The great symbolism of the Muslim World League chief’s Pakistan visit 

The great symbolism of the Muslim World League chief’s Pakistan visit 

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The Secretary General of the Muslim World League (MWL) Shaikh Mohammad Abdul Karim Al Issa is currently on a nine-day visit to Pakistan. Upon his arrival, he was received by Salik Hussain, the federal minister for religious affairs and inter-faith harmony. The MWL is a Makkah-based organization that works to propagate Islamic education, culture, the Arabic language and provides relief to Muslim populations around the globe affected by natural disasters.

The MWL, also known as Rabita, attaches special importance to Pakistan and its Asian branch is headquartered in Islamabad. Shaikh Issa has visited Pakistan before as well and was awarded a high civil award in 2022. Dialogue with other cultures and civilizations is the modus operandi that MWL adopts to promote understanding and harmony with other cultures and religions. The idea is to heal an international psyche inflicted with misunderstandings about the message of Islam. One example of this psyche is the abhorrent narrative of Islamophobia. 

MWL assists in running 68 schools and colleges around the world for needy children. It has helped in providing clean drinking water in Ghana by sinking a number of tube wells. Science seminars have been organized in Egypt and Chad for university professors. A few years ago, the MWL held a conference in Indonesia to highlight the middle path in Islam. The Supreme Council of MWL is headed by the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and includes 60 eminent Islamic scholars selected from various countries. 

Pull-quote: Shaikh Al Issa’s decision to spend the Eid holidays in Pakistan has great symbolic value and amply shows the importance that MWL attaches to Pakistan. 

- Javed Hafeez

This important visit continues. Shaikh Al Issa also delivered the Eid sermon at the Faisal Mosque in Islamabad. This mosque, considered to be one of the largest mosques in the world, was fully packed with worshippers who listened to him in pin drop silence. The Secretary General also visited the Ali ibn Talib center for orphans. This orphanage is run by MWL. He is also scheduled to meet the top leadership in Islamabad. His decision to spend Eid holidays in Pakistan has great symbolic value and amply shows the importance that MWL attaches to Pakistan. 

Both Pakistan and the Kingdom have made efforts to combat Islamophobia and the stereotyping of Muslims. In 2022, Pakistan moved a resolution at the United Nations on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), to designate March 15 annually as the International Day to combat Islamophobia. The resolution, which was adopted unanimously, calls upon all member states to evolve policies and take measures to counter the scourge of Islamophobia. This is one of MWL’s objectives as well. Similarly, Saudi Arabia has played a pioneering role since the third Extraordinary Islamic Summit in Makkah in 2005 that aimed at rejecting extremism and promoting dialogue between different faiths and civilizations. 

All religions have shared values like compassion, empathy, justice and love. Both countries believe that these commonalities, rather than the differences, should be highlighted. MWL is spreading the same message around the globe. In fact, the civil award Hilal-e-Pakistan, given to the MWL chief in October 2022 was in recognition of his services in spreading the Islamic message of peace. MWL works for establishing forums for inter-faith dialogue and harmony nationally and internationally. In Pakistan, the National Ulema Council has been tasked with the promotion of inter-faith harmony. 

It is anticipated that the Secretary General will, during this visit, sign a memorandum of understanding to establish a state of the art ‘Seerat Museum’ in Pakistan. The ground-breaking ceremony will take place soon after the signing ceremony. Being an important Muslim country, Pakistan should have such a museum to spread awareness about Islamic history among people. 

As the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the Kingdom holds pivotal position in the comity of Muslim countries. It also hosts the OIC and MWL. This visit signifies the importance of the eternal spiritual bond between the two countries. The material side of the relationship contains trade links, Pakistani manpower in the Kingdom and defense and security co-operation. These two bonds, apparently diverse, strengthen each other through a symbiotic relationship. Therefore, each of these relationships is equally important. 

Prime Minister Sharif recently visited the Kingdom and it was his first visit abroad, after his assumption of charge this time. The visit of the MWL Secretary General signifies this mutual desire to cement bilateral ties and present the moderate and tolerant nature of Islam to the world at large. 

- Javed Hafeez is a former Pakistani diplomat with much experience of the Middle East. He writes weekly columns in Pakistani and Gulf newspapers and appears regularly on satellite TV channels as a defense and political analyst. Twitter: @JavedHafiz8

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