In the contemporary political worldscape crisscrossed more deeply by the viscous flows of religious animosities than the free-flowing channels of amity and tolerance, the UAE’s decision to host the first-ever World Conference on Muslim Minorities is a welcome step. The ideological friction that besets Muslim minorities in the West needs to be addressed in a formal manner that behoves its urgency and the conference possesses the requisites to fulfil this purpose.
The concerns of Muslim minorities in the West are many and complex, which is not to infer that solutions are not possible through dialogue and discussion. In setting for itself the task of examining opportunities and challenges of Muslim minorities and examining the obstacles to their seamless assimilation, juxtaposed with the over-arching phenomenon of religious extremism and Islamophobia, the event’s catalytic advantage is well delineated.
The initiative could well be the clear voice of reason that transmits itself successfully to governments and societies in the West, and indeed to the world. One of the conference’s aims deserves a special mention: To improve the functioning of Islamic institutions in the world so they can engineer intellectual and spiritual security for Muslim minorities and encourage them to engage in building their societies in civil and cultural initiatives. This purpose has immense value as it addresses an element with a transformational power – the ability of institutional stewardship to empower its people towards the right goals.
The sense of otherness that pervades many western societies with regard to their Muslim minorities is a major fault line in modern history and the World Conference holds the potential to point to a more stable ground on which to carry on the process of integration.