The International Muslim Minorities Congress 2018 - a report
Abu Dhabi: An International Muslim Minorities Congress (IMMC2018, http://immc.org/) was held in Abu Dhabi the capital of United Arab Emirates, during 8-9 May 2018. The Congress was convened by the Muslim Council of Elders (https://muslim-elders.com/en/) to encourage the integration of Muslims in non-Muslim countries and to discuss challenges around issues of Islamophobia and extremism. The conference was held under the patronage of the Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance; and the United Arab Emirates Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development. Awqaf ministers and muftis from Arab and Muslim countries took part in the event, which aimed at activating the role of religious diplomacy to confront violence and hatred. More than 550 political, scientific and religious community leaders from 140 countries attended the landmark event, titled “The Future of the Islamic Presence in Non-Muslim Societies: Opportunities and Challenges”.
According to the United Nations, more than 550 million Muslim citizens, representing one third of all Muslims worldwide, live as minorities outside the 57 member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. The congress highlighted the experiences, successes and challenges of about half-a-billion Muslims living in countries outside the Muslim World League. At the same time, the congress aimed at tackling issues such as marginalisation and disenfranchisement of these Muslims. The congress aimed at helping the Muslim minorities to integrate and bridge the gap between Muslim minorities and their governments. The event was intended as a platform to combat Islamophobia and religious extremism faced by Muslim minorities. The conference also meant to promote international cooperation to activate international charters on Muslim communities, especially in non-Muslim countries. The organisers said that they want to implement all the necessary instruments to allow Muslim minorities fulfil their role as ambassadors of the Muslim world - that of being good Muslims and model citizens.
The Congress had four strategic goals:
- Highlighting the role of the United Arab Emirates in strengthening the culture of peace and inter-personal dialogue with a view to developing society;
- International cooperation for rendering operational international agreements, particularly those related to Muslim societies, with a view to safeguarding global security;
- Rendering religious diplomacy operational (by settling disputes and dissuading wars, combating the tendency to violence and hatred and stimulating dialogue among people to achieve social peace); and
- Linking the efforts made by states and organizations to organize and accommodate the Islamic presence outside the Muslim world.
The five goals specific to this Congress were:
- Improving the professional performance of western Islamic institutions, allowing them to preserve their role of ensuring the intellectual and spiritual security of Muslims living in non-Muslim societies;
- Encouraging Muslims in non-Muslim societies to engage in the construction of their societies and to participate in their civil and civilizational rebirth;
- Helping Muslims be a civilized presence in non-Muslim societies through positive interactions with other components of the respective societies;
- Launching initiatives together with other intellectuals of global standing to combat the phenomenon of radicalization and hatred towards the surrounding people; and
- Promoting citizenship and social integration system of Muslim communities in non-Muslim countries.
The Congress discussed a number of topics affecting Muslims worldwide including ways to prevent radicalisation among Muslims who live as minorities. The conference also saw the adoption of the Global Charter of Muslims Communities, which calls on the United Nations to put in place a binding international agreement to protect minorities’ rights and their fundamental freedoms as religious, ethnic and linguistic groups, prevent all forms of racial and religious hatred and discrimination, prevent abuse of other people and religions, and to condemn all kinds of crimes of ethnic or religious cleansing. The charter also encourages countries to provide a special law on the rights of religious minorities and asks Muslims to “do their duty towards their communities and countries to achieve social peace and security and to protect their children from the currents of extremism and separatist movements.”
Muslim community leaders said Muslims should respect the laws of their host country while maintaining their values and encouraging multiculturalism. The World Council of Muslim Communities (http://www.worlddialogue.net/) will support the charter and co-ordinate the efforts of local institutions that represent minority Muslims to help correct the stereotypical image of Islam and reduce the cultural gap between members of society. The conference agreed to intensify efforts made by international organisations to promote and strengthen dialogue, tolerance and understanding between religious groups and to prevent abuse, particularly through social media. A committee will be formed to follow up on the conference’s recommendations.