Islamic Perspectives

Indications of positive change in western world’s understanding of Islam

New Delhi: Jamia Millia Islamia’s Zakir Husain Institute of Islamic Studies organised an extension lecture by Dr. Ataullah Siddiqi, Visiting Professor in Britain’s Gloucestershire University and former Director of Markfield Institute of Higher Education of Britain on 27 August. This function was chaired by Father Thomas Concle who, as President of Islamic Studies Association, an association floated by Roman Catholic sect of Christians. It is trying to promote a better and mutual understanding and cordial relations between Christians and Muslims.

Dr. Ataullah Siddiqi said while speaking on this occasion that there were indications of a positive change in the general trend of understanding of Islam in western (Christian) countries and hopeful progress was taking place about mutual understanding between the followers of the two religions. He said that though misunderstandings and suspicions about Islam still persist in the minds of many Christians of different western countries but at academic and popular level efforts are being made to promote the concept of mutual understanding and co-existence between followers of the two religions whose positive results were being seen and felt. Presenting the views of many important Christian thinkers, academicians, men of letters and intellectuals about Islam which he had gathered during his association with them for about four decades, he said that contrary to their earlier unpalatable views and hostile attitude towards Muslims, their attitude and thinking about Muslims was sympathetic and balanced now. He said that in Britain Islamic Studies have now been included in educational syllabus and these studies, syllabus materials and views about Islam have been, and are being prepared with the approval of competent Muslim authorities and intellectuals. At the same time he regretted that even today understanding and knowledge of Muslims about Christians and Christian studies was very limited. He further said that there was great shortage of persons among Muslims who could instil better understanding and correct image of Islam in the minds of westerners.

Earlier, Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, Director of Zakir Husain Institute of Islamic Studies while introducing Dr. Ataullah Siddiqi said that he belonged to Allahabad and for about three decades he had been trying to project a better image of Islam in Britain and other western countries and making arrangements for promoting inter-religion dialogues between Muslims and Christians.

Father Thomas Concle in his presidential address while agreeing to Dr. Siddiqi’s views laid emphasis on the need to promote the understanding between the followers of Islam and Christianity and to further strengthen the efforts to bridge the gap of misunderstanding between them. He said that the process and efforts of organising inter-religious dialogues should be taken out of the limited circle of academicians and intellectuals and brought nearer to common peoples lives so as to make it a living reality.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 September 2012 on page no. 15

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