Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Festival of Thinkers in Abu Dhabi

I was at Formula 1 final race held at Yas Island circuit, Abu Dhabi. Awesome indeed.

At the same time, The United Arab Emirates government, through the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), is hosting the third Intellectual Festival. From Nov 2-4 at the Abu Dhabi Emirate Palace, with the participation of 110 world renowned thinkers, scientists and about 15 Nobel Laureates in various fields.

In both events, Abu Dhabi is running ahead to be front runner in hosting world class events, to eclipse its neighbouring emirate, Dubai.

And Dubai is bidding for 2020 Olympic games!

Great minds think alike on progress


Among the topics for discussion are world poverty, health care, climate change and the global recession.

Even for the 15 Nobel laureates gathered in the Emirates Palace hotel yesterday, fixing those issues is a tall order.

NOBEL LAUREATES
Professor Johann Deisenhofer
Chemistry 1988
Germany

Dr Shirin Ebadi
Peace 2003
Iran

Professor Richard Ernst
Chemistry 1991
Switzerland

Dr Christophe Fournier
President
Médecins Sans Frontières Movement
Peace 1999
France

Dr David Gross
Physics 2004
USA

Professor Rudolph Marcus
Chemistry 1992
Canada

Professor Hartmut Michel
Chemistry 1988
Germany

Professor John F. Nash, Jr.
Economics 1994
USA

Dr Rajendra Pachauri
Chair
IPCC
Peace 2007
India

Dr Martin L. Perl
Physics 1995
USA

Dr Robin Warren
Medicine 2005 (photo by Frances Andrijich)
Australia



But the message at the Festival of Thinkers remained positive – through co-operation and creativity, progress can be made.

The hope, the organisers said, was to recreate the Middle East’s place as a cultural centre and to revive “the Gulf region’s liberal traditions”, almost like a miniature, modern House of Wisdom. As inspiration, the words of Greek philosophers loomed above on a gigantic screen.

“For millennia, our region has been a crossroads for people, ideas, and commerce,” Sheikh Nahyan bin Mabarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and the chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT), said in his opening address.

“It has always welcomed travellers and scholars with unparalleled hospitality. It is the home of some of the earliest universities and many great ideas have been produced by scholars from the Arab world.”

The biennial festival, of which The National is a partner, has attracted some of the greatest minds alive. They sat alongside perhaps the next generation of intellectuals – a group of HCT students.

The list of attendees included Shirin Ebadi, the first Iranian and Muslim woman to win the Nobel Prize, for her pursuit of human rights, John Nash Jr, the mathematician and economist whose life was the subject of the Academy Award-winning film A Beautiful Mind, and Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Wise words

The Indian philosopher Swami Parthasarathy had a message for the world yesterday: humanity’s problem is not that it can think, it’s that it thinks about the wrong things.
Although humans alone have a body, mind and intellect, the mind’s greed and selfishness are the cause of the calamities that befall humanity, he told the Festival of Thinkers.
Referring to India’s recent discovery of water on the Moon, the philosopher, popularly known as “Swamiji”, said: “Now it has to find water in India.”
That prioritisation, that decision-making, was a unique trait of the human species.
“A tiger cannot become a vegetarian,” he said. The curse “of making choices” belonged only to us.
But making those choices in the right frame of mind was difficult, he said.
“At the end of the workday you’re tired, at the end of the week you’re tired, at the end of the year you need a vacation. “It’s not work that fatigues you, it’s your worries and anxiety.”
Swamiji, who said he runs his Vedanta Academy without “stopping for holidays and vacations”, declared himself “82 and still working”.

* Kareem Shaheen


First on the agenda of the three-day event was female empowerment, a theme that dominated much of the first day.

Dr Ebadi, whose opinions have often caused anger among her country’s clerical leadership, delivered a stirring indictment of illiteracy among women and their lack of political rights in the Muslim world.

“In our religion, women have political rights. No society can achieve political and economic progress while half its population is being neglected,” said Dr Ebadi.


“Education is obligatory. Why do we forget our religious decrees? Why has the level of illiteracy gone up in Islamic countries?

“Literacy is obligatory just like prayer is. It is a wajib [requirement], not mostahabb [encouraged].”

Dr Ebadi criticised the pressure on Muslim women to stay at home once they finish university.

“Young girls, after they graduate from university and become housewives, their education is wasted,” she said. “We must not put our books aside once we have finished university. Serving society is a religious duty. They must fulfil that duty. Half the potential of society has been neglected.”

