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Ibn Haldun University Sponsored a Panel At Oxford University

The panel discussion organized by Oxford Union and the Islamic Society of Oxford University, focused on the past, present and the future of Islam in politics. Ibn Haldun University sponsored the event.

Religion plays an increasingly prominent role in politics across the Muslim world. In a panel discussion sponsored by Ibn Haldun University, a scholar of Islamic law and a leading Middle Eastern media editor came together at Oxford University to answer the question of whether there is something inherited in Islam that lends itself to politicization, and to discuss what role faith should play in modernizing governments in the Muslim world.

Wadah Khanfar, the President of Al Sharq Forum and former Director-General of Al Jazeera, observed that extremism is not a result of Islam but a result of ignorance. Khanfar said, “When Western world stood silent while the dream of democracy in the Arab world was murdered, extremism was born.”

Freedom sacrificed

Mr. Khanfar argued that from 2013 onwards, no Western or American politician mentioned democracy for the Middle East and that the word “democracy” became a “taboo.” Khanfar emphasized the point that the extreme ideologies that emerged into the region cannot be regarded as representative of Islam or of Muslims. “Because Muslims are the ones who mostly suffer from it” he said.

Wadah Khanfar added that in the Middle East, freedom has always been confiscated for the sake of certain colonial interests, Western oppression, and other geopolitical interests, but warned, “Freedom has now been sacrificed for something called ‘stability.’”

Associate Professor Jonathan A.C. Brown, Chair of Islamic Civilization at Georgetown University and the editor-in-chief of the Oxford Encyclopedia of Islam and Law, defined Muslims as part of the West and observed that they made significant contributions to its moral and social values. He said, “When we discuss who we are and our values in the West, it would be seen that the Islamic legal tradition, Sharia, is incredibly dynamic and rich.”

Progress in Muslim countries

Regarding the question whether Islam prevented Muslim countries from progressing, Mr. Khanfar stressed that with 1400 years of civilization and the evolution of Islamic concepts, there is no separation between materialistic and value centered things. “So Islam does not use the term ‘progress’ because we have its equivalent that includes both meaning and materiality.” he said.

But according to Mr. Khanfar, governments sometimes use a certain concept of sharia as a narrow-minded approach to what they regard as religion in order to justify their authoritarian rules and to confiscate the right of people to elect their representatives.

On the question of whether Islam accepts religious freedom, Dr. Brown answered that the question should be phrased differently. He underlined that many countries, including those in the West, have boundaries for religious freedom and the freedom of Muslims is restricted in some countries. Dr. Brown said: “In Britain in 2015, Muslims faced restrictions on some certain expressions because they were considered ‘counter to fundamental British values. So if it happened in a Muslim country, would it be considered a restriction of religious freedom? If this question it true, than it should be asked in Western countries as well.”