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23 Oct, 2007

Cordoba Conference to Tackle the “Other Global Warming”

Along with the environmental global warming, the rising temperatures in relationships between peoples and religions, also known as a potential “clash of civilisations,” comprise another form of “global warming” and will also affect travel & tourism.

In this dispatch:

1. TACKLING THE “OTHER GLOBAL WARMING”: Along with the environmental global warming, the rising temperatures in relationships between peoples and religions, also known as a potential “clash of civilisations,” comprise another form of “global warming”. This will be the subject of an “International Conference on Tourism, Religions and Dialogue of Cultures” to be organised in Cordoba, 29-31 Oct 2007.

2. ISLAMOPHOBIC HATE CAMPAIGN ON U.S. CAMPUSES: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) has reacted strongly against a campaign on US university campuses designed to spread hate and fear of Arabs and Islam.

3. GLOBAL SECURITY: THE NEED FOR A NEW BEGINNING: In this speech at a leadership summit in India, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei argued that today’s “threats without borders” have brought global society to a crossroads. “If we hope to achieve progress, it is time for a new beginning” in addressing these threats.



Even as the world remains preoccupied with global warming in the environmental sense, far less attention is being directed at the other global warming, the rising temperatures in relationships between peoples and religions also known as a potential “clash of civilisations”. The issues surrounding this will be discussed at an International Conference on Tourism, Religions and Dialogue of Cultures to be organised next week in Cordoba, Spain, 29-31 October 2007.

Convened by the UN World Tourism Organization with the support of the Government of Spain, the conference seeks to expand the level of discourse in travel & tourism into areas that have long been neglected because they were considered too politically and culturally sensitive. However, there is growing realisation that the borderline between geopolitical conflict and cultural/religious divisions is no longer definable. The perception of a widening rift is unsustainable and requires industry counter-action, similar to other issues like the environment, which were also once seen as being in the remote distance but are now very much part of mainstream discussions.

According to the UNWTO, the conference has two central aims:

<> Firstly, to analyse the relationships between tourism and religion, with a view to optimizing their synergies and interactions by harnessing tourism’s potential to stimulate and facilitate dialogue among civilizations, cultures and religions.

<> Secondly, the Conference seeks to offer orientations and recommendations to governments, religious authorities and tourism operators for the sustainable development and management of tourism motivated by religious purposes or associated with religious heritage sites, as well as regarding how to optimize the benefits that such tourism can generate.

The choice of Cordoba as the conference venue is deliberate. Its rich history contains a significant confluence of Islamic, Christian and Jewish traditions. According to the Andalucia.com website, the city was founded by the Romans and became an important port city for shipping Spanish olive oil, wine and wheat back to Ancient Rome. It’s “hour of greatest glory was when it became the capital of the Moorish kingdom of El-Andalus, and this was when work began on the Great Mosque, or “Mezquita”, which – after several centuries of additions and enlargements – became one of the largest in all of Islam.”

Says the website: “When the city was reconquered by the Christians in 1236, the new rulers of the city were so awed by its beauty that they left it standing, building their cathedral in the midst of its rows of arches and columns, and creating the extraordinary church-mosque we see today. As well as the unique mosque-cathedral, Cordoba’s treasures include the Alcazar, or Fortress, built by the Christians in 1328; the Calahorra Fort, originally built by the Arabs, which guards the Roman Bridge, on the far side of the river from the Mezquita, and the ancient Jewish Synagogue, now a museum. Cordoba’s medieval quarter, once the home of the Jewish community, is called “La Judería” (The Jewry), a labyrinth of winding, narrow streets, shady flower-filled courtyards and picturesque squares such as La Plaza del Potro.”

According to the UNWTO Deputy Secretary Talib Rifai, a former tourism minister of Jordan and a principal mover behind the conference, “The growth in international tourism cuts across all cultures and civilizations. The projection of nearly 1.6 billion visitor movements in 2020 opens up valuable opportunities not only to stimulate sustainable development, generate employment and resolve problems of poverty, but also to contribute to the improvement of relations among different nations, peoples, cultures and religions.”

He adds, “Indeed, tourism–if developed and managed well, with proper preparation of both tourists and host communities–serves to reduce the distances that separate peoples and to bring their points of view closer together. For thousands of years, human beings have travelled in order to get to know other places and cultures; this intercultural exchange has contributed to the enrichment of civilizations.”

He notes that the person-to-person encounters made possible by tourism “help establish bonds of friendship among persons who would otherwise continue to view each other with wariness and mistrust. In short, tourism is capable of contributing to a dialogue of civilizations that can lead to a world of stable and lasting peace.”