In keeping with the creative theme, the difficulty of overcoming challenges without the involvement of both sexes was illustrated by a display of contemporary dance in which a man and a woman used their combined strength and dexterity to pull off some stunning moves.

Among the audience was Cherie Blair, the wife of the former British prime minister Tony Blair and founder of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women.


Mrs Blair, who took part in a panel on economic prospects beyond the financial crisis, said: “What we’re seeing in the last few years is a real change in the Middle East in general, but in the UAE in particular. “We’re seeing much more emphasis in involving women in government.”

Mrs Blair pointed to the role of Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of Foreign Trade. She then went to a meeting on women’s issues hosted by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.

As Gavin Esler, a BBC broadcaster acting as master of ceremonies, said: “The thinking has indeed begun.”

kshaheen@thenational.ae

Dakwa Dr. Asri di Mahkamah dan Pendekatan baru 'Porak-Perandakan' Pemikiran

sijil2.jpg

Gambar sijil Sarjana Muda Kepujian Dr Mohd Asri daripada University Of Jordan yang menunjukkan pengkhususan beliau dalam Bahasa Arab dan Sasteranya serta Syariah Islamiyyah. Ini bercanggahan dengan tuduhan pegawai JAKIM Zamihan Mat Zain dalam Utusan.



Saya berkesempatan menghadiri ceramah Dr. Asri di Dubai pada bulan Mac lalu. Tidak pasti sama ada Dr. Asri mempunyai tauliah untuk berceramah di UAE atau mana-mana kawasan di luar negeri Selangor.

Dalam pandangan saya secara peribadi, Dr. Asri yang juga satu sekolah dengan isteri saya, memang mempunyai pendekatan dan aura sebagai tokoh agama kontemporari. Mungkin saya ini tidak banyak tahu dalam ruang lingkup agama (termasuk politik dalam agama di Malaysia), maka saya dapat menerima kandungan ceramah beliau dengan minda terbuka.

Mungkin juga banyak perkara 'ibadah' yang beliau utarakan tidak ganjil bagi kami yang menetap di UAE. Malah kami juga ada mempersoalkan beberapa perkara yang dikatakan ibadah oleh ramai orang Melayu tidak dilakukan oleh penganut Islam di UAE.

Perbedaan mazhab dan juga budaya dalam beragama?

Apabila membaca pelbagai tuduhan yang dilemparkan terhadap batang tubuh Dr. Asri, maka wajarlah beliau didakwa sahaja di mahkamah agar kita boleh mendengar hujah-hujah kedua pihak.

Pihak JAIS atau JAKIM atau mana-mana pihak lain boleh membawa segala dakwaan mereka dengan fakta dan bukti kukuh. Dr. Asri juga boleh mempertahankan diri secara terbuka di mahkamah.

Saya terbaca berita dibawah, dimana bekas Duta kami di UAE yang juga sekarang Presiden Pertubuhan Kebajikan Al-Jamiatul Khairiah Wilayah Persekutuan dan Selangor yang dilapurkan berkata,
"Mazhab Imam Shafie dan Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah merupakan pegangan mainstream umat Islam di Malaysia. Dalam hal ini pegangan yang bertentangan akan memporak-perandakan pemikiran dan amalan penduduk Islam negara ini.

"Pendekatan baru di dalam ajaran agama Islam yang boleh mengelirukan umat Islam terutamanya generasi muda yang baru ingin berjinak dengan Islam perlu ditolak."
Terkejut kerana 'pendekatan baru' ditolak bulat-bulat dalam dakwah. Saya tidak pasti apakah yang dimaksudkan dengan pendekatan baru oleh Tuan Syed tersebut.

Dalam dunia yang banyak berubah, terutama untuk generasi hari ini yang terdedah dengan pelbagai 'pendekatan baru' dalam pelbagai bidang, apakah kita masih mahu terus dengan 'pendekatan lama' yang tidak lagi sesuai pada hari ini?

Begitupun, saya percaya, apa yang terjadi ada rahmatnya. Baik buat Dr. Asri yang makin popular, mahupun buat JAIS dan JAKIM serta umat Islam di Malaysia.

'Adakan muzakarah bincang isu Asri'
Nov 3, 09 4:54pm


Satu muzakarah di kalangan mufti dan ilmuan Islam perlu diadakan untuk membincangkan isu penangkapan bekas mufti Perlis Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin Jabatan Agama Islam Selangor (Jais) atas dakwaan mengajar agama tanpa tauliah.

