1-2 July, 2006
Ceylan Intercontinental Hotel, Istanbul / TURKEY
Conference Agenda The publication of cartoons demonising the prophet Mohammed across Europe and the violent reactions this has provoked amongst Muslims living in Europe and the Middle East , has thrown into sharp relief the issues surrounding tolerance and understanding. As the Observer newspaper in Britain said on 5 February 2006: “..two conversations were happening: one where journalists and politicians debated freedom of expression and one where Muslims talked about the rights and wrongs of depicting the Prophet. But the two conversations took place far apart from one another and the gap is too easily exploited by religious extremists and racists. For a broader dialogue to happen, we must state clearly and often that Muslims can also be Europeans. This is not a clash of civilisations. We have a common interest in being vigilant against Islamophobia and in standing up to the advocates of terror”.
The objectives of this conference on Muslims of Europe is to highlight this common interest and start the broader dialogue.
Muslims have lived in Europe for more than one thousand years. Until the last twenty years or so, their presence has largely been unnoticed and unquestioned. It is only as numbers have increased that their presence has posed challenges to perceptions of what it is to be European. The debate has taken dramatic form because of terrorist attacks in Istanbul , Madrid and London and because of the murder of Dutch film maker Theo Van Gogh and the riots in France . These events and the growing gulf of understanding between citizens highlight the urgent need to address these issues publicly: to address the problems Muslims are facing in becoming part of European society and to address the misperceptions that some in Europe have about the implications of welcoming a Muslim presence in Europe .
The Amman Message
Separately similar discussions are taking place in the rest of the Muslim world. In June 2005 a wide range of Islamic scholars from across the world endorsed the “Amman Message” which recognises that “Evils threaten the identity of the Islamic nation, incite disunity, tarnish it religion and assail its tenets; they attack fiercely the very message of Islam. Some who attack Islam imagine it is their enemy. But it is not their enemy. Others, who claim to belong to Islam, have done gruesome and criminal acts in its name. The message that is under attack is the message of tolerance, revealed by the Almighty to His prophet … a message of brotherhood and humanity; forming a righteous religion that embraces the entire sphere of human life, upholding what is good and forbidding what is wrong, accepting of others, and honouring all human beings. Islam calls on Muslims to demonstrate tolerance and delight in human life; it opposes extremism, exaggeration, and intransigence….”
In December 2005 the Heads of State of the countries of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference similarly affirmed that:
“ Islam is a religion of moderation which rejects bigotry, extremism and fanaticism, and underlined in this connection the importance of combating deviant ideology using all available means, besides developing educational curricula that firmly establish the values of understanding, tolerance, dialogue and multilateralism in accordance with the tenets of Islam.
The Conference stressed that dialogue among civilizations based on mutual respect, understanding and equality between people, is a prerequisite for establishing a world marked by tolerance, cooperation, peace and confidence among nations.
The Conference called for combating pseudo-religious and sectarian extremism, and for the need to refrain from accusing followers of Islamic schools of heresy, and reaffirmed the need to deepen dialogue and promote restraint, moderation and tolerance and issuance of Fatwas by those not eligible to issue them.”
In this international contex