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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 5    Issue 19   16-28  February 2011

Harnessing Globalisation’s Resources

Professor A. R. Momin

The term globalization refers to a broad spectrum of phenomena in the contemporary world, including large-scale international migrations, the rapid growth and impact of modern information and communication technologies, the dwindling scope and powers of the nation-state and the increasing porousness of national boundaries, the rise of supranational frames of power and international relations, transnational diasporas, the rapid and unprecedented flows of capital, people, goods, ideas, cultural symbols, lifestyles and images, and the global intertwining of communication, production and consumption. Globalisation entails fundamental changes in the spatial and temporal dimensions affecting individual and social life. David Harvey conceptualizes globalization principally as a manifestation of the changing experience of time and space. He speaks of “time-space compression” and says that globalization involves the shrinking of space and the shortening of time as a result of the acceleration of the pace of life, brought about by rapid technological and social changes. Under the impact of globalization, social, economic and political processes are becoming increasingly global in scope. Processes of production and marketing are becoming increasingly integrated on a global scale. For example, the doors of Ford cars are made in Barcelona, the seat cushions near Budapest, gear box in the suburbs of Paris, music system in Osaka, and all these components are assembled in Kuala Lumpur. The celebrated British sociologist Anthony Giddens defines globalization as “the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa.” Terry Jones, the pastor of a small church in Florida, threatened to burn copies of the Holy Quran last year. The news became a big international event fraught with potentially dangerous consequences and repercussions, thanks to modern information and communication technologies.

Though globalization has not brought about the disintegration or demise of the nation state, it has significantly diminished and undermined its power and authority. The process of globalization is closely linked to cultural homogenization, resurgence of ethnic identities, hybridization and creolization, and multiple modernities. International migrations have created spaces for greater interaction and exchange among people belonging to different national, ethnic and religious backgrounds and have thus brought about a greater awareness and sensitivity towards cultural diversity.

A great deal of hype, rhetoric and controversy surrounds the concept and process of globalisation. The protagonists of globalisation hail it as the promised messiah of mankind and wax eloquent about the end of geography, a borderless world, deterritorialization and the emergence of the global village. There are two basic definitions or conceptualisations of globalisation. One focuses on its economic and technological aspects, while the other views it as an essentially social and cultural phenomenon. One of the leading American economists and Nobel Laureate, Paul Krugman, defines globalisation as “a catchall phrase for growing world trade, the growing linkages between financial markets in different countries, and the many other ways in which the world is becoming a smaller place”. Likewise, another eminent economist and Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, views globalisation as primarily characterised by the closer integration of national economies. On the other hand, scholars and commentators who emphasise the social and cultural character of globalisation, focus on the global movement of people, ideas and cultural patterns, the intensification of worldwide social interdependence and exchanges, growing homogenization around the world in respect of lifestyle and entertainment and the deepening connections between global and local conditions and contexts.

A great deal of hype, rhetoric and controversy surrounds the concept and process of globalisation. The protagonists of globalisation hail it as the promised messiah of mankind and wax eloquent about the end of geography, a borderless world, deterritorialization and the emergence of the global village. On the other hand, globalization is denounced by its critics for increasing and reinforcing the worldwide inequalities of power, wealth and resources, for widening the gap between the rich and the poor, for contributing to rising poverty, deprivation and hunger in large parts of the world, for creating a world where moral values, societal cohesion, identities and individualities are being increasingly undermined. Both the views are extreme and lack a sense of balance and proportion. Four points in this connection are note-worthy. First, globalization is here to stay and is in fact posed to gather steam in the years to come. Therefore, it cannot be simply wished away. Second, it represents a mixed bag of the good and the bad, the indispensable and the avoidable. Third, globalization is being perceived, interpreted and experienced differently by different people and societies in different parts of the world. Finally, it is possible and desirable to prepare a balance sheet of globalization, to subject the discourse and process of globalization to a critical appraisal in the light of the experiences of the past decades, to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were, and to selectively appropriate its beneficial features while avoiding its baneful implications and consequences.

