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G. Iskandar: Address to International Leadership Conference 2018

Address to International Leadership Conference 2018, Seoul, Korea, February 18-22, 2018

The political repressions, authoritarian rulers, and the absence of democratic governments in the Arab world over the past six decades, contributed directly to the demise of these countries and over the past seven years, the spread of illiteracy, the schism among ethnic, sectarian and even political groups and thus resulted in political intolerances, religious persecutions, unemployment, poverty and a miserable way of life.

These social and political situations have increased the sense of repression and injustice felt by the people and they were now looking for the appropriate opportunity to break this sad reality as they looked towards the standard of living and economic conditions enjoyed by the peoples of developed countries in Japan, the European Union and the United States. After the spark of the Arab Spring, which started in 2011, the resulting popular movements turned into military conflicts and confrontations as they carried the banner of reform and change of systems.  The events took a dramatic turn to take on a character of violence and terrorism as alien groups entered into the picture.  It was no longer what the people wanted.  It became a revolution created elsewhere. 

Hence, a new reality has become urgently needed in these countries, in light of these new complexities. A different approach and radical solutions to help the peoples of this region can be summarized as follows:

First: Stop the violence. Define and recognize the internal conflicts and isolate them from the foreign interventions that fueled conflicts to serve its own programs. 

Second: Restructure the government of the legitimate authority to preserve the unity of these countries and prevent its disintegration on the basis of religious, doctrinal or ethnic differences.

Third: Adopt democratic principles, which should lead to the circulation of power, the achievement of social justice and respect for the rights of individuals. At the same time, waste and corruption could slow down and eventually end as we apply the principle of transparency and accountability which could only lead to growth and prosperity.

Fourth: Maintaining the diversity in these countries as the basis of citizenship and equality among all, regardless of religious, political or military affiliations. This will eventually lead to a more stable country.

Fifth: To seriously focus on a solution to the Palestinian situation and the Arab-Israeli conflict to defuse the violence and wars. This can only be accomplished if the United Nations and thus the world can guarantee the rights of the Palestinian people to their own State, independent, within internationally recognized borders and the right of the Palestinian people to return, to work and to own property in their land again.  

Sixth: Remove tensions among the Arab societies by implementing stronger mechanisms of dialogue and communication and better rules of respect for each other. This will lead each of these societies to look inward and help its own people and promote growth and stability.

Taking into account these contradictions and problems that exist firmly in the mechanisms of governance and the level of backwardness of the minds of individuals, it is clear that changes need to be implemented as follows:

A: It is imperative to change the rigid religious reality in the Arab and Islamic societies, which draws judgments and solutions on the basis of interpretation, jurisprudence and the publication of fatwas. There are two essential things. 

  1. The separation between State and Religion and the adoption of sophisticated and renewable mechanisms to approach social, economic and political problems and challenges. 
  2. A comprehensive process on reading awareness. especially when it comes to understanding and interpreting religious texts to serve positive religious values based on tolerance and respect. This can be accomplished by adopting a new way of thinking and educational programs provided by the States.

B: The adoption of Democratic Rules of Government that respect the freedom of the people and their right to self–determination, and develop legal frameworks based on the Bill of Rights enjoyed by citizens of many countries and be bound by interpretation of religious texts. Then equality and social justice will create a permanent dynamic of reform and change and activate the role of oversight and accountability.

We must note that the achievement of peace in this region must be based on factors that include internal realities and external factors which influence internal governance.

  1. Internally, with the adoption of Democratic Rules, all citizens will be equal under the law and can go about their business to provide food and a prosperous future for their children, and allow these citizens to treat each other with respect away from religious interpretations.
  2. It is imperative that neighboring countries should take a positive role in stopping conflicts and refrain from fueling internal divisions, as they provide just solutions based on respect for human rights and social justice.

In conclusion, as we move from divisiveness to inclusion, from oppression to tolerance, from religious bigotry to love and forgiveness, the world and especially our Middle East will become a better place to live.  As we implement democracies, State and religion will help our society become a welcoming society built on equality, education, moderation and prosperity. Religious establishments can participate in promoting and supporting the citizens so other countries can feel comfortable in working and supporting our bright futures.



To go to the International Leadership Conference Schedule 2018, click here.