Muslim Americans Convene Scholars in Mauritania to Discuss Religious Minorities’ Rights

Muslim Americans Convene Scholars in Mauritania to Discuss Religious Minorities’ Rights

Last week, ISNA President Imam Mohamed Magid and ISNA Director of Community Outreach Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi convened a small multilateral forum of scholars in Mauritania to discuss challenges faced by religious minorities in Muslim-majority communities around the world.  Since last year, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has dedicated substantial efforts to this issue.

As part of its mission, ISNA seeks to help represent the voice of diverse Muslim communities within the United States, as well as to represent an American voice within Muslim communities around the world.  Both goals require heightened attentiveness to issues of religious freedom and civil liberties, which we seek to address through positive interreligious partnerships both here in the U.S. and abroad.  As a result, we have become increasingly concerned not only about the challenges faced by Muslim minorities within the United States, but also those faced by religious minorities in Muslim-majority communities around the world.

Over recent years, we have heard numerous reports about serious violations of the rights of religious minorities in Muslim-majority countries.  These incidents stand in stark contrast to the values and traditions of Islam.  Historically, when such circumstances arise which run counter to our Islamic theology, it has always been the role of Islamic scholars to intervene.  As such, the Islamic Society of North America, is currently working together with Muslim leaders worldwide to promote a mechanism for developing Islamic standards and protocols on religious freedom and the role of religious minorities in the Muslim-majority communities.  This effort is also in line with ISNA’s domestic priorities, because poor treatment of religious minorities in Muslim-majority communities also has a substantial and negative effect on the manner in which Muslim minorities are regarded and treated in the West.

To address this issue, ISNA has met with Muslim scholars and high-level government officials in several countries, including Morocco, Tunisia, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, to discuss the importance of elevating this issue to the forefront of scholarly discussion in the Muslim world.  We have also organized and participated in several events, including a symposium with Georgetown University’s Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Christian-Muslim Understanding this past May in Washington, DC.

The meeting last week was hosted by Shaykh Abdallah bin Bayyah, Vice Chair of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, in his new Global Centre for Renewal and Guidance in Nouakchott, Mauritania.  Participants included Dr. Nourredine al-Khademi, Tunisian Minister of Religious Affairs; Dr. Ahmed Toufiq, Moroccan Minister of Islamic Affairs and Endowment; Mr. Rashad Hussain, President Obama’s Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation; Dr. Ahmed Ould Neini, Mauritanian Minister of Islamic Affairs; Dr. Abderrazak Juessoum, President of the Algerian Muslim Scholars Association; and other prominent scholars.  The scholars also met with President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania to brief him on the purpose of their visit to Mauritania and the goal of their project.  The President was very supportive and offered the scholars his assistance facilitating the development of solutions to this enormous challenge.

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