TOP LEFT Home Search Feedback

History Events Photo Gallery Branches Contacts Links
  Archive: 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002
  February 2004

Current Affairs
King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Centre

By Dr. Mozammel Haque


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
The first four-day National Dialogue, launched by Crown Prince Abdullah, Deputy Premier and Commander of the National Guard, held in Riyadh, in June 2003, was instrumental in bringing together all sections of the society. “There were people from all parts of the country, Shias from eastern province and Ismailis from the south. Everybody agreed that the unity of the country is important. The meeting was successful,” said Dr. Naseef. The landmark meeting of the First National Dialogue ended with a call for wide-ranging reforms in the Kingdom and led to the establishment of the Dialogue Center. The first convention produced a long list of recommendations including broader political participation, more judicial independence and fair distribution of wealth, among many other things.

The meeting ended with a declaration acknowledging the diversity of Muslim thought in the Kingdom. It also sought more political participation in governance. According to Dr. Rashed Al-Rajeh, Crown Prince Abdullah, Deputy Premier and Commander of the National Guard, approved 22 of the recommendations of the Riyadh forum and most of them had been implemented. “Some recommendations will take time to implement,” he said. Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, said the success of the first forum in Riyadh had surprised some people.

“People should share and express their opinion and views and participate in the process to develop and improve the political system and help to introduce elections and some other political, social and economic reforms which will make it more lively and people will not have excuse to say that they have been excluded and cannot participate,” observed Dr. Naseef.

Second National Dialogue in Makkah
The five-day Second National Dialogue Forum was held in Makkah al-Mukarramah in December, 2003. The meeting started debating how to root out extremism . “Extremism and Moderation, a Comprehensive View,” is the Makkah’s Forum’s main theme. “The meeting discussed why there are extremists in our society,” said Dr. Nasseef who presided over the meeting.

“National dialogue is a way to get our development back on track,” said Sheikh Saleh Al-Hosain, who chaired a panel discussion entitled: “Exaggeration and Moderation: A Methodological Comprehensive Vision.”

Sixty intellectuals, academics, researchers and religious experts including nine women took part in the four-day deliberations organized by the King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Centre. “Open dialogue of this type is good for society as it fosters unity,” the Saudi Press Agency quoted Dr. Rashed Al-Rajeh, Vice Chairman of the Dialogue as saying.

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

First-ever Ugandan
President of the Islamic University

Dr. Naseef elected chairman Board of Trustees

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.

The call for the establishment of two Islamic Universities in Africa was made at the Third Islamic Summit of the OIC held in Lahore, Pakistan in 1975. The one in Niger started immediately after the Summit meeting. But the other one, the Islamic University in Uganda, was delayed due to many reasons, including civil war and the change of governments in the country.

If was finally established more than 15 years ago and King Fahd bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia donated a commercial complex in Kampala to meet the expenses of the University. King Fahd Commercial Complex is inside the downtown. It is a Tower building. “The income coming from this complex is not enough now to run the university. In future, it will also grow up. The government of Uganda has promised a new block, which will add two or three Towers. At present it is not profitable, it covers a little bit. But it will be profitable in future,” observed Dr. Nasseef.

The University has two campuses, one in Bani, northeast of Kampala, the capital of Uganda and the other in Kampala itself.

The University has five faculties and three centers. About 3,000-plus students are studying at the University. There is about 70/80 teaching staff but most of them are part-time.

“We want to increase the number of teaching staff and we are writing to several universities in the Muslim world to provide one teacher each. It will help them very much,”
observed Dr. Naseef, who was first elected as member of the Board of Trustees of the University after the last Islamic Summit of the OIC held in Kuala Lumpur in December, 2003. He attended the meeting of the Trustees for the first time in the last week of December 2003 and was elected as chairman of the Board of Trustees.

Dr. Nasseef, after the meeting, was taken to a 70-year old mosque, 65 kilometers from Kampala. The mosque is not enough to accommodate a large number of Muslim worshippers. There is a plan for the extension and expansion of the mosque. Dr. Nasseef attended the foundation laying ceremony of the extension of the mosque built in 1947.