As a part of European Year of Intercultural Dialogue and with its focus on Islam and its relationship with Europe, the City of Vienna, the capital of Austria, has named a square as "Muhammad Asad Platz".
The square was inaugurated outside the main entrance of the United Nations headquarters in Vienna at a ceremony, which was attended among others by Pakistan Ambassador Shahbaz, Muhammad Asad's son Talal Asad and city officials.
A media release of the organisers said "Muhammad Asad Platz" (Square) is the first traffic area to be named after a Muslim not only in Austria, but in Western Europe.
Asad, born Leopold Weiss, was a Jew who converted to Islam and translated the Holy Quran into English. He was born in 1900 and lived up to the ripe age of 92 years.
District Chairman Norbert Scheed was pleased that a place had been found in his district to commemorate Muhammad Asad. "It is an important message that we send by honouring this religious mediator who always spoke in favour of religion on the basis of democratic values and uniting elements."
Professor Talal Asad, was happy and moved to see the life and work of his father honoured in this way. "Vienna has a unique way of welcoming people who come to this city, and the way different religions are treated here is an example for all of Europe", he said, adding, "I can think of no better city to honour my father's work than Vienna."
After the inauguration of the square, the Mayor of Vienna Dr Michael Häupl hosted a reception in the Senate Chamber of the Vienna City Hall.
In his speech, Mayor Hupl emphasised on Asad's message of living together in peace. "The living together of people of different religious and cultural backgrounds in Vienna is exemplary. The commemoration of Muhammad Asad has truly enriched our city."
Professor Talal Asad thanked the City of Vienna for the honour that his father was granted by naming a square after him. "I would be happy if this openness and the inclusive role of Vienna would become an example for Europe."
Ambassador of Algeria Taous Feroukhi called the decision of the City of Vienna to name the square outside the United Nations headquarters after Muhammad Asad "an admirable answer to the growing global criticism of Islam".
Anas Shakfeh, President of the Islamic Community of Austria, said that the Islamic Community of Austria made its proposal to name a square after Muhammad Asad especially to honour Asad as a philosopher and builder of bridges. Vienna, as the open metropolis it is, accepted the proposal, Shakfeh said, underlining that this was a great honour for the Muslim community of this city: "In Vienna Muslims can be Muslims, Europeans, Austrians and Viennese citizens at once."
The representative of Prince Salman of Saudi Arabia, Dr Fahad Samari, said that he considered the decision for the naming of the square an important step towards "showing the world the colourful face of Vienna", adding: "The Arab people appreciate this step and send a respectful greeting to the Austrian people."
Another highlight of this focus on Islam was the screening of the biographical film about Muhammad Asad's life, "A Road to Mecca The Journey of Muhammad Asad". The film also looks at today's relations between Islam and the West from a new point of view. The journey starts in Lviv and leads to Vienna, Berlin, Palestine, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, the United States, and Spain.
At the panel discussion "Europeans and Islam between fascination and rejection", Prof. Talal (cultural anthropologist), Dr Murad Hoffmann (former German ambassador, author), Prof. Rdiger Lohlker (professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Vienna), Dr Alfred Noll (lawyer, sociologist, university lecturer for public law), and Amena Shakir (expert on Islamic studies and political science) discussed developments related to Islam in Europe.
Source: Associated Press of Pakistan (English)