The 2nd ‘Istanbul Network for Liberty’ Conference Report

The Istanbul Network for Liberty held its second annual conference at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad from February 28th to March 3rd 2013, in partnership with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, support from the Burj Bank of Pakistan, and Vision 21. Thank you to Network of Free Society for providing fellowship.

The title of the conference was ‘Islam and the Institutions of a Free Society’ and there were approximately 50 participants from Pakistan, Morocco, Turkey, Bosnia, Kyrgyzstan, Nigeria, South Africa, the US and the UK.

The conference started by opening remarks by the Chairman Azhar Aslam followed by welcome on behalf of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation by Olaf Kellerhoff Day 1

Three speakers covered rule of law issues. Dr Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad from the Minaret of Freedom in the USA spoke on ‘Sociological, Philosophical and legal Considerations of Shariah:

The Rule of Law in Islam. Dr Khalil Ahmad from the  Alternate Solutions Institute in Pakistn followed with “the Rule of Law in islam” and Junaid Ahmad, from the Department of Law and Policy at the Lahore University of Management Sciences of spoke on ‘Making the Rule of Law effective in Muslim Countries.

Dr. Hugh van Skyhawk spoke about poetry and its influence in conveying message to the listeners. His paper was very powerful and heart felt.

The next section covered Capitalism and Entrepreneurship and was opened by Ali Salman Director of the Policy Research Institute of Market Economy in Pakistan speaking on ‘The Morality of Capitalism in the Context of the Muslim Mind’. Garreth Bloor, an elected representative in the City of Capetown in South Africa followed with ’Entrepreneurship in Islam and its Relationship to the State’ Dr Nouh El Harmouzi from the Center for Scientific Research and Humane Studies in Morocco spoke first in the section on the market economy talking about ‘Protecting Private Property in Muslim Countries’. Dr Professor Mustafa Acar, the Rector of Aksaray University in Turkey followed with ‘Islam and Free Market Economy, Friend or Foe?’. Edo Omercevic, co-founder of the Center for Advancement of Free Enterprise in Bosnia presented the final paper in that section on ‘The Compatibility of a Free Market and islam’

Souad Adnane, from the Center for Scientific Research and Humane Studies in Morocco, opened up the second day with her paper on ‘Improving the Position of Women in Muslim Countries’ and was followed by Professor Omer Caha, from the Yilduz Technical University in Istanbul with ‘Islamic Women’s Movement in Turkey’ and the final speaker in that session was Adedayo Thomas, Outreach Director of in Nigeria. His paper was titled ‘Women in Muslim Communities in Norther Nigeria’

The individual in Islam was covered in the next session. Dr Bilal Sambur, Associate Professor at the Suleyman Demirel University in Isparta, Turkey opened with ‘The Human Individual in Islam’ and he was followed by Dr Azhar Aslam, co-founder of the Istanbul Network for Liberty and organiser of this conference with his paper ’Individual as Addressee of God and Consequent Freedom of Choice’ Dr Raza Ullah, Assistant Professor in the Department of Management Sciences at the Islamia College University in Peshawar, Pakistan addressed ‘the Challenges of Building Liberal Democracies in Muslim Countries’ and MIrsuljan Namazaliev CEO of the Central Asian Free Market Institute in Kyrgyzstan concentrated on ‘Building liberal Democracy in Muslim Majority Kyrgyzstan’ in the penultimate session.
The final session was opened by Dr Imdad Hussein, Assistant Professor at the Center for Public Policy and Governance at the Forman Christian College, University of Lahore who spoke on ‘Reclaiming Civil Islam in Pakistan’ and it was closed by Shokruk Saipov, editor and publisher of UzPress, the news website in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

Throughout both days of the meeting there were many discussions of the topics and concepts under discussion and these continued through the breaks and meals.

Generally the discussion on various themes which were discussed in the conference was quite intense and everyone present took keen part in making comments and general question and answer session. The local participants from Pakistan were very keen to raise issues that impacted locally in Pakistan, taking into account the current socio political scenario of particular interest in this regard were the session of rule of law, shariahs rule as rule of law, democracy, freedom of choice, and issues related to Islamic banking and finance. The general consensus from all the sessions was that to bring about positive changes in Pakistan and other Muslim countries, the fundamentals of free society i.e. rule of law, free market economy, freedom of choice in social and political spheres have not only to be promoted but actively implemented. The conference was attended by a board spectrum of society, the attendee included law makers, academic, civil society activist, lawyers, bankers, media, and researchers.

The period In between up the session was spent with various attendees interacting with each other. Arrangements were in place which allowed various publications to be present from various book, CDs to be displayed. These were enthusiastically snapped up by the attendees.