Dr. Mozammel Haque Saudi Gazette
THE primary purpose of IslamExpo is to build bridges between Britain’s Muslim communities and the rest of society, based on the exchange of ideas, breakdown of stereotypes and challenge to the narrow precepts with which Muslims are too often judged in contemporary times, said the executive director of IslamExpo, Ismail Patel, while welcoming the four-day Islam Expo 2008 opened by the first Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, at the Olympia Grand Hall, London, on 11 July 2008.
Ken Livingstone, said, “The second IslamExpo moves to even more closer to the heart of London. We want maximum Londoners to come and see. This is not an exposition for Muslims to come to; it is an exposition for all Londoners of all faiths to come around so that they understand better the diversity of the city in which they have the great honor to live in.”
Referring to religious prejudices, Ken Livingstone said, “Thirty years ago, Irish Catholic Community in this city was demonized by the media because of the actions of the small number of militant and violent people and we had to go out to project the case of tolerance to defend our Irish Catholic community. So, today, we have to do the same for Londoners of the Muslim faith. There is the most appalling demonizing of Islam in the press.”
Father Frank Anglican priest and Director Inter-faith network, Alkaradas said, “We all believe in God. I will speak about three things which are common among us. First is peace, Salam, one of the sweetest words on earth. The second is the community – I was much impressed a year ago when the floods devastated part of England and Muslim groups went around offering help to the old people. The third is spirituality – we have great spiritual traditions and riches – Qur’an’s refreshing spiritual experience.”
Yusuf Islam, said, “IslamExpo was enabled to create a platform to be able to project, as it has been said, the true message of Islam, the true face and in this country there is also great opportunity to do so. Here, there is accommodation and understanding.”
Speaking about conveying “the message of Islam – the message of peace, the message of love of all the Prophets, the love of all the Books and of the fear of the Day of Judgement,” Yusuf Islam said, “In that respect, I think Muslims have got a lot of learning to do of how to apply that attitude while developing their own faith.”
Earlier, Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, said, “We all share a collective responsibility to realize and make joint efforts to create a situation in which all societies are bound together in their humanity and inter-dependence, in their quest for stability, prosperity and peaceful existence.”
“Whatever the challenges the current climate of Islamophobia may throw at us, we, British Muslims, recognize the need to build bridges between the component parts of our society; between the people of all sections, faith or non-faith. We believe, moreover, we are unity-based to foster understanding and address issues of imbalances and injustices in our world,” said Dr. Abdul Bari.
Earlier, while presenting the speakers, Soumaya Ghannoushi, a scholar at the School of Oriental and African Studies and regular columnist in the Daily Guardian CIF, said, “Islam is no longer an alien, a distant entity and the other side of the world, in Asia and Africa. Islam is, in our midst, is the very fabric of British and European society.”
Speaking about the Islamic civilization, she said, “It has made enormous contribution to every field of knowledge and every walk of life: in arts, architecture, music, language, literature, philosophy, theology, jurisprudence, and not to mention, science and medicine.”
“I will quote a beautiful verse from the Qur’an which says: ‘O Mankind! We have created you from a single male and female and made you into nations and tribes so that you know each other.”
This year IslamExpo started giving five categories of Awards. The first one is for Enhancing Understanding of Islam and the winner was the Daily Guardian. The second Award category is in Medicine, Science and Technology and the winner was Dr. Amman Bolia, senior Lecturer in the University of Leicester and Consultant in venereal diseases. The third Award is in the category of Dialogue and Building Bridges which went to Robert Lambert, head of the Muslim Contact Group. The fourth Award for Journalism was given to Peter Oborne for his excellent documentary: Channel4 Dispatches on “Should Britain be anti-Muslim?” and another winner was Newsnight for Policy Exchange programme. And the fifth Award for the Lifetime Achievement was presented to Ken Livingstone, the first Mayor of London.
Published in Saudi Gazette, July 2008