Absolutes in a shifting world

First session of \Muslim Christian  conference on 23rd July 2018

Absolutes in a shifting world

Shabir Razvi chairman

Julian Bond

I was director of Muslim  Christian Forum.

Good to meet every year and meet different speakers

I am pleased some of the participants are funded by the Methodist church

We are trying to restore our links with the Churchof England

We are strong in social issues and have grants project

The Feast does interfaith  with  young people. This is funded with £100000 grant from the Methodist church.

There is  a speaker form |Nigeria which are also Methodist

\Lucy will speak of the hostile political environment

It  is important to listen than to speak.


CEO Feast

Active member of the Methodist church

The Feast is Christian youth charity. To help them to feel committed and belonging and interacting

To build friendship based on trust and genuity

To work as peace makers.

What brought me to the Feast is long road as a Christian

I was secondary school teacher, international peace building and development.

I worked with MSF in comfort zones, in Afghanistan, Sierro |Leone, Chechniya, Malaysia on migrants who feared being caught by authorities, Malaysia and lastly in Yemen. There were two conflicts between north and south

I witnessed seismic shifts in communities

In Afghanistan my team walked for 400 kilometre to vaccinate children.

I sat down with elders: Is there something wrong?

The elder burst in tears. Two days before they had sold children for hard labour.

This is in a country of extreme cold and draught.

If they did not sell their children the village would have been in dire position

I ran several clinics in Afghanistan. There was a father holding his 4 year child who was injured with bomb. We gave child some medication. Both hands were severed.

I was given introduction to bombs there.

What allows people in peaceful countries to desing bombs that attract children

In Sierra |Leon people were hit by bombs that cut both feet and hands.

In Chechniya was a place that had bombs but there was war of fear.

People lived in bomb out buildings. Government was taking their relatives at night.

In Yemen every Friday millions of people came to the street to protest against the regime.

Those demos turned into massacres.

When I came to UK and saw poverty of community, welfare and care.

Absolutes is a word fraught with tension.

Who is wrong about the past? Who is worth more in society whether it has to do with skin or gender.

Exclusion of people. As Christian the centre of life is God. Creator is source of love.

Love is highest value for people. Love is to wish the others to flourish

As a scienties I cannot talk without feeling existence of God. WE need to respect affinity among each other.

The other commonality is that we share pain as human beings. We all bleed in same way and suffer same way. We all recognize that we can all have pain and could die.

One day we will discover we are vulnerable.

We all need with God and one another that we need grace. We hope others will extend grace to us and otherwise

The only thing certain in life is death

We are born and die and in between we have to make choices. Energy could be that of ear or love.

There is love, hatred, discrimination,, exclusion. The anchors that make us make choices are what we believe, we envisage and love, actively working for what we love to flourish.

Fear is positive. WE call that resilience among the shifting sands.

We aurge youth to move from solitary to community.

From brokenness to holistic peace.

Some change carries us along. Sometimes we cannot recognize the others

Without anchors of faith and love we remain at mercy of social forces away from love and God.

IN 1999 MSF was rewarded \nobel peace prize for their work in Africa. It has meaning for us today.

Rwandans said: courage and courage. It was said to me in Kigali by woman who was slashed

So many were brought to hospitals.

We could little for her. She knew and |I knew there were many others like her.

The challenge we face every day it seems that things are becoming more divided and angry.

Rebecca Masterton

Academic, writer, teacher

Reflections on our society and why I am trying a prophetic path in an environment that clearly goes against the pattern of prophetic path

What \I have seen from a young age and what I drove me to a religion that is hated by many people in this world.

|I was born in seventies which was post-sixties which was liberation from 50s,

We had feminist movement that had a point of some attitudes towards women.

There were changes to be made. There was chaos. I was brought up in small town. Three quarters of my relavites were divorced. There was major breakdowns. I was able to reflect back on  what happened here. There was breakdown of communication among generation of muslim youth.

When I socialized with my friends we never met their parents. Children were living intheir lives.

The culture available, |I was from secular family, There was no talk about anything beyond what you saw in front of you.

The culture available to us as youth was friends, pop music. I talk about the West but really now it is global culture. As young teen you glorify people. What did they give us as a wisdom teaching.

