H.E. DR. ABDELOUAHED BELKEZIZ, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ISLAMIC CONFERENCE, AT THE CONFERENCE OF HEADS AND IMAMS OF ISLAMIC centerS IN EUROPE
13-15 JUNE, 2003
Bism Allah Arrahman Arrahim
In the Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatuh
I have great pleasure to begin by expressing my deepest gratitude and appreciation to the organizers of this Conference of the Heads and Imams of Islamic centers in Europe, and most particularly to the official Islamic religious authority in Austria. I should equally like to commend the efforts deployed by the hosts of this Conference, the Austrian Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the State Government of the Steiermark, and the City of Graz Municipality; as well as the Conference sponsors: the European Islamic Conference and the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, ISESCO.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
At the outset, I must pay a sincere tribute to this constructive initiative, not only in view of its positive message, but also because of its perfect timing as recently the world has been the stage of momentous events, most especially in one of the Islamic countries. We hope, therefore, that the idea of this conference develops into an established tradition for the meeting of Islamic organizations in Europe so that they can consider issues of interest, coordinate positions, and win concord and respect for Islamic minorities and communities in Europe in keeping with the laws and national interests of their countries of residence.
It is by the grace of Allah, praise be to Him, that these minorities and communities are living in European countries, where lofty human values are accorded all due acknowledgement and respect, thus maintaining a climate of respect for public liberties, law and order, and recognition of rights that might lack elsewhere.
This comfortable situation calls on our fellow Muslims in Europe to meet it with an appreciation that they can show through good conduct and an upstanding moral character, acting, in these parts of the world, as ambassadors of Islam and as role models of moderateness and friendship among human beings; epitomizing mercy, peace, justice, tolerance, and openness to others; fully embracing cultural and political pluralism; and rejecting fanaticism and racism.
Such objectives place an onerous but key responsibility on the Imams and the heads of Islamic centers in Europe because it is they who represent the religious, cultural, and moral authority of reference, the guides and mentors to whom falls the duty of educating Muslims in Europe in the principles of their divine religion. That religion whose very essence is moderation and moderateness, peace, friendship, mercy, and compassion; whose modus operandi is democracy based on Shura and justice rooted in a socio-economic balance; and whose ultimate goal is the observance of human dignity and of the highest standards of morality. In fact, those are the guarantees that produce harmony, safety, and prosperity in society. And the totality of these qualities are the quintessence of the lofty human values of this age of enlightenment and modernity.
Yet, inculcating these values in the very ethos of the soul is by no means an easy task, despite the perfect match between these principles I have just outlined and the values of the countries in Europe where Muslims reside. Indeed, such education demands not only a great deal of ideological, intellectual effort coupled with material resources, but also the adoption of dialogue through wisdom, gentle counsel, a calm, positive attitude, and convincing argument.
The main task in these efforts should, in my view, be to combat the pockets of blind religious fanaticism and extremism strewn here and there, which have no basis whatsoever in Islam but are founded instead on extremely exaggerated misconceptions misleadingly ascribed to Islam. Such misguided behaviors, as you are well aware, cause Islam and Muslims unspeakable harm, and all but succeed in obscuring the real, shining and tolerant Islam, and depicting it as a backward religion based on extremism, bigotry, rejection of modernity, and repudiation of contemporary civilization.
Another much needed task is for the Islamic centers to enlighten local public opinion and civil society on the tolerant principles of Islam, as described above, and of the rich civilizational heritage of Islam and Islamic culture, if only because this culture set the most magnificent example ever of intercultural, ideological dialogue in the history of mankind that was the very manifestation of pluralism, diversity, and openness.
Accordingly, it is equally imperative for your centers to continue dialogue with the representatives of other religions and denominations in application of our proclaimed quest for dialogue among civilizations as the viable alternative to the concept promoted by some of a clash of civilizations.
Excellencies, Eminencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Once we have accomplished the goals we have laid out above, or at least a part thereof, then we would have achieved for us, and for our divine religion in Europe, a position worthy of our pride that does honor to our nation and earns the respect and appreciation of our Muslim communities in this continent. This leads me to the discussion of one of the objectives you have set for this conference of "defining the status of Muslims in Europe as Muslim Europeans" by saying that if, by Allah’s grace, the convention of this conference becomes a regular event, it will gain the merits of concerting the efforts of the our fellow Muslim brothers in the Islamic communities of Europe, creating opportunities for consultation on their conditions, and thus crystallizing their views, fostering adaptation and acclimatization, bringing them closer, and ultimately uniting them. In this way, they can become an effective political force at this juncture where the countries of this continent are gradually but surely moving towards a political unity.
In this regard, I must reaffirm that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has given and continues to give a special priority to your interests, just as it has for Muslim minorities and communities. Moreover, the OIC is ready and willing to extend all possible assistance to you in conducting your activities in favor of Islam and Muslims. That is why, the OIC is currently finalizing arrangements to hold an international symposium on Islam in one of the European capitals this year, just over one year after an international symposium was organized in Bulgaria, which addressed the situation of Muslims in Eastern Europe and was a great success.
Finally, let me express my hope for cooperation to continue between the Organization of the Islamic Conference and your conference and my wishes for the resounding success of your august assembly in reaching its goals.
"And Say: ‘Do as you will, for Allah will behold your works, and so will His apostle and the faithful’." Truth are the Words of Allah.
Thank you for your attention.
Wassalamu Alaikum Warahmatullah Wabarakatuh.