The Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy and the National Liberty Museum, held a dinner banquet titled:
Geneive Abdo, Between Faith and Country? Muslim Life in America After 9/11
Shaykh Abdullah Idris, Public speaker, and former president of ISNA (1992-1997)
Radwan Masmoudi, Founder and President of CSID
Asma Afsaruddin, Chair of CSID and Prof. of Islamic Studies, Univ. of Notre Dame
Irwin Borowsky, Host and Director of the National Liberty Museum
321 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA.
The Center for the Study of Islam & Democracy (CSID) and the
National Liberty Museum held a dinner banquet in the evening hours of Saturday, December 9th, 2006 at the
National Liberty Museum,
The event titled “American Muslims Join the Liberty Trail: How to build religious harmony and understanding in America and the world,” attracted guests of various religious and ethnic backgrounds to listen to, and take part in, a vibrant panel discussion, the theme of which was support for interfaith dialogue and harmony.
After hors d’oeuvres and some welcoming remarks from Dr. Radwan Masmoudi, Founder and President of CSID, and Mr. Irwin Borowsky, Director of the
Museum, Ms. Geneive Abdo; author of “Mecca and Main Street: Muslim Life in America After 9/11,” took the podium. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Ms. Abdo explained, “Young Muslims are becoming more religious than their parents.” The terrorist attacks forced Muslims to “defend the faith, explain the faith and turn inward to some extent to form a more cohesive community,” she said. Moreover, Abdo explained, it is imperative that this growing Islamic identity not be misconstrued as a radicalization of American Muslims. And since the American media is quite likely not going to educate the American people to this, a “moderate voice” in the form of “Islamic activists, advocacy groups and institutions‚Äö√Ñ¬∂” must “in a very serious way join the public debate and somehow get the message out that there are militant Muslims, but that this in no way represents the views of the 1.3 billion Muslims around the world.”
“Among the many things that CSID does is to educate people‚Äö√Ñ¬∂ also, to engage policy makers.” CSID, Abdo explained, is in a prime position to be a voice for Muslims in the American political process “that seems to always be talking about Muslims and Islam, but never includes Muslims. So it is very important for Americans and Muslims to support organizations like CSID in order for there to be a very well organized political structure for Muslims in this country.”
To introduce the impetus behind CSID’s inception, and the nature of CSID’s work, Dr. Masmoudi assumed the podium. The crises in the Muslim Ummah, explained Dr. Masmoudi, are: poor education & illiteracy, unemployment, hunger & poverty, violence & wars, and corruption. The root cause of this is corrupt and oppressive governments; weak, divided and immature political movements; a lack strategic thinking & planning, and a lack of freedoms & Innovation. The solution: good governments that are elected by the people, held accountable to the people, and serve the people. CSID’s strategy: to organize conference and seminars bringing together democrats (moderate Islamists, secularists, and others), to educate the masses in democracy; how it works and how it is compatible with Islam, to establish; train and support a network of democrats in the Muslim world, and to lobby the U.S. Government and policymakers to stop supporting dictators and corrupt regimes in the region. CSID, explained Dr. Masmoudi, cannot do its work without the support of the American people, Muslim and non-Muslims alike, and urged those in attendance to support CSID in any way that they can.
Dr. Masmoudi went on to introduce Dr. Asma Afsaruddin, Chair of CSID and Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Dr. Afsaruddin began her talk with a personal observation “regarding why I chose to become involved with CSID. Why, after all, when I already had a full-time job and plenty of other demands on my time‚Äö√Ñ¬∂ The answer is simple and obvious: because I wholeheartedly believe in the mission of CSID which is to promote civil and democratic societies in the Islamic world. Why would I believe in this? Because Muslims deserve to live in such societies, and because such societies have been idealized in Muslim thought and history from the very beginning.”
Referring to CSID’s historic and groundbreaking workshop in December 2005 in
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia titled “Shura, Democracy and Good Governance;” a workshop created in cooperation with the
King Faisal Center for Islamic Research and the Advisory Council to the Saudi King (Majlis Al-Shura), Dr. Afsaruddin emphasized the inherent achievement:
“The bottom line remains that it was only CSID, with our academic and international standing and credibility among both Muslims and non-Muslims, which could lobby as we did in order to successfully hold such a historic workshop. Our track record is chock full of such remarkable firsts and milestone achievements. The workshop itself was an unqualified success, not because we converted everyone to the idea of democratic governance overnight and brought about an ideological coup, so to speak. But because we got a conversation going about the importance of these principles and the need to engage them in the context of promoting the welfare, the maslaha, of Muslim peoples everywhere.”
Dr. Afsaruddin proceeded to note that “we cannot keep up this trajectory of spectacular contributions and growth at such a critical time without your absolutely crucial help and continued support.”
To conclude the evening’s proceedings, Sheikh Abdullah Idris, Public Speaker and Former President of ISNA (1992 – 1997), reiterated the huge importance of CSID’s work, and the duty all the children of Abraham have to support one another across ethnic and geographic divides in any way that they can. His pledge, he explained, is to educate youth in Muslim schools on the compatibility of Islamic principles with a number of essential modern and democratic values on display in
America, through a civic education textbook.