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We helped to organize the first dialogue conference in Riyadh where there was an open forum. Everybody expressed his views and discussed ideas. Many suggestions came from the participants to establish a permanent center for dialogue. Site has been given and the work has been started there,” said Dr. Abdullah Omar Nasseef, former Deputy Chairman of the Majlis-e-Shoura of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Vice-Chairman of the King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Centre, in an interview with me. Dr. Nasseef is also the President of World Muslim Congress (Motamar Al-Alam Al-Islami).
The King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Centre was formed to promote dialogue among all groups, peoples of different schools of thought from an Islamic perspective. “We should listen to each other and ponder over things to find common ground to promote unity in this country, to defend Islam from abuse by non-Muslims, to give people a chance to understand Islam from its original source, not from people who claimed to be Muftis and so on,” explained Dr. Nasseef.
First National Dialogue in Riyadh
Fifteen researchers presented academic papers for discussion at the forum. At the forum, Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Luwaiheq presented a paper on “Extremism in a Comprehensive Shariah Perspective.” Extremism, he said, was fueled by a lack of full understanding of the Qurán and Sunnah. Dr. Abdullah Al-Tareeqi’s paper – “The Relationship Between the Ruler and the Ruled, Rights and Duties of Citizens and Their Relationships with Extremism”- called for a revival of the open-door policy, laid down in Article 43 of the Basic System of Governance, to strengthen the relationship between the rulers and the ruled.
Extremism and Moderation, a Comprehensive View,” was the Makkah’s Forum’s main theme. The participants including nine women debated the research papers in 14 sessions over the ensuing four days. Dr. Rashid al-Rajeh, Vice Chairman of the Makkah Forum, said the participants included businessmen, religious scholars, intellectuals and academics. “They are given full freedom to discuss whatever topics they deem suitable,” Alsharq Al-Awsat quoted him as saying.
The meeting discussed the role of teachers, educational institutions and political and economic aspects in developing a moderate personality. Sheikh Saleh Al-Hosain, who chaired the meeting, stressed the need to integrate free national dialogue into the Saudi way of life, which would in turn help the reform process. Prominent intellectual, Dr. Turki Al-Hamad, who was not invited to the forum, described the King Abdul Aziz Centre as “a pioneering idea” which could help promote tolerance throughout society.
The aim of the forum is to discuss all issues in the light of different viewpoints, not focusing on jurisprudence aspects only,” said Al-Rajeh.
The Second National Dialogue Forum ended its deliberations on 31 December with a call for an end to discrimination among citizens and making important proposals to fight extremism. “Frankness, freedom of expression and transparency were the hallmarks of the forum,” said Dr. Rashid Al-Rajeh.
Abdul Mohsen Al-Akkas, a Shoura member, commended the dialogue. “It was noted for its objectivity and respect for the other opinion,” he added. Islamic economist Dr. Omar Kamel said he expected improvement and good additions in future events. Dr. Ayed Al-Qarni, a prominent Islamic scholar, said the dialogue was successful in strengthening national unity and mobilizing public opinion against all forms of terrorism. He urged the terror suspects to surrender responding to the call of Saudi authorities. “The dialogue paved the way for the surrender of some suspects,” Al-Qarni said.
The Makkah forum ended its deliberations with a call for an end to discrimination among citizens and proposals to fight extremism. The recommendations include measures to root out extremism, immediate reform of academic curricula, and more freedom for media.
Some 60 intellectuals, academics and religious experts including nine women who took part in the four-day forum presented a copy of their recommendations to the Crown Prince Abdullah, Deputy Premier and Commander of the National Guard. Prince Abdullah congratulated the participants on the success of the event organized by the King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Center. “This is a service to religion and the nation; history will not forget your service,” he told the gathering at his palace in Riyadh.
Prince Abdullah reiterated Saudi Arabia’s resolve to go ahead with political reforms but urged reformists to be patient. “We should be patient and do things unhurriedly. Everything you do will be a step toward achieving the goal,” he said at a reception for Saudi intellectuals who took part in the National Dialogue Forum in Makkah. He also urged moderation. “Islam advocates moderation. Everyone of us ... knows it,” the Crown Prince said.
Third National Dialogue to be held in Madinah
The Board of Trustees of the Islamic University of Uganda
in its regular annual meeting has appointed an indigenous Ugandan President
of the University for the first time since its inception. Besides the
President, the Vice-Rector of the University was also appointed. The
first President of the University was from Bangladesh.