International Journal for Muslim World Studies (IJMWS)

Formerly known as International Journal of Muslim Unity (IJMU)

Conference Report: International Conference on Muslim Unity in the 21st Century : Opportunities and Challenges

International Conference on Muslim Unity in the 21st Century : Opportunities and Challenges

Kazi Shahdat Kabir

The International Institute for Muslim Unity (IIMU) organized its first International Conference entitled: “Muslim Unity in the 21st Century: Opportunities and Challenges” in Malaysia, and a significant number of prominent scholars presented their paper in the conference.   A large number of local and foreign participants attended the program.   The conference was inaugurated by Tan Sri Dato’ Sri Sanusi Junid, President of the International Islamic University Malaysia and Chairman, International Institute for Muslim Unity.  In his address Tan Sri spoke on “The Current States of Muslim Unity in the 21st Century: Opportunities and Challenges”.  The session was chaired by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Azmi Omar, Deputy Chairman, IIMU and Deputy Rector (Academic Affairs), IIUM.

Tan Sri Sanusi says, every civilization passes through difficult times.  In such situations those who make the differences are the one who have consciousness of the challenges before them and are able to identify their goals to overcome those challenges.   They use all opportunities available constructively in order to achieve their goals.   The challenges of the new generation is to realize the unity of Islamic Ummah, Tan Sri added.  This should be the dream of our generation.   This task may appear to be very difficult, but there is no doubt it is much easier then getting rid of the colonial powers.   However, the key to success lies in developing both Ummatic consciousness and making the best use of opportunities available for these purposes, he added.   IIUM has taken a big leap in this mission by establishing the International Institute for Muslim Unity (IIMU), since the curriculum and the culture of IIUM are geared towards creating Ummatic consciousness.   This institute is committed to discussing, disseminating and facilitating the ideas and activities that aim to contribute towards realizing the Ummatic Unity.

In the welcoming remarks, Prof. Kamal Hassan, Rector, IIUM says that this conference will help the Muslim Ummah to comprehend the challenges posed to the Ummah and the numerous opportunities available to be reach their noble objectives.   The task before us here is to debate issues that effect the Muslim Ummah in a reasonable way, devoid of any emotion or controversies, which always characterize the Muslim gathering.   And even if there is any difference of opinion, it should be debated rationally, with maturity and friendship, so that we reach a reasonable conclusion, which could be presented in the O.I.C. conference in Kuala Lumpur.   The session was successfully concluded by Dr. Azmi Omar’s summation.

Apart from Tan Sri’s paper there were eighty papers presented in both English and Arabic covering the areas of political science, Economics, laws, Engineering, Medicine, Science, Architecture etc in the light of Muslim Unity.   The paper entitled “The Role of Ethnocentrism and Racism in Disunity of the Muslims.  “Malik Badri (Professor in Psychology and Acting Dean, Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization (ISTAC) emphasized that one cannot unite people who are divided on ethnic and racial lines.   Malik Badri compared was torn countries like Sudan and peaceful country like Malaysia,   For him the civil war in Sudan is more on ethnic nature of Arab Sudanese, who sees themselves as being superior to the other races in the Sudan.  On the other hand, there is a lot to learn in Malaysia, who has so many races and religion, yet live in peace and developing economically too.   For him, the reason for the success of Malaysia is that there is no tribalism among the people, which is pronounced in many Muslim countries, and people marry among themselves and live peacefully, unlike in Africa and Sudan where people look at one’s tribe, race and family before marrying even if the person is a good Muslim, it does not concern them.

Ahmad Ibrahim Abu Shouk (Associate Professor in the Department of History and Civilization, IIUM) outlined in his paper, “Muslim Unity: Lessons from the Past and Challenges from the Present”, after the demise of the Prophet, Abubakar was rightly chosen as the Caliph and he established the Institution of Shura.   But immediately after the third Caliph was assassinated, the Ummah was plunged into a deep crisis at the macro level and from then on, the Ummah became divided.   According to him, in this modern time, the forces against the Muslim Ummah are pronounced and serious, as the Western Nations, in their bid to rule the world and promote their civilization have devised both long and short term strategies in order to suppress any threats to their hegemony, that are the Islamic and Confucian civilization.

