20-22 JUNE, 2003

Bismillahi Arrahmani Arrahim

Excellencies, Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen,

Assalam Alaikum wa-Rahmatullahi wa-Barakatuh.

It is a matter of particular pleasure for me to welcome you all at this important international cultural event convened in this majestic city, and I wish first of all to express our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to the New-Zealand Government for its approval to have this symposium held in New Zealand, in this prestigious country steeped in culture and civilization.

Likewise, I wish to pay tribute to all those in charge of organizing this symposium for their laudable efforts in preparing for this gathering which has been made possible thanks to their effective and perseverant undertaking and their spirit of initiative and focus on achievement, such that it has been possible to hold this symposium in this beautiful country which, though distant from the cradle of the Revelation and the land of the Heavenly Message, is yet so close to it, thanks to its remarkable spirit of openness and tolerance. All this prompts me to express my profound gratitude to the Islamic Cultural center in Australia as well as to the Federation of Islamic Societies in New Zealand, for the warm welcome and positive cooperation we have met.

Special thanks and appreciation are also due to Their Excellencies the participants who have braved all travel hardships to benefit this gathering of their valuable researches and studies, thus contributing their vast knowledge and experience towards addressing the issues tabled for discussion. May I also express deep gratitude to all the Islamic institutions that have contributed so generously towards the organization of this symposium. Special mention here must be made of the Islamic Solidarity Fund, the Islamic Development Bank, the International Islamic Dawa Society, the World Association of Muslim Youth and the Kuwaiti International Philanthropic Society.

It is incumbent upon us to work in a regular, orderly and sagacious manner in order to project to the world the right image of the authentic Islamic values. For the incessant arbitrary campaigns against Islam are susceptible to undo any benefit which can accrue from dialogue. Dialogue must be an ongoing activity in order to consolidate international peaceful coexistence among the peoples of all nations and followers of the different faiths and to enrich cooperation among fellow-humans. We need to put in constant efforts to explicit the message of Islam and the Islamic thought’s contribution and what it has to offer for humanity in line with what earlier Muslims did when they made such contributions to all spheres of science and learning as to have given human thought and civilization a thrust forward that formed the foundation of what it still continues to extend to humanity in the areas of science and technology.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference has sought with great endeavour to submit the concept of inter-civilizational dialogue as a civilized alternative to the concept of clash of civilizations which has been touted and advocated by certain western intellectuals. Our proposed concept was met with wide acceptance, particularly at the level of the United Nations and other world forums, such that today it has become part of the civilizational contemporary world discourse. Our organization also held international meetings in the field of inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue which aimed at elucidating the noble Islamic values, their tolerant nature and their perfect harmony with modern thought and coincidence with the lofty human values propounded by western intellectuals for whom they represent the apex of the achievements of contemporary human culture.

Authentic and genuine dialogue among civilizations needs to be based on respect for the common denominator which can be inferred from the lofty principles and noble moral values generated by civilizations throughout history. These include tolerance, respect for the specificities of each nation in terms of belief and culture, the preservation of the rights of others as individuals and as peoples, as well as of their heritage and values, and non-violation of their sanctities, the rejection of any attempts to establish hegemony or tyranny in any form, and combating any sects or factions that may seek to ignite the fire of conflict and confirmation between nations and civilizations.

Excellencies, Honourable Ladies and Gentlemen,

Islam accorded women a distinct status which they never enjoyed before in human history. Under Islam, women achieved their rights which they had been denied before and attained such a dignified status as they had never experienced under any other civilization or religion. Building upon this, Islam granted women the same rights it granted to men in terms of human worth and moral entity, and guaranteed further, her full independent civilian personality.

It is beyond question today that women’s contribution to the promotion and renaissance of the Islamic Ummah in the contemporary world, is an imperative, particularly as they represent the other half of society. Hence the importance, imperative need and natural character, in the eyes of Islamic Shariaa, for Muslim women’s status to be enhanced and for their rights and needs to be catered for in accordance with the precepts of the Islamic faith.

