I was invited to Copenhagen, Denmark to attend the “MLT – Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow” conference from July 7th to 10th. About 120 Muslims were invited to participate from 16 different countries, in a three day conference exploring themes of leadership, identity, pluralism and extremism. The conference was arranged by the Cordoba Initiative and the ASMA Society formerly known as the “American Sufi Muslim Association” but now known as “American Society for Muslim Advancement….Society”, (Azhar Usman got a heck of a lot of laughs from the redundant word “Society” of the “ASMA Society”). Other sponsors were the C-100 World Economic Forum, the Rockerfeller Brothers’ Fund and the William & Mary Greve Foundation.
The night before my flight out, Aftab Malik called me and said “do you realise that Irshad Manji has been invited?” For those of you who don’t know Ms. Manji (www.muslim-refusenik.com), she is a self-styled “Progressive Muslim” and Muslim “Refusnik” who wants to do ijtihad (she has a section on her site “Project Ijtihad”), I have no idea what “Muslim-refusenik” means but if a war-refusnik refuses to be a soldier, does a Muslim-refusnik refuse to be a Muslim? Well in Ms. Manji’s case no, she still considers herself Muslim and identifies with Islam and Muslims albeit she “has a few problems with Islam [today]”, more on Ms. Manji later but I must admit I was thinking “what the hell are the organisers doing inviting her?” I thought to myself that I will try and avoid her and not have any contact with her whatsoever….oh how man’s best laid plans amount to nothing when God has other plans.
My travelling companion was Tayyeb Shah the owner of Meem Music and upon arriving at the airport I discovered Dr. Usama Hassan was heading to this conference too. As it turned out there was a fair few Brits in attendance: Shareefa Fulat director of the Muslim Youth Helpline, Hisham Hellyer research consultant and policy analyst at Uni of Warwick, Baber Siddiqui from the Luqman Institute, Aftab Malik from Amal Press and a number of other people. All in all 16 coutries were represented and the range of opinions and persuations was very very wide indeed (sometimes worryingly so!)
Now, considering I am writing things up about a month and a bit later I won’t be going into specifics about the conference, probably because I won’t be able to recall the details (I am getting nearer my 40th year, so the old grey cells aren’t what they used to be!) but will try and share what some of my thoughts and interactions were and what the whole MLT thing is about.
To be continued….insha’Allah.