At the same time, he noted that trips for religious reasons have multiplied over the past decades – for pilgrimage, the fulfillment of pledges, religious celebrations, visits to notable buildings or monuments of a religious nature and offerings to divinities, among others. Thus, says Dr Rifai, “it is therefore important and highly opportune to study the relationships between tourism and religion, especially during this century of increasing tourism movements and in a world with no shortage of international tensions, tensions that in many cases are the result of a lack of understanding among different civilizations and religions.”

The Cordoba Conference will be attended by representatives of tourism, cultural, and economic development administrations; religious authorities; local and regional destination management organizations; the tourism private sector businesses and their trade associations; non-governmental organizations involved in religious and cultural tourism; the academic community and independent experts. Other speakers include: Mr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, President of the Foundation “Culture of Peace”, Co-Chairman of the High Level Group of the Alliance of Civilizations, Prof. Mahmut Erol Kiliç, Head of Istanbul Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Turkey, Archbishop Manuel Monteiro de Castro, Apostolic Nuncio of the Holy See to Spain. Travel Impact Newswire Executive Editor Imtiaz Muqbil is also one of the invited panelists on the subject of Sustainability of Religious Tourism Destinations.


The UNWTO conference comes in the wake of the first high-level dialogue organised at the UN General Assembly on 5 October 2007 on inter-religious, intercultural understanding, cooperation for peace. It was the first time that such a session had been organised. The following is a brief summary of the concluding report:

In order to mend the cultural fault lines dividing the West and much of the Muslim world, the head of the Organization of the Islamic Conference today called urgently for Islam and Christianity to agree on a “historic reconciliation”, which would bring the two religions closer together, eliminate ancient grudges and pave the way for a promising future.

“In this age of globalization, a historic reconciliation between Islam and Christianity will be an event of resounding proportion, affecting almost half of humanity,” said Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), whose plea for interfaith healing echoed similar calls from the more than 50 Government ministers and senior diplomats who addressed day two of the General Assembly’s High-level Dialogue on Inter-religious and Intercultural Understanding and Cooperation for Peace.

To highlight the relevance and importance of today’s meeting, he said that wide-ranging campaigns of hate speech were currently sweeping large areas where Islam, as a religion, was being attacked and denigrated. Western institutions in Europe were unanimous in reporting that “Islamophobia” was on the rise and that a new form of discrimination had emerged based on the hatred of Islam. “We are dealing, not with words, but with facts on the ground,” he said.

Islam and Christianity, “two great religions of the world”, could not afford to let their relationship be defined according to antiquated antagonistic paradigms, he said. “If we manage to clear this major obstacle, we are confident that the entire world will be safer, more peaceful and prosperous,” he added, declaring that dialogue was indispensable in building bridges as a means of communication among religions and cultures. Dialogue was a must in promoting awareness of the necessity of understanding and confidence-building, and in ushering the world towards peace, security and harmony.

Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for the Holy See’s Relations with States, reaffirmed that faithfulness to one’s own religious convictions was not expressed in violence and intolerance, but in sincere respect for others, dialogue and reason. At a time when the so-called clash of civilization was gaining currency in some quarters, religions had a special role to play in blazing new paths to peace, in union with one another and in cooperation with States and international organizations.

He agreed that there could be no peace without understanding and cooperation among religions, but such understanding implied religious liberty, including the right to disseminate one’s own faith and the right to change it. “Respect for religious liberty would unmask the pretence of some terrorists to justify their unjustifiable actions on religious grounds,” he asserted. If violence still arose between religious groups, anti-incitement programmes should be supported, including the mobilization of religious leaders and mass movements to counter both hate speech and public acts calculated to spur sectarian violence.

To empower religions to fully assume the role of promoting cooperation and tolerance, religious leaders must work together to ensure that religious freedom was recognized, safeguarded and fostered by all and everywhere, he said. “If the High-Level Dialogue is to bear fruit, our message today must get out of the confines of these halls to touch each and every person and community of believers throughout the world.”

During the day-long debate, delegates tackled a range of challenges affecting societies in a globalised world, touching on themes that reverberated beyond continents and time zones. States were continually being pushed, they said, to respond to demands for freedom to practice religion and express identity in tolerant social environments. Religion was often misused to sow divisions, discrimination and death; however, problems usually lay with “the faithful” rather than faith itself. All great religions were equal streams of a civilized human coexistence and none could say that one faith was “the only way”.

