The World Economic Forum, in collaboration with Georgetown University, has launched the Islam and the West: Annual Report on the State of Dialogue. This first of its kind report is a systematic and thorough overview of how Muslim and Western societies perceive and relate to each other at the political, social, economic and cultural levels.
Most people in Muslim and Western countries believe divisions between them are worsening and each side believes the other disrespects their culture, according to a poll released. The Gallup poll, published in a report on Muslim-Western relations for the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos this week, reflects “an alarmingly low level of optimism regarding dialogue between Islam and the West”, WEF chairman Klaus Schwab said. Negative perceptions were most prevalent in the United States, Israel and the Palestinian Territories, partly because of violence in Iraq five years after the US-led invasion and because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the report said. “In all but two countries surveyed…a majority believed the interaction between Western and Islamic communities is getting worse,” Schwab said of the poll, which questioned around 1,000 people in each of 21 countries.
Spanish government and UN leaders plan to hold the first Alliance of Civilizations forum in mid-January. The conference, which will take place in Madrid, will foster dialogue on such topics like terrorism and cultural clashes. The alliance was created after the September 11th, 2001 attacks to foster an understanding between Islam and the West, and to address issues that continue to cause tensions. International delegates and leaders from Malaysia, Algeria, Turkey, Portugal, in addition to representatives from many organizations and universities plan to attend the conference.
16 young people drawn from seven different faith communities in Yorkshire and Humber was officially launched as founding members of _United Faiths’, the UK’s first Regional Interfaith Youth Council this week. The group has been brought together by the Yorkshire and Humber Faiths Forum (YHFF) as part of its work to provide a voice for young people. The launch was a highlight of the YHFF’s annual conference on Thursday at the Thornbury Centre in Bradford and focused on working in partnership to create harmonious communities. Members from the Youth Council also lead a workshop at the conference on listening and engaging with young people at a local and regional level. They will continue to have an active role in the Forum’s through events such as the ‘Faith in the Media’ conference planned for April 24th 2008 which aims to challenge misconceptions and negative faith stereotypes in the media [Full-text here.->http://themuslimweekly.com/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=037EA360E57F560F85AE5753&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News
A creativity festival was held in Brussels last week, launched as an initiative by FEMYSO to call upon the creativity of young European Muslims. The Muslim community does not always have the opportunity to be heard, FEMYSO (Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations) organized the event to encourage diversity and creativity in religious expression. Among the events, included artistic expressions in song, film, and recitation of the Quran – showing that in practicing their religion, Muslims in Brussels (and throughout Europe as well) maintain strong commitments towards the arts and creativity in their adherence.
The German Public TV Channel 2 (ZDF) started an Internet service for Muslims three months ago. Since then the Muslim Internet service “Forum am Freitag” (Friday Forum) has been accessed by more than 700.000 users.
The far-right British National party was yesterday accused of deliberately ramping up racial and religious tensions by launching a leafleting campaign with anti-Muslim messages, including controversial cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. The depiction of the prophet with a bomb as a turban was one of several images that sparked protests across the world earlier this year. The BNP’s move was criticised as a blatant attempt to reignite the controversy. Azad Ali, of the Muslim Safety Forum, said: “This is a deliberate ploy to create huge tensions … and it is adding to the isolation, fear and frustration felt by many people in the Muslim communities.” The BNP said the leaflet was part of a “coherent campaign to alert people to the Islamification of Great Britain”. It has produced another leaflet on immigration and a second on Islam, which describes the faith as “a threat to us all”. The leaflet was handed out in Sutton in south-west London. Politicians and community leaders said the BNP was trying to exploit a debate about plans to build a mosque in the area. Lal Hussain, a former Sutton councillor and the area’s first Asian mayor, said residents had been shocked. “This is not the sort of thing we expect round here but there is not a chance they will make any headway with these tactics. People here are far too literate and tolerant.” Nick Lowles, of the anti-fascist group Searchlight, said the BNP had run a concerted campaign designed to exploit anti-Muslim feeling since the London bombings last year. “Everywhere the BNP appears racist attacks increase and this leaflet will make it more difficult for Muslims and others to go about their day to day business without being threatened and intimidated.” The row began after a Danish newspaper, the Jutland Post, published cartoons mocking Muhammad. When a group of Danish imams travelled to the Middle East with the cartoons, the affair exploded into a worldwide cultural controversy. The BNP leaflet of Muhammad first appeared earlier this year. The party has also called on Muslims to be banned from flying into or out of the country. Yesterday Phil Edwards, a BNP spokesman, denied it was trying to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment and defended the “no-fly” policy. “Rather than inconvenience everybody we should ban all Muslims from flying in and out of Britain,” he said. The BNP gained 32 councillors in May’s local elections, including 11 of the 13 seats it contested in Barking and Dagenham, east London.