Held in: The King Abdul-Aziz Public Library
Riyadh (17-20 March 2002)
The King Abdul-Aziz Public Library organized the International Symposium entitled Islam and Inter-Civilizational Dialogue under the auspices of King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, when he was Crown Prince and Chairman of the Library's Board of Directors, in response to the United Nations call for the year 2001 to be the Year of Inter-Civilizational, and in affirmation of the place of the Message of Islam in Inter-Civilizational Dialogue.
Objectives of the Symposium:
The Symposium aimed to highlight the concept of dialogue and conflict among civilizations, and to explain the principle of dialogue and communication in Islam and the values and principles on which inter-civilizational dialogue should be based, clarifying the foundational concepts behind Islam's interaction with other civilizations, and emphasizing that Islam is a religion of dialogue and communication with civilizations, as well as clarifying some misconceptions about contemporary cultural patterns.
Main Themes of the Symposium:
Axis 1: Civilizations in Conflict or in Dialogue?
Human history contains much evidence that conflict is a feature of human communication and is an influential factor in the formation and transmission of civilizations. Although wars have been a source of destruction, they have also transmitted knowledge and other components of civilization. At the same time, peaceful relations and dialogue have played a major role in achieving communication and building civilizations, and there is much evidence that the greater part of civilizational achievement would not have been possible without first God and then dialogue as a civilized approach to mutual understanding and co-existence among civilizations, while being sensitive to the specificities of each civilization and respecting the principles and values of other civilizations.
Axis 2: Islam and Other Civilizations:
Axis 2 aimed to emphasize the importance of dialogue in Islam and to clarify the foundations underlying it, as well as to address the attitude of Islam towards other civilizations and its relationship with the Other as a relationship of complementarity based on co-existence and dialogue. Islam has defined the parameters of communication, in the Qur'an, the Sunnah of the Prophet, and in many other historical documents from the days of the initial proclamation of Islam and subsequent eras. In the same axis, there is an invitation to consider the Islamic attitude towards cultural relations from various perspectives, both regarding the concept of civilization itself, and how to conduct dialogue and build civilizations.
Axis 3: The Experiences and Practices of Contemporary civilizations
This axis included the presentation and discussion of examples of practices and evidence from each civilization, with emphasis on some contemporary issues, such as the environment, terrorism, human rights, women's rights and scientific development, human security, globalization and cultural specificities. It also addressed the attitude of Islam towards fundamental issues that continue to preoccupy the contemporary world, while at the same time representing natural evidence.
Final Statement and Recommendations of the Symposium
The audience listened to the address of Prince Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, founder of the Library, and chairman of its Board, in which he welcomed the participants and thanked them for their response to the Library's invitation. He conveyed to them the greetings of King Fahd Bin Abdul-Aziz, and affirmed the bases and pillars of dialogue, saying:
“This is what we seek with human and cultural awareness, until the world sees us and we see the world so that the world comes to understand the virtues and humanity of Islam.
We are your brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, both king and people. We do not want to live with racism or nationalism. We do not want to have a political position that we have not been familiar with throughout our in history. For thousands of years, the only values that unjust nations have scattered throughout history, whether east or west, have been those of political paralysis and unbridled adventurism. By contrast, we have striven to think calmly, accepting and giving sincere advice.
A nation or nations whose power is not accompanied by justice and political awareness remains the target of divers scourges, psychological diseases and senility. This is what both historians and history say in all eras.
We in the Kingdom, both leadership and the people, are well aware that our security, prosperity, stability and unity lie in discussing every development and where possible and desirable rebutting it with something better. We do not dream dreams of vigilance or hasten events to our house. This is what we want for others as well, for what is going on today in our dear Palestine, and what the world is experiencing of horrors, disasters, and outrages against truth and justice, is really no more than a daydream of greatness in those who shed blood by the bucketful, destroy civilization and cheat historical facts. This is a thorny path that does not give its people safety. It sows hatred and disrupts security. How ignorant is anybody who sees all this and does not return once again to history to let it remind him that the end of the oppressor is with the oppressed.
I say this, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia says it with me, as both king and people, and the world also chooses to say it: Let us keep ourselves safe from sedition and the fallout of events so that this sensitive region may be kept stable and safe from disasters. Even so, what God chooses is the choice that will prevail.
