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Under the patronage of Vice President of Tanzania, Dr. Mohammed Gharib Bilal and in the presence of former President of Tanzania Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Secretary-General of Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Abdullah Bin Abdulmohsin Al-Turki, the seminar on "Islamic Culture in East Africa" began its proceedings on 10/4/2013. The seminar was organized by the Muslim World League in cooperation with the Institution of Sheikhs and Muslim Scholars in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
The inaugural session was opened with the recitation of Holy Qur'an, then the Rector of Islamic University in Uganda Dr. Ahmed Kaweesa Ssengendo delivered a speech in which he thanked the patrons and organizers of the seminar. He said that Islam reached Africa before 14 centuries and Africa accepted this religion very early and now it is the only continent where majority of the population are Muslims. He added that Africa is important politically, as it has an ancient history and distinct civilization.
He said, we look forward that our deliberations are fruitful as we live in a world of globalization which is full of contradictions, where rich is becoming richer and poor poorer. He made it clear that Muslims represent 10% of the poor in the world, and our children are deprived of education and health although there are some rich countries. He called on these countries to come forward and help the Muslims in such conditions.
He pointed out that Islam is faced with increasing hatred in the world and it is described as terrorism whereas it is our duty to present Islam in its real perspective as it provides great values and calls for peace, and there are challenges of education and technology.
He concluded that Islam is the best option for mankind for its goodness and peace, and the seminar should look into the conditions of Muslims in Africa and come out with appropriate solutions to their problems.
After that, Former President of Tanzania and Patron of the Institution of Sheikhs and Muslim Scholars, Ali Hassan Mwinyi delivered a speech in which he thanked the participants and said, "Earlier, I had invited the MWL Secretary-General to visit us in order to know closely about the conditions of Muslims and I thank him much, because he responded to our invitation, bearing the trouble of journey and travel. He said, "I am very happy this day when this auspicious seminar is being held.
He emphasized, "The Arab scholars and traders conveyed the religion of Islam and they were exemplary in their dealings. Indeed, Islam enlightened the whole region, then there were Colonization and Westernization. The region was caught by wrong ideas and notions. Now, it is our duty to study the conditions of Africa in this seminar and come out with results and recommendations that make everyone work for progress."
Then, the MWL Secretary-General Dr. Abdullah Bin Abdulmohsin Al-Turki addressed the seminar and said that the history of East Africa witnessed a period of time, in which Islam and Muslims had great civilizational achievements that contributed strongly to the civil, architectural and economic advancement with an Islamic character.
He said that the challenges faced by Muslims in East Africa today, should not deter their aspiration to go ahead to the level where their forefathers had reached and restore the same prominent civilizational position.
He added that Muslim leadership including the Islamic scholars, preachers and heads of the Muslim organizations and institutions should make efforts to develop better relationship with the Muslim world and its cultural organizations and da'wah institutions with the aim of building bridges of cooperation to face the challenges of Muslims in the region, as these challenges include the weak level of Islamic education and religious institutions, which has a direct impact on their relationship with religion and Islamic heritage, as well as on the domination of tribal and racial relationship sometimes over the relationship of religious fraternity through which Islam has united its followers of different ethnic origins.
He emphasized that if Muslims are living with non-Muslim communities, then it is more important for them to take care of jurisprudence that Islam has provided in this regard, and those who are responsible for da'wah and Islamic education should transform the Islamic rules and principles in this regard into practical policies that meet the actual needs and guide the Muslims, how to harmonize between the religious and national requirements, taking inspirations from the applications of early Muslims which the Islamic history has well recorded.
He said, "MWL looks forward with a great hope that re-awakening which has begun in the people of East Africa should continue, and this needs more cooperation between Islamic organizations and institutions as well as more coordination in their projects and programs with training of workers for better performance and renewed methodology of work, in addition to appropriate balance between tradition and modernization, and giving more importance to the media aspect as it is a strong tool in communication with people wherever they are. This also needs to focus on education and support its institutions from schools, institutes and universities. The economic and charitable institutions as well as businessmen have to contribute and make efforts in this vital area. The universities and research centers can contribute in strengthening religious and national awareness through preparation of studies that confront the culture of conflict, separation and domination, and spread the culture of harmony, mutual understanding and dialogue in the resolution of internal and regional problems.
The institutions which are responsible for education and social guidance should double their efforts to protect the identity of Muslims from Westernization and globalization through consolidation of religious and moral values in the new generations and enrichment of their minds with the Islamic culture with proper guidance to deal positively with the means of communication and media. They have also to study the phenomenon of deviation and extremism in understanding the religion, as this leads to the ways of violence, terrorism and Takfeer (exclusion).
In the end of his speech, he highlighted the efforts of the Saudi government to support the Muslims in East Africa and take care of their issues, and thanked the government of Tanzania for cooperation to hold this seminar that contributed in serving the issues of the region in general.
He also thanked the brothers who extended their cooperation to the MWL in organizing the seminar, especially the former President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, the Patron of the Institution of Sheikhs and Muslim scholars in Tanzania as well as other officials of the Institution.
He also thanked the Saudi Ambassador in Tanzania Hani Abdullah Muminah for his cooperation and efforts in organization of this seminar as well as his services to the MWL delegation. He also thanked the researchers, media persons and participants for their cooperation.
After that, Patron of the seminar, Dr. Mohammed Gharib Bilal Vice President of Tanzania delivered a speech which was read out on his behalf by Minister of water, Jumanne Abdallah Maghembe.
He said: "I take this opportunity to thank the Institution for presenting Islam in a beautiful way and the Vice-President has asked me to represent him and welcome you on his behalf." He added that Islam has strong roots in this country, and it is our hope that the seminar would highlight the values of Islam, and every participant has a duty to implement the recommendations and resolutions of the seminar.
He said that the Islamic culture reached the East Africa with high values and ideals of tolerance and peace as Islam is the religion of peace, even the name of Islam is taken from Salaam that means peace, and when we conclude our prayer, we exchange Salaam meaning peace, so there is no way indeed except to describe Islam as a religion of peace.
He said: "Muslims here are good example of Islam, as Islam and its Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) called for education and even prayer is to be performed with knowledge that comes through education. But unfortunately there is backwardness in Africa. Church has eleven universities, and we Muslims do not have except one university.
After that, the MWL Secretary-General presented the MWL shields to the organizers and participants of the seminar.