Qatar: Future Muslim leaders seek fresh path
'No better time' for change, say activists at this past weekend's youth conference in Doha, Qatar.
The question put to the young Muslims gathered here from around the world went to the heart of today's perceived clash between Islam and the West: "Do Muslims and non-Muslims share equal responsibility in taking steps to reduce Muslim extremism?"Skip to next paragraph
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The answer, delivered instantly through wireless voting pads, was crystal clear: Seventy-five percent replied "Yes."
The verdict is worth heeding because of where it happened: At a conference of 300 progressive Muslim activists from 75 countries.
The "Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow Conference," was meant to be a catalyst for social change in the Islamic world by inspiring the activists and giving them opportunities to network.
"We're living in challenging times, and the plot for Muslims has been written by others," said Daisy Khan, of the New York-based American Society for Muslim Advancement, which worked with the Cordoba Initiative and the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations to organize the event. "The time has come for Muslims to write their own plot, and to define themselves around the core values they believe in: pluralism, freedom, justice, creativity, and intellectual development."
Participants included a Saudi businesswoman, a New York filmmaker, an Indian teacher, an Italian imam, a Dutch lawyer, an Egyptian writer, and Osama Saeed Butta, who informed his peers in a fine Scottish brogue that he will be running for a seat in Britain's Parliament come the next election.
While some activists hold more conservative views than others, all are committed to pluralism as an Islamic value, Ms. Khan said.
The discussion sessions, which included the instant polling, tackled some of the thorniest questions facing Muslim intellectuals today, including: "Is there a crisis of religious authority in Islam?" Eighty-six percent said "Yes." And "are there Islamic values that are in conflict with Western values?" Sixty-one percent said "Yes."
Panelist Madiha Younas, of Pakistan's International Islamic University, said she often encounters anxiety over clashing values. "Our people are worried about what will happen if our youth will start to live like the West."
She added, to general approval from the floor, that "it's not an Islamic value to have absolute freedom. Islam puts boundaries on you."