Then there was secondary school, and getting a job.

This was a background of family generation.

What I saw among my generation was increased amount of drug taking. My town was awash with various drugs. After school take lot of drugs.

The youth from brokien families were not given and guidance. How does it feel when afamily breaks down. Youth were seeking escapism

It was funded by entertainment industry, seductive to the youth who had no clue of live.

I saw mental breakdown, psisofrenic. There were youth who died of drug overdoses. There was young man from our town who went on holiday in Thailand and caught with heroin and imprisoned. He had stomach ulcer burst and he bleeded internally and died at age 21.

I went to his memorial, feeling sad. But there were people at this gathering who were taking drugs. I asked: Doesn’t this mean nothing to you?

This type of culture is spereading to our Muslim communities.

I read reports of drugs rife in Iraq. They used pigeons with ruck sack full of drugs. Heavy metal cultures introduced to Iraq. It is satanic culture that takes over the minds of the youth and split them from the families.

People in Iraq are aware of these influences.

I saw this type of culture after I moved to London. I studied Japanese with a lot of order, literature, improving yourself. But outside university it was chaos. I had friend who said that it was living on sand.

I moved to Ladbroke Grove when I was 20 and people wanted to become model, musician. It was exciting initially but then I asked: What is going on? There is nothing underneath it.

I knew a woman who had mental breakdown.

At than time I was extremely unhappy. It was like trapped in the matrix.

I was brought up in a culture that you could do anything you want. Freedom is useless if you don’t have knowledge.

If you don’t anything about your life, where you are going. It is like being in prison.

I felt deeply wrong and I could not explain to anybody why it was wrong.

I then moved to a Moroccan woman who was divorced with two children. Because she was brought up in different culture, I felt she had something that we had lost long time ago.

We claimed to have achieved what we wanted. We are free.

Without knowing anything about feminism.

She had something we had lost. A part of that was a sense of family with that woman. Look at our culture now. We see actresses in their teens who come to adulthood and media say; She is coming to be more initiated into this society of hyper exploitation of women.

Why I came into this path is that when I discovered Islamic culture, I stayed in Islamic countries. I know these countries have problems, but there is humanity, wisdom and logic that does not exist here. They still have recourse to inherited form of wisdoem that helps them transcend the difficulties we have.

I warn young women, get educated, work, get empowered, but don’t go the same way as women in our society had goen. There is vacuum is this liberation. My grandmother who was atheist said: You make it up as you go along. I told her: I want something that trains me to know the truth and to protect me from lies and deception. I do not want to sacrifice myself to this exploitative cultre.

Absolutes. It is not about West and Islam. It is global dragging youth to this vacuum. We have to stop people from dying in this way.

Rokhsana Aktar

I witnessed needs of our youth. I feel fortunate to have this experience.

As a pacrtitioner in youth culture. In Islam we believe in oneness.

Foundation of Islam are five pillars; shahadat, prayers, zakat, fasting and piligrimage. These five pillars form the essence of worship.

I love how it offers me peace, community, positiveness

It is crucial to give youth confidence. We need to teach them skills. Rise of social media changed many things. These benefist of social media also have negative aspects.Nowadays, we can stop at any place and connect to this social media.

We live in a world where suffering continues. The world is shifting we have to uphold to these absolutes.

Bonny Hill

Two parishes. I work with UN office for prevention of genocide. UN met with religious leaders to consider flashpoints for genocide in the world.

People of faith identify two umbrella points for genocide in Europe. WE had horrific holocaust and in Bosnia in nineties. There is growing tendency among youth people to join isis. There is radicalization, migration of people across Europe. It is not getting better.

Last summer we lodged a report in New York to plan how we get things forward

I am speaking as a priest in church of England.

The picture is of a hill outside Jerusalem. Jesus gathered his crowds on the mountain. His disciples came to him. Mountain also received Moses to receive the ten commandments. Jesus was giving blessings upon the people from the mountain.

Blessed are the poon in spiriti, for theris is the kingdom of heaven, Blessed those who morun, for they will be comforted.