Cyberspace as an agent of change

Modern information and communication technologies are the lifeline of globalization. A particularly striking illustration of the reach and potency of modern information and communication technologies was provided by the massive, unprecedented protests on the streets of dozens of European and American cities against the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2002. Tens of millions of people spontaneously gathered on the streets and protested against the impending invasion. Significantly, the protests were largely mobilized and coordinated through the Internet. Noam Chomsky has perceptively observed that for the first time in the history of Europe there were massive protests against a war even before it was officially launched.

Modern information and communication technologies, including satellite television, mobile phones, the Internet and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and video-sharing sites such as YouTube, are not only playing a highly important role in the dissemination of information, ideas and images but are also acting as catalysts of change. Currently the worldwide web contains 14.2 billion pages covering an incredibly vast and diverse range of subjects and themes. Facebook, a social networking site launched in February 2004, has more than 600 million active users. Twitter, which offers a social networking and microblogging service, has more than 190 million users. The website generates nearly 65 tweets a day. YouTube is an increasingly popular video-sharing website, where videos can be posted online that can be watched by a worldwide audience within a few minutes. Created in February 2005 by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim, YouTube has emerged as one of the most important components of internet culture. It is interesting to note that France, Finland and Estonia have made Internet access a basic human right.

The first Arab Social Media Report released in February 2011 says that the penetration of social networking sites is steadily on the rise in Arab countries, with the highest rate of growth was recorded among the youth between 15 and 29 years of age, a segment that makes up nearly one-third of the population in the Arab region. According to the report, the number of Facebook users in the Arab world increased by 78% in 2010 to 21.3 million, and that 75% of these belong to the younger generation. Modern information and communication technologies, including satellite television, mobile phones, the Internet and social networking sites, played a highly important role in the recent popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Al-Jazeera television emerged as the most important and authentic source of information, including live coverage of day-to-day protests with images and videos, on the rapidly unfolding scenario in Tunisia and Egypt. Images of hundreds of thousands of people holding protests and demonstrations on the streets of Tunis, Cairo, Alexandria, Sana’a and Amman were beamed on Al-Jazeera TV, which were viewed by millions of households in the Middle East and around the world and which helped in mobilizing and coordinating protests.

In Tunisia, an anchorman for Al-Jazeera made arrangements with Lotifi Hajji, a Tunisian journalist and human rights activist, to report from a secret location in the country. When the uprising began, Tunisians began sending him homemade videos showing and documenting incidents of police brutality. These eye-catching images were beamed by Al-Jazeera, which inflamed popular passions against the repressive and corrupt regime of Ben Ali and helped in mobilizing and coordinating large numbers of people in countrywide protests and demonstrations.

The number of mobile phone users in Egypt has grown exponentially in the last few years. There are now more than 55 million mobile phones in the country and Internet services are used by some 20 million Egyptians. Much before the uprisings, dissident activists and pro-democracy campaigners in Egypt were using the Internet to express their anger and resentment against the dictatorial regime of Hosni Mubarak. Last year Khaled Said was dragged out of an internet café and beaten to death by the Egyptian police. The Facebook group set up to condemn Said’s death was “liked” by nearly 600,000 people and was a key catalyst in the recent uprising. Wael Ghonim, a Google marketing executive, created a highly popular Facebook page ‘We are All Khaled Said’. It soon had as many as 400,000 Egyptian followers. When thousands of people began pouring into Cairo’s Tahrir Square, Ghanim was picked up by the Egyptian police, blindfolded and tortured for 12 days, before he was released as a result of Google’s intervention. He appeared on Dream TV on February 7 and said in the course of the interview, “I want to tell every mother and every father, truthfully, of the people who died, I am so sorry. I swear to God, it’s not our fault, it’s the fault of those who are in charge of the country and who don’t want to leave their positions.” He said that a system that arrested people for speaking out must be torn down. “This is the revolution of the youth of the Internet, which became the revolution of the youth of Egypt, then the revolution of Egypt itself,” he added. He then broke down and walked out of the TV room. Minutes after the interview, Twitter and Facebook were filled with calls for all Egyptians to take to the streets the following day. Two hours after the interview, the Egyptian website Masrawy.com carried the interview with the comment, “Ghonim’s tears have moved millions and turned around the views of those who supported Mubarak staying.”

