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Islam Focus of World Religions Parliament

MELBOURNE – Eight thousand people representing the world’s different faiths are meeting in Melbourne on Thursday, December 3, to discuss interfaith harmony, with a special focus on Islam and its relationship with the West. "There are going to be 40 programs on Islam and the West," Dirk Ficca, director of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, told the BBC News Online.

The American Presbyterian minister said speakers would seek to clear misconceptions about the Muslim faith.

"And so we want to give reputable Islamic scholars and leaders the chance first of all to share what they believe Islam is all about."

The week-long event, which is held every five years, features 800 speakers in nearly 700 panels, workshops and lectures, plus worship and music events.

It aims to cultivate harmony among the world's religious and spiritual communities and foster their engagement with the world.

Leading among attendees are Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney George Cardinal Pell, former US President Jimmy Carter and Tibet spiritual leader Dalai Lama.

The event comes amid a global furor over a Swiss ban on the building of mosque minarets.

Meeting Point of Faiths (Overview) Back to Religions? (Special Coverage) The Parliament of the World’s Religions is an inter-religious gathering representing the world’s different faiths.

Education Advocate

Dr Sakena Yacoobi, the head of the Afghan Learning Institute, will explain to attendees the importance Islam accords for education. "'People who say that (Islam is against education) are ignorant," she told The Age newspaper.

"My father was illiterate but allowed me to get an education, and he wasn't unusual."

Yacoobi, 59, fled Afghanistan after 1979 Soviet invasion and obtained her PhD from the US in 1990.

She later returned to Pakistan, where she worked for four years at a refugee camp.

Determined to fight for girls’ education, Yacoobi sneaked into Afghanistan in 1995, establishing a number of underground schools for educating girls.

"The people of Afghanistan trusted us and protected us because we worked for the grassroots according to culture and tradition."

Yacoobi, whose institute has educated 6.8 million women and girls, says Afghan women have made progress in regaining their rights.

"With the Taliban coming back they should be scared and staying at home, but they are not. They say goodbye to the children in the morning and go to work or to study - they are learning skills, they are taking positions in parliament, they are being educated as doctors and lawyers," she asserted.

"It's amazing women are surviving. It's because we are a religious nation and strongly believe in God and look to Prophet Muhammad as a model."

Source: IslamOnline

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