Modern communication and transport brought people of various backgrounds into constant contact with one another, and migration, a related challenge, transformed relatively uniform communities into multicultural societies. While national language programmes for immigrants had helped facilitate dialogue and social integration, speakers also called for multilateral bodies, such as the United Nations and the Council of Europe, to establish concrete mechanisms to promote dialogue and foster intercultural and inter-religious understanding.

Education was essential for reaching the hearts and minds of young people; “nobody is born a terrorist or extremist”, one speaker declared. Participants stressed that youth must be guided towards understanding “the beauty of diversity”. Bringing together young people of different faiths and cultures would promote a culture of respect, tolerance and understanding. The establishment of more — and better — youth cooperation programmes would foster appreciation for the values and belief systems of others.

“We have no time to lose,” a participant said. “Otherwise, we risk that our societies are taken hostage by extremists on all sides.” Religious leaders must take up that mantle and do their part to promote respect among faiths, particularly as negative portrayals of Muslims in Western media had exacerbated harassment of Muslims in many parts of the world, delegates said. As one speaker explained: “Religion is not the cause of these problems and [religious leaders] need to do more to prove it.”

A full summary of the ministerial presentations is available at: http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/ga10632.doc.htm



[The following is the full text of a statement issued last week by the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee]

Washington, DC, October 19, 2007, www.adc.org — In September of this year, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) learned of a campaign called “Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week” (IFAW). After investigation, ADC determined the campaign, although touted as educational, does nothing more than spread hate and fear of Arabs and Islam by spreading false, hateful and biased messages.

As a civil rights organization, ADC values the principle of free speech. However it believes hateful speech cannot be condoned and should not be allowed to permeate American campuses. The post-9/11 United States has seen a dramatic increase in hate crimes targeted against Arabs and Muslims or those perceived to be so. Events such as IFAW do not seek to further the discussion in a peaceful manner, but rather contribute to the prejudicial anger and hatred targeted against Arabs and Muslims in the US.

Boasting a list of speakers known for their anti-Semitic and Islamophobic remarks, IFAW organizers ask students participating in the campaign to disseminate presentations such as “The Islamic Mein Kampf.” They also try to connect Islam with fascism and Arabs and Muslims with Nazis. In his blog, David Horowitz, the director of this initiative, proclaims that Palestinians are the “quintessential Islamo-Fascists” and that their cause is “genocidal.”

ADC contacted the administrations of all the institutions that were listed as hosting IFAW. In letters to university presidents, ADC informed these institutions that they were listed as host institutions for IFAW, and expressed concern about the campaign. ADC received responses from numerous universities indicating that after they thoroughly searched student activity calendars they found no events scheduled. Moreover, many went on to inform ADC that they disapproved of hate speech being promulgated on their campuses.

These institutions were upset that their names had been listed, without their knowledge or consent, by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. These universities have asked for their names to be removed from the IFAW websites and lists. One public university official said, “We as an institution endorse an educational atmosphere with open dialogue and free speech which promotes a diverse political and intellectual community. However, we do not wish to participate or endorse a program which does not further the discussion in a peaceful manner, but rather contributes to the prejudicial anger and hatred targeted against Arabs and Muslims in the US. We are deeply troubled that a group (Terrorism Awareness Project) would organize and support this type of hateful and bigoted event. “

ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora said, “ADC firmly believes that there is, and should be, open and frank discussions on college campuses regarding all issues germane to the academic setting, particularly with a diverse range of opinions present,” Shora continues, “However, ADC is seriously concerned that such a notorious lineup of racist, bigoted, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic speakers will serve not to educate but to promote hatred and spread misinformation and lies. Let us not forget that these are the same lies that have lead, and continue to lead, to hate crimes and attacks against minorities including African-Americans, Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, and others based on stereotypes. The points of view espoused by this campaign are not ones that belong in any reasonable debate as it serves to promote hatred of an entire religion or ethnic origin.”

ADC has since been contacted by organizations representing a diverse range of religious, ethnic, and racial backgrounds in opposition to this campaign of hate and intolerance. Speakers listed as appearing on campuses where IFAW is taking place include: David Horowitz, who has made racist statements such as “guns don’t kill black people, other blacks do”; Ann Coulter, who recently stated that Jews “need to be perfected” (for more information, please visit: http://www.adc.org/index.php?id=3201); Rick Santorum who has compared homoceksuality (deliberately mis-spelt to avoid anti-spam filters) to incest; Robert Spencer who claims Islam is “the world’s most intolerant religion”; and noted anti-Arab commentator and Islamophobe Daniel Pipes who once said that “Palestinians are a miserable people…and they deserve to be.”