Hundreds of thousands of people, including those who were earlier sympathetic to Mubarak, thronged Tahrir Square the next day. In Cairo, Alexandria and Suez protests and demonstrations were mobilized and coordinated through mobile phones and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Footage of protests, including scenes of arson, were filmed on mobile phones, circulated via SMSs and aired by satellite television channels.

Unnerved by the escalating protests, the Egyptian government blocked social networking sites and mobile phone networks and shut off Internet services. But the blockade failed to stem the tide of protests and turned out to be an exercise in futility. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental think-tank in Paris, estimates that the Internet shutdown in Egypt may have caused the country as much as $90 million. After Internet services were shut down by the Egyptian authorities on January 27, John Scott Reilton, an American student, began uploading messages on to the microblogging site Twitter. He created a Twitter account for the Egyptian protests and started making calls and posting messages on the account.

A remarkable feature of the Egyptian uprising was its representative character. The protesters and demonstrators included a wide cross-section of the Egyptian population, including men and women, young and old, judges and lawyers, doctors, academics and research scholars, artists, writers, students, administrative staff, housewives and businessmen.

Transnational diasporas and the Internet culture

Large-scale international migration is one of the defining features of globalisation. It is estimated that some 175 million people live outside of their countries of origin. According to the United Nations' International Migration Report (2000), one person out of ten living in the developed nations is a migrant.

The term diaspora emerged in the context of the expulsion of the Jewish people from their homeland in the first century AD and their migration and dispersal across various parts of the world. The term is now used to describe expatriate communities which have left their countries of origin and have settled in other countries in pursuit of education, professional training, employment and business or have sought political asylum. Transnational disporas have become increasingly visible in all major cities around the world.

Transnational diasporic communities are bound together by shared ties of common descent, nationality, culture, ethnicity, religion, language and identity and have maintained their links with their native countries, thanks to modern information and communication technologies. The emergence of diasporas has radically altered the notions of time and space in relation to the construction of human communities. Paul Gilroy, a British sociologist, in his book The Black Atlantic (1993), has used the evocative term the Black Atlantic to describe a massive cultural network spanning Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean and Britain, which has been a source of identity, continuity and strength for millions of people of African origin.

Large numbers of Muslims live outside of their countries of origin. There is, for example, a sizeable Arab diaspora which is dispersed across Europe, USA, Canada, South and Central America and Australasia. The largest concentration of Arabs outside the Middle East is in Brazil, which has over 12 million Brazilians of Arab ancestry. There are large Arab communities in South and Central America. In Chile, for example, there is a 300,000-strong Palestinian diaspora. There are 100,000 Palestinians living in El Salvador. People of Arab origin have occupied important political positions in South and Central America. The president of Ecuador, Abdala Bucaran, the country's former vice president, Alberto Dahik, and the former prime minister of Jamaica, Edward Leaga, are of Lebanese origin. The president of El Salvador, Antonio Saca, is of Palestinian origin while the former president of Argentina, Carlos Menen, is of Syrian origin. In the US there are about 3.5 million people of Arab descent. There is a substantial Arab diaspora in Europe. An estimated quarter of a million Palestinians live in Europe. Approximately 100,000 Arabs live in Britain, forming 1.7 per cent of the population. About 80,000 Arabs live in Sweden. In Marseille, France, Arabs make up nearly 25% of the total population.

Over one million Iranians have emigrated in recent decades to Europe, North America, Australia and Turkey. There are approximately 500,000 Iranians living in Los Angeles. Iranian expatriates number about 110,000 in Germany, 100,000 in the UK, and some 62,000 in France. There is a sizeable Kurdish diaspora, estimated at about 850,000, mainly of Turkish origin, in Western Europe. There are some 500,000-600,000 Kurds in Germany, 100,000 in France, and about 70,000 in the Netherlands.

