The symposium on 'Sources of Information on the Islamic World' began its four-day activities today in Riyadh. The symposium is organized by the King Abdul Aziz Public Library in collaboration with the Islamic Development Bank and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance. Yesterday, on behalf of Deputy Prime Minister and Commander of the National Guard Crown Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, who is Chairman of the Library's Board of Directors, Assistant Deputy Commander of the National Guard and Deputy Chairman of the Board Sheikh Abdulaziz Bin Abdulmohsen Al-Tweijri inaugurated the symposium and addressed the participants.
Reading the speech of Crown Prince Abdullah, he referred to the current era of great change. Mentioning the conquering of space, Crown Prince Abdullah recalled that the Holy Qur'an states that whatever mankind discovers constitutes only a trifle compared to what is known by God Almighty. He called for enforcement of Islamic values in order to help mankind eliminate poverty, oppression, hunger, fear and misery.
Sheikh Al-Tweijri went on to quote Crown Prince Abdullah as saying: "We are exhausting every humane and benevolent means to engage civilization and people in humane and civilized communication and understanding, especially in this age of information, which has transformed the globe with all attending concepts, philosophies, legacies, beliefs, and differences into something that resembles one school, in one village, occupied by one human family. What a heavy burden this school would be on him who thought he is the only teacher. This is what man should pause to consider so that he may discern how to deal with man." He went to say: "Man, referred to above, includes all human beings without distinction, prejudice, bias or racism. All people are equal in God's eyes, regardless of color or gender. In the past, when human beings were scattered in different communities over the face of the earth, with different languages and concepts, and governed by consanguinity and ethnocentricity, they lacked familiarity among themselves. Today, however, the Holy Qur'an renews its call to humanity: 'O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other.' "
Crown Prince Abdullah's speech continued by saying: "Therefore, it can be said that in this age of information, no one is justified in ignoring the virtue of getting to know others. It is the way to peace, security, stability and welfare - it is the civilized way. All the wide gaps experienced in the course of human history were caused by ignoring this fact." He went on to express the wish that contemporary civilization "would impart a sense of security to those who are victims of fear, hunger or oppression. We wish it would embark on a course of moderation in all human endeavors. We wish it would not adopt the philosophy of the 'superman', and instead be humane, with inclinations emanating from conscience and not the calculations of brute force."
Turning to the concept of what is termed 'a clash of civilizations', Crown Prince Abdullah's speech stated that civilizations are created by civilized human beings. Civilizations, he said, are capable of competing in constructive fields, of engaging one another in dialogue, not out of enmity or adversity, but in an atmosphere of give and take, free from ethnocentricity and racism. He hoped that the ongoing symposium would bear witness to this truth, that there is no conflict among civilizations, a truth that is being denied by certain media. He pointed out that every society has its share of eccentrics and the few Muslims who act in way that harms Islam and Muslims are eccentrics.
Secretary-General of the Muslim World League (MWL) Dr. Abdullah Bin Saleh Al-Obaid has praised the idea of convening the symposium. In a press statement after its inauguration yesterday, he urged all Islamic institutions and research centers that are concerned with Muslims' issues, to get involved in the necessary studies.
Last Friday, Minister of Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Call and Guidance Sheikh Salih Bin Abdulaziz Al-Assheikh underlined the symposium's importance in projecting Islam in a proper manner, saying it comes at a time when wrong information is being circulated about Islam. He reiterated the Ministry's concern to present authentic information about Islam, and referred to its plan to send people overseas, to see to the provision of correct data to researchers in the field of Islamic studies and to organize seminars and conferences. Sheikh Al-Assheikh also said that the Ministry had conducted extensive studies on ways to confront web sites on the Internet that give inaccurate information about Islam and sometimes defame it. He announced that the Ministry has set up its own web site (http://www.islam.org.sa).