Note To Readers: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non sectarian and non partisan, is the largest Arab-American civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980, by former Senator James Abourezk to protect the civil rights of people of Arab descent in the United States and to promote the cultural heritage of the Arabs. ADC has 38 chapters nationwide, including chapters in every major city in the country, and members in all 50 states.



[Excerpts from an address delivered at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit in New Delhi by IAEA Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, 12 Oct 2007]

The search for security remains the overriding concern for many peoples and nations. But the definition of what constitutes security, and the strategies for attaining it, vary greatly. For billions of people, the quest is to ‘secure’ basic needs: food, water, shelter and health care – in other words, freedom from want. For others, it is to ‘secure’ other fundamental human rights: freedom of expression, freedom from oppression, freedom from fear. Even among States, security has different definitions. For some, it is the achievement of economic or military parity or superiority, for others the projection of power and influence, and for still others the resolution of grievances and disputes.


Regardless of which aspect of security we consider, the current global picture is one of failure on many fronts.

If we look at the quest to secure basic needs, we are struck by the persistent inequity in the global distribution of wealth. The contrasts are stark. One fifth of the world’s population lives in countries where people see nothing extravagant about spending $2 per day on an ice cream. By comparison, the poorest one fifth – including 300 million here in India – make do with less than $1 per day as their entire income.

US President Franklin Roosevelt once said, “The test of progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

By this measure, we should not rank our 21st century progress very high. A study by the United Nations University found that, as of the year 2000, the richest one percent of the world’s population owned 40 percent of the world’s assets. By contrast, the poorest half of humanity owned barely one percent of global wealth.

If we look at the quest for other fundamental human rights, the picture is also grim in many regions, with problems ranging from religious intolerance and the lack of political freedom to systematic oppression and torture. Perhaps the most severe critique of our global progress in this area is reflected in our uneven approach to the sanctity of human life.

For example: the recent collapse of a coal mine in the United States, trapping six miners, kept Western audiences riveted to their television screens for weeks, and the unhappy ending brought an understandable outpouring of grief and sympathy. But where was the proportionate share of attention as, for example, the ethnic killings and mass displacement of civilians began to unfold four years ago in Darfur? Despite 200,000 deaths and up to 4 million people in urgent need of international humanitarian assistance, it has taken years to generate sufficient concern and funding to support effective international intervention. Why should we grieve more for some lives than for others?

If we look at the security of nation-States, our record is also poor, particularly as reflected in regional conflicts that have been allowed to fester for decades. In the Middle East, for example, the subjection of the Palestinian people to 40 years of occupation has led to increasing polarization and militancy in the Arab and Muslim world. These and other conflicts could be solved. Consider the recent positive steps in Northern Ireland, where once bitter enemies, who until recently were given to labeling each other as ‘terrorists’, are now mutually engaged in a democratic power-sharing arrangement.

To bring such conflicts to resolution requires more than intermittent effort on the part of the international community; it requires committed, sustained diplomacy. But the investment is clearly worth it. Too often, dialogue – the first tool of diplomacy – is perceived as a reward for good behaviour, rather than as a means to change behaviour and reconcile differences. The lesson should be obvious by now, especially when working across cultural divides: respect breeds respect; confrontation begets confrontation. Pressure without negotiation is like a pressure cooker without a relief valve.

Clearly, we face an array of urgent and diverse challenges. Yet whichever definition of security we use, there are a number of commonalities.

The first commonality is that these security threats are all interconnected. Poverty is frequently coupled with human rights abuses and a lack of good governance – which results in a deep sense of injustice, anger and humiliation. This in turn provides an ideal environment for breeding violence of all types, including extremism, civil strife and interstate wars. And it is in regions of longstanding conflict where countries are most frequently driven to increase their standing or seek greater security through the pursuit of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

India is a country in which, despite persistent and widespread poverty, there has been comparatively less conflict and extremism. This is clearly attributable to the strong and sustained democracy that has been a hallmark of Indian society for the past six decades. The sustained economic growth of recent years has given hope that the political freedoms enjoyed by the Indian people can be coupled with economic prosperity for all.

Second, these are all ‘threats without borders’. They cannot be solved by any one country; by their nature, they demand global responses and multinational cooperation. Taking together all these aspects of global security, it should be clear that our society is at a crossroads. If we hope to achieve progress, it is time for a new beginning.

What is to be done? Read the full speech containing Dr Elbaradei’s suggestions and advice: http://www.iaea.or.at/NewsCenter/Statements/2007/ebsp2007n017.html

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