Special Reports

Freedom of Religion a revolutionary concept

Students Islamic Organisation (SIO), Jamaat-e Islami Hind’s students and youth wing held a remarkable 2-day “Indian International Islamic Academic Conference” at the India Islamic Cultural Centre here to discuss serious Islamic academic issues.  

Inaugural session of the SIO academic conference

In the inaugural session, Amir-e Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Maulana Syed Jalaluddin Umri said that Islam’s doctrine of freedom of religion was a revolutionary concept in the field of knowledge. Islam stressed on the use of debates, discussions and preaching for conveying the message rather than forcing anyone to accept it. It was a revolutionary concept never known before in history.  Describing the importance of education and knowledge, he said that the knowledge develops human beings. It enables human beings to serve others. It increases the status of human beings to that of angels. Those communities and nations which are leading the world are developed in the field of knowledge. Urging the youth and students to match the present standards in research, he said Islam is based on reason and its teachings appeal to the human nature.

Zafarul-Islam Khan, Editor of The Milli Gazette, criticised the present lethargic situation of the Muslim community which he said is responsible for our backwardness, He called for self-introspection and said that Muslims hardly bag Nobel prizes in any field. The Muslim community, which should lead the world, keeps away from its responsibilities, research and sacrifices. He said this is the age of pen, not sword.

Professor Dietrich Reetz of the University of Berlin said that Prophet Mohammed’s constitution of Madina is an example of tolerance, integration and pluralism in Islam. He argued that Globalization should not be limited to the economic activities but also to other spheres like religion.

Arabic scholar Professor Mohsin Usmani said that there is no difference between Islamic education and modern education. The only difference of education is beneficial and non-beneficial knowledge. The progress and development of the Muslim Ummah depends on science and technology. Muslims should compete with other communities in science technology. He criticized the Arab rulers for not developing science and technology in their countries preferring total reliance on western world.

On the second day of the conference, three different topics, viz., In Search of Commonality: Prospects of Solidarity, Nation-state and Citizenship: Issues and Imagination and Media and Literature: Framing Images, were discussed. Speakers argued that Islam encourages cultural diversity and religious pluralism.

Chairing the first session on “In Search of Commonality: Prospects of Solidarity,” Prof. Musafer H Asadi of the University of Mysore, commented that the conference opens up a new debate about ourselves and various cultural practices. He  said that Islam engages and coexists with other cultural practices. He said the Islamic perspective on human rights is the best in the global world. It can be included in the Indian constitution to ensure larger participation of Muslims in politics.

In the second session on Nation-state and Citizenship: Issues and Imagination, Professor Nivedita Menon of Jawahar Lal Nehru University, criticized the concept that nation cannot be questioned. She said that in India the nation means the dominance of northern elite. The idea of India should be reconceptualized. Criticizing the present method of citizenship, she said that it should not be based on the origin of birth but on the place of work. She also opposed using the word “illegal immigrants”. Application of this idea renders the whole human race illegal. It is like the child of an unwed mother.

Prof. M. T. Ansari of Hyderabad Central University, speaking on the same topic, said that secularism and democracy are not being but it is becoming. Questioning secularism is the most secular thing. On nationalism, he argued that it seems to be a necessary evil. We are already living in the post-national era. We should have different communities. India has already accepted the idea of one having multiple identities.

Chairing the third session, on Media and Literature: Framing Images, Zafarul-Islam Khan, author and senior journalist, said that Muslims in India are facing a lot of problems because of media. They are the victim of media and they should think how to come out of this problem by ensuring a strong presence in regional as well as English-language media. He also remarked that no paper has been presented about the composition and working of media especially India and the position of Muslim media in India. Hasanul Banna, well-known journalist, also addressed the session and urged the Muslim community to counter the stereotype images of Muslims in the media. Saad Ahmad, Neethu Prasad, Sahal B and Desmond Onyemchi Okocha presented their papers in the session on different topics related to the subjects.

In the valedictory function, T Arif Ali, deputy head of Jamaat-e Islami Hind, described the conference as a festival of knowledge and discussion. He termed it as a benchmark for academic activism.      

    MG News Desk