Muslim diasporas, like the global Muslim population, are characterized by a great deal of diversity in respect of nationality, ethnicity, language, cultural traditions, sects and denominations. Muslims in the US, for example, have come from more than 80 national backgrounds. Muslim communities in Europe, North and Latin America and Australia have migrated from over 80 countries. Europe is home to a sizeable Muslim population estimated at more than 30 million. The largest concentrations of Muslims in Europe are to be found in France (between 5 and 6 million), Germany (4 million), Britain (2.4 million), Italy (825,000), the Netherlands (500,000), Spain (1145,000), Belgium (300,000), Sweden (300,000) and Denmark (270,000). In most European countries, Islam is now the second largest religion after Christianity. The number of Muslims in the US, Canada, and Latin America is around 17 million.

By and large, Muslim immigrants, especially the first generation, in Europe, USA, Latin America and Australia, maintain close contacts with their countries of origin through visits and marriage alliances. Increased facilities for travel, modern information and communication technologies and the electronic and print media have reinforced the cultural links of diasporic Muslim communities with their homelands. Satellite television, telephone and the Internet have emerged as highly important instruments in strengthening such ties. Muslim diasporic communities, especially in Western countries, are increasingly using modern information and communication technologies to maintain and reinforce links with their homeland and with shared cultural traditions. The descendents of Palestinian refugees born and raised in Western countries are now discovering, thanks to homepages on the Internet, their religious and cultural traditions as well as the villages of their parents and grandparents. The growing use of computer technology is thus transforming the Palestinian refugees living in North America and Europe into a transnational virtual community and facilitating the reconstruction of their identity.

The Internet is playing a highly significant role in connecting the members of the Iranian diaspora to their homeland. One of the online Iranian magazines has links to more than 150 online newspapers and magazines in the Persian language. Interestingly, Iran's online newspapers appear much before the print editions are available on news- stands in Tehran and other cities. In Stockholm, local Iranian radio stations download programmes from the Internet and rebroadcast them for the local Iranian community.

Islamic finance and halal food in a globalizing world

According to JWT, a well-known American advertising agency, food, finance and packaged goods are the three consumer markets most affected by Islamic law. Islamic finance, which is essentially premised on Islamic principles governing trade, banking and investment, is steadily gathering momentum across large parts of the world, including Europe, North America and Australasia. Islamic finance embraces a wide range of institutions and products, including Islamic banks, Islamic investment companies, Islamic investment banks and Islamic e-commerce. The products include insurance securities, mutual funds, Islamic bonds and stocks. Islamic finance is no longer a niche business and is increasingly becoming a mainstream component of the global banking system. Currently, more than 300 Islamic financial institutions exist in 75 countries across the world with an asset holding size of $280 billion. Standard and Poor’s, an international rating agency, puts the market for Islamic financial markets at about $700 billion. At present, investments in Islamic financial products represent just about 1 per cent of the global financial market, but the segment has grown at some 15% annually in the past three years and was worth $1,000 billion in 2010. In the UK it has grown to more than £ 500 million.

In Germany, banks and other financial institutions now evince a growing interest in Islamic investments and financial products. The Munich-based insurance giant Allianz and Deutsche Bank have set up Shariah-compliant funds and certificates, which are marketed in Muslim countries. Early next year, Germany’s first Islamic bank, Kuveyt Turk Beteiligungsbank, a subsidiary of a Turkish-Kuwaiti bank, will open in Mannheim in the western part of the country. Federal Financial Services Authority, known as BaFin, recently issued a limited license to the bank. There are plans to open branches of the bank in other German cities.

