Through the echoes of conflict and warfare a voice of collective reason, moderation, and resolve rose to assume the challenges of a new world. The “Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow” (MLT) Conference of 2006 has positioned a fresh response aimed at reshaping the context of the adverse circumstances of global Muslim communities in order to establish alternative settings for their benefit and progress.
“Challenges of dogmatic traditionalism bring rise to the need for transparent interpretation within contemporary contexts,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf during the ‘Imam’s Circle,’ of the Conference program. “Your right to belong should not be questioned if I disagree with you in my views,” stated a panelist on the ‘Construct your Identity’ panel. “On what basis do you integrate into an identity catastrophe?” questioned another panelist.
From July 7th to the 10th, over 100 participants of diverse backgrounds selected from 16 countries gathered in Copenhagen, Denmark – the epicenter of the ‘Prophet Muhammad Cartoon Controversy’- for the annual Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow (MLT) conference.
Muslim activists from Australia, Belgium, Bosnia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and others were present to share wisdom and strategic solutions toward Muslim advancement.
The event took place at the Radisson Scandinavia Hotel in the heart of Copenhagen just blocks away from a highly populated restaurant district and the Tivoli Gardens, a famous tourist attraction.
The program notably commenced on the anniversary of the 7/7 London bombings and against the backdrop of other recent world traumas including the 3/11 Madrid bombings, war in Iraq, war in Afghanistan, the Paris riots, mounting tensions in the Middle East–Israeli conflict and the 9/11 atrocities.
Daisy Khan, Conference organizer and Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA Society), described participants as “an impressive group of emerging leaders [who] embody a wide spectrum of Muslims by sect, ethnicity, profession, religiosity, and individual politics.” The 2006 MLT participants were called upon to meet an urgent need for a constructive movement amongst young Muslims that would target and marginalize extremism. (For a comprehensive listing of participants view: http://www.asmasociety.org/mlt2006/
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the ASMA Society and the Cordoba Initiative, launched these religious and educational organizations for the purpose of building bridges between American Muslims and the American public. The mission is implemented through activities in culture, arts, academia and current affairs.
The 2006 MLT participants discussed key issues concerning Muslims in the West. Muslim identity, immigrant marginalization, Islamic reactions to secularism and gender equality in Islam were among some of the topics.
“The 2006 MLT conference provided a forum that fostered a space of tolerance and mutual respect without compromising individual freedom of expression,” said CAIR-Chicago’s Communications Coordinator, Sultan Muhammad. Muhammad was selected to participate in conference discussions as a panelist in the ‘Media and Islam’ program segment.
“Muslims should resist self-censorship and engage the media. We should seek to break the Orientalist frame as the other by seizing opportunities for self-definition provided by the rise in the Western public’s interest in Islam and Muslims,” Sultan said.
The program consisted of presentations and analytical exercises designed to provide outreach strategies, intra-community partnerships, and organizational development. The exercises were aimed at precipitating measurable change within the participants’ prospective institutional reach.
The event served to bring a variety of active Muslim academics, authors, organizers, and leaders that may never have shared the same panel, let alone the same room for constructive debate. Muslim comedian Azhar Usman joked “Where will you ever see the author of ‘What’s Right with Islam’ and the author of ‘The Trouble with Islam Today’ sitting at the same table?”
Candid debate and spirited analysis of the advantages and shortcomings of Muslim participation in the current discourse on Islam and Muslims in the West marked the tone of events. By all assessments, the Muslim leaders and activists in attendance were determined to show that Muslims are a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.
The weekend culminated with the ‘Freedom of Expression’ panel at which a surprise guest was introduced. The guest was none other than Flemming Rose, Jyllands-Posten’s culture editor, the instrumental figure behind the publishing of the controversial ‘Prophet Muhammad Cartoons.’ Although unapologetic about his decision to publish the cartoons, Rose shared with the audience that his experience was pleasant and civil.
For additional information and a detailed list of participant biographies view the following links:
- MLT Press Release
- http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/ display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2006&m= June&x=20060621122425ndyblehs0. 7335169
- http://www.npr.org/templates/ story/story.php?storyId=5554170
- http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/ la-oe-manji21jul21,0,607079.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail
- http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/ commentary/la-oe-aslan25jul25,0,2437837.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions
- http://www.marketplace.org/shows/ 2006/07/26/AM200607261.html
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