21 January 2009

Tomorrow at Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow conference

Today was the last day of the Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow (MLT) conference, so isn’t it ‘tomorrow’ already?! Azhar Usman made a funny quip about the conference after the discussion on ‘whether there is a crisis with Muslim religious authority’. Half way through the discussion, delegates where still trying to figure out what the definitions and parameters of the discussion were! And then we all just left it and went to have a huge 5 star meal in the tent!

Some things overheard today:

Shaarik (USA)- I am here in my own capacity. Nothing I have said or am about to say, in any way, reflects the views of the US government or the State department.

Saqeb (UK)- I work for a think tank. I have a background in war studies.

'As bad as 9/11 and 7/7 were, Muslim victims of terror attacks higher! We are victims of violent extremism so let’s address this!'

‘Bloggers, make sure your writing is good! Otherwise nobody is going to listen to you.’

Robert Perez. The brand is the truth and gets reinforced in our heads by advertising or news stories.

During the session on Blogging and New Media, Nikegamechangers.com, a corporate social responsibility initiative of Nike was presented by a MLT, leading to the following discussion:

Q: … but Nike has child labour in some countries?
A: Money is there for advertising anyways, so let’s use it for positive projects.
Bilal: beware about multi-nationals using CSR budgets for deceptive marketing schemes, as they are very opportunistic. Corporate social responsibility is great. But while they're "responsible' in one country- they're oppressive in another!

Zaid Mahomedy read some of my blog posts and tweets and was somewhat uncomfortable with some of the MLT comments. He wanted to know that if some of the MLT “reject certain Ulema, don’t really care for Halal or Haraam and believe that the western values of individualism and personal freedom is the way forward, then who will keep our ‘leaders of tomorrow’ on the right path and accountable for their actions?”

I don’t know- are not the leaders just a reflection of the people that they lead?

Riyaad Minty did a presentation on Al Jazeera New media coverage of the War on Gaza. There was then discussion on the bloggers in the Arab world who are using internet for ground-breaking change, but facing harsh responses from authorities! www.globalvoicesonline.org explained how they are defending free speech online in Iran and elsewhere. MLT’s were encouraged to use online tools for Islamic work and be creative with the avenues and tools at our disposal.

The conference as a whole was not that productive- too much general talk with no clear benefit and direction. But the great networking that the conference provided was invaluable as the delegates were truly some of the most impressive individuals I have met. At the conclusion of the three days, an ‘Open letter to the world leaders of today’ was proposed which will be refined and then issued. This was the latest version I was able to obtain:

In the face of the world’s many unprecedented challenges, and with Barack Obama as the new U.S. President, there is no better time for men and women across the globe to present a case for positive change. We, as 300 Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow living in 76 countries around the world, respectfully present this Open Letter to the World Leaders of Today. If we are to inaugurate a new era of hope and peaceful engagement, Muslim and non-Muslim world leaders must commit to the following:

* Allocate resources to meeting basic needs, infrastructure, the environment, education, and job creation, because healthy, well-educated, and engaged citizens are more invested in their societies and are less likely to be swayed by radical ideologies.
* Support policies that enhance development and human rights, not war, because these rights are universal and their violation inhibits our efforts to sustain peace, tolerance, and hope.
* Generate opportunities for intellectual and cultural advancement, because creative minds are better positioned to find solutions to complex challenges.

* Promote youth participation in government and civil society, because in order to resolve our most intractable conflicts and problems, we must galvanize the youth to become part of the solution.
* Ensure the full political participation and democratic rights of all people—including youth, women, and religious and ethnic minorities, because extremism is curtailed and prosperity ensured when all members of society are engaged, speech is free, governments are open, and civil societies are robust.

* Respect the contributions of all, including Muslims and non-Muslims, to their respective societies and to global civilization, because a world built on mutual recognition and understanding is achievable only when everyone is valued.
* Safeguard our shared—Muslim and non-Muslim—values of peace, pluralism, and cooperation, because we draw upon these values to positively transform our communities.