In response to the growing worldwide demand among Muslims for Islamic financial products, a number of major international banks, including Citibank, HSBC, ABN AMRO, BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Lloyds TSB and Goldman Sachs, have begun to offer Islamic financial products. All major banks in Britain now have Islamic divisions, and there are also five Islamic banks in the country. Investment bankers in the West are competing to create a range of new Islamic capital market products on a large scale. In 2003 HSBC Bank launched an “Islamic mortgage” scheme in Britain to provide loans for house purchase. A Texas-based oil and gas firm issued the first American sukuk (asset-based bonds) in 2006 that were in compliance with the Islamic prohibition of interest. In April 2007 the London Stock Exchange listed its maiden Islamic hedge funds. In 2007 the International Capital Market Association and the International Monetary Fund agreed to develop standard contracts and common best practice for secondary trading of Islamic hedge funds and other Islamic instruments. A number of global banks, including Deutsche Bank, Barclays Capital and BNP Paribas, have issued Islamic hedge funds. The increasing global salience of Islamic finance may be gauged from the decision of the Harvard Law School to sponsor the Islamic Finance Project. The Eighth Harvard University Forum on Islamic Finance was held on April 18-20, 2008 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Cass Business School in Britain offers a degree in Islamic finance. In 2008 Lancaster University Business School joined the Cass Business School and the School of Oriental and African Studies’ Centre for Financial and Management Studies in offering an optional module in Islamic finance as part of its postgraduate training. Since the global financial meltdown in 2008, Islamic financial products have also attracted the interest of conservative Christian investors.

In recent years there has come about a greater awareness and concern for halal food among Muslims living in Western countries. The easy availability of halal food products in most cities, the entry of global food companies in the halal food business, global tourism and international halal food festivals in Malaysia and Dubai have made halal food a conspicuous feature of Muslim culture in large parts of the world. According to the Malaysia-based World Halal Forum, halal food accounts for nearly 17 per cent of the global food market and is one of the fastest-growing segments of the food market. The current global market for halal food is estimated at over $600 billion annually. Sales of halal food reached $641 billion in 2010, up from $587 billion in 2004. In Europe, sales of halal food products touched $67 billion in 2010. Since halal food is not available in some parts of the US and Canada, many Muslims turn to kosher. In the US an estimated 16% of sales in the $100 million kosher industry come from Muslim customers. About three million tonnes of halal meat are consumed annually in Europe.

The growing worldwide demand for halal food has prompted global food giants like McDonald’s as well as supermarket chains in Europe and North America to enter the halal food segment. The British supermarket chains Tesco and Sainsbury’s have separate shelves for halal food products. Tesco launched halal products in 2004 and distributes halal chocolates in six of its stores in London. In France, the Casino chain of supermarkets supplies halal food products. British pharmacy retailer Boots sells halal baby food. Nestle earns more from halal products than it does from organic food. Rotterdam Port, one of the world’s largest ports, has built a huge warehouse of halal products and is set to become “the halal gateway to Europe.”

In April 2007, when McDonald’s opened its first European restaurant with halal burgers and chicken nuggets on the menu in Southall in west London, sales rose dramatically. Halal chicken nuggets introduced by McDonald’s in Dearborn, Michigan, home to one of the largest Arab populations in the US, are immensely popular with local Muslims. Two of McDonald’s restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney offer halal meals. All McDonald’s restaurants in Pakistan, Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore and India are halal certified. In the UK, hundreds of outlets serving halal fried chicken, such as Chicken Cottage, have sprung up in recent years. Los Angeles has a Chinese Islamic restaurant and a Thai Islamic restaurant where only halal food is served. A restaurant called McHalal has been serving halal burgers for years outside the French city of Lyon. A newly-opened fast-food restaurant in Paris called Clichy-sous-Bois offers Beurger King Muslim halal hamburgers and fries. A Pakistani Muslim has opened a string of halal chicken sandwich stands in Britain and France. KFC, a popular global food chain, serves halal fried chicken in many of its outlets.

Switzerland is the largest producer of processed halal food in the world with annual sales of $3.5 billion. Swiss companies which produce halal food make sure that their products are tested, regularly checked and certified by Islamic experts. Nestle, the world’s largest food corporation with $94 billion in sales in 2007, adheres to halal food requirements in 75 of its 480 factories worldwide. For the past two years Nestle has eliminated pork, alcohol and blood from its production process in seven of its European factories, including a sausage plant in France, a Nescafe plant in Germany and a powdered milk plant in Spain. The Nestle factory at Wangen bei Olten produces more than 41,000 tonnes of freshly made dough a year, of which a substantial amount is of the halal variety. Most of the halal puff pastry is sold to France, home to Europe’s largest Muslim population.

