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Monday, December 22, 2008

British Muslims for Darfur Peace

By Dina Rabie, Mustafa Ajbaili, IOL Staff

CAIRO — Understanding the complexity of the Darfur crisis and demonstrating support for Arab and Muslim efforts to resolve the conflict are two main goals for a group of prominent British Muslims, now on a regional tour.

"We went there to see for ourselves," Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the former head of the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), told

"Seeing what is happening on the ground, we have a moral duty; first as human beings and second as Muslims."

The five-member delegation visited the troubled region of Darfur last week as part of a Middle East tour that ends on December 23.

They visited refugee camps in Darfur and met international and Sudanese civil society to discuss the challenges on the ground.

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"The reason that we all wanted to come out to this region and do this trip was primarily so that we can understand the situation in Sudan and specifically the situation in Darfur," said Fatim Kurji, a lawyer and Director of the CATCH charity project.

"What we wanted to do…was to go out to Darfur and see for ourselves what the situation was like to make it almost an assessment."

The conflict in Darfur erupted in February 2003 when rebel groups attacked government targets accusing Khartoum of discrimination and neglect.

The UN says that 250,000 have died as a result of war, disease and malnutrition, but the Sudanese government has put the number at nearly 10,000.

No independent field-research accounts are available to date.


"What each of us is committed to doing in our individual capacities is to drive the process forward in whichever way we can," Kurji told IOL.
After seeing the situation on the ground, the British Muslim delegates have become more aware of the gravity and complexity of the Darfur conflict.

"Many of our colleagues saw Darfur for the first time and witnessed firsthand with their own eyes," said Jehangir Malik, the fundraising manager for UK-registered Islamic Relief charity.

Malik, who has been to Darfur several times, noted that the conflict was becoming more complex and dire.

"Two fractions become four, four become eight, eight become sixteen…etc," he explained.

"At a time you don’t know who is killing who and for what purpose."

Kurji said the first-hand experience gave her a picture different from what she has long heard from the media.

"The situation in Darfur is very complex and the concerned parties are not just the Sudanese government and the opposition parties," she maintained.

"The issue has many parties involved and as people keep telling us these are increasing day by day."

Now after meeting representatives of the main players, Kurji believes it would not be correct to describe Darfur as "Arab vs. African" problem.

"It is very dangerous to break the conflict down into such simplistic judgment," she insisted.

"There have always been tribes in Darfur and they have always coexisted. Actually the problems are much more complex than that and we can’t allow that to steer us off."


The delegation hopes their tour, which includes stops in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and talks with the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), would demonstrate British Muslim support for efforts to resolve the Darfur conflict.

"We are going to talk to the OIC and governments to use their influence to bring all concerned parties together," said Sir Sacranie, the former MCB leader.

Malik, the Islamic relief official, believes there has been a "greater momentum" for peace in Darfur lately.

He cites the Sudanese Peace initiative (SPI), a document produced by Khartoum and opposition parties last November, and the Qatari initiative, which will see a peace conference held in Doha by the end of 2008.

"We as British Muslims want to signify and lend our support to show that we all need to participate in keeping this momentum going."

The delegation members agree their mission starts with meetings with officials from Arab and Muslim governments and organizations during the tour, but won't end there.

"What each of us is committed to doing in our individual capacities is to drive the process forward in whichever way we can," said Kurji, the community activist.

"Once we return back to UK, we hope that we will be able to convey the views of our members individually and collectively and bring support to this very deserving cause," agrees Sacranie.

Source : Islam Online

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