Islam offers a comprehensive, integrated and exceptionally distinctive perception of the concept of the environment, its various problems, ways to handle it and ensure its protection as well as of the purposes for which God created it. Such a perception is derived from the Holy Quran and the noble tradition of the Prophet. The fact is that the Muslim’s relation with the universe around him is a particularly prominent one. Indeed the universe, the surrounding world or the environment is not an enemy to man, an enemy that needs to be overpowered. It is rather an entity created for man’s benefit and service and man has a duty to fend it, to protect it and seek to ensure that it thrives, as an entity that shares with man the common denominator of being a creation of God, a creation that is there for a good purpose and a wise reason, a creation that stands with man as a testimony to the glory of the Divine Being, the Almighty God, to whom everything is in constant praise.

One of the notions introduced by Islam in terms of Man’s relation with the environment and the surrounding universe at large, is that of an interactive and mutually compassionate relation between Man and everything around him, both animate and inanimate creatures. As a matter of fact living creatures such as animals and birds form, in a Muslim’s view, nations not dissimilar to him, with their own intended goals, with each nation having its own specificities and ways as pointed out in the Holy Quran and the immaculate prophetic Tradition.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As for the conditions of the Islamic minorities in particular, one cannot but note, regrettably that these minorities are facing severe hardships in certain countries where they are the targets of racial discrimination, partisanship and lack of understanding in their own social milieu.

The situation of these minorities is very critical. For the daily life of these men and women has become a constant painful struggle in the face of persistent attempts to rob them of their cultural legacy and specific identity.

In sharp contrast to this gloomy picture, however, here in the State of New Zealand, Praise be to God, we are offered an inspiring living example of tolerance and integration at both the ethnic and confessional levels. This is why, in this context, one cannot but feel pleasure and satisfaction when one witnesses how the Muslim community here in New Zealand is not faced with such difficulties. For the authorities in this country treat the Muslim citizens in the same way they treat all other citizens, and grant them all the consequent rights.

It is our hope that even further progress will be achieved by way of consolidating and developing the relations already existing between the Muslim community in New Zealand and the rest of their fellow-citizens, so that the Muslim community may effectively contribute its share to the development of their country, New Zealand, and so that they may cooperate even more closely among themselves in preserving the authentic tolerant and immaculate image of Islam and push forward the relations of harmony and concord among all the citizens of this same nation.

Distinguished Participants,

The Organization of the Islamic Conference which accounts today for fifty seven Member States spanning all the world continents, from Africa to Asia, and from Europe to South America, has been working untiringly towards the achievement of consolidated relations among Islamic States and greater cooperation between them and the rest of the international community, convinced as it is that dialogue is the optimal tool for a mutually beneficial rapport. It endeavours without relent to help the Muslim minorities achieve effective integration in their host societies and enjoy equal and fair treatment, such as to encourage them to be an instrumental factor in the economic progress, and to social security for themselves as well as for all others and for the future generations. The Organization seeks also to ensure that Muslims offer an ideal model of Islamic conduct and behaviour within the framework of respect for the sovereignty of the States to which they belong.

Excellencies, Distinguished Participants,

The convening of this symposium is a vivid expression of the Islamic Ummah’s solidarity with their Muslim brothers in this country. This concept of mutual solidarity is one that they pride themselves in, as it crystallizes their common belonging to one single nation of good will that is carrying a universal message which advocates tolerance, mutual support and compassion, devotion to good deeds and repulsion of injustice or harm to any human being. The Islamic call is therefore not one of discrimination, nor does it preach for hatred, violence or war against peaceful non-Muslims. It is a call to goodwill with no room for any transgression of the principles of peace and the ideal of positive international relations founded on equality, justice and respect for States’ independence and sovereignty, within the fold of an international family that strives to protect Man’s rights and welfare.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am quite confident that this symposium will form an additional step towards a better understanding of the role of cultures and the specificities of the Muslim communities living in New Zealand. It will also contribute towards making the latters’ achievements and credits better known, and open up new ways for their effective contribution to the prosperity of their society in all cultural and economic aspects of life.

Our present forum which has brought together such an elite of perceptive intellectuals, thinkers and researchers, will further enlarge, God willing, the circle of cooperation and understanding between the followers of various confessions and further consecrate the concept of international peace founded on justice, equity and mutual respect.

In conclusion, allow me once again, to express my deep gratitude to the Government of New Zealand for all the facilities extended to the participants in this international symposium. We remain fully confident that the Muslim community will always be a solid bridge between its country and the Member States of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

I wish you all every success in your proceedings and deliberations and in your efforts in the service of the Islamic Ummah and of humanity at large. I thank you.

Wassalam Alaikum wa-Rahmatullahi wa-Barakatuh.