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Look at future, not past: British intellectual to Muslims

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – Muslims need to stop brooding over the past and start looking at the future, a pioneering scholar on Islam told a gathering in Ankara on Tuesday evening.

Speaking at an event hosted by Ankara Palas Meetings (Bulusmalari), Ziauddin Sardar said that the fundamental problem with the Muslim community is that it has idealized the past.
Sardar taught post-colonial studies at the University of London.

“We cannot imagine anything [but] our past,” he said, adding that there is a need to rethink how to approach and study Islam.

Sardar in his talk “Post-normal Times” said the Muslims need to create a new paradigm of Islam. “We should neither demonize the modernity nor the tradition; similarly, we should neither idealize the modernity nor the tradition, take best from both the paradigms,” he said.

Sardar, who has authored around 50 books besides numerous research papers, said that Muslims need to engage critically. “Our history has not been critically written which needs to be done,” he said.

He said that reform in its essence is futuristic and “that is why Muslims need to look at the future which means to remain aware of what is coming”.

The scholar warned Muslims against falling prey to pessimism. “The whole formation of faith is hope but then Prophet said ‘trust in Allah [but] tie the camel’,” he said asking Muslims to be “realistic”.

“Muslims need to revive the phenomenal reservoir of intellectual, cultural heritage and history,” he said.

“Muslim intellectuals are confused,” he said.

Referring to differences and contradictions among Muslims, he said: “Muslims need to transcend these differences to move forward.”

He emphasized on a multi-faceted approach to solve a problem. “Problems cannot be solved by a single discipline; we have to have multi-disciplinary approach. It has to be a collective exercise.”

  • Role of Turkey

Sardar, who was born in Pakistan in 1951, said that Turkey had a pivotal location between the West and the Muslim world.

“Look at the complex situation [the country is in],” Sardar said, adding: “There are contradictions in society as well, so for the survival, looking at future [of Turkey] is essential.”

He said that Turkey should adopt a futuristic approach in policy making for its government machinery, municipalities, universities and its society.

“UNESCO is framing a global policy on introduction of future studies and Turkey should take lead in adopting it. ”

– 'Saudi Arabia is oppressive'

Sardar, who is a physicist by education, said that Saudi Arabia was the most “oppressive state”. “It is a police state,” he said, when asked about the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Kingdom's Istanbul Consulate last October.

“It [Saudi Arabia] has nothing to do with Islam,” he said, adding: “[leaving out] Jamal Khashoggi, they [Saudis] even torture for minor things. They have no dignity, no humanity.”

He said that those in Saudi establishment want to “exercise power”.

“Look at the behavior of religious police Makkah, Haram sharif … how disrespectful they are even with the women,” he said citing examples. “There is something wrong.”

He said that first thing which defines kindness is giving respect to others. “To acknowledge that others also exist,” he said explaining that those characteristics are missing among Saudis. He added that “not every Arab is like that.”

Without mentioning the murder of Khashoggi, Sardar said: “What we will see is Saudi Arabia is being ruled by those who have blood on their hands.”

– ‘Future being colonized’

In his presentation, the British author said that due to technological advancement, “our future was being colonized”.

He said that the current times are “weird and very strange”.

Giving examples from politics and Oxford’s annual exercise on word of the year, Sardar said: “Something we believed in is shifting and moving away.”

Referring to process of Brexit which has been delayed, he said: “All this suggests something is happening.”

“There is debate about what European Union should be and what it was,” he said, foreseeing downfall of the regional bloc in coming two decades.

“Power structures are breaking down and shifting from West to East,” Sardar said, adding: “EU is breaking down [and] may last for 15 to 20 years [but] we need to prepare for and it may [directly] affect Turkey.”

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UPDATE – UK 'shocked' by UAE life sentence for student

UPDATES WITH MORE DETALS

By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal

LONDON (AA) – The life sentence handed to a British academic, who was accused of spying for the U.K. in the United Arab Emirates, is “shocking,” British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Wednesday.

“I am deeply shocked and disappointed by the verdict today,” Hunt said.

Matthew Hedges, 31, a PhD student from Durham University, has been in a UAE prison for more than six months after he was arrested while leaving the country.

On Wednesday, Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court sentenced the British academic to life in prison after convicting him of spying and providing foreign parties with sensitive information, the United Arab Emirates (UAE)-based Al-Ain website reported on Wednesday.

Hedges was arrested at the Dubai International Airport in May before boarding a flight to the U.K. after a two-week working visit to the UAE, according to the website.

He worked on the effects of Arab Spring on the UAE’s foreign policies as a subject for a thesis, according to the local media reports.

In October, the Emirati authorities referred Hedges to Abu Dhabi’s Federal Appeals Court on charges of “passing on sensitive military, political and economic information to a foreign entity”.

“I have personally raised the case of Matthew Hedges at the highest levels of the UAE government, including during my visit to Abu Dhabi on 12 November,” Hunt said in a statement.

Reminding that he spoke of the case with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed and Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, Hunt said “today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances.”

Hunt said the UK’s consular officials “have been in close contact with Matthew Hedges and his family.”

“We will continue to do everything possible to support him.”

Hunt said he has “repeatedly made clear that the handling of this case by the UAE authorities will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries, which has to be built on trust.”

“I regret the fact that we have reached this position and I urge the UAE to reconsider,” he added.