding among the civilizations.”
Mentioning about the present situation of the world which is suffering “painfully hate, violence and terrorism, Dr. Al-Shaddy noted, “This global programme for introducing the Prophet (peace be upon him) is carrying the responsibility to introduce the real message of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) which is a message of love, mercy and do good to humans as well as justice, faithfulness and respect.”
Explaining the objective of the mission, Dr. Al-Shaddy mentioned, “Our objective is twofold. We present this work to our fellow Muslims living in the West and particularly to the youth that they know the manner and conduct of their Prophet. We need to have them good Muslims and at the same time good citizens practiced in the country. We want also to present this work to our friends in Europe and to the world at large. We believe knowing Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would be a source of respect and love and peace among nations.)
Dr. Ahmad Saifuddin
Starting with the name of God, the Merciful and benevolent and peace and blessings be upon all the messengers and the prophets of God the Almighty, and thanking both the Lords, Ahmed and Harris, Dr. Ahmad Saifuddin, said, “It has not escaped our attention that there is so much turmoil in the world nowadays, and so much instability in the world as we see it is happening all over. No particular continent is immune from this trouble and turmoil that is going on which is threatening peace and security all over. Normal innocent people would like to live in safety and peace.”
Speaking about interdependence and globalization, Dr. Saifuddin said, “We are becoming more interdependent in this age of globalization. There is so much we share together more than any time in the past. There is this interdependence and the effect of someone x in Australia we feel in London or anywhere in the world.”
Dr. Saifuddin maintained, “Taking terrorism as a means of expressing their own frustrations with the global system - This is no way to be accepted for giving any legitimization to this. Since terror is rejected by all people of all religions and by all sane people. No one will accept you to take terror and law in your own hands and try to dictate to the rest of the world, first of all, what you belief in. This is, of course, no way to make your point.”
Dr. Saifuddin also spoke about “the atmosphere of mistrust of peoples and cultures.” He enquired “Is it clash of religions or clash of political interests?” Dr. Saifuddin said, “There is general misunderstanding. I think the media is playing part in this. We need to do probably differentiate between what religions teach, which is basically the message of peace and tranquility and understanding, and between the terrorism committed in the name of religion. Obviously, there are many people who hijacked religion for their political agenda and interest. I would say it's a matter of how civilizations interact with each other. Some are so arrogant and proud of them that they would like to oppress others and they did not show respect in this regard.”
What do we need to do? Dr Saifuddin said, “What we need to do is that to work together as a community, as one whole world. If we do have mutual respect for each other, we will be having a better world to live in; and if we keep accusing each other, having this mistrust, then that will not leave us anywhere. That's why serious dialogue is needed. Yes, there are so many attempts on dialogue.”
After giving a brief introduction about the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) early life and revelation and his relationship with people of other religions, Dr. Saifuddin said, “There is a lot we need to do together. First, we need to get out of this problem of turmoil, instability in the world; we need to show goodwill and great gestures. Let us not get into degradation and defaming other religions and other followers of religion. That will go to send a wrong message; that will be going to be interpreted as an intention to insult religion and that will not be a healthy for anyone. What we need to do is to respect all the religions and cultured figures in any society. Of course, we need to build and work for peace and trust. I think that is the most important thing; that is our message.”
Questions & Answers Session
In the Questions & Answers session, replying to a question on what the role the religion can play to solve the present crisis in Iraq, Dr. Saifuddin said, “Religion is not part of the problem; it is part of the solution. You are absolutely right, let’s work together; let’s see what we can do; what religion can play in this. So let us put hands together and work in that direction.”
On the question of celebrating Holocaust, Dr. Saifuddin noted, “Suffering of any human being is something regrettable and it should not have been done anyway to begin with. But I think we need to condemn it by all; we need to stand by a person who have any suffering in genocide, in holocaust that had happened to the Jews in the past and it is happening to others, just like the Muslims and Christians in some parts of the world. I think we need to be on equal footing in all of these areas and condemn any violation of human rights and rights of people to have their own way to be safe and to live in peace in their own lands and places. I think it has to deal with these grievances that have been in the hearts of the people. Politicians have not addressed these seriously. Look at the question of Palestine which has been hanging for about over half a century now and no solution yet even on the horizon for this terrible problem. I think we need to have a solution for everybody, not to suffer from any type of holocaust.”
Commenting on the same question, Mr. Mohamed Ali, CEO of Islam Channel, added, “Islam is the most misunderstood religion. Muslim community in this country is going to be misunderstood. I am not aware of any Muslim organization which said that Jews have no right to celebrate or commemorate the holocaust. There is no single Muslim organization, no single Muslim who represents any group who is denying the holocaust or who is a holocaust denial. We have said many times that the holocaust is a horrible thing that had happened.”
“So I had to put the balance right. I can say clearly there is no single Muslim organization in this country that they deny the holocaust, or they said the Jews had no right to commemorate the holocaust.”
Citing an instance from Muslim history, Dr. Saifuddin said, “Muslims need to learn from their own history. At the time of Khalifa Ali, the fourth Caliph after the Prophet; there was a case brought to the judge; it was against the Khalifa or the heads of the state himself along with the Jew. The judge had to bring both the Jewish person and the head of the Muslim state all together before him on an equal footing. Finally hearing from both parties, he actually judged against the head of the Muslim state at that time in favour of the Jewish person because he had the right. So I think we had to learn from that: anyone who has the right, he has to be given that right and we all have to work for that on all levels for all humans.”