International halal food and trade festivals have significantly contributed to the growing salience and popularity of halal food products. Since 2004 Malaysia has been organising the International Halal Showcase, the world’s largest international halal trade fair. The fair is regarded as the largest annual gathering of halal industry players in the effort to ease the sourcing and selling of global quality halal products and services. Global food giants such as Nestle, McDonald’s, Rotterdam Post and Tesco were also invited to participate in the fair. In May 2006 the first World Halal Forum was organised in Kuala Lumpur. China held a four-day international halal food festival on September 10-13 this year in the Ningxia Autonomous Region. The 2nd Halal Expo 2008 was held in Dubai from November 24 to 26. It was designed to provide a gateway to the expanding global halal market and a networking platform which will bring together halal associations, halal certification agencies and suppliers and buyers of halal products. Modern information and communication technologies have facilitated interaction and networking among the producers, promoters and consumers of halal food. The popular youth portal TouTube has several videos on halal food products.

Germany is home to some 4 million Muslims. German companies are slowly waking up to the salience and rising popularity of halal food. Cologne hosted an exhibition showcasing the food products of more than 800 halal food producers in June 2009. In Gehlenberg, a sleepy village in northern Germany, the Meemken family business house produces a wide range of halal sausages and supplies some 100 tonnes of salami and other types of sausages each week to food retailers in Germany and other European countries.

Consumer goods companies owned by Muslims have begun to tap the Muslim market in Western countries. Since January 2007 the Burqini—a full-coverage swim suit which is a cross between a burqa and a bikini—has been sold internationally, mainly online. A Syrian firm, NewBoy Toys, has created Fulla—which has Middle Eastern features and wears a headscarf and a coat—as an alternative to the blonde Barbie doll made by an American toymaker.

Digitization of Islam: Reinventing Dawah

In the past few years the Internet has emerged as an important source of information on Islam and Muslims. The entire text of the Quran, including recitation and translations and commentaries into many languages, several collections of Hadith and Islamic law and legal edicts (fatawa) are now available online. In 2000 more than 14,000 fatawa could be found on the Internet. The US-based IslamiCity has published more than 5000 fatawa on the Internet. A number of Islamic websites offer information as well as learned articles on the multifarious legacy of Islamic civilization.

Social networking sites such as Facebook and video-sharing sites such as YouTube contains hundreds of notices and articles on prominent Muslim scholars, scientists and physicians of past centuries, on the legacy of Islamic civilization in architecture, music and arts and crafts, and on a variety of subjects relating to Islam and Muslims. Some contemporary Muslim scholars have used modern information and communication technologies for disseminating information about Islam and for clearing misconceptions about Islamic principles. One of these prominent figures is the Egyptian-born scholar Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Dr Qaradawi has published more than 80 books, which have been translated into many languages. He hosts a hugely popular Arabic programme Al-Shariah wal-hayat (Shariah and Life) on Al-Jazeera television, which is watched by tens of millions of viewers across the Arab world. He also runs a website called IslamOnline, which he founded in 1997, where he offers his opinions and fatawa on a variety of issues. Dr Al-Qaradawi has 269,741 followers on Facebook.

Amr Khaled, a Muslim TV preacher of Egyptian origin, has emerged as one of the most popular figures in the Arab world. His devotional programmes aired on a Saudi-owned religious channel are watched and admired by millions of viewers across the Arab region. Khaled is not a traditional preacher or Imam, nor has he been trained as one. He has had a secular education and had worked as an accountant for a prestigious Cairo firm. He appears on TV in a Western-style suit or jaunty sweaters and polo shirts. His sermons are delivered in an informal manner, peppered with Egyptian slang and modern terms.

Khaled, who now lives in Birmingham with his wife and son, focuses his attention on the younger generation of Muslims who are exposed to modern Western education and tend to be torn between their Islamic roots and the modern, globalizing environment. He runs a website, where followers can chat with one another and download his sermons. The website received 26 million hits in 2005 and continues to be avidly visited by hundreds of thousands of young Muslims from around the Middle East. More than five million cassettes of his sermons have been sold in the Middle East.

