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  October 2002

Challenges to Islamic World

By Dr. Abdelouahed Belkeziz,
Secretary-General of the Organisation
of Islamic Conference

Over the past ten months or so, the Islamic world has been at the heart of events - the target of fierce criticism, injuries, calumnies as well as misleading propaganda campaigns designed to bend and deform the facts and the truth.

The same period witnessed an exacerbation and escalation of the valiant Palestinian Intifadha to coincide with the growing ferocity of the bloody Israeli practices against the Palestinian people.

No one ignores the events of last September 11th, but their negative repercussions on the Islamic world continue unabated and more and more widespread. We unceasingly hear the word “terrorism”, constantly beamed to and resounding in our ears, every hour, every minute, parroted by the media. As a result of such campaigns, the word “Islam” has, regrettably, in the mind of many people, become synonymous with terrorism, same as Muslims, wherever they may be, are persistently the object of hatred, uneasiness and apprehensions.

There was a time when, in the West, Muslims were characterized as poor and ignorant, having no democracy and disregarding human rights. Added to those, nowadays, is the accusation of belonging to a backward civilization in a culture “glorifying death” - in other words, a “terrorist culture!”

With that and due to other factors, it is feared that Muslims may lose the confidence they had in their ingenuity and civilization as well as their distinguished and essential contributions in building modern civilization. While many people view the Islamic world as one heading for isolation on the international scene, Muslims themselves, feel frustrated and incapacitated.

Faced with such a reality, one can only realize that the challenges posed to the Islamic world are as momentous as unprecedented. Never have Muslims come to grips with similar challenges. These are malicious and extremely complex, intricate and difficult challenges, hence requiring exceptional efforts as well as well-pondered and astute measures to stem such a tide.

The Islamic world is still proceeding along divergent and scattered diversity, whereas it has become indispensable for it to use its ingenuity, prepare a comprehensive and integrated study - a minute scrutiny of its state of affairs worldwide - and lay the groundwork of a single, combined approach as to the ways and means to deal with the rationale of our contemporary era and the very powers that, in our day, control the progress of human history.

It has, similarly, become a must for the Islamic world to relinquish the old and obsolete methods of conducting its own affairs, the ones that proved ineffective. In fact, it is no longer possible to confine ourselves to inaction, slowness, reticence, abstention from making any move, or adopt a wait and see attitude, while the world around us is so vibrant and full of activity and relentless future planning.

But what may make it easier for us to face those challenges is the fact that most of them are founded on baseless, malicious, untrue accusations not so difficult to uncover, dispel and expose with their misleading objectives, which does not mean, for as much, that we should not recognize our true defects or shortcomings, as the case may be, rectify them and avoid their recurrence. We must listen to contemporary world discourse so as to accommodate which is beneficial to us and keep abreast of the unstoppable march of the humankind. In fact, no one can go against the inexorable tide of history. Nor should we, as we try to catch up with that procession, give up the unshakeable foundations of our Muslim creed and Islamic civilization. What helps us in this drive is that Islam is the religion of flexibility and facilitation, rather than rigidity, of development and endeavor. It has it, as a basic principle that the evolutions in rulings as times go by ought not to be denied. Century after century, Islam demonstrated an amazing flexibility in espousing development, in the transition from tribal to urban society and in matching the trends of those civilizations and cultures in line with its tenets, without for as much indulging in anything, or making the least inconsiderate concession. Muslims, nowadays, are accused of standing against or being hostile to modern civilization with its foundations of democracy, rational governance, the rule of law, human rights, popular participation, accountability, public freedoms and others. All those principles are, and have always been, part and parcel of our glorious and tolerant Shari’a.