Concept speech of Dr. Fareed Al Khotani, director of the Islamic Centre in Vienna. Steady scientific development and the flourishing of human civilization in modern times is in of need of more mutual understanding in order to push further forward the development of mankind. Western nations which are at the forefront of modern day civilizations are expected more than all other nations to play a leading part in the growth and progression of their human resources in order to achieve conciliation and harmony between themselves in their own nations. What leads one to great optimism and contentment are the great efforts that we see undertaken, especially by western nations for the care and comfort not only its own citizens, but also for the minorities and those residing in these nations for the achievement of harmony and integration, and this is the main priority of the European nations in these times, because this harmony is a major factor for the achievement of peace and stability and hence productivity and development. But we must take into consideration that the policies laid down to push forward this harmony and integration that we are talking about face a few obstacles once truly implemented due to some factors not taken previously into account by those whom laid down these policies, making the process of adaptation and integration between the various portions of society even more time consuming. The muslims in the European countries being a part of these societies have not yet been able to fully integrate and adapt in their surroundings despite the various efforts, programmes and financial support of various countries and of the various Islamic societies and institutions. Therefore we must come to ask, ― Where lies this inability?‖ Austria in my point of view is the best country among its fellow European counterparts where this integration and harmony can be clearly seen. The muslim population in Austria is amongst the most integrated and adapted, more than any of the other of the European nations, so what is the reason behind this success? Any efforts for achieving the ever more increasing need for integration and adaptation cannot be achieved without taking into consideration the following 4 points : 1. The state: The state must have complete knowledge and information of the various portions of its society which it wants to have integrated and adapted and of what it expects of them after this process has taken place. 2. The desire and conviction to integrate and adapt of the various groups of minorities and their confidence in the state and that the state wants that which is best fir them, in order for them to play a positive role in the adaptation process. 3. Also the desire and conviction of the society as a whole (the majority) for the integration of these minorities and their wanting to live and get along with them. 4. To set practical and logical goals and programmes which fits in with various portions of the minorities leading them to the main goal which the state wants achieve. Due to the different circumstances that many of the muslim countries went through over the past two centuries, especially those concerning colonialism, poverty, and instability, some muslims have taken the choice of emigrating to other countries in search of a better life. The forthcoming of the religion of Islam upon all countries and nations, and the ability of Islam of not receding into any particular nationalism or geographical or lingual boundaries, has led to the entry of some of the people from non-muslim countries into the folds of Islam. This all has created a reality unknown in past times which is the existence of muslim minorities in non-islamic societies as is such the case in Europe today. This reality we’re talking about has its own special judgements in the Islamic Sharia unknown to many of the muslims, especially those living in Europe, making them come to ask as to how they should live. Should they absolutely abide by the law of the Islamic Sharia as if they were living in any one of the muslim nations? Or should they live like those living in those countries by the non-islamic laws? And how should the muslims work or cooperate with peoples and governments of such societies? And how should the European governments and societies work with the muslims living amongst them? And how about the European man whose fathers have been living here for ages generation after generation who has recently converted to Islam? Should he live like a foreigner just because he’s muslim? These are all questions which the Islamic Sharia has already answered, along with the other laws and constitutions of western Europe. The clearness of the laws of the Islamic Sharia for the muslims and the laws laid down within the European society, and the work being done through constructive dialogue and discussions without the shadow of a doubt lead to an increase in integration and harmony between the muslim minority and the larger European society. As for my topic today, for it is about the role of the institutions of the muslim society in the integration processof the muslims in Austria and in particular the role of the mosques. In the Islamic centre in Vienna, and eversince my taking over of it, I have made it my duty to implement the policy of open-mindedness and openness towards the Austrian society and have made its main goal the policy of mutual understanding, adaptation and harmony between the muslims and the Austrian society. I have achieved this by taking the following steps : 1. By seriously preparing the muslims on adaptation, integration and cooperation with the Austrian society. 2. By choosing the official authorities concerned and those who are most cooperative and by undertaking conjointly activities with them. 3. By contacting the official authorities who have relations or are in contact with public institutions so that I could introduce to them the Islamic Centre and the muslim community. 4. By receiving a numerous amount of Austrians and introducing them to the centre and telling them of its goals and explaining to them Islam and by clearing out to them all former doubts or misconceptions which they might have had about the muslims or Islam. 5. By making joint gatherings, lectures and seminars which play a major role in increasing the knowledge of Islam and the muslims of the Austrian population and its various institutions which in turn helps out in the integration process of the muslims and their harmonious existence within the Austrian community. 6. And lastly by contacting and keeping in touch with the institutions which may be uncooperative in order to cooperate with them and clear out any doubts or misconceptions which they may have concerning Islam or the muslims, and on a regular basis. And the main factors of success for this are : 1. Understanding and knowing the reality in which the muslims are living today. 2. Full knowledge of the Austrian society through study and analysis in order to understand the environment in which the muslims are living. 3. Knowledge of the priorities of the Austrian community and its concerns and goals. 4. Knowledge of what is expected of the muslim individual and the muslim society as a whole in the west. 5. Realism and the gradual transmission of this reality to the way the muslims are living now as to how the muslims should live in the west. 6. Truthfully presenting Islam and teaching it to the muslims by planting a positive and constructive image of Islam in the minds of the muslims and by conveying a message of tolerance between one another in accordance with the reality they are in, in western Europe. We at Islamic Centre elaborate on this last point by : A. Presenting the true and real image of Islam to the muslims by chosing the topics which concern the muslims in the west. B. Explaining Islam in its genuinity even in topics that may not comply with the desires of the Austrians, because this is the safest and most reliable way for adaptation, integration and harmony in the long run. C. Breaking the barrier of isolation which some muslims may have by taking a more open-minded stance and by actively taking part in all the different aspects of public life in Austria . D. To encourage muslims on learning the local language—being german in this case—for better harmony and understanding. E. Great emphasis on the female aspect in most activities because of the great potential which women possess and the time, hence they can play a very positive role, but at the same time by taking into consideration the special status of the muslim woman and making sure not to hurt her or belittle her in any way. F. To undertake joint programmes and projects with non-muslims from the Austrian society to create the suitable environment for our common fate which we all share in the austrain society, with muslims being a part of it, and by participating in humanitarian and charitable works in times of crises, greatly emphasising on the good and humane feelings which the muslims have towards the Austrian community, and the European society as a whole. G. Playing a positive and constructive role by creating the suitable environment for both parties -–the Austrian community and the muslim community—since the muslim community is part of the larger Austrian society, therefore sharing the same concerns and goals. H. To make use of each and every positive stance from the side of the Austrian nation or the Austrian society upon request for greater interaction and harmony form the muslim community, and by trying to achieve form time to time a positive position in order to give the muslims the feeling of the importance of playing a positive role for a better integration and understanding.
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