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Makkah Islamic Summit Aims at Finding Solution to Syrian Civil War, Solidarity with Rohingya Muslims, and Shi'i-Sunni Dialogue

New momentum for Muslim unity



Thursday 16 August 2012

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah's call at the Makkah Solidarity Summit early yesterday for the creation of a center to promote harmony between the different sects of Islam has received wide support.

"I suggest .. the establishment of a center for dialogue among Islamic sects to come to common terms in Riyadh," King Abdullah said in his historic address to the heads of Muslim states. "Upon recommendation by the general secretariat and the ministerial council, the center's members (can) be selected from within the Islamic summit conference,” he said.

"It is the need of the hour," said an Afghan delegate accompanying President Hamid Karzai. "It is a historic announcement ... Such an initiative has never been taken in the past ... It is a bold move and could only have come from a leader of the stature of King Abdullah," he said.

According to him, all those countries where the sectarian divide is sharp and acute will benefit from King Abdullah's proposal. "What he has said here in Makkah will have a profound bearing on the political landscape of many countries that are facing the grave threat of sectarianism," he said. Afghanistan and Pakistan, he said, will be among the major beneficiaries of such a rapprochement.

"We, in Afghanistan, have Iran as a direct neighbor and so is the case with Pakistan ... If this divide can be bridged and if there is good will among the various sects, then many a political problem can be sorted out in our countries," he said.

King Abdullah expressed delight and happiness at the presence of Muslim leaders from around the globe. "From the vicinity of the House of God, the cradle of eternal Islamic message, it gives me a great pleasure to welcome you in your second country, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, wishing Almighty Allah in these blessed nights to help us to tackle the affairs of our Islamic nation and probe the reasons of its weakness and differences that it is incurring and which marred its consistency and unity,” said King Abdullah.

"The Islamic nation," he said, "is living in a state of sedition and disunity that led to bloodshed of its people in this holy month in many parts of our Islamic world, ignoring God's verse that ‘Persecution is worse than slaughter.’”

King Abdullah underlined the need for solidarity, tolerance and moderation.

"The ideal solution to all that I have mentioned will not take place except through solidarity, tolerance and moderation and also through standing side by side to face whoever tries to harm our religion and unity … Thus, we could preserve the history, dignity and pride of our Islamic nation at a time when only the superpowers are recognized. If we observe justice, we can conquer injustice, if we practice moderation, we conquer extremism and if we reject dispersion, we can keep our unity, strength and determination," said King Abdullah.

A diplomat from Morocco was all praise for the king's initiative.

"The Sunni-Shia animosity is rooted in history. It will not vanish overnight, but we need sustained efforts to focus on the commonalities," he said. "However, it needs to be mentioned here that the ball is now in Iran's court ... The Iranian leadership needs to show courage and reach out to the Sunni world and drop their hegemonistic attitude."

A journalist from Iraq, Diea Alkoaz, agreed with the Moroccon diplomat's assessment. However, he said, he was not sure if Iran would demonstrate similar magnanimity. "The problem with Iran is that it believes and aspires to have political and military supremacy over Arabs and Sunnis ... Till such time as they harbor such grandiose feelings, we will see no change on the ground," he said.

In a gesture that was widely appreciated, King Abdullah seated Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at his side. The Qatari emir sat on the other side of the king.

"It was a message to the Iranian nation and, I assume, to the Saudi people, that we are Muslim and we have to work together and forget about our differences," Abdullah Al-Shammari, a Saudi political analyst, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

"King Abdullah was showing Shiites: we haven't tried to skip over you and ignore you. And he was showing to Sunnis here that here is Ahmadinejad and he is a Muslim too. He is no different," said Al-Shammari.


It was heartwarming to see all Muslim leaders in one place

Makkah: Siraj Wahab
Thursday 16 August 2012

It was the blessed night, a night when the Muslim world’s leaders assembled in the vicinity of the Holy Kaaba. They discussed the challenges facing the Ummah. Inside the Grand Mosque and outside, there were hundreds of thousands of Muslims beseeching Allah to unite the ranks of Muslims around the globe. The imam, leading the Taraweeh prayers, burst into tears frequently while reciting the verses from the Holy Quran. Inside the Al-Safa Palace, the Muslim leaders were received with traditional warmth by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah. All leaders shook hands with the king and took their places. It was such a pleasant sight to see them all in one place at such an important juncture in the history of Muslims.

