Preserving and strengthening identity
The impact of the globalization process, which has brought unprecedented changes in societies and accelerated the pace of scientific and technological development, has caught human beings unprepared, and there is still a number of issues at the macro and micro levels which need to be examined with great care to protect the ethical and human values as well as the unique characteristics of societies.
In the context of globalization, safeguarding the culture and civilization of Muslim people has become an essential factor in preserving their identity and is a vital element that enriches cultural diversity and the expected dialogue among cultures and civilizations. Throughout their history, original educational institutions have played an important role in protecting the Islamic identity and withstanding any attempt to obliterate or dissolve it.
They have indeed significantly contributed to raising human, economic and social development indicators in Islamic countries by reducing illiteracy rates and enabling young people to access the labor market by providing them with theoretical and practical training and infusing them with the values necessary for productivity and income generation. Now there is a need to enhance this education in the context of the cultural and economic requirements of the modern world: dialogue, tolerance, peace, gender issues, employment, etc.
Illiteracy among Muslims is still the most dangerous scourge and challenge that impede any optimum investment of human resources in the implementation of national development plans in their countries. Due to many complex factors related to the political, cultural, economic, social and demographic conditions, the efforts led so far in several Muslim countries to combat and eradicate illiteracy still prove inadequate. Worse still, this scourge has taken on alarming proportions in countries with a long-standing record of political and social instability. Not only is illiteracy an economic burden on the individual, his or her family and country, but it also threatens the stability of social and political institutions, because illiterate citizens may be easy prey for extremists who wish to use them to achieve their [ dangerous political or other objectives.
With the sweeping changes in technology and applied science and the corollary prosperity in the information industry, the service sector, and developments in the labor market and production systems, it has become necessary for international and regional bodies involved in education, as well as relevant ministries, and centers for studies, planning and school counseling across the world, to revise existing educational programs and policies to chart the strengths and weaknesses in educational systems all over the world. It has also become necessary and to develop a roadmap for improving educational systems around the world to contribute effectively to human and societal development.
Defending spiritual and scientific knowledge
The modern university is expected to address the epistemic crisis resulting from the artificial separation between knowledge and religion and the stripping of science of religious values and content, and of philosophical insights. The modern university also seeks to further the understanding of Islam along with its intellectual and philosophical trends, and to take stock of human expertise in the different fields of knowledge and assimilate it in the structure of Islamic thought in a sound and reasonable way. Other aims include asserting the importance of integration and creative coexistence among natural, human, and social sciences on the one hand, and learning by rote, reasoning, and education on the other. The ultimate goal is to build the well-balanced Muslim personality which in its thinking, methods and behavior draws upon harmony between rational, spiritual, and scientific knowledge.
Islam was the first civilization and culture ever to balance unity and diversity. It was indeed the melting pot of different peoples and cultures who rallied around this monotheist religion that provides for the right to diversity and difference without any discrimination or segregation. It is a call for mutual acquaintance and concord, as Allah the Exalted says, “O mankind! We created you of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other, not that you despise each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous” [Al-Hujurat (the Dwellings) 49:13], and “And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colors” [Ar-Rum (the Romans) 30:21].
As a result of this avant-garde civilizational vision, the peoples of the Islamic Ummah proceeded to writing their languages in the Arabic script so as to remain spiritually linked to the Holy Quran, and to its culture, language, sciences, arts and literature, as well as to the noble tradition of the Prophet. Thus, Persians, Turks, Kurds, Bengalis, and others wrote their languages in Arabic, just as did the Hausas, Fulanis, and Swahilis. These languages have greatly progressed and the literary, artistic, scientific and cultural heritage of their people registered significant improvement, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of manuscripts housed in libraries and documentation centers.
With regard to indigenous cultures, delays in the adoption of a universal convention on the protection of popular arts, traditional know-how, and genetic resources confirm the economic and cultural challenges inherent in development of society. With this in mind, emphasis must be put on this sensitization process on the role of traditional know-how in sustainable development.
Indeed, it is not enough to guarantee the right of linguistic minorities to cultural expression, but their right to direct the use and preservation of their cultural heritage must be preserved. Furthermore, and considering the major role civil society plays as the link between national policies and the strategies of international organizations involved in sustainable development, the scope of partnerships with civil society organizations and institutions will be broadened to achieve the desired objectives.
Islamic countries have always placed greater emphasis on the promotion of social and human sciences policies and programs at national, regional and international levels. As such, action will have to be taken to facilitate implementation of national social and human policies through the convening of various events with the objective to advance knowledge, standards, freedom and human dignity, and to enable Islamic countries to adopt social transformations in accordance with the Islamic spirit and values.