Presiden Pertubuhan Kebajikan Al-Jamiatul Khairiah Wilayah Persekutuan dan Selangor Datuk Syed Hussein Al Habshee berkata, muzakarah itu adalah untuk memelihara keharmonian amalan umat Islam negara ini.

"Mazhab Imam Shafie dan Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah merupakan pegangan mainstream umat Islam di Malaysia. Dalam hal ini pegangan yang bertentangan akan memporak-perandakan pemikiran dan amalan penduduk Islam negara ini.

"Pendekatan baru di dalam ajaran agama Islam yang boleh mengelirukan umat Islam terutamanya generasi muda yang baru ingin berjinak dengan Islam perlu ditolak," katanya yang dilihat jelas merujuk kepada dakwaan pihak tertentu bahawa Mohd Asri menyebarkan fahaman Wahabi.

Mohd Asri menafikan beliau membawa fahaman tersebut.

Syed Hussein, bekas Duta Besar Malaysia ke Emiriah Arab Bersatu itu melahirkan keyakinan bahawa Jais telahpun melakukan pemantauan terhadap kegiatan dan dakwah Mohd Asri di Selangor sebelum mengambil tindakan.

Syed Hussein mendakwa bahawa Mohd Asri pada 2007 ketika menjadi Mufti Perlis melarang sekumpulan ulamak negara Arab yang berpegang kepada Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah daripada memberi ceramah di negeri itu. BERNAMA

Women muftis by end of 2010 in the UAE

While the news of Dr. Asri, former Mufti of Perlis is still hot in Malaysia, the UAE has announced about appointing women muftis by 2010, next year!

Women muftis by end of 2010

Rasha Elass

DUBAI // The UAE will appoint what are likely to be the world’s first state-sanctioned female muftis next year, after the Grand Mufti announced details yesterday of plans to recruit and train them.

Six Emirati women are being considered for the training programme, said Dr Ahmed al Haddad, who is also the head of the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department. Once accepted they will begin the course, which will last several months, early next year.

The move follows a fatwa issued by Dr al Haddad in February that sanctioned women’s role as muftis. In May, he called on qualified Emirati women to apply for the programme, which includes instruction in Sharia law and legal thinking.

“We continue to accept new applicants until we begin the training,” said Dr al Haddad. “It is already part of the 2010 budget.”

The status of female muftis has caused controversy within the religious establishment elsewhere in the Muslim world, with Egypt’s Al Azhar University, a powerful centre of Sunni scholarship, rejecting the possibility of women becoming grand muftis.

However, Dr al Haddad said that debate did not affect whether women should serve in other roles.

“The controversy over female muftis is not necessarily over this point, but about whether or not a woman should be appointed as the grand mufti of a state,” he said. “And that is not what we’re trying to do at this point.”

The move is part of a broader push to recruit and train Emiratis to the department, especially in the role of advising and issuing decrees on religious matters.

They will be instructed according to the Maliki school of jurisprudence, one of four in the Sunni tradition and the one followed in the UAE. Instructors are typically from academic and religious institutions, including practising muftis.

Although women currently serve as religious advisers at the Abu Dhabi fatwa centre, their role is limited to advising women on “women’s issues”. The Dubai move would mark the first time women have acted as muftis on a par with their male counterparts.

In February 2008, the Egyptian family court appointed Amal Soliman as the first female Islamic notary with the ability to perform marriages and divorces. Her duties were not equal to those of a mufti.

Dr al Haddad, who has five daughters, one of whom is a student of Sharia, said his fatwa earlier this year was based on Islamic tradition, which he said was “rich in examples of highly learned women acting as muftis and issuing decrees on all matters”.

“A woman who is learned and trained in issuing fatwas is not limited in her role to issuing fatwas that relate to women only, but rather she is qualified to issue on matters of worship, jurisprudence, morality and behaviour,” he said.

He referred to a Quranic verse to support his decree that Islamic tradition has always sanctioned women to act as muftis on all matters that concern society.

A fatwa, or religious decree, is in effect a legal opinion derived from the Quran, hadith or precedents in the Islamic tradition.

“Evidence points to the fact that women too can order acts of virtue and ban acts of vice just like a man can,” he said, referring to the basic tenement of a mufti’s role.

“And of course she can do that only with acquired scholarship and training, which is what female contemporaries of the Prophet have done as well as the women who came after them.”