Turkey’s Abdullah Gul, Egypt’s Muhammad Mursi, Jordan’s King Abdallah, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Yemen’s Abdo Rabbi Mansour Hadi, Palestine’s Mahmoud Abbas, Malaysia’s Najib Razak, Sudan’s Omar Bashir, Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai, Tunisia’s Moncef Al-Marzouki, Pakistan’s Asif Ali Zardari, Bangladesh’s Mohammad Zillur Rahman, all of them were there. What caught everyone’s eye was the special attention that King Abdullah accorded to Ahmadinejad. They shook hands for a long time and exchanged salutations. Both smiled. And then the king gestured Ahmadinejad to sit next to him. He did. He sat on the king’s left side and on the right was Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani.

King Abdullah and Ahmadinejad spoke frequently. All the leaders who came later met the king first and then shook hands with the Iranian president. The picture that came out of the summit was one of reconciliation and large-heartedness. A picture is worth more than a thousand words. That was indeed the case last night.

The summit started with the recitation of the Holy Qur’an. And then King Abdullah addressed the galaxy of Muslim leaders — all of whom came at his invitation. The king’s address will go down as one of the finest by him. It was to the point and came straight from the heart. King Abdullah is not known for mincing words or oblique references. He did not mention Syria nor did he refer to any political issues. He came straight to the point. That of the disunity in the Muslim world.

Every word of his speech can be measured in gold. He spoke eloquently and with a firmness that is his hallmark. One could feel the pain in his voice when he spoke about the killings of Muslims at the hands of Muslims in the holy month of Ramadan. At the end of his address, he called for the creation of a center to promote harmony among the different sects of Islam to be headquartered in Riyadh. There was instant response from the assembled guests. All of them put their hands together and gave a sound round of applause.

For those who were watching the scene from the press gallery, it was a breathtaking moment. “Wow, fantastic proposal,” gushed a journalist from Iraq. “It is unbelievable, and the timing is amazing.” He was obviously referring to the Sunni-Shia divide that has torn apart the Muslim society and is at the heart of many a current political problem.

The Iraqi journalist recalled the meeting that was held a couple of years in Makkah. That meeting, which I covered for my television channel, was also hosted by Saudi Arabia and was attended by the leading Sunni an Shia politicians of Iraq. The journalist felt that much of what was said and agreed at that meeting can become the template for the new Muslim unity that King Abdullah called for on the blessed night of Lailtul Qadr in the blessed city of Makkah.

What the Iraqi journalist said was an interesting perspective. So what was said in that meeting and how can that be relevant to what King Abdullah suggested today?

There was a pact that was issued during that meeting that clearly forbade Shiites and Sunnis from killing each other. Among the eight points of the Sunni-Shia agreement it was pointed out that the most important element is “The Muslim is he who professes his faith by proclaiming ‘Lailaha Illallah Muhammad Rasulullah’ (There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet). By this statement, the Muslim embraces and accepts the five pillars of Islam and the central tenets of its faith, thus rendering his blood and property inviolable.”

“These fundamental principles,” the pact said, “apply equally to the Sunni and the Shia without exception. The differences between the two schools of thought are merely differences of opinion and interpretation and not essential differences of faith.”

It was stated that no follower of either school may expel or declare another an unbeliever or in any other way cast aspersions on the faith of a follower of a different school. The grounds for the ruling were based on a statement by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “If ever one of you calls his brother: You infidel, one of them shall come out the infidel and bear the onus thereof.”

The Sunni-Shia pact ruled that certain things and principles should never be forfeited, including, in particular, unity, cohesion, cooperation and solidarity in piety and righteousness. “It is incumbent upon all Muslims to adopt caution and vigilance against all attempts to sow division among them, break their ranks, or incite sedition, strife, and hatred in order to corrupt their divine and spiritual bonds with each other.”

The entire focus of King Abdullah’s address last night was on common minimum denominators and to avoid sedition and spreading what he called fitna. The king’s proposal is now being widely discussed and appreciated in various blogs and media outlets.

In the media, there has been skepticism about the summit. What will this summit lead to was a frequent question that was being asked of us journalists and columnists. The one simple answer to that was sitting and watching the killings was no option for King Abdullah. As custodian of the two holy mosques, he rightly felt it was his moral duty to step in and put a stop to the fires of sectarianism that is raging in the Muslim world. He took the lead and succeeded in lowering the temperature that was and still is threatening to incinerate some Muslim nations.

