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Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs

By:
Syed Z. Abedin, Saleha M. Abedin, Saleha Mahmood Abedin
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs

First launched in 1978 and incorporated in London in 1983, the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs (IMMA) was established with the objective of studying the demographic and socio-economic situation of Muslim minority communities wherever they may reside. In the first decade of the twenty-first century, the work of the IMMA continues to follow the mission inspired by the dynamic and visionary leadership of the founding director of the Institute and chief editor of its publications, Dr. Syed Z. Abedin, who died in June 1993. The Institute has continued to invite and encourage research and investigation on minority communities worldwide, ranging from numerically large communities such as those in India, the former Soviet Union, and China, to small ones such as a few hundred strong in the Canary Islands or on Tonga Island in the Pacific. Muslims who live in non-Muslim societies comprise fully one-third of the world Muslim population of about 1.5 billion. The experiences of these Muslims in terms of their identity formation, their concept of community and society, and their place and encounters in the larger society of which they are a part, are all very different from those living in majority situations. The Institute aims to further the study and understanding of this minority experience.

At the time of its founding, the Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs specified three main objectives: 1. to draw attention to the importance of systematically and accurately investigating the conditions of life of Muslim minority communities, both large and small, throughout the world; 2. to bring together in close productive relationship outstanding scholars, Muslim and non-Muslim, to share information, exchange ideas, define specific research goals, and focus attention on all aspects of minority life; 3. to disseminate the results of such efforts through periodical and occasional publications and monograph series, and through academic seminars and conferences.In order to draw attention to the importance of understanding the Muslim minority experience and disseminate the findings of relevant research, the Institute has organized academic seminars and conferences throughout the world. In 1981, an international seminar was organized in Canada on the economic status of Muslim minority communities in which eminent scholars and specialists from thirty countries participated in week-long deliberations. In 1989, IMMA organized an international conference of Muslim minority/majority relations which was held in cooperation with the Division of Humanities of the City University of New York, the Simon I. Rifkind Center for the Humanities, and the Association for the Study of Nationalities (U.S.S.R. and Eastern Europe). In 1997, the Institute organized the First International Academic Conference on Bosnia-Herzegovina and Bosnjaks, held for three days at the University of Sarajevo campus in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Taking up the cause of women as minorities, the Institute also participated in organizing a number of preparatory conferences in Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey, in preparation for the NGO (Non-Governmental Organizations) conference organized to precede the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, in 1995, followed by the Beijing+5 Conference at the United Nations in New York in 2000.

The Institute has also regularly assisted other international organizations in project development and discussion forums related to Muslim minorities, including the Organization of the Islamic Conference's first International Conference on Muslim Minorities in London, 1980; the International Labor Organization's (ILO) International Institute for Labor Studies Symposium on Islam and the New International Economic Order, Geneva, 1980; the Organization of the Islamic Conference's Seminar on Muslim Minorities in Southeast Asia, Perth, Australia, 1984; and the formation of the NGO and Women in Development Unit at the Islamic Development Bank in 1997.

Perhaps the most distinctive contribution made by the IMMA to the area of minority studies is the establishment of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs (JMMA) in 1979. JMMA was launched as a biannual scholarly social science journal. It is now published three times a year by Taylor & Francis, Ltd., under the imprint of Routledge. Its editorial policy continues to follow the original mission as defined by the founding director and chief editor, Syed Z. Abedin: “to provide a forum for frank but responsible discussion of issues relating to the life of Muslims in non-Muslim societies” (Mahmood, 1992, p. 291). The IMMA also undertook efforts to raise awareness of how non-Muslim minorities are treated in Muslim states. In an editorial statement, Abedin wrote, “… as we conceive it, the minority problem is not a one way street. Our responsibility does not end with making a statement. The statement is designed to elicit a response…. So that we not only speak, we also listen. Hopefully, this speaking and listening will be carried on in a spirit of compassion and tolerance. And we commit ourselves to making this possible” (Abedin, 1983, pp. 5–6).

In this vein, the Institute maintains a regular section in the Journal under the heading of “Dialogue,” and invites experts from different religious traditions to express their ideas and insights about human rights and minority rights in their respective traditions. The IMMA is also active in interfaith forums so that the Muslim point of view with regard to social and cultural issues, as well as the rights and privileges of minorities in the Islamic tradition, can be shared on various platforms. In recent years, the IMMA has been associated with the Vienna International Christian–Muslim Roundtable, the Parliament of World Religions, the World Council of Muslims for Interfaith Dialogue, the Peace Council, and the Global Peace Initiative of Women Religious and Spiritual Leaders.

In a tenth-anniversary statement of the publication of the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs in 1989, Abedin noted that the Institute and the Journal have borne home the message that

"the cause of Muslim minorities is not a partisan, political cause. It is essentially a humanitarian cause…. The sublimation of the minority issue from a local, partisan and tendentious level to the level of human justice and universal human rights may be considered as the foremost contribution of the Institute and the Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs."

See also INTERFAITH DIALOGUE; and MINORITIES, subentry onMUSLIM MINORITIES IN NON-MUSLIM SOCIETIES.

Bibliography

  • Abedin, Syed Z.“A Word about Ourselves.”Journal of Muslim Minority Af fairs5.1 (January 1983): 5–6.
  • Abedin, Syed Z.“A Word about Ourselves.”Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Af fairs13, no. 1 (January 1992): 1–25.
  • Mahmood, Saleha S.“A Word about Ourselves.”Journal of Muslim Minority Af fairs13.2 (July 1992): 291–294.
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