Gov'ts, EU Muslims urged bridge gap

A two-day conference on challenges facing Muslims in Europe wrapped up late Sunday, July 2, with calls for both governments and Muslims to bridge a widening gap.

Gov'ts, EU Muslims urged bridge gap

The 11-point Topkapi Declaration, read out by Grand Mufti of Bosnia Mustafa Ceric, stressed that Islam's presence in Europe is not new but rather a historically long and culturally rich one.

"Muslims have played an important role in the transfer and production of knowledge to and in Europe," read the document.

It asserted that Muslims are obliged by Shari`ah to be low-abiding and have a duty to promote social harmony and good relations with their fellow compatriots.

The declaration, however, made it clear that like fellow citizens European Muslims have the right to criticize, dissent and protest.

Internationally renowned British Muslim singer Sami Yusuf opened the closing ceremony with a song on Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

The two-day conference, themed Muslims of Europe: Challenges and Opportunities, brought together a galaxy of Muslim thinkers, scholars and leaders from all over the world.

Its main aim was to look at some of the most pertinent issues that face European Muslims and their societies, including integration, citizenship, identity, Islamophobia and media representation, faith and its public role, and combating extremism.

The conference was arranged by a steering group representing a number of major European Muslim organizations and figures.


Yusuf opened the ceremony with a song on Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

The conference declaration stressed that terrorism in all its forms is an affront to the whole of humanity.

"Under no circumstance does Islam permit terrorism and the killing of civilians," it insisted.

The declaration urged Muslims to work harder to uproot terrorism.

But, the declaration also had a strong message to European governments.

Condemning spiraling Islamophobia and all forms of discrimination, it urged European governments to promote inclusiveness and dialogue.

Ekmeleddin Ýhsanoðlu, Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), has encouraged Muslims to lobby for laws similar to the US hate crime act that would make it mandatory for a government to collect statistics on hate crimes.

Muslims have been disturbed by a rise in Islamophobic crimes in a number of European countries.

The Topkapi Declaration also underlined the need to work harder and more consistently to eliminate the injustices and grievances that have contributed to the hopelessness and despair of many Muslims and peoples across the world.

In its latest report on the so-called war on terror, the British parliament's influential Foreign Affairs Committee said on Sunday, July 2, that international conflicts, such as the situation in Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territories, breed feelings of injustice in the Muslim world which can boost support for terrorism.

A recent global poll by the American Pew Research Center indicated that the presence of US forces in Iraq weigh heavily on the US image in the Muslim world as well as in Europe and Japan.

Another Pew survey also indicated a widening confidence gap between the west and the Muslim world with the two sides attributing negative traits to the other.


In addition to the declaration, the conference issued a separate statement about incessant Israeli aggressions against the Palestinian people.

"Whilst this conference was about Muslims of Europe we felt it was impossible to ignore the recent events in Palestine which, as citizens of Europe and beyond, we condemn unreservedly," read the statement.

"Those of us present in this Muslims of Europe conference call for the immediate cessation of the bombing of infrastructure and civilian targets and the withdrawal of Israeli troops."

The statement called upon European governments to exert all efforts to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian people.

Israel has so far carried out more than 60 aerial attacks on the impoverished Gaza Strip since Tuesday, June 27, while artillery units have shelled more than 1,000 rounds against the impoverished territory.

About 5,000 troops and columns of Israeli tanks are stationed on the Gaza border in the largest Israeli offensive since it pulled out of the tiny coastal territory last September, ending a 38-year-occupation.


The conference demanded the immediate end of Israeli bombing of infrastructure and civilian targets. (Reuters)

Heba Raouf Izzat, an Egyptian political theorist and expert, said there are lots of challenges facing Muslims in Europe and also a lot of opportunities.

"I believe there are more opportunities for Muslim youth to become active and engaged in negotiating lots of rights and also understanding some of the complex dimensions of specific maps."

Tariq Ramadan, one of Europe's best-known Muslim intellectuals, welcomed the conference outcome, albeit with some reservations.

"It is a very broad one; there is nothing specific you can say it is right or wrong," he told, referring to the 11-point declaration.

"I think it is broad enough to please everyone," said Ramadan who teaches at England's Oxford University and has been a lecturer of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Fribourg and the College de Saussure, Geneva.

The 41-year-old scholar cited many positive elements in the declaration, especially the emphasis on the shared responsibilities of Muslims and European governments.

"We tell our fellow citizens that we are richness to our countries and richness to the future of Europe and we have also to listen to the potential contributions and not to be obsessed by real and marginal problems."

Addressing the conference on Saturday, July 1, Swiss-born Ramadan called on Muslims to become more involved in mainstream European society and to be more ready to criticize themselves.

"We have to practice self-criticism for our own sake, not to criticize Islam, but to criticize our behavior."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16