In his “Obstacles Towards Muslim Unity: An Analysis of the Root Causes” Muhammad Mumtaz Ali (Associate Professor, Department of Usul al Din and Comparative Religion) stated that the disunity among the Muslims have a direct and an indirect effect and consequence on the entire world.   However, these obstacles to Muslim unity are not external obstacles and neither are they foreign, but they are obstacles within the Muslim world itself, he mentioned.   For him, the real solution to the disunity of the Muslims is a social one, and it is to give all our soul and strength to the Islamic cause fully and unconditionally, as it was done during the time of the prophet himself.

In a session entitled, “Disintegrated Ummah: Causes, Challenges and Remedies”, Shaukat Mahmood (Professor, Faculty of Architecture and Environmental Design, IIUM) detailed Muslim leaders’ role and the western media propaganda against Muslims in general.  He said, “Today’s Muslim leaders have become the United States of America and they are the most culpable of the Muslims to this external influence, save a few of them.  The fight against the Muslims today is being carried on in all fronts and the media is one of their most potent weapons against the Muslims”.  Due to the aggression and impunity of the USA and Britain, the situation now is the case of the big fish eating the smaller ones, as the big nations can now do and undo.

Zubair Hassan (Professor in Economics, IIUM) talked on “Muslim in the New World Order: Challenges and the Way Out”. He identified mainly three reasons of the predicament of the Muslims which are: (1) the large amount of money spent on military expenditure and weaponry, (2) the dual educational system adopted by the Muslims and (3) the high level of corruption among the Muslims.  He also stated that the IMF is serving its own interest in the developing countries, and the result is that the incomes of the developing nations are decreasing, while that of the developed nations continues to increase.

Mohamad Aslam Haneef (Associate Professor in Economics, IIUM) talked on “A Common Market between Muslim Countries and Muslim Unity: Some Observation with References to Malaysia”, said in order to achieve a Common Market, it must be a harmonization of monetary and fiscal policies between the countries involved.  However, the problem with forming a Muslim common market will be solved if Muslim countries give more priority to social interaction, which could lead to building social capital power amongst Muslims. Likewise, these countries will have to do away with too many formalities and institutionalized rigidly.

Mohammad Abdul Mohit (Associate Professor, Faculty of Architecture and Environmental Design) spoke on “Socio-Economic Profile of the Muslim World, A factual Analysis of the Diversity Syndrome stressed that Muslim countries should strive for development and being united on the basis of this, fashioning a common ideological principles which can lead to development and thus to unity, or uniting first before going for development.

The closing dinner was attended by Y.B. Datuk Dr. Siti Zaharah Sulaiman, Minister of National Unity and Social Development, Malaysia.  Y.B. Tan Sri Sanusi bin Junid, Prof. Kamal Hassan, Rector, IIUM and all the presenters and participants of the conference.  In the ceremony, the welcoming remarks were delivered by Y.B. Tan Sri Sanusi bin Junid.  In her closing remarks Datuk Dr. Siti Zaharah Sulaiman said, the 21st Century indeed presents the Muslims with great challenges and immense opportunities.   From the unification of two Germany to the introduction of Euro, and the September 11 tragedy, all the recent developments provide enough clues for Muslims to appreciate that there are both opportunities and challenges before the Ummah at the start of the 21st Century.   She said, 1500 years ago when Islam claimed Universality, its vision could not be comprehended by many because of their historical experiences of slavery, discrimination and racial discrimination which was the destiny of a vast majority of them… However, in this age of globalization Islam’s claim of Universality and brotherhood has become absolutely clear, real and practical.

Much before globalization, it was Islam which stood for universal peace and brotherhood.  It is this spirit of universality which as always motivated Muslim societies to treat minorities with respect and dignity.   When Jews were reduced to less than human in Europe, they prospered and progresses in the Islamic civilization.   Despite being a racially, ethnically and religiously diverse country, Malaysia adopted this Islamic principle and developed system based on mutual cooperation, sharing and caring Allah (SWT) bestowed HIs mercy and infinite blessings on her, and the result is that today Alhamdulillah this county is marching forward towards the realization of vision 2020.