The woman in the picture is Fadeela. With her husband and son were living in Srebrentca. They were caught and speparated from each other. At one point she decided to return to the twon where her husband and son were killed. Bits of peopl’es parts were found in different parts of the country. She returned to her town. She tells people her story with love and compassion. Hassan was teenager during the crisis. He went to plane field to play football. He woke up and found all his friends were killed. He rushed back and then he lost his family. He works at the memorial centre. You could see he is really exhausted and he starts to break down. He said he thought he had been hit. He said he could not hurt an insect, let alone those who had hit his friends and family members.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

He was in concentration camp in ww2.He writes about that time. AT the end of the book he wrote about what had happened after they were liberated. ||H|e felt hungry and wanted to eat. What they did not think of was revenge. They were interested in life.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.

We went to Palestine and met PLO. This is special school; hand in hand. Started 18 yrs ago. They have jewish, Palestinian and Christians. They live in Palestine, a place of conflict. They share their feelings; the check points, etc. The students become friends.

We asked them what hope they had for the future? They said they did not have hope.

We asked them what they fear most

For Israeli jewish girl, she said the army

Muslim Palestinian said; the army

The Palestinian Christian girl; the army

They are able to share their hopes and fear for the future.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy

These are victims from Rwanda during genocide

They are side by side and are friends.

He asked forforgiveness and she forgave them.

Blessed are the pure in the heart, for they will see God

The other one is from Iraq, victim of ISIS

That day is heavens

I meet Jesus every day

Blessed are the peace makers. He is also blessing the perpetrators. We hear about conflict and desire for peace. That lies with us, making peace with all those we consider to be evil

US presents itself


Reverand Ayode

Revd Ayodeji Okegbile

Chaplain, Nigerian Methodist Fellowship

Methodist church in Nigeria

Religious values are divine. Moral commitments will lead to stable environment

Religious values help to achieve perfection

I am married into a Muslim home.

WE have muslim Christian dialogue in Nigeria

When you see Muslims they don’t accept Boko Haram

God’s promises are moral commands

We are created in the image of God.

Richard Dawkins see humans as robots

The commandments contain religious and moral values

The quranic commandments define relations of man and creator

The God’s big box and the world’s

God is god of justice and mercy

He always thinks of you

Absolute truth is that God is watching us

Quran says:

God’s knowledge is abslute

God makes no mistake

Allah orders Moses mother to put him in river

ارضعيه فاذا خفت عليه فالقيه في اليم

God’s seeks to perfect my life

Yousuf’s story says he was taken as a slave. God cares. Yousuf from prison to palace

Both Christianity and islam provide meaning to understand the culture and live the same way.

Maryam delivered the child. Allah helped her through miracles.

It is a road full of wrongs

In  a shifting world, people’s views are different, no body is right, no one is wrong

Different views between absolutes and relatives

Moral relativism leads to hatred, unstable human environment

Extensive materialism and consumerism, plastic culture

Romanticism is about state of mind

We have philosophy that celebrated mind set and commodity of this world

Shifgitn in this world is neither for islam or Christianity.

Raising generation without god is like raising robots

Bibilical world view is that we can correct the flow of



Mohammad Kozbar

Finsbury Park Mosque

Chairman of the mosque

Three areas of my experiences

I am Lebanese from South. I witnessed civil war. It was religious war also.We witnessed muslims fighting Christians and within each religion from 1975 to 1990. It ended with heavy losses. We lost 150000 people

We realsied that the only way out is to set with each other. We have 50 billion dollars

The parties fighting each other in Lebanon are now  allied in elections as if nothing had not happened.

The second one is what happened in Bosnia which started 1995. The Serbs wanted to inherit Yoguslavia. They attacked Muslims and catholic Croats.

I visited Bosnia few weeks ago through Joseph Interfaith Foundation.

It was big experience for me

I went to Srebrenetca and met some survivors. Many lost their relatives. They belonged to certain religion. It was religious war. Karadic said it was revenge from Ottomans.

8000 people were killed in two days. 8000 were raped. We as religious leaders did not stand up to stop the war.

The same thing is happening in other areas.

Bosnians live with each other again. Muslims have not revenged from the criminals. They want to move on. The best way is to forgive but not to forget. Allah asked us to forgive those who oppress us.

