31 October 1999 (22 Rajab 1420 AH)
The Arab and Islamic world suffers from a one-sided information flow problem, which keeps it in the position of the receiver and unable to create information or to publish it in a way that serves its interests and supports its aspirations. Because most sources of information do not exercise this role in an honest and accurate manner, the need has developed for an Islamic effort to study the sources of information about our Islamic world as a step toward spreading right and honest information that gives the world the image of Islam and Muslims in a way that is not slanted or distorted.
Aware of the importance of scientific information to people in general and to Muslim peoples in particular, since it is one of the most prominent elements of progress and prosperity, the King Abdul-Aziz Public Library organized the symposium under the auspices of King Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz, when he was Crown Prince and Chairman of the Library's Board of Directors, in cooperation with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Advocacy and Guidance and the Islamic Development Bank.
The Symposium aimed at dealing with the different types of information sources on the Islamic world, printed and otherwise, bibliographic, non-bibliographic, historical, geographical, institutional and non-institutional, with descriptions, analysis, study and evaluation to provide a strategic scientific vision of information organization and provision of information about our Islamic world to researchers, scholars and those interested in the issues of the Islamic world, so as to combine efforts toward creating a global Islamic information network.
A group of scholars, researchers and university professors from Saudi Arabia, the Arab and Islamic world, Europe and the United States participated in it through presenting research, participating in discussion sessions or presenting papers that enriched the Symposium’s proceedings and made it a world-class event.
Objectives of the Symposium
The Symposium sought to achieve a number of objectives, including:
1- To frame the right information about the Muslim world in terms of place, time, and credibility.
2- To providing references to the most important sources of knowledge relating to the Islamic world.
3- To identify sources of information about the Islamic world, writers and authors, Muslims and non-Muslims, and classify them according to credibility and comprehensiveness.
4- To look at the future of information in the Islamic world through the opinions of scholars.
5- To develop a long-term strategy to protect the right information about the Islamic world from the distortions of partiality, and combine efforts to create a global Islamic information network.
Themes of the Symposium:
The papers presented at the Symposium focused on the study of sources of information relating to the contemporary Islamic world, as follows:
(A) Studies of sources of information:
1- Sources published in separate books.
2- Sources that are chapters or parts of books that contain such information in the context of other information.
3- Sources published in dictionaries, encyclopaedias, and guidebooks.
4- Official reports and books of statistics.
5- Conference and symposium proceedings.
6- Unpublished documents.
(B) Studies on centres producing information about issues of the contemporary Islamic world:
1- The Centre's relation with the issues of the contemporary Islamic world.
2- Ways it obtains information.
3- How it processes information.
4- How it makes use of this information.
5- How it disseminates information.
(C) Study of existing cooperation between information centres in the Islamic world:
1- At the local level.
2- On the Islamic level.
3- On the global level.
4- Degree of availability to researchers through IT.
(D) Planning for the establishment of an Islamic information network, taking into account:
1- The site.
2- How it should be financed.
3- IT equipment and software.
5- To what extent the existing shortage of information on Islamic world issues can be overcome through this network.
The Library is keen to disseminate the scientific benefit of the research presented to the Symposium, to publish it in a volume of conference proceedings, and to provide it to researchers and those interested in Islamic affairs.
Final Statement and Recommendations
The King Abdul-Aziz Public Library, in cooperation with the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Advocacy and Guidance and the Islamic Development Bank, held a global scientific symposium on Islamic World Information sources, in which a large number of researchers and specialists from inside and outside Saudi Arabia participated, and formed a preparatory committee that developed a strategy for the proceedings of the symposium, setting out its objectives and themes. The response of scientific institutions, think tanks, scientists, and intellectuals was considerable.
The seminar was opened under the patronage of his Royal Highness Prince Abdullah Bin Abdul-Aziz, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Head of the National Guard and Chairman of the Library's Board of Directors, during a celebration of the 100th anniversary of King Abdul-Aziz's entry into Riyadh on 15 January 1902 AD (5 Shawwal 1319). This event marked the founding of Saudi Arabia, when it became a country of security, a highly respected regional, Arab, Islamic and global centre that combines a long past, a bright present, and a brighter future by God's permission.
The Symposium was accompanied by the opening of a technical exhibition. There were twenty sessions in the Symposium and seventy research papers were discussed in addition to two general seminars. The first of these was held on Monday evening and was entitled International Media and Muslim Issues, and the second was held on Wednesday evening and was entitled Orientalism: The Residue of the Present and the Prospects for the Future.
Scientific discussions took place in a scientific atmosphere between researchers and the audience, influencing research, and benefiting participants. The research and studies presented to the seminar included careful monitoring of the purveyors of information about the Islamic world and a careful study was done of all the subjects discussed in the twenty sessions of the Symposium. The researchers were careful to strive after objectivity, and to carry out scientific investigation and deep analysis of events, and to look ahead to the future prospects of information for the world in general and Muslims in particular.
A programme of visits was organized for participants, through which they were able to see the aspects of the renaissance taking place in the Kingdom, praising in particular the historic King Abdul-Aziz Centre, which is a record full of what Saudi people have given the world over the centuries.
In thanking the Crown Prince for sponsoring the Symposium, his generous hospitality and the beautiful reception, the participants in the Symposium expressed their appreciation to the King for his outstanding efforts and his great wisdom, for all that he has given to the Arab and Islamic world, and for his firm positions in support of issues concerning Arabs and Muslims. The participants noted the Kingdom's efforts in solidarity, bringing Muslims to one mind, raising their status and solving their issues.
The participants also praised the technical developments taking place in the fields of information in the Kingdom, and its experiences in pursuing a comprehensive and balanced renaissance that combines adherence to Islamic principles with mature and rational openness to the realities of modern civilization. They made the following recommendations:
1. A long-term strategy should be developed to provide information sources about the Muslim world by establishing an information centre that links Islamic information networks. The translation of information sources into and out of Arabic should be intensified;
2. Historical information about the Muslim world should be purified of the insidious information that has distorted it, in order to burnish the brilliant civilizational face of Islam and Muslims;
3. A multilingual Islamic knowledge service should be created to take its distinguished place among the sources of information about the Islamic world;
4. A call should be issued for the creation of a research engine on the internet to address those seeking for information about the Islamic world;
5. The establishment of an Islamic satellite channel should be accelerated to be the means for the Islamic world to convey Islamic opinion to the world and to draw the correct picture of Islam;
6. Greater interest should be taken in Islamic minorities. They should become a focus of Islamic media so that they themselves, once they have been educated, might become a bulwark for Islam, and a positive element in their country;
7. Benefit should be drawn from Saudi Arabia’s success in combining the maintenance of its own well-thought-out foundational principles with openness to the world;
8. Universities in the Islamic world should be invited to adopt courses on sources of information about the Muslim world;
9. An Islamic classification system should be adopted that stems from Islamic culture and organizes the different sciences according to their place in Islamic society;
10. Access should be facilitated to sources of information in the areas of technical scientific research in order to serve the Islamic Nation in this important field;
11. Scientists, researchers and academics in universities and research centres should be encouraged to carry out field and applied research on information about the Muslim world and its sources and link it to the scientific activity of faculty and researchers;
12. Symposia on sources of information about the Islamic world should be intensified in order to master information technology in order to provide, organise and make it available to beneficiaries;
13. The King Abdul-Aziz Public Library in Riyadh should be charged with forming a committee to follow up the recommendations of the Symposium and work on implementing them;
14. Telegrams of thanks should be sent to the leadership of Saudi Arabia.
Praise be to God, who is the one who blesses our efforts.