European and Middle-eastern scholars talked to identify common ties at the Bridging Cultures Forum on Saturday.
Al-Makkiyah Al-Madaniyah Institute and the German consulate organized the two-day forum with workshops.
Vefahan Ocak, director general of the cabinet and chief adviser at the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the forum was to bring Muslim and non-Muslim scholars and thinkers on one platform to better understand, engage in dialogue and exchange ideas.
Dieter W. Haller, German ambassador in the Kingdom, said the forum served to enhance the intercultural dialogue between Muslims and the Western world.
“We should conduct such dialogues with our utmost strength and sincerity, it is responsibility of the entire academic, international and diplomat communities to work together for common grounds,” said Haller.
Klaus Streicher, division head for cultural and media relations with the Maghreb, Near and Middle East, explained the initiatives of the German government toward intercultural exchange.
“Germany has become more religiously and culturally diverse, mainly as a result of immigration by people from predominantly Muslim countries. Intercultural and interreligious dialogue is a challenging task,” said Streicher. “We need to discuss what we have in common, and agree how to handle different perceptions and positions. Peaceful coexistence within societies and beyond must be the goal.”
Samar Fatani, broadcaster, columnist and author from Saudi Arabia compared European and Saudi Arabian perceptions of human rights and freedom of expression.
She explained the need to promote interfaith and intercultural initiatives to promote human rights in both regions. “We want to clear the misconception of Islamophobia, which is the result of people’s ignorance. Extremist with their own agendas defame Islam with propaganda and hate speeches targeting Muslims,” said Fatani.
“The establishment of observers to monitor hate speech and discrimination against Muslim in the West is a significant development. The rule of law is essential to achieve universal justice. Without it we cannot coexist peacefully. To restore calm we need to see a genuine desire with European and American governments to address the problem and put an end to the defamation against Islam and our prophet,” she said.
She explained that today’s leaders should not follow the paths of their predecessors. Human rights advocates should focus on better plans. Policy makers in Europe need to influence a collective stand to end discrimination. Media organizations should be held accountable for spreading wrong information about Muslims and Islam. European and Muslim media should work together to defend the legal rights of different ethnicities and expose human rights violation.
“To build a better relationship, we need to resolve the ideological crisis between Christians, Jews and Muslims. We need to work together with an approach based on a spirit of respectful inquiry. Interfaith education can play a great role in dispelling the lies and erasing misconceptions about Islam,” she said.