During the past two decades, the Institute has sought to broaden its based by opening and facilitating channels of communication and interaction between Muslim academics, the ulama, and activists, by developing linkages and networks with NGOs engaged in development and welfare projects, and by initiating academic exchanges and collaboration with eminent scholars as well as academic organizations and research institutes in different countries. A recent outcome of this collaborative effort is the publication of a volume 100 great Muslims Leaders of the 20th Century (2006). In recognition of its multi-faced contributions, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations has conferred on the Institute a conferred on the Institute a consultative status (Roster).
Muslims and the contemporary global scenario
The dawn of the 21st century has brought in its wake formidable challenges as well unforeseen prospects for humanity. Globalization is accelerating apace and is poised to radically alert the world scenario in the foreseeable future. The process of globalization seems to be a paradoxical phenomenon, a mixed bag of positive and negative elements and features. Thus, on the one hand, it has brought about a good measure of exposure and sensitivity towards ethnic, religious and cultural diversities, thanks to modern information and communication technologies, large-scale international migrations, and intermingling among people from varied ethnic and religious background. On the other hand, modern information and communication technologies have also been used for disseminating and reinforcing stereotypes and prejudices about different ethnic groups and religious communities. The 2004 annual report of the Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia points out that, notwithstanding the high-sounding rhetoric of human rights, ethnic and religious minorities in many European countries - especially Muslims and Gypsies - have to bear the brunt of xenophobia, institutionalized racism and exclusion.
A relatively recent phenomenon which ha attracted world-wide attention, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, is what has come to be known as Islamophobia: fear of and hostility towards Islam and Muslims. The currently prevailing perception about Islam in the Western world is that it is at variance with progress and enlightenment, that it incites violent passions in its followers, that is poses an ominous threat to world peace. Shortly after 9/11, Noble Laureate V.S. Naipaul asserted that Islam has always attempted to enslave and wipe out other cultures and that it has had calamitous effects on converted peoples. Samuel Huntington, whose book the Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (1996) created a storm of controversy, described the contemporary period as the "age of Muslim wars" in which Muslims are fighting each other and non-Muslims alike. Writing in Newsweek (17 December 2001), Huntington argued that these wars (allegedly initiated by Muslims) have replaced the Cold War as the principal form of international conflict and that they could congeal into one major clash of civilizations between Islam as potentially pitted against each other in the unfolding global scenario. Francis Fukuyama, who authored the notorious "end of history" thesis, argued in the same issue of the magazine that the gravest threat to Western liberal democracy in posed by what he describes as "Islamo-fascism". A British historian Niall Ferguson has recently said that even if the Muslims in Europe are the citizens of the countries where they live, they cannot be true citizens. Misconceptions about Islam and mistrust towards Muslims exist, in varying degrees, in large parts of the world today.
It is heartening to note that such extreme and distorted views have not gone unchallenged. The hollowness of Huntington's clash of civilizations thesis has been exposed by some of the world's leading thinkers and intellectuals. Edward Said, for example, decried the clash of civilizations thesis as a deplorable attempt to revive the old good vs. evil dichotomy prevalent during the Cold War era. Huntington's views, fallacious and distorted as they are, have been publicly denounced by heads of states, including President Bill Clinton, statesmen and politicians in many Western countries. The massive anti-war protests and demonstrations across Europe, North America and the rest of the world before the American-led invasion of Iraq and the sharp differences between the major European countries and the US and its allies before and after the invasion exposed the absurdity of the thesis.
The events the unfolded in the wake of 9/11 brought about a radical transformation of the global scenario. A curious fall-out of 9/11 was a surge of popular as well as academic interest, especially in the United States and Europe, in understanding Islamic beliefs and values. Large numbers of Muslims, especially those living in the Western world, felt the need to fall back upon their spiritual and cultural heritage and to reinvent their identity. One can scarcely fail to notice the tidal wave of Islamic resurgence which is sweeping across the Islamic world as well as South Asia, Europe, North America and Australia where Muslims have a sizeable presence. This is reflected in the growing demand for Islamic literature, in the proliferation of religious and communitarian institutions and organizations, in the revitalization of Islamic movements, and in the growing involvement of Muslim youth as well as Muslim women in faith-based activities.
The IOS MINARET
The IOS MINARET MINARET has been conceived in the context of the unfolding global scenario. The broad objectives of the website are the following.
To present the values, ideals and principles of Islam in rational, non-polemical and cogent manner and in the contemporary idiom.
To highlight the seminal and multi-faceted contribution of Islam and Muslims to the development and enrichment of human civilization as a whole as well as in specific regional contexts in the areas of advancement of knowledge and learning, human rights, science and medicine, engineering and technology, social sciences and humanities, art and architecture, town planning, governance and administration.
To provide authentic, updated information about Muslim communities located in different parts of the world.
To examine and analyze contemporary issues from an Islamic perspective.
To clear misconceptions, misrepresentations and misgivings about Islam and Muslims.
To clear the cobweb of confusion, ambivalence and skepticism in the mind of certain sections of Western-educated Muslims, students and youth and to instill in them a sense of legitimate pride in their religious and cultural heritage.
To act as a catalyst in motivating educated Muslims to play a positive and constructive role in society in the light of Islamic values.
To build bridges of tolerance, goodwill and dialogue between Muslims and the rest of humanity in particular and between civilizations, cultures and communities in general.
The IOS MINARET will cover a wide range of themes and subjects, including the Holy Quran, Hadith and Islamic law; history of Islamic civilization in the global as well regional contexts; contribution of Muslims to the advancement of knowledge; science and medicine, social sciences and historiography, literature and the humanities, engineering and technology, architecture, art and crafts; unity and diversity in contemporary Muslim societies; the status and role of women in Islam and in contemporary Muslim Societies; Muslim minorities; the historical significance and role of Islamic endowments; Islamic movement; Islamic financial institutions; profiles of eminent Muslims; prominent institutions of Islamic learning; centres of Islamic heritage; problems and challenges facing the Muslim Ummah, etc. The discussion of these themes will be informed by a multi-disciplinary approach, shorn of pedantry and contestation.
The inaugural issue of The IOS MINARET contains the following wirte-ups:
(i) Inter-Cultural Dialogue and the Role of Muslims
(ii) The Digitalization of Islam: Globalization's Gift to Muslims
(iii) Sacrilegious Cartoons
The IOS MINARET will have a fortnightly duration and every issue will carry at least two features.
The IOS MINARET has an interactive format, which will hopefully motivate scholars, researchers, writers, media persons and other experts, professionals, students and educated Muslims to come to grips with the concerns and challenges facing the global Muslim community. Readers and browsers are welcome to sent their queries and comments on our write-ups and we can assure them of our prompt response.
We solicit the participation and cooperation of the Muslim Ummah in this labour of love.