* Seek honest dialogue and engagement as equals between leaders of nations, because committing to respectful and trusting relationships amongst leaders sets a powerful example.
* Pursue dialogue and diplomacy to resolve longstanding conflicts, because these conflicts destroy individuals and societies and weaken our efforts to instill hope and guarantee justice.


fug said...

oh man that open letter is so cheesy.

back in the day such a gathering would have caused tyrands to crumble and the earth to sing sweetly with the tone of a craftfully massaged landscape.

i think some dumb oil wallah swallowed too many self help books.

global voices? pro muslim? my arse!

Ismail said...


Ismail said...

There is a time for eloquence and oratorship and a time for practicality. A time for flowery letters and a time for pinpointing specific things whic can be acted on eg. a boycott. I hope this letter wasn't the only thing coming out from the conference! Nows a time for BUSY BODIES more than BRIGHT MINDS!!!

Dreamlife said...

".......are not the leaders just a reflection of the people that they lead?"

No - the blind leading the blind gets us nowhere.

Leaders are supposed to be the best of us; the ones we look to as role models.

Unfortunately, having strayed far from our deen in this day and age, Allah has sent the worst of us to rule over us - as is evident from some of the heads of state in the Arab countries, and indeed non-Muslim countries too.

What we need is leaders who understand the problems we've gotten into in the modern world - but will rule by the standards set for them by Islam (pure Islam - not the polluted and politicised 'versions' so common today) - leaders who will not bow to the ideological pressure of others; but will rule by the true laws and spirit of the Shariah. Because Islam has the solution to every problem - it is the deen that Allah has "completed and perfected" for us.

And importantly, these leaders need to be people we look up to; people who's sincerity we believe; people we believe can lead this ummah back to health.

Obama has some of the latter characteristics - it's been a long time since an elected leader has had that kind of support from so many across the world. But what he rules by - that's the core of what will make him a success or failure in my eyes. For example, whether he'll actually bring truth and justice to the way the U.S. conducts it's foreign policy - i.e. choosing true justice over his nation's own material interests. Whether he actually cares for the poor and oppressed of the world and, from his lofty position, is willing to do something about it...or whether that was just lip service: something that sounded good and won the crowds over.

From his silence on Gaza, the signs are not good so far....but i'd like to see what happens, especially on that issue.

There's an opinion that conferences and seminars such as these really don't make a difference to anything. The same with the theses and books written by such attendees. Some say that these events are just a bunch of intellectuals getting together and talking. That it doesn't reach the common person - nor does the common person care what these 'thinkers' are doing or saying.

It's an admirable initiative - this conference - but to many of the youth, the delegates that attended are not our representatives; and they do not speak on our behalf.

I sincerely hope that some good comes of this conference. I hope it's actually a means for the attendees to DO something positive, take the positive from this event and make positive contributions to their societies.

I hope it doesn't end up merely being a younger version of the same old conferences that lead to nothing in the older world; and just mere hypocrisy being displayed by the stronger nations over the others.

After all, we have the UN for that...

emancipatingmymind said...

I read the comments and I feel their sentiments and I guess we all hope that things aren't just pretty documents that come out of conferences like these and that there is action.

Firstly I think that we will never be able to include everyone that represents someone and that is the reality. I can also say the Australian delegates could have had more diversity and not come from the same group. But at the end of the day, the reality is different, not everyone can be included and someone will always feel left out.

I used to be one of those people who attended these conferences and felt jaded when all we came out with was some nice looking documents of what the world should be with no action and strategy behind it. I went to these things and yet thought, another talk fest!

In 2005 I went to a conference which was similar to this in that it was about 300 people who were believed were going to be influential in Australia over the next 15 years. After 3 days we had a beautiful document which was going to change the world but no action as such. We said that our number one priority as a country was to say Sorry to the Aboriginal people and to reconcile with Aboriginal Australia. During those three days we fought very hard o make it teh number one priority, it took 3 years for that same document to become a reality and Australia said sorry for it's crimes against Aboriginal people.

Change does happen, it just takes a very long time. We are all leaders and we should all be pushing for positive change. So the elected leaders might be attending the talk fest but it takes all of us to support them and help to bring the documents to life.

Sorry for taking over your comments section.