In the context of globalization, the safeguarding of the cultural and cultural specificities of Muslim people has become an essential factor to preserve their identity and a vital element that enriches cultural diversity and the expected dialogue among cultures and civilizations. Throughout their history, original education institutions have played an important role in protecting the Islamic identity and withstanding any attempt to obliterate or dissolve it.
They have indeed significantly contributed to raising human, economic and social development indicators in the Islamic countries by reducing illiteracy rates and enabling young people to access the labor market by providing them with theoretical and practical training and infusing them with the values advocating action and income generation.
Now there is a need to enhance this education in light of the cultural and economic requirement of the modern world: dialogue, tolerance, peace, gender issues, employment, etc.
Illiteracy among Muslims is still the most dangerous scourge and challenges that impede any optimum investment of human resources in the implementation of the national development plans in the countries of the Muslim world. Due to many complex factors related to the political, cultural, economic, social and demographic conditions, the efforts led so far in several States to combat and eradicate this scourge still prove inadequate. Worse even, this scourge has taken on alarming proportions in countries with a long-standing record of political and social instability.
The truth of the matter is that illiteracy is besides being an economic scourge on the individual, his family, and country, it is also a danger on the stability of people and social and political institutions, given that such citizens can be easy prey for extremists that use them to achieve their vile and dangerous objectives.
Islam was the first civilization and culture ever to balance unity and diversity. It was indeed the melting pot of different peoples and cultures who rallied around this monotheist religion that provides for the right to diversity and difference without any discrimination or segregation.
It is a call for mutual acquaintance and concord, as Allah the Exalted says,
“O mankind! We created you of a male and female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know each other, not that you despise each other. Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is he who is the most righteous” [Al-Hujurat (the Dwellings) 49:13],
“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours” [Ar-Rum (the Romans) 30:21].
As a result of this avant-garde cultural vision, the peoples of the Islamic Ummah proceeded to write their languages in the Arabic script so as to remain spiritually linked to the Holy Quran, and to its culture, language, sciences, arts, and literature, as well as to the noble tradition of the Prophet. Thus, Persians, Turks, Kurds, Bengalis, and others wrote their languages in Arabic, similarly as the Hausas, Fulanis, Swahilis, and others. These languages have greatly progressed and the literary, artistic, scientific and cultural heritage of their people registered significant improvement, as evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of manuscripts housed in libraries and documentation centers.
Under the sweeping changes being witnessed in the world of technology and applied science and the corollary prosperity in the industry of information, the sector of services, and the developments in the labor market and the production systems, it has become necessary for the international and regional bodies active in the field of education as well as the competent ministries, centres for studies, prospection, planning and school counseling across the world, to initiate revision of the existing educational plans and policies in order to chart the strengths and weaknesses in the educational systems all over the world, and to draw up a roadmap for actions likely to qualify the educational systems in the world to effectively contribute to the much-desired human and societal development.
The International Conference on Fostering Dialogue among Cultures and Civilizations through Concrete and Sustained Action, which was organized in Rabat in 2005, jointly between ISESCO, the OIC, UNESCO, ALECSO, the Danish Center for Culture and Development, and the Anna Lindh Euro Mediterranean Foundation for the Dialogue between Cultures, provided an occasion to examine concrete and sustained initiatives in dialogue among cultures in the areas of education, culture, communication and science. The conference was crowned with the Rabat Commitments. These commitments constitute a successful outcome of the efforts in reflection about the ways of instilling the values of tolerance, dialogue, and openness onto other cultures, civilizations and religions, into the minds of children and the youth in schools, through integration of concepts serving that purpose into educational programmes of formal and non-formal education institutions, to uproot the causes of violence and discrimination that might result of cultural, ethnic and religious differences.
The impact of the globalization process, which has brought unprecedented changes in our societies and accelerated the pace of the scientific and technological development has caught the human beings unprepared and there is still a number of issues at mega and micro levels which need to be examined with great care to protect the ethical and human values as well as the unique characteristics of the Islamic societies.
Action will have to be taken to facilitate implementation of national social and human policies through the convening of various events with the objective to advance knowledge, standards, freedom and human dignity and to enable the Member States to adopt social transformations in accordance with the Islamic spirit and values. Efforts to support education and research programmes of the institutions to prepare suitable human resources and to enable researchers to identify and solve social, cultural and human problems arising from the development of new trends and reactions in the society will be sustained. The research results will be utilized to contribute to policy formulation and implementation of action according to the real needs of populations. Emphasis will also be laid on enhancing the roles of various sections of society through wider dissemination of knowledge, and understanding of social and human issues so as to enable the general public to play an effective role in determining the trends of society.
The impact of the globalization process, which has brought unprecedented changes in our societies and accelerated the pace of the scientific and technological development has caught the human beings unprepared and there is still a number of issues at mega and micro levels which need to be examined with great care to protect the ethical and human values as well as the unique characteristics of the Islamic societies. Islamic countries have always placed greater emphasis on the promotion of social and human sciences policies and programmes at national, regional and international levels.