Srebrentca was under UN protection at the time.

If we want to have faith in UN this does not give you reason to do so. They failed in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

We should get together and work to make sure that such things do not happen again

When I got involved in Finsbury Park Mosque in 2005. It was under Abu Hamza’s group. Everyone was fed up with what was happening. The police tried to close down the mosque. Abu Hamza was praying ouside the mosque. Then police contacted Muslim groups like Muslim Association of Britain to help. We can be part of the solution. We can make difference to reduce tension.

We argued whether to go ahead or not. We decided to go ahead. On 6th Feb 2005 that happened. The mosque is now open for everybody. Women are most active. It has become place where everybody can come and serve.

This is something that Islam teaches us. In Medina mosque Prophet led the life of Muslims.

As faith leaders we have big responsibility on our shoulders. WE either drive people away or bring them together.

After the attack on the mosque last year we saw how the community came to help. This is the example we need to take to the world

Third session 13.40

Lucy Lucy Zwolinska

Policy and Stakeholder Engagement Officer, Joint Public

Our churches (Methodist) take interest in

The hostile environment on immigration.

This policy is not within what we urge to happen

From a policy perspective I am speaking on how to approach these issues

The hostile environment; These are policies that make life to difficult for immigrants to force them to leave. This encourages discrimination and destitution. Destitutiotion is big problem

A whole set of checks are in place; right to rent, job seeking, house rental, bank account.

Do you have the right to stay in UK/

If you don’t have right papers, you can’t rent, can’t get job, poverty, no nhs services.

It causes destitution. If we believe we are children of God how do we treat this?

Members of public are used as amateurs guards.

If you rent house, seek employment you get problems.

Snap judgement is done causing difficulties.

Any form of racism is against God’s will.

Environment of enforcement. WE look around to see who is here legally. We don’t look at others as children of God.

Hostile eniveronment encourages destitution.

It causes poverty, deprivation. When Theresa May made it explicit: to force those to leave UK.

A Turkish migrant fled to UK after his house was burnt by military. He has no right to work or rent or nhs. No one may be left destitute. What does it mean that state is causing destitution?

AS people of faith, we must oppose this.

The universal credit appears nice but it is bad for the needy.

Food prices rose 13 percent.

Universal credit is designed to drive more people to work. It uses destitution as an acceptable means.

AS people of faith we need to speak clearly that destitution is never acceptable. The hostile environment thrives on distrust.

What is your response to hostile environment?

Sayed Ahmad Idrisi

Thanks to organizers

 I wear two hats; religious and earthly

Religiously I have worked in France, Belgium and Holland, Abrahamic discourse for over 33 years. I taught Islamic civilization at the Catholic institute for 4 years

This is in additono to institute of Imam Ghazali under Paris Grand mosque. Imams and guides are trained at this. They work to guide prisoners, soldiers and sick and transform them into citizens.

Our experience in interfaith started under two Michael LoLon catholic and Sheikh Mohammad Hamidullah Pakistani since the forties. Both advised us to attend the interfaith meetings.

This debate with catholic church was divided into:

Islamic and Christian faiths

Witnesses of the converts across religions

We emphasized grand personalities like sheikh abdul wahid yahya d 1952 and he is well-known.

We laid down rules of engagement

Deal with the other as he is

The common religious themes; like hijab in abrahamic faith

Debate on stereotyping of the other. Muslims make up to 50 percent of prisoners

Deal objectively with the other; do not turn the other into evil or angel

Commonalities among religion; mercy, family, compassion, spirituality, generosity, peace

We discussed the issue of Mary and Jesus

Self criticism of Islamic and Christian religions; extremism in both countries, we studied the life of Archbiship  le favr    and Mohammad ibn Abdul Wahab

Moving the dialogue to popular areas especially districts of the Arabs. We have not started it yet.

Mohammad Iqbal Asaria

I came to this country as refugee from Uganada. I could have become windrush generation.

The polish people are more anxious now because they are the majority.

Hostile environment is symbolic of what is happening.

If we imagine that in more of his memory lapses trump tweeted seven muslim players.

Seven of French teen were Muslims.