Among the many people who watched and listened to King Abdullah’s historic address was ardent Arab News reader and longtime Riyadh-based expatriate from Sri Lanka. He remembered the Islamic summit of 1981. “It was little over 30 years ago an Islamic Summit was held in the same venue under the patronage of late King Khaled. It is still very fresh in my mind how late King Khaled wept when the then imam of Makkah recited a powerful ‘dua’ seeking Almighty Allah’s blessings to unite the Muslim nation. His tears, which were visibly seen, really touched everyone’s heart who watched the proceedings on the Saudi TV,” he wrote in an email to this correspondent. “Keeping with the tradition of rising to the occasion, when the Muslim nation is in real danger, King Abdullah too has called for this summit in this holy month of Ramadan and choosing the same venue. May Allah bless him for his sincere efforts.”

Rise up to the challenges with responsibility, says OIC chief

Summit in Makkah. (SPA)
Thursday 16 August 2012

Professor Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, yesterday called upon Muslim leaders attending the OIC summit in Makkah to rise up to the challenges facing the Ummah with unprecedented responsibility.

The OIC chief commended the heads of state of Muslim countries for quickly responding to the call of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for an emergency summit.
“The Islamic world is now going through the most difficult period of its contemporary history after World War I,” he said, highlighting the significance of the two-day summit.

The OIC chief also referred to the Arab uprisings that ousted governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. “People are now vigilant and are looking forward to a decent life and good governance, giving top priority to the higher interests of the nation.”

Professor Ihsanoglu added “It has become quite clear that the Islamic world will not make progress if it continues in its present situation. It is imperative for the Islamic nation to play a leading role in the world.”

He praised King Abdullah for convening the summit to address the major issues facing the Ummah. “As a completion of the 10-point program approved by the 2005 Islamic summit, King Abdullah wants to strengthen Islamic solidarity to promote joint Islamic action,” the OIC secretary-general said.

Ihsanoglu said the 57-member body has been making strenuous efforts to bolster Islamic unity and solidarity to defend Muslim causes, such as the Palestinian issue, in addition to fighting Islamophobia.

“The OIC countries play a vital role in the United Nations. It is the largest bloc in the international body in terms of voting power,” he added.

Ihsanoglu said OIC foreign ministers met in Jeddah ahead of the summit and prepared a draft of the resolutions to be approved by summit leaders.

He said the summit’s resolutions deal with issues such as Palestine, Islamic solidarity, Syria, Mali and Myanmar, adding that these resolutions would charter the OIC’s course of action in the coming months.

Ihsanoglu thanked King Abdullah for giving his approval to build a new headquarter for the OIC, adding that its design would be displayed during the summit’s last session.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current president of the OIC, addressed the summit’s opening session. He highlighted the situation in Syria and denounced the atrocities being committed against the Rohingya Muslims by the Buddhist regime in Myanmar. “We are facing continuous refusal by the Syrian government. We want resolutions asking the Syrian regime to stop the killing of innocent people,” he said.

The Senegalese leader said extremist groups should be forced to return to reason and moderation. He also called for appointing a special envoy for the Sahara region to address the situation there.

The two-day summit reflects King Abdullah’s untiring efforts for decades to unify the Arab and Muslim ranks and mend their rifts. The king’s role in enhancing cooperation and creating harmony between all Arab and Islamic countries stems from the Kingdom’s ethical and religious obligation toward the Ummah.

Islamic summit will take Myanmar’s Rohingyas issue to UN

Agence France Presse
Thursday 16 August 2012
Arab News, MAKKAH:

The Islamic Solidarity Summit decided on Thursday to take the issue of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingyas, displaced by deadly sectarian violence, to the United Nations.

At a meeting in the holy city of Makkah the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) condemned “the continued recourse to violence by the Myanmar authorities against the members of this minority and their refusal to recognize their right to citizenship.”

“The summit has decided to bring this matter before the General Assembly of the United Nations,” it said in a final statement.

The OIC announced on Saturday before the summit that it had received a green light from Myanmar to assist displaced Rohingya.

It said Myanmar gave its agreement following talks in the capital Yangon on Friday between a delegation from the pan-Islamic body and President Thein Sein on the “deplorable humanitarian situation in Rakhine state.”

The delegation assured Thein Sein that Islamic humanitarian organizations were willing to provide aid to all residents of the strife-torn state.

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah decided Saturday to grant $50 million to the Rohingya, describing them as victims of “several rights violations, including ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and forced displacement.”

Violence between Buddhists and Rohingya has left scores dead, with official figures indicating that 80 people from both sides died in initial fighting in June.

The entire state has been under emergency rule since early June with a heavy army and police presence.

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