Iqbal Academy Scandinavia observed Iqbal Day at Taastrup in Copenhagen on the 15th November. It was a peace seminar of which the theme was "Religion, Peace and Political Violence". Besides participants from Denmark delegates from other countries also participated including diplomats and ambassadors from different countries. Iqbal Academy Pakistan was represented by the great scholar Dr. Ejaz Akram.
The programme started off with Qur’an recitation and English translation by a prominent young Imam, Naveed Baig, who is the project leader in the Ethnic Resource Team in Islamic Christian Study Centre. This was followed by opening words on the seminar and its aim, by the stage secretary, Iram Khawaja, who is a Ph.D. student at Roskilde University. The main organizer of the seminar, Mr. Abid Ali Abid also said a few words on the importance focusing on peace in today’s world. He stressed that we need to direct our attention towards reality and justice.
Anja Svava Henriksen, president for the Danish Chapter of Youth for Human Rights International, held a short speech and then showed a short movie about human rights. In her speech she focused on the important questions about humanity, war, universality that we have ceased to ask ourselves. After her Dr. Safet Bektovic, a highly accomplished academic, with a Ph.D. background and now working as a professor of Islamic philosophy at University of Copenhagen, started his speech by saying: “I am a philosopher and I like Iqbal”. He talked about violence and peace in its philosophical context and pointed towards some essential points of reflection, such as the idea that violence is present everywhere, and the fact that human nature has a desire for power. In this regard he stressed the importance of thinking about religious and cultural multiplicity, and becoming more aware of the ways in which power and violence works in our lives.
Dr. Lissi Rasmussen, the director of Islamic Christian Study Centre, and a professor at the Centre for European Islamic Thinking in the University of Copenhagen, started her speech by telling about her recent trip to Pakistan, where she visited Lahore, Iqbal Academy, and Iqbal’s tomb. She felt it was a very positive experience and that there is a lot to be learned from that part of the world. Then she moved on to talk more generally about the world situation of today, based on her 30 years of experience working with interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims. She said that globalization has turned our attention towards new issues regarding religion, politics and citizenship, and that means that homogeneity is not possible anymore. “We have to think about solidarity on a global level”, she said and focused on “inclusive citizenship”. She ended her speech with examples from the Prophet Muhammad’s(SAW) life and Allama Iqbal’s thinking on being proactive.
H.E. Ambassador of Nicaragua, and the dean of the diplomatic club, Mr Ricardo José Alvarado Noguera was the next speaker. His excellency has 20 years of experience, working in government, academia and social work. A very lively and engaged speaker, he spoke on the importance on focusing our attention on the basic global inequality in the distribution of material resources. He said, that the main problem is that we lack justice, and that “there cannot be a true and lasting peace without justice”.
After him Mr. Lars Eklund, the director for SASNET (Swedish South Asian Studies Network), from Lund University in Sweden, talked about different activities of SASNET and their ambition of combining social science with technical fields of work to ensure that the research done also can make a difference in real life. The network covers all Swedish universities and has various international relations.
Mr. Jonas Maana, the charge d’affair of the Eritrean Embassy in Sweden talked about his own personal experience being a Eritrean citizen and living in a society where different religions co-exits peacefully and fruitfully. He stressed how it is actually possible for Islam and Christianity to live in harmony and with mutual respect.
The last honoured speaker of the first half of the seminar, Mr. Ghulam Sabir, the founder of Iqbal Academy Scandinavia and a most dedicated scholar on Allama Iqbal, talked about love as the driving force behind peace and religion. He included Søren Kierkegaard saying how important knowing oneself before knowing anything else is, and then hinted towards Allama Iqbal’s idea on how a person who knows about himself is able to know the importance of the other human being. He highlighted that religion and violence are basically contradictory to each other.
The second half of the seminar was started off by a reading of a short excerpt from Allama Iqbal’s Javid Nama, which was followed by H.E. Mr. Ambassador of Japan, Mr. Seiichi Kondo’s speech. His excellency has many years of experience in the diplomatic field and has written several books and articles. In his speech he focused on the question of how it is possible to build peace by overcoming religious and political differences? He highlighted three points in working for peace, firstly, open-minded dialogue, secondly communication and thirdly education. It is important to teach tolerance, modesty and humility, said he.
H.E. Ambassador Mr. Seiichi Kondo was followed by H.E. Mr. Mohammed Reza Morshedzadeh, Ambassador of Iran, who gave a very enlightening speech on human rights and their violations in the West. He said that usually we hear about the violation of human rights in Eastern countries, but it is also important to look into the human rights situation in the West. He focused on issues such as discrimination, politics of assimilation and racism.
Mr. Murad Baseer, second secretary from the Embassy of Pakistan talked about the importance of understanding Allama Iqbal in his true sense. He said, that Iqbal is not limited to one region, he is a universal thinker. He highlighted Iqbal’s belief in walking towards a better future for mankind through knowledge, awareness and critical thought.
Dr. Ejaz Akram was the last speaker of the day, and the guest of honour. Dr. Ejaz Akram is an Associate Professor at Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in Lahore University of Management Sciences. He has done many years of academic research on the interface between religion and the transnational politics of the Muslim world. A great student of Allama Iqbal, he made the long journey from Washington to join the seminar.
Dr. Ejaz Akram started his speech by taking on the concept of peace on a philosophical level and holding it up against how peace is conceived in Islam and Christianity. One of the main points of the speech was the importance of understanding that “Christians are not Christians in the same way as Muslims are still Muslims”, and this creates many difficulties and problems of understanding and communication. It is vital for the Western world to understand its own tradition to understand others tradition. He also pointed towards the relationship between modernity and tradition in this regard and the importance of understanding that modernity in its conceptualisation and use is a false type of universality, as it is not so much about unity but about uniformity. He also highlighted that tolerance is not enough as “you tolerate your enemies, but you need to accept your friends”. Acceptance is the key. Throughout the speech Dr. Ejaz Akram maintained two levels of understanding- one the level ideals (e.g. Quranic sayings and the Prophet SAW’s sunnah) and the other the level of historical reality (specific historical facts and events), and he gave examples from both levels to stress his points.