Timothy Winter, or Shaykh Abd al-Hakim Murad, is a prominent British Muslim writer, translator, teacher and commentator on the relations between Muslims and Western societies and on inter-faith issues. He figures in a 2010 list of 500 most influential Muslims in the world, brought out by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, Amman. In addition to occasionally writing for newspapers, he appears frequently on BBC Radio. The social networking site Facebook has his profile, while the video-sharing site YouTube features some of his lectures and discourses. His lectures are available on DVD and CD.

In the past few years, one of the gravest threats to peace, stability and societal cohesion in Europe and the United States in particular and in the wider world in general has come from transnational terrorist groups and networks, in which a radical section of Muslims is prominently involved. The growing tentacles of global terrorism have led to the killing of thousands of innocent civilians, including Muslims, damaged property and infrastructure worth billions of dollars, created an atmosphere of fear and insecurity, and reinforced mistrust and hostility against Muslims. The terrorist attack on New York and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, in which nearly 3000 innocent people, including 300 Muslims, were killed, the 2004 Madrid train bombings, in which 191 people were killed and more than 2000 wounded, and the July 2005 bombings on London’s public transport system, which killed 52 commuters and injured 700, have radically altered the global scenario and have widened the gulf between Muslims and mainstream societies across Europe and the United States. Global terrorism has strengthened xenophobic and racist sentiments in the continent and has reinvigorated far-right political parties across large parts of Europe.

Thankfully, the overwhelmingly majority of Muslims around the world have denounced violence and terrorism carried out by a fringe group of Muslim youth in the name of Islam. The 2007 Gallup data show that Muslims across the world denounce terrorist attacks on civilians as morally unjustified. Muslims in the Netherlands responded to the release of Geert Wilders’ highly provocative and anti-Islam film “Fitna” on the Internet with remarkable restraint. Acts of wanton killings and reckless violence and destruction have been condemned by Muslims around the world, and especially by Muslim scholars and Islamic seminaries.

A leading Pakistani-born Muslim scholar, Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri, who is at present based in Canada, issued an online fatwa on March 2, 2010, backed by extensive references to Islamic legal principles and precedents and judicial pronouncements, denouncing terrorists as the enemies of Islam. Dr Qadri, the founder of an influential religious and educational organization and a socio-religious movement called Minhajul Quran International, said in his 600-page edict that suicide bombers were destined for hell. “There is no room for any martyrdom and their act (of terrorism) is never, ever to be considered jihad,” he said. Dr Qadri emphasized that Islam is a religion of peace that promotes beauty, betterment, goodness and “negates all form of mischief and strife”. “Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence, and it has no place in Islamic teachings and no justification or excuse on its behalf can be acceptable,” he said. Dr Qadri emphatically pointed out that attacks against innocent citizens are “absolutely against the teachings of Islam” and that Islam does not permit such acts under any excuse, pretext or reason.

Extremism and fanaticism need to be combated through a multi-pronged strategy, involving Islamic edicts, discourses, conferences and workshops, communitarian involvement and engagement, informal group discussions and youth outreach programmes such as summer camps. The use of modern information and communications technologies for this purpose would prove to be of great value. Minhajul Quran International organized a three-day summer camp, called Al-Hidayah 2010, On August 7-9, 2010 at the University of Warwick campus. The camp was attended by 1,300 Muslim delegates, mainly young men and women, who came from across Europe, the US and Canada. The camp comprised a series of lectures, workshops and presentations and informal discussions. The discussions focused on various ways of combating extremism and terrorism in schools, universities and in the neighbourhood and community, and sought to provide the participants with conceptual and methodological orientations and resources—drawn essentially from the Quran, the sayings and precepts of the Prophet Muhammad and the conduct of the righteously guided caliphs and Companions of the Prophet—to counter extremism.

In his opening address, Dr Qadri argued that radicalization was a slow process that began with an “ideological infection”. Such an infection, he emphasized, could and should be treated before the sufferer turned violent. Dr Qadri announced that a caravan of vehicles, filled with mobile libraries, books and DVDs, would soon be launched, which would travel around the UK to spread awareness and provide motivation for countering extremism among Muslims.

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