Conference of European Imams

The following are excerpts from a speech given by Benita Ferrero-Waldner (European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy) at 2nd Imams and Female Preachers in Europe Conference which is taking place in Vienna.

The European Commission is fully committed to fostering dialogue with Europe’s major religions and communities of conviction.

It is particularly important that the Islamic communities of Europe hear that message at the moment, when there is renewed attention to the so-called clash of civilisations.

I say “so-called” because this term is a misnomer. What we are facing today is not a clash of civilisations, but a clash of ignorance.

After all, we have our roots in the same civilisations. Our major religions stem from the same root, belief in one god and the revelation.

But unfortunately these commonalities are too-often overlooked. In today’s uncertain times, the need to enhance cooperation and deepen understanding between peoples, cultures and faiths has never been more pressing.

As we reflect on the meaning and identity of Europe in the 21st Century, this Conference’s reflection on Islam in Europe is extremely welcome.

Europe is home to an estimated 20 million Muslims. So it is clear that Islam is as much a part of modern day Europe as it has been part of its history.

Europeans are proud of our religious, cultural and linguistic diversity, and yet “unity in diversity”, the EU’s motto, has still to be achieved. The reaction to the cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed were just the latest example of the gulfs of misunderstanding within Europe and beyond.

Freedom of religion is non-negotiable. It is a fundamental right of individuals and communities and entails respect for the integrity of all religious convictions and all ways in which they are exercised. Similarly, freedom of expression is central to Europe’s values and traditions. It is also non-negotiable. But it does come with responsibilities and should be exercised with the necessary sensitivity to others.

Two principles should guide us. First, it is unacceptable that any one group in society – Christian, Muslim, Jewish or Secular – seek the sole right to fix the parameters. And second, respect and understanding are the keys to any acceptable outcome.

Against this background it is immensely encouraging that you are here from across Europe to discuss the key issues Muslims in Europe face today: integration, political participation, equal opportunities for women, youth, freedom of expression, mutual understanding and respect.

It is emphatically not a question of European versus Islamic values. Nor is it a question of assimilation or of any community giving up core beliefs and value which are closes to their heart. As the Graz Declaration made clear, it is about European Muslims exercising their religious identity as Muslims and their social identity as Europeans, without any contradiction.

As respected leaders of your communities, you can work with us in combating ignorance and fighting fundamentalism and extremism on all sides.


Source: Europa (English/German)

2 comments:

kris said...

Where are the responsibilitys for freedom of religion? I think this is an important point missing.

Esther said...

I think it's kind of hidden in the statement..

Freedom of religion is non-negotiable. It is a fundamental right of individuals and communities and entails respect for the integrity of all religious convictions and all ways in which they are exercised.

ie, if you belong to a certain religious community you need to respect other religious convictions. She does not mention however, other non-religious convictions. And, of course, this statement can be read in so many ways, it sort of loses whatever meaning it originally had.