Faith and Community Celebrated at Annual Iftar

On July 17th, community leaders and friends of KARAMAH gathered at the El-Hibri Foundation to celebrate faith, friendship and community in the spirit of Ramadan. During KARAMAH’s annual Iftar, Dr. Amr Abdalla, Vice President of Salam Institute for Peace and Justice and former Vice Rector of the United Nations’ University for Peace, gave a presentation on Conflict Resolution, Peace and the Muslim Context. The audience was fully engaged in Dr. Abdalla’s presentation and further issues were discussed following his approach to the various challenges for peace in Muslim communities. Dr.  Abdalla explained how the field of peace and conflict resolution extends beyond the boundaries of the field of law by addressing the underlying social, cultural, psychological and economic factors which influence various dynamics of conflicts. He 


related this to his own professional experience as a prosecuting attorney in Egypt thirty years ago and the transition he made since then to the field of peace and conflict resolution. Dr. Abdalla spoke at a critical moment in our history–now is a time when there is much conflict and there is a great need to adequately resolve conflict especially from an Islamic perspective. Dr. Abdalla addressed the parallel challenge for peace in the Muslim context–the strong influence from narrow, legalistic interpretations which dominate the traditional Fiqh (doctrine), with negative consequences to Muslim communities worldwide.  He shared a personal story of how a Muslim imam in Chad asserted, during a training of trainer workshop a few weeks ago to Muslim women and men teachers, that “according to Maliki Fiqh, women are two types: sharifa (pure) or waadi3a (lowly). The former is the one who stays put at her home, the latter is the one who works outside of her home.” Dr. Abdalla expressed his shock and disappointment at hearing such an outrageous statement coming from a well-trained imam.  He cautioned against the negative implications of spreading such misinformation while giving it the legitimacy of being part of the traditional Fiqh.  He shared another anecdote about Yasser Burhamy, a leader of the Salafi group in Egypt, who in a presentation recorded on a YouTube video stated that Muslim men who marry non-Muslims should treat them with disdain and make their focus during marriage to convert them to Islam.  He went as far as stating that such man only needs to satisfy his sexual desires with such wife, without building any type of amicable relationship with her.   He used the analogy to a rapist, who only wants to satisfy his sexual desires with a woman he rapes, but does not care to have any form of relationship with her! Dr. Abdalla abhorred such interpretations, and exposed the danger they present in Muslim communities. He also highlighted the dangers facing peace in Muslim communities as a result of imposing customs and traditions which violate the dignity and rights of humans, especially women.  There is, however, hope. Dr. Abdalla shared a very inspiring story of Muslims of Rwanda and Burundi who, themselves either Hutus or Tutsis, refrained from participating in the ethnic war and genocide of 1994. These Muslims believed in the 49th verse of chapter 13 in the Qur’an which states, “We [God] have created you into nations and tribes so that you may KNOW one another” [emphasis added]. Instead of taking part in tribal discord, the Muslims of Rwanda and Burundi were leaders of peacekeeping and peacemaking in their own communities. Dr. Abdalla asserted that the role of Muslim scholars, imams and organizations such as KARAMAH is to re-discover Islam’s teaching and doctrine of peace and peaceful conflict resolution, to sensitize people about them, and to critically and courageously counter the negative distorted interpretations, customs and traditions.  He suggested that such effort will require applying new visions for the interpretations of Islamic sources based not on legalistic narrow methods, but based in multidisciplinary approaches which encompass fields such as psychology, sociology, culture, communication, law and peace studies. This iftar at KARAMAH highlights our mission–to ensure that in every setting and gathering, we continue to have constructive dialogue and educate about Islam. After breaking the fast and enjoying a wonderful meal, the KARAMAH audience was motivated to have a discussion on the state of Muslims around the world and engaged very well with the presentation. The evening concluded as it should–sitting around tables with coffee, tea and dessert while enjoying fruitful discussion.

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