Trump still denies that Obama was born in the US

What is the bringing ground of this hostile environment

The apparent  issue is the increase in immigration.

This is mostly form Eastern European countries.

The idea that we want to limit the net immigration to tens of thousands is interesting.

The people of Europe are living longer. Life expectancy in UK is close to 80.

The number of young people is falling. To replicate a population we need average birth rate of 2.2 percent. Europe is not replicating.

OECD estimates that Europe will have a short fall of 40 million

By 2032 two working people will need to support one pensioner

WE have huge deficit of able bodies in Europe

The birth rate in catholic countries is falling sharply

Europe’s dilemma has population deficit.

Every border of Europe is Muslim

We have to find a way of existence between Muslims and Europe.

Historically interaction between the two sides has had ups and downs. The ups have been constructive.

In dark ages Muslims took up greek learning and translated it to Europe. That experiment was most fruitful in Andalusia.

The problem was that after the inquisition Europe tried to project itself in different ways. They said Muslims did not do much; they did not develop what they translated.

Unless we find a way what Muslims did to this culture, we will not make headway.

WE had Barbarians on the other side and we did not learn anything form them.

If we have demographic defict it needs great statesmanship. This is lacking

This is at the root of the problem. As the demographics become more problematic, politicians try to make problems.

UKIP’s popularity is growing because they attack Muslims and their symbols

WE have had growth of neo-liberalism is not all blessings. The biggest issue is inequality. Pope Francis in his book The Common Good, he dealt with this issue and said neoliberalism is structural sin. He said we need to create less poor people by this system. Poverty has been rising, increase in food banks. The number of homeless people in London increasing in society that created welfare state.

Both the economic circumstances which are made to create the rich and increase poverty of the low paid people have emerged. Personal loans are increasing to keep up with this life style. After his retirement, he wrote a book: Between debt and the devil. Lord King said that time to fool people or make gold have gone. WE have to face reality; we need more people to work.

The whole idea behind the European Union is that if rich countries helped the poor countries then all people will have similar life standards. This hostile environment has made life more difficult.

We have now landed with Brexit, thinking that we can live better outside Europe.

The economic constrainst, demographic leaves room for populism and extremism. To correct that is a big job that needs big statesmanship. This are skin deep veneer of civilization.

Professor Henry Gates arrived at his home in the suburb of Washington, having forgotten his house keys. He tried to open the house with crow bar. But the police took him to prison. President Obama criticized the man for living in white area.

Trump calls African countries shit countries.

This is ground for hostile environment.

It is not just prejudice but it has economy behind it. Unless we have our children grow up with this understanding that we need people from abroad to help us.

Faith is a way of winning hearts. A friend told me that one day we decided to build an extension at our garage.The neighbor objected. The Council over ruled her. He asked theneighbour why: She said that it prevents the sun from our lawn. The mother told him to go back to the neighbor and told her that our religion does not allow this.


Islamic Unity Forum

cordially invites you to one-day conference

Absolutes in a shifting world

Religious values are divine with the aim of perfecting human life. Adherence to them in a world of uncertain moral commitments will lead to better, more humane and stable human environment

Monday 23rd July 2018, 9.30 am – 5.00 pm

45 Crawford Place, London W1H 4LP, Tel: 020 7724 3033

(Refreshments and lunch will be provided)

Personal experiences on absolutism and relativism
Antithesis of faith: Excessive materialism, consumerism

 Environment, faith and the plastic culture

Prejudice, factionalism and real religious worship

Speakers include

Carolyn Merry

CEO, The Feast; building bridges across faither

Dr Rebecca Masterton

Academic, researcher, author and activist

Jon Kuhrt

Chief Executive, West London Mission

Mohammad Kozbar

Trustee and Secretary General of the Finsbury Park mosque

Revd Ayodeji Okegbile

Chaplain, Nigerian Methodist Fellowship

Hajar AlKuhtany

Executive Director of International Forum for Islamic Dialogue

Lucy Zwolinska

Policy and Stakeholder Engagement Officer, Joint Public Issues Team

Mohammad Iqbal Asaria CBE

Specialist economist, former Editor of “Afkar”

Revd Bonnie Evans-Hills

Priest and Interfaith Activist



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