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KARACHI, June 15: One shouldn’t be too optimistic about the success of a project that seeks to promote common values between Islam and the West in an effort to create much-needed harmony between the western and Muslim worlds. This was one of the many ideas put forward by leading academic Dr Manzoor Ahmad at a conference on “Common values between Islam and the West”, jointly organized by the German-Educated Pakistanis Welfare Association and the Goethe-Institut, Karachi, on Wednesday.

Dr Ahmad said: “Another popular method proposed for bridging the gap is to look for common values between Islam and the West, bring them to the fore and cooperate with each other in promoting them through joint efforts. I am sceptical of the success of this venture. It is not very difficult to prepare a reasonable list of values common between Islam and the West, yet these commonalities are more often than not nominal and have no substantive character.”

Known for challenging conventional wisdom, Dr Ahmad said: “Common value programmes are bound to fail because value concepts acquire meaning from the context in which they are used and though there is a significant area in which commonalities do exist, yet in their application they are different… The list of common values between Islam and the West may be long and impressive, yet there are some basic discordant notes between them which make their application widely incompatible with each other.”

Stating briefly what he described as the salient points of Islamic values and Western values, Dr Ahmad shared with the audience some thoughts on how these divergent values could come together and how they could be applied uniformly.

Reading out his research paper on: Making sense of Islamic fundamentalism”, Dr Jamal Malik of the University of Erfurt said: “Since the 1980s, when political Islam was said to have failed, one can witness a change in the Islamic discourse. It has been argued that this phase of ‘post-Islamism’ ushered in terrorist attacks as a last attempt to regain political power. At the same time, alternatives have emerged characterized by a process of self-reinvention as democratic movements to mark out the Islamists’ social and political territories and to enlarge them, albeit within the boundaries of the nation-state. Their own positions are constantly renegotiated vis-à-vis government, external patrons, other Islamist groups and their respective target audiences. This involves competition and control of a variety of institutions as well as contest over interpretation of symbols, because symbols are an integral part of Muslim politics, expressing the values and norms constitutive of a political community.”

The director of Goethe-Institut, Dr Petra Raymond, said: “Over the past decades, the Goethe-Institut Karachi through its relentless efforts has formed deep and meaningful associations with its partners in Pakistan. It has always regarded itself as a bridge between the two countries and their cultures which may have many different features, yet possess so many similarities. We regard this cultural dialogue as one of the most important aspects of our work and we believe that with time we have established a relationship of trust and understanding between our host country Pakistan and our home country Germany.”