A woman is equal to man in pursuits of knowledge and same vital to life. The status of women in Islam constitutes no problem. Islam grants equal right to woman to contract, to enterprise, to earn and to posses independently. Efforts will be continued under this program to promote gender equality and balance, acknowledgement of social rights of women and to protect women’s role in social development keeping in view the Islamic principles and values. Conferences, seminars and symposia will be organized to examine women progress towards empowerment and gender equality and social, economic, political and cultural obstacles to increase their capacity. Projects will be implemented to strengthen their role in social development through cross-cutting themes especially related to poverty alleviation in poor localities. In order to uplift women especially in rural and urban areas formal and non-formal education and training will be utilized in order to alleviate their role and provide equal opportunities in the social development of their societies and to achieve self-fulfillment.
Recognition of human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education, is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) provided the basic foundation to proclaim that All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. ISESCO has always promoted human, civil, economic and social rights, asserting these rights provide a firm foundation for peace and justice and allow all human fellows to live with each other with dignity and freedom.
As a result of these new threats and the outbreak of violent inter-ethnic conflicts in many parts of the world in recent years, terrorist incidents international level propaganda against Islam as well as an introduction of new technologies and certain scientific developments and the process of globalization an increased surge in social problems has been observed. Societies and communities have also observed an increase in tolerance and hatred among human being on basis or fundamentalism, extremism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance. In order to respond to the challenges emerging in modern societies, it is necessary to adopt an integrated approach to combat racism, discrimination, xenophobia, and intolerance. The Islamic Member States will take a step to combat all forms of racism, xenophobia, and discrimination and will promote dialogue among civilizations in order to resolve all kind of differences and bring conformity in the creation of peaceful social conditions. They will, also, step up their efforts and implement actions under the current action plan to deal with social and human problems and issues which do not result in poverty or emanating from extreme poverty. Special projects and awareness campaigns will be launched to enhance the coherence and learning process in the execution of the projects. Propaganda against Islam will be countered through the provision of knowledge about Islam principle of peace and tolerance. Racial discrimination and atrocities perpetrated against the people of Palestine will also be considered under this program.
Alleviation of poverty, a scourge that is widely spread in the Islamic countries, has always remained a target under various programmes of international organizations. In view of the significant impact of poverty on sustainable economic development, Islamic Member States will initiate policies, projects, and national plans and supported the implementation of appropriate strategies and solutions to reduce the plight of poverty. Activities of Non-Governmental Organizations working in the field of social and human sciences were strengthened to tackle issues of vital concern for populations living in poor localities. This programme will also strengthen the action of the parties engaged in the alleviation of the suffering of impoverished populations. Training programmes are to be conducted to foster the capacities of the underprivileged and physically handicapped people of the society. Creation of economic opportunities for the unemployed and empowerment of women will also remain a targeted area of action. The Islamic Member States has worked jointly with the United Nations agencies both in the organization of conferences and seminars and in the implementation of projects to alleviate poverty and will continue doing so.
The preservation of cultural diversity has drawn considerable attention from ISESCO both before and after the launch of UNESCO’s Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions. In the same vein, the Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers (Algiers, 2004) adopted the Islamic Declaration on Cultural Diversity. Several relevant activities were implemented jointly with UNESCO and the International Organization for Francophone Culture. These included, in particular, the international conference on the dialogue of civilizations and cultural diversity which was held in Qairouan in June 2009, the year on which this city was celebrated as the capital of Islamic culture for the Arab region. The awareness of the international community of the importance of protecting and consolidating cultural diversity was the fruit of a deep reflection about cultural issues over the past sixty years. Yet, this concept is not yet fully-fledged, nor have all its dimensions been uncovered.
With regard to indigenous cultures, delays in the adoption of a universal convention on the protection of popular arts, traditional know-how, and genetic resources confirm the economic and cultural challenges inherent to this issue. With this in mind, emphasis must be laid in this sensitization process on the role of traditional know-how in sustainable development. Indeed, it is not enough to guarantee the right of linguistic minorities to cultural expression but also their right to monitor the exploitation of their intellectual heritage. Furthermore, and considering the major role the civil society plays in this regard as the link between national policies and the strategies of sustainable development international organizations, the scope of partnerships with civil society organizations and institutions will be broadened to achieve the desired objectives.
Today it is axiomatic that the development of education, science, culture, and communication hinges on security and peace, within or between the Member States both at the regional and international levels. No development will be conceivable under a climate filled with ethnic, sectarian and religious tensions. The same is true for the lack of justice and mutual respect, which are key elements for creating international relations that could promote prosperity and human development. Also, it is internationally recognized that the alliance of civilizations represents the sole means that can restore balance to the world and establish peace, respect for diversity and the acknowledgment of the legitimate cultural rights and cultural specificities of the different peoples and nations.
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