Saturday, September 12, 2009

Islam and the West: A partnership for the future

Dr. Francis Lamand, president of the Paris-based "Islam and the West" nongovernmental organization, is a man on a mission - to promote understanding between Islam and the Western world. Since the organization's inception in 1980, the former French diplomat and international law expert has sought to develop cultural, social and economic relations between the Islamic and Western worlds, both in France and overseas.

"For the last 30 years my organization has been working vigorously in favor of rapprochement between Islam and the West in religious value as well as cultural, social and economic values," Lamand told Arab News in Jeddah. "I may add that when we established our association in February 1980 with the objective and mission of acting to better the understanding between the two worlds, the public opinion in Europe followed us with a mixture of curiosity and skepticism. We felt the need to establish bridges between the two parties rather than seeing Islam and the West confronting each other and viewing one another as a threat."

Lamand is busy preparing for the international conference and debate that his organization has planned for Nov. 10-12, 2009 in Brussels. The theme of the conference is "Islam and the West: a Partnership for the Future," which is being supported by the European Commission, the Pontifical Council for the Inter-religious Dialogue, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Muslim World League (MWL), the World Muslim Congress (Karachi), the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the Islamic Institute of the Paris Mosque, the Al-Azhar University (Cairo), the Oxford Center of Islamic Studies and the Jeddah-based International Islamic Forum for Dialogue.

"This is not just another conventional forum but rather a valuable encounter that seeks to build a genuine partnership founded on common international, social, cultural and economic values that are shared or could be shared, with a view to generating real cooperation between Islam and the West," Lamand said of the upcoming conference. "In a world which is in the grip of the globalization- related hazards and turmoil, this encounter may be a gateway to a new era of mutual understanding, fellowship and solidarity."

Invitations for the conference have been extended to all those seeking a mutually beneficial rapprochement between the two worlds. "Come, let us join this debate on the future and participate in the construction of a great arch of reconciliation and exchange between Islam and the West, which aims to bring together in the same spirit of concord Jews, Christians and Muslims," he said.

It is an ambitious goal, but Lamand and his organization have accomplished much in the last three decades. During that time "Islam and the West" has played important roles in representing the interest of European mosques and creating an atmosphere in which the European Muslim community could have its own religious television programming. The organization also helped to organize the first tête-à-tête at the Vatican between Pope John Paul II and Dr Abdullah Omar Nasseef, secretary-general of the Muslim World League.

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