Scholars at Makkah conference warn against sectarianism

Around 1,300 scholars and intellectuals took part in the conference. (AN photo)
Updated 14 December 2018

Scholars at Makkah conference warn against sectarianism

  • Egypt’s grand mufti, Shawki Allam: “Islam calls for us to join ranks and liaise on socioeconomic projects in order to better confront the regional challenges facing our nation today”

JEDDAH: Scholars attending a conference on Islamic unity, which was held in Makkah on Wednesday, have reiterated that Saudi Arabia is the “heart of Islam” in the modern era. The forum, which tackles sectarianism and the strife plaguing the Muslim world, was attended by prominent thinkers and researchers from 127 countries.
Almost 1,300 scholars and intellectuals took part in the conference, titled “Islamic unity: The perils of labeling and exclusion.”
Makkah Gov. Prince Khaled Al-Faisal inaugurated the event, which was organized by the Muslim World League. During the conference, participants called for a comprehensive plan to address sectarian-inspired extremism.
Abdullah Al-Turki, adviser to the Royal Court, told Arab News that politicians in Tehran continue to create strife in the Muslim world, while scholars around the world warn against such discord.
“Saudi Arabia is home to Makkah and Madinah and hosts millions of Muslims from around the world every day,” he said. “This is why the Muslim World League strives to foster unity by inviting scholars, thinkers and researchers to the table and this is why people of all races are here today.”
“Why does Iran continue to fuel sectarianism?” said Al-Turki.
“This will only fuel vulnerability within already-weak states. If Muslims deviate from scripture, they will continue to suffer.” Egypt’s grand mufti, Shawki Allam, told Arab News that scholars heavily rely on the recommendations put forth by the conference. “Islam calls for us to join ranks and liaise on socioeconomic projects in order to better confront the regional challenges facing our nation today,” he said.
“Egypt continues to support the Kingdom, on which regional stability remains contingent. Terror groups that continue to hijack Islam don’t speak in the name of this nation, and yet, the Prophet’s teachings forbids exclusion.”
Bou Abdullah Gholamallah, president of the Islamic Council, told Arab News that the House of God unites people regardless of race or sect and that unity should be a principle of patriotism. “Cultural, historic and geopolitical variants have played a role in creating division,” he said.
Ali Al-Amin, a Lebanese Shiite scholar, told Arab News that the conference is unique in its nature. “Saudi Arabia has always pioneered unification initiatives,” he said. “Labeling people as ‘believers’ or ‘non-believers’ only contributes to alienating minorities.”
Ahmed Atiyeh, a Yemeni minister responsible for religions endowments, told Arab News that he only wished the conference had existed sooner.
“We are sending a message to the world that we won’t tolerate attempts to reap discord,” said Atiyeh.
“I have come from Yemen to take part and to renounce Iran’s continued meddling in our region.”


W20 stresses importance of gender inclusivity across G20 groups

Updated 43 min 14 sec ago

W20 stresses importance of gender inclusivity across G20 groups

  • Women 20 (W20) meeting was hosted by Saudi Arabia as part of its G20 presidency

RIYADH: The second day of the virtual Women 20 (W20) meeting — hosted by Saudi Arabia as part of its G20 presidency — stressed the importance of ensuring inclusivity across the G20’s different working groups.

“The women’s empowerment team at the G20 Secretariat was established by the Saudi sherpa and… my team has engaged with working groups and discussed their topics, such as finance-track development, employment, health, education, agriculture, anti-corruption, energy, the digital economy, tourism, and trade and investments,” said Hala Altuwaijri, chair of the Women's Empowerment Team at the G20 Secretariat and secretary-general of the Family Affairs Council.

She added: “What we learned from previous presidencies is that we look at female empowerment as mainstream, as cross-cutting, and that it should not be the focus of one group only. In other words, every working group should have the empowerment of women as a priority... this is what the Saudi presidency has committed to.”

Addressing gender in the workplace, Libby Lyons, director of the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in Australia, said that Australia will close the equality gap at all management levels within the next 20 years.

“Forty-three percent (of) all promotions went to women last year in the private sector in Australia. The problem persists, however, for women accessing leadership positions such as CEOs and board members,” she said in a session titled “G20 Policies: Catalyzing Women's Economic Empowerment.”

Lyons’ agency has been collecting data annually for more than seven years from every organization in the private sector with more than 100 employees, giving it a clear picture of what is happening in terms of gender equality. “We must collect standardized data to track what we are doing and assess our actions,” she noted.

She said that in Australia, private enterprise is driving this change, facilitated by the government, which is a unique model. “I think that it is a lesson we can all learn,” Lyons said.

Discussing the most notable G20 commitments over the last five years, Wendy Teleki, head of We-Fi Secretariat, said that We-Fi was founded in 2017 at the G20 Hamburg Summit focused on supporting entrepreneurs around the world.

Since then, it has allocated $300 million in funds through its partners to programs that are ultimately expected to benefit more than 130,000 women, she added.

This year, We-Fi has allocated an additional $50 million and Teleki said that another $50 million “will be allocated to the issues of technology, early-stage financing, and COVID-19 relief response to empower women entrepreneurs and help them in their reliance on technology.”

Addressing the private-sector alliance, empowerment and progression of women’s economic representation, which was established last year in Japan as a means to advocate the advancement of women in the private sector, Tomoko Hayashi, director-general of the Gender Equality Bureau in the Cabinet Office said: “The Empower project…aims to increase the number of women with access to leadership positions. Also it devises actionable plans to increase the digital literacy of women in developing countries.”

She added: “COVID-19 has greatly impacted women, including (by) increasing rates of unemployment and domestic violence. At the same time, it created a great opportunity for women to change the rules of the game.”