The Arab peace initiative was never a high-handed move decided on my own, and in fact even now it is on its way to our Arab brothers and leaders. When it reaches them, the final opinion is up to them and their peoples. It is a sincere and humble move, and also a hope that will be judged by the future. I hope that it will not falter in the battles of blood and destruction, and that the parties will agree on it, for force of arms is the most dangerous thing that causes nations to lose their power. The most powerful and effective weapon is justice. I say this, and I say again that Israel has no security except through justice, and by removing its hand from the rights of the Palestinian people and of some Arab countries. It will be held to account by a more effective weapon, namely the just support of all the nations of the earth, today or in our future. Unjust arms will condemn it, saying: There is no security for Israel apart from justice, and the return of all legitimate historical Arab rights, for this sensitive region is the home of divine messages and the divine example, and it is never acceptable to be unjust.
You are the lights that illuminate the psychological darkness. How splendid is your steadfastness if your civilizational dialogue takes you beyond the psychological twilight which makes it impossible to see God’s great signs in these scientific discoveries from this far-flung universe. How needy is this far-flung universe of scientific discoveries and how needy are the peoples of the world of scientists, intellectuals and writers. Our thoughts are always with this group of people. They are our hope after God, and the hope of the world is that they be protectors of truth and justice.”
Then the UN Secretary-General delivered a speech, in which he emphasized that UN programs seek to bring about dialogue among different civilizations and cultures, and bring security and peace to the countries of the world. Then the Secretary-General of the Islamic World Association addressed the Symposium, followed by the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and the Director-General of the Library. The programmes and efforts of these international organizations were all presented in support of inter-civilizational dialogue.
The three themes of the Symposium (Civilizations: Conflict or dialogue?, Islam and Other Civilizations, Contemporary Civilization, Experiences and Practices) were presented over 17 sessions in which more than 90 intellectuals participated, representing more than 20 nationalities, all organized into a scientific and cultural demonstration to discuss and investigate one of the most prominent issues of the age, namely Islam and Inter-Civilizational Dialogue.
Various working papers were presented, including:
- The efforts of the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques to promote Inter-Civilizational Dialogue by establishing cultural and Islamic centres abroad;
- The position of Islam on terrorism;
- Tolerance in Islam;
- Islam's relationship with the West ... A look ahead;
- The Relationship between East and West.
At the end of the Symposium, the participants expressed their deep and sincere thanks to Prince Abdullah for his generous sponsorship of culture and intellectuals... They greatly valued the visions and the mature ideas that he presented in the service of the Arab and Muslim cause… The question of Palestine was received with great sympathy and resonated widely, and came at a time when the nation, and indeed the world, was in such great need of such a knowledgeable presentation.
Recommendations of the Symposium:
1. The speech of King Fahd Bin Abdel-Aziz (the sponsor of the Symposium) should be regarded as a document for dialogue and peaceful co-existence among civilizations.
2. A long-term strategy should be drawn up to achieve dialogue among civilizations and cultures through the use of modern technology to strengthen this civilizational dialogue and encourage translation in this area.
3. Islamic meetings with other civilizations should be intensified to examine issues of mutual interest in order to formulate common understandings regarding them and to free souls and minds from the impact of the historical conflict among civilizations.
4. Effective peaceful international efforts should be exerted to solve the major complex and chronic problems of regions where violence is generated and continues to grow.
5. The importance of religious, spiritual and moral values should be stressed in order to achieve human dignity and establish justice, and to achieve secure co-existence among human societies, safe from disasters, poverty, ignorance and moral degradation.
6. A spirit of tolerance, equality and solidarity should be spread, and respect for cultural diversity along with the specificities of individual peoples.
7. Increased attention should be given to religious and ethnic minorities and the victims of wars and disasters.
8. There should be a focus on education and a culture of dialogue should be promoted, since it is the best way to achieve mutual knowledge among societies.
9. Scientists, researchers and academics in universities and research centres should be encouraged to carry out field and applied research on inter-civilizational dialogue and to link it with the scientific activity of faculty and researchers.
10. There should be an emphasis on holding high-quality conferences, book exhibitions and global think-tanks and, thereby contributing to the enrichment of interaction between peoples' civilizations and cultures.
11. The Library should adopt the establishment of a global forum for inter-civilizational dialogue, aimed at achieving dialogue between the Islamic civilization and other nations' civilizations and peoples.
-12 The King Abdul-Aziz Public Library should form a committee to follow up the Symposium’s recommendations, implement them, and undertake to print the conference papers and publish them as a volume of proceedings.