On the question of suicide bombing, Lord Ahmed said, “I think there is a general message when people are talking about suicide bombing and they relate suicide bombing to Islam. There is only one study that has been done by Professor Robert A Pape of the University of Chicago. He looked at the history of suicide bombing going back to centuries, long before the kamikazes, the Tamil Tigers and the suicide bombers in Lebanon. He has analysed some 384, each individual case of suicide bombing and looked at reasons behind it and lot of it is to do with illegal occupations and oppressions and abuses of human rights rather than any religion. It is easy and convenient for people who write to relate this to particular religion.”
Lord Ahmed also said, “I also said to those people who talk about ideologies and perversion and perverted ideologies; I don't accept that; because as far as I am concerned as a Muslim there is only one ideology of Islam and that is peace and tolerance. If anybody wants to use religion for his purpose then I am sorry. Religion was also used in Northern Ireland; it is also used in other parts of the world for their own political reasons. So coming back to the theme of Dr. Ahmed, we need to have a dialogue and we need to understand each other's sensitivities.”
Replying on the question on terrorism, Dr. Saifuddin said, “We need to analyse, not legitimize; we need to analyse terrorism. I did point some of the reasons - the politicians are abusing religion, using it as a vehicle, which is, I think, the main problem. Why injustices are being done to many people; why grievances are there in the world? I think we need to work on that and if we do that, I think, we will give the terrorists less legitimization for doing what they are doing.”
“Yet we condemn terrorism,” said Dr. Saifuddin and added, “Terrorism is not the way to solve things; it is the way to distract; it is the easiest way the crazy people act. But we don't want these things to happen; to give them the reason. I think if we try to bridge this misunderstanding and teaching more tolerance to our community; I think we will have no more terrorism in the future. But again, defaming religions, giving support to dictators and to states acting on terrorism, I think, it is going to create more terrors in the world rather than lessen the number of terror.”
Role of Media
In his short and brief speech, Lord Harris emphasized on the role of media. He said that media can play a key role in this. He said, “I spoke not long ago to the Bishop of Leicester and said to him, ‘Why are interfaith relationship so good in the city of Leicester?’ He replied, ‘The media reports religious things fairly.’”
Interview with Dr. Ahmad Saifuddin
After the conference during the Lunch time, I met Dr. Saifuddin and interviewed him. Expressing his happiness, Dr. Saifuddin said, "We want people to learn more about Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) since he along with his brothers - all the Prophets of God - are basically bringing the same message, which is the message of peace, understanding, tolerance and love to all humanity."
Speaking about the present problem and political instability in the world, Dr. Saifuddin said that it is not because of religion but for political interests. "The turmoil that is going throughout the world is not because of religion but for political interests of politicians. We should not get religion into this conflict. Religion can be helpful into the solution. Religion may be used for solving this problem rather than to attack religion and have it as a purpose."
Talking about this meeting at the House of Lords, Dr. Saifuddin said, "This is a good beginning and we are intending to do that. Two weeks ago, we were in Copenhagen, visiting the highest officials of the Danish government. We were with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economy and Trade. We want actually to get involved with people of all levels and tell them more about the Prophet."
Dr. Saifuddin was very happy "for the good response" they received from all people who attended the conference.
I met Dr. Ahmad Saifuddin in 2006, after nearly 20 years, at the Global Unity and Peace conference at Excel Exhibition Centre, London and interviewed him. Dr. Ahmad is a great Saudi Islamic scholar whom I have known since 1980 when he had a weekly talk show on Islam on Saudi Television English Channel. He is also the founding member of the National Society for Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, a non-profit organization, a Supervisor of the Departments of External dialogue of King Abdulaziz Centre for National Dialogue. He was the former Director of the Institute of Islamic and Arabic sciences in Washington, D.C. during 2000-2003.
Dr. Saifuddin announced at that time about the Mercy Prophet competition. I enquired about the progress of that project. Dr. Saifuddin said, "We did organize conference after the last Global Unity and Peace conference in London last year. So many people from different parts of the world took part in this contest. The contest was held in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Though there were many contestants, the winners, of course, were few. We want to get the best all the details of the competition."
Interview with Lord Ahmed
On the same place, I did interview Lord Ahmed and he said, “First of all, all the communities are together. We have brought all the parliamentarians to try to understand and break down the barriers. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Inter-faith is actually about creating better understanding between parliamentarians and the government on the faith issues in the United Kingdom.”
Lord Ahmed also added, “Among all the major religions, Islam is probably the most misunderstood religion in the world. It was important for scholars to come here and talk about Islam and also about the myths and misunderstanding, so that there is an understanding of the religion and the message of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that Allah the Almighty said, “Muhammad (peace be upon him) is sent as Rahmatullil al- Alamin (as Mercy to Mankind). All his sayings and all his Hadiths are very much there.”
“But today's problems about terrorism and extremism are about political issues and they are not about religion,” Lord Ahmed said.
Speaking about the purpose of this conference, Lord Ahmed said, “The whole idea is to try and break down that misunderstanding and to create better understanding. One meeting is not going to resolve anything. If we continue to do this, then we can create a better understanding between communities.”
Lord Ahmed expected more meeting and conference of this type in different cities of different countries of the word. “I think we need to have more meetings in London, in Brussels, in Washington DC. It is a matter for the Muslim World League; but we are going to help them in any meeting that they are going to organize so that they can get their message across to the right people,” observed Lord Ahmed.
"It is very important that we understand each other and brake down barriers and create interfaith and dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect which is very important," said Lord Ahmed.