(Islam, World Peace and Development)

Accra, Republic of Ghana

20-22 January 2003



In the name of Allah, Most Beneficient, Most Merciful

Your Excellency,

Distinguished Highnesses and Eminencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As-salaam Alaikum Warahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

I have the honour to express at the outset sincere gratitude and appreciation to His Excellency Mr. John Agyekum Kufour, President of the Republic of Ghana, who has graciously patronized this conference. I am equally honoured to express gratitude to His Excellency the Vice-President, Alhaj Aliyu Mahma, His Excellency the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to all officials who have benefited us of their support and patronage, and extended to us all the necessary facilities for convening this conference on the soil of this country, a country steeped in history, civilization and tolerance. Our heartfelt appreciation and esteem are due to them all.

I have the full confidence that these activities and meetings will be instrumental in strengthening the bonds of friendship and mutual love among peoples, and enhancing relations between the Islamic World and the friendly Republic of Ghana in every sphere.

I am pleased also to commend the huge efforts made by the Islamic center for Education and Development in Ghana, towards providing favourable conditions, preparations and arrangements for convening this conference. I wish also to pay tribute to Shaykh Ibrahim Quaye, Minister of State and President of the Islamic Centre in Ghana for his positive role and sustained interest in Muslim issues in Ghana. I also wish to express profound thanks and gratitude to the Islamic Development Bank, the International Islamic Call Society in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the Islamic Solidarity Fund and the Islamic Relations and Culture League in Iran for their valued contributions towards the success of this conference and for the assistance they have been extending to their minority Muslim brothers in Africa with a view to improving their economic and social lot. Many thanks and deep gratitude are also due to the participating eminent researchers, intellectuals, heads of Islamic Centres and representatives of Muslim minorities in the African continent for their valuable contributions and effective roles in addressing the issues of Muslim minorities and in showcasing their role and significant contribution in the development of the human societies in their countries.

Your Excellency, Distinguished Highnesses and Eminences, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am highly gratified to be here among you to participate in the opening of the proceedings of the 1st Conference of Muslim Minorities in Africa under the theme “Islam, World Peace and Development,” convening in Accra, this beautiful capital city of the Republic of Ghana whose legendary and timeless bonds with various countries of the Islamic World are steadily growing stronger over the years for the benefit of achieving the common lofty goals of bringing about prosperity and economic and social progress for the African countries.

The pioneering role played by the Republic of Ghana during the period of national liberation of the African continent is no secret. It is that role that has earned Ghana its distinguished place among African countries that are today striving to achieve the dreams of the African peoples of building political unity and economic integration.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Non-Governmental Expert Committee charged with the preservation of the rights of Muslim Communities and Minorities in non- Member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference has fulfilled its task in previous meetings held in Madrid, Sao Paolo and Sophia and evolved an ambitious Plan of Action after many studies and discussions that focused on improving the situations of Muslim communities and minorities in the world. The committee came out with practical and significant findings and recommendations most important of which is the emphasis on the need for continued interaction and dialogue with representatives of Muslim communities and minorities, for the evolvement of solutions to their urgent problems; for urging the avoidance of marginal differences for combating violence, extremism and excesses, encouraging cooperation among peoples and respect for the freedom and belief of others, opposing aggression, injustice and terrorism, respecting the sovereignty of states and the security of their peoples both as individuals and as groups and spreading peace and security in the world. These are the basic principles which Islam

brought and stands for.

Needless to say, all this commands that Muslim Minorities all over the world uphold a basic principle which is that they need to work within the laws and sovereignty rights of the countries in which they live, as well as in line with their general legitimate political directions. They must form a favourably impactful building block in their societies and participate in all their activities, in such a way as to attract benefit for their society and good repute for themselves. Doing this will reflect positively on the Islamic faith and its adepts in general.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Organization of the Islamic Conference, which celebrated its 33 anniversary a few months ago, is working in cooperation with the international community in order to guarantee the rights of Muslim as well as other communities and minorities, on the basis of equality with other members of the society; and shield them against the consequences of local and international crises and conflicts. Proceeding from that, our attention in recent years has focused on the solidarity and concertation of all the adepts of Islam wherever they may be. Muslims living in non-Member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference represent one third of the world Muslim population. Although some of them have attained their full rights in more than one country, many continue to endure immense pressures due to the poor economic, political and educational conditions in which they live. Such conditions sometime reach such a level that they are subjected to policies of discrimination and ethnic cleansing, with its attendant danger on their identity, their value system and their traditions.

At this juncture, I wish to state that despite these difficulties, we have continued our dialogue and contact with Muslim minorities of the world. Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 on New York and Washington, we have tried to explain the essence of Islam and of its magnanimous precepts. Through the means available to us, we have strived to respond to the international mass media that possess immense capabilities, as well as to other sectors that linked those events and other terrorist attacks to Islam. We have vehemently opposed those international campaigns that have issued arbitrary judgements against Muslims and the Islamic civilization, such as describing Islam as stagnant and unable to keep pace with the contemporary era and adapt to modernity.

We are of the opinion that Muslim minorities and communities in all continents, especially in Latin America and Europe must make diligent and impactful efforts to respond to those who view Islam from a malicious perspective with the intent of discrediting it. They must continue to engage in rational dialogue with their communities and strive to remove all baseless allegations leveled at Islam through the mass media available to them. That will enable them to gain the support and sympathy of broad segments of the public opinion in their countries.

Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,

In consonance with its responsibilities, the Organization of the Islamic Conference has since its inception contributed effectively to extending comfort and nurturance to the Muslim minorities in Africa. It has executed, through the Islamic Solidarity Fund, its affiliate, a number of vital projects in the countries of the continent. This support is still ongoing and increasing. Under this framework, the Organization has founded the Islamic Universities in Uganda and Niger. It has also participated in establishing a number of centers of a social, developmental, and cultural character in Guinea Bissau, Chad, etc. The Organization of the Islamic Conference has also made tangible contributions in the areas of family development, child care, and health services, water supply and assistance to refugees. These contributions amount to hundreds of millions of dollars and have benefited Muslims and non-Muslims alike in those regions. Muslim minorities on this continent are still in dire need of more support and attention: to develop their societies, to eradicate poverty and illiteracy, to prevent the spread of diseases and deadly epidemics, and to preserve the beautiful African environment. And, God Willing, our Organization shall spare no efforts towards achieving these objectives in future.

In conclusion, I hope that your present conference would discuss in depth the urgent difficulties faced by the African Muslim minorities. Its recommendations, you may rest assured, will receive our full attention and interest. And I single out for mention here education and instruction, skills acquisition in sciences and general learning in these minorities’ own institutes and universities, as well as in those of other Islamic countries.

Once again, let me express my heartfelt appreciation to the Government of Ghana, the local authorities, and all those who have provided optimal conditions for the success of this conference.

May Allah guide your steps on the rightful path.

Wa salaam Alaykum wa Rahamatullah wa Barakatuh.