Understand each other to prevent conflict: scholars

Professor Dr Sultan T Abu-Orabi (C) speaking during the roundtable discussion on 'Islam and the West' with fellow speakers Dato' Dr Muhammad Afifi Al-Akiti (L)and Professor Carl W Ernst (R) at the Chancellor's Hall, UBD. Picture: BT/Amir Noor

Islam vs the West

ENHANCING knowledge about each other to better understand the problematic relationships between the Islamic world and the West was among the numerous solutions suggested by professional scholars in a discussion aimed at identifying a peaceful and beneficial future for both sides.

Highlighting the topic on "Islam and the West" during the final day of the International Conference on "Envisioning the future of the Islamic World in the era of uncertainties: Views of Scholars", eight scholars who were proficient in Islamic Studies were invited to a roundtable discussion to share their solutions in 'remedying' the friction between the two sides.

Dato' Dr Muhammad Afifi Al-Akiti of Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies said that it was 'fear of the unknown' that has caused the disputes as the two sides lack the understanding of one another.

"We should be reminded of, 'people condemn things they do not understand' or 'people are enemies with regards to what they are ignorant of', and I think it is important for us to realise that this is a major cause of the problem," he said.

"On the other hand however, we should also reflect on the opportunities available to some of us."

He said that knowledge was the key in this context as a 'therapeutics approach' to the matter where educating individuals on both sides would grant them a better understanding which would help solve the 'religious illiteracy' and fear of the unknown about Islam and the West respectively.

"Muslims perceive that injustice and double standards of foreign policy that comes essentially from the US and some of its allies as a certain problem in the problematic relationship between both Islam and the West, I use these terms loosely," he said.

Associate Professor Dr Mohamad Abdalla, in adding to these comments said that "while there is a lack or fair lack of understanding of Muslims and Islam, also equally, there is a lack of understanding on the part of the Muslims on the west and its people."

He added that Muslims need to set a clear vision and strategy in dispelling some of the faced problems that are present in the west such as the fear of the unknown.

The director of the Queensland node of Australia's National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies also noted the failure of identifying one another on both sides which hinders them from being compassionate and merciful in their approach towards one another.

"Perhaps for us as Muslims, we need to bring into understanding and practice the general understanding of that brotherhood and sisterhood does not mean only in Islam, but brotherhood and sisterhood in humanity," he said.

"If that becomes our attitude and that becomes the genuine feeling that eminates from our hearts towards others perhaps then we might be able to take more positive steps."

In suggesting solutions towards their views, Associate Professor Dr Mohamad said that they have to be realistic yet hopeful, where the results would require effort but would not occurred immediately.

He added that being realistic also includes acknowledging the hostility against Islam and Muslims or against any other human being who is different as it is an unfortunate nature of being flawed human beings.

Other than an academic approach towards the problematic relationship, the associate professor also said that academics must not fall into the trap of disengaging from the communities on a grassroot level in their pursuit.The Brunei Times

  Stories in Video