Efforts to support education and research programs of institutions to prepare suitable human resources and to enable researchers to identify and solve social, cultural and human problems arising from the development of new trends and reactions in the society will have to be sustained. The research results will be utilized to contribute to policy formulation and implementation of action according to the real needs of populations. Emphasis will also be put on enhancing the roles of various sectors of society through wider dissemination of knowledge, and understanding of social and human issues so as to enable the general public to play an effective role in determining the trends of society.
Recognition of human rights includes , such as the right to and , , and . Social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in politics and , the , the , and the , are the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provided a basic foundation to proclaim that ALL human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Islam has always promoted human, civil, economic and social rights. Asserting these rights provides a firm foundation for peace and justice and allows all human beings to live with each other with dignity and freedom.
Women are equal to men in the pursuit of knowledge and are vital to life. The status of women in Islam constitutes no impediment. Islam grants equal rights to women to contract, to engage in enterprise, to earn and to possess property independently. Efforts will have to be continued to promote gender equality and balance. Acknowledgement of social rights of women is an urgent necessity and must undeniably be pursued by promoting women’s role in social development, while keeping in view Islamic principles and values.
Conferences, seminars and symposia will have to be organized to examine women’s progress towards empowerment and gender equality and social, economic, political and cultural obstacles, to increase their capacity. Projects will have to be implemented to strengthen women’s role in social development through cross-cutting themes especially related to poverty alleviation in poor localities. In order to uplift women especially in rural and urban areas, formal and non-formal education and training will be utilized in order to combat illiteracy, elevate their role and provide equal opportunities in the social development of their societies and to allow women to achieve self-fulfillment.
Advocating dialogue and tolerance
As a result of new threats, the outbreak of violent inter-ethnic conflicts in many parts of the world in recent years, violent terrorist incidents, international level propaganda against Islam, as well as the introduction of new technologies and certain scientific developments and the process of globalization, there has been an increased surge in social problems.
Societies and communities have also observed an increase in intolerance and hatred among human beings on the basis of fundamentalism, extremism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. In order to respond to the challenges emerging in modern societies, it is necessary to adopt an . Islamic countries will have to take steps to combat all forms of racism, xenophobia and discrimination and to promote dialogue among civilizations in order to resolve all kinds of differences and bring harmony to the creation of peaceful social conditions.
The International Conference on Fostering Dialogue among Cultures and Civilizations through Concrete and Sustained Action, which was organized in Rabat in 2005, jointly between ISESCO, the OIC, UNESCO, ALECSO, the Danish Center for Culture and Development, and the Anna Lindh Euro Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures, provided an occasion to examine concrete and sustained initiatives in dialogue among cultures in the areas of education, culture, communication and science.
The conference culminated in the Rabat Commitments. These commitments resulted from the reflection on ways to instill the values of tolerance, dialogue, and openness toward other cultures, civilizations and religions, into the minds of children and youth in schools, through integration of concepts serving that purpose into educational programs of formal and non-formal education institutions, with the goal to uproot the causes of violence and discrimination that may result from cultural, ethnic and religious differences.
Islamic countries will also have to undertake efforts and implement actions to deal with social and human problems and issues which are not resulting from poverty or emanating from an extreme form of it. Special projects and awareness campaigns will have to be launched to enhance understanding among religions and cultures. Propaganda against Islam will have to be countered through provision of knowledge about Islam’s principles of peace and tolerance.
The alleviation of poverty, a scourge that is widespread in Islamic countries, has always been a target under various programs of international organizations. In view of the significant impact of poverty on sustainable economic development, Islamic states will have to initiate policies, projects and national plans and support the implementation of appropriate strategies and solutions to reduce poverty. Activities of Non-Governmental Organizations working in the field of social and human sciences have been strengthened to tackle issues of vital concern for populations living in poor localities.
However, initiatives will also have to be taken to strengthen the programs of parties engaged in the alleviation of the suffering of impoverished populations. Training programs should be conducted to foster the capacities of underprivileged and physically handicapped people of the society. Creation of economic opportunities for the unemployed and empowerment of women will also remain a targeted area of action. Islamic states will have to work jointly with the United Nations agencies both in the organization of conferences and seminars and in the implementation of in-field projects to alleviate poverty.
Urgent solutions are needed for the current needs in Islamic states. Today it is axiomatic that the development of education, science, culture and communication hinges on security and peace, within or among the U.N. Member States both at the regional and international levels. No development is conceivable under a climate filled with ethnic, sectarian and religious tensions.
The same is true when there is a lack of justice and mutual respect, which are key elements for creating international relations that could promote prosperity and human development. Finally, it is internationally recognized that the alliance of civilizations represents the sole means that can restore balance to the world and establish peace, respect for diversity, and acknowledgment of the legitimate cultural rights and civilizational specificities of the different peoples and nations.
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