Washington: Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world and especially in the west and Islamic scholars are working vigorously to present the soft image of Islam and removing hardliner misconceptions about the peaceful religion. In this attempt, the Grand Mufti of Kazakhstan, Sheikh Abdsattar Haji Derbisali, visited Washington D.C. and New York recently to launch his new book, “Islam: Religion of Peace and Creation.”
According to the Kazakh Embassy in the US, he held meetings with Assistant Secretary Robert Blake, Deputy Special Representative to Muslim Communities Adnan Kifayat and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Cook to discuss issues of religious tolerance, inter-faith dialogue and religious freedom during his trip.
To present his book in Washington D.C., the Grand Mufti spoke at the Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue, the Rumi Forum, attended the reception and book launch at the Embassy of Kazakhstan and participated in a roundtable on “Islam in Central Asia” organized by the Jamestown Foundation.
At the Rumi Forum, the Grand Mufti was hosted by Jena Luedtke, Director of the Center, who said that she was excited to have so distinguished a guest as Sheikh Derbisali. The Grand Mufti, she noted, is not only a spiritual leader, but also an outstanding diplomat, learned scholar, professor and executive administrator.
The Sheikh has had a long and distinguished career, Luedtke said. He established the department of Arabic studies in 1984 at the Al Farabi Kazakh National University where later he held the position of Vice Rector or Vice Chairman from 1991 to 1997. He was also a diplomat when he worked at the Kazakh Embassy in Saudi Arabia as a counselor from 1998 to 2000. The diplomatic skills he learned there proved to be very useful, Luedtke added. As the Grand Mufti of Kazakhstan since 2000, Sheikh Derbisali had reached out to the leaders of other religions, fostering inter-faith dialogues and enhancing inter-religious understanding.
The Grand Mufti, in his remarks, elaborated on the theme of inter-religious harmony. He said that he is a strong proponent of moderate Islam which is generous and welcoming of other religions.
He said that he actively participated in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, the initiative Kazakhstan took to spread the message of love, peace and mutual understanding among the followers of various religions worldwide. He noted that Kazakhstan delivered a message of tolerance when it chaired OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation). He also observed that the Kazakh government and its leader, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, tried to act as a bridge between West and East, connecting the two civilizations and their religions.
After his eloquent speech, the Grand Mufti answered questions about religious freedom in Kazakhstan and the role of enlightened Islam in society. The participants got a complimentary copy of the book signed by the author.
At the reception and book launch at the Kazakh Embassy in Washington, Sheikh Derbisali was introduced by Kazakhstan’s Chargé d’Affaires Dastan Yeleukenov. He stressed that Kazakhstan is a secular state, where religion and state don’t interfere with each other and its Constitution protects the religious freedom of each individual. Thus everyone in Kazakhstan is free to practice his or her religion without any hindrance or fear.
Overall, the visit by the Grand Mufti of Kazakhstan contributed to better understanding of Kazakhstan’s position in the dialogue between civilizations and its contribution to encouraging moderation, enlightenment and development of science and technologies.