Kazakh Grand Mufti launches new book in Washington, D.C.


Kazakh Grand Mufti launches new book in Washington, D.C.On Dec 19-24 Sheikh Abdsattar Haji Derbisali, the Grand Mufti of Kazakhstan, visited Washington, D.C. and New York to launch his new book, “Islam: Religion of Peace and Creation.”

During his trip, he held meetings with Assistant Secretary Robert Blake, Deputy Special Representative to Muslim Communities Adnan Kifayat and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Cook to discuss issues of religious tolerance, inter-faith dialogue and religious freedom, the kazakh Embassy in the US reports.

To present his book in Washington, D.C., he spoke at the Center for Interfaith and Intercultural Dialogue, the Rumi Forum, attended the reception and book launch at the Embassy of Kazakhstan and participated in a roundtable on “Islam in Central Asia” organized by the Jamestown Foundation.

At the Rumi Forum, the Grand Mufti was hosted by Jena Luedtke, Director of the Center, who said that she was excited to have so distinguished a guest as Sheikh Derbisali. The Grand Mufti, she noted, was not only a spiritual leader, but also an outstanding diplomat, learned scholar, professor and executive administrator.

The Sheikh has had a long and distinguished career, Luedtke said. He established the department of Arabic studies in 1984 at the Al Farabi Kazakh National University where later he held the position of Vice Rector or Vice Chairman from 1991 to 1997. He was also a diplomat when he worked at the Kazakh Embassy in Saudi Arabia as a counselor from 1998 to 2000. The diplomatic skills he learned there proved to be very useful, Luedtke added. As the Grand Mufti of Kazakhstan since 2000, Sheikh Derbisali had reached out to the leaders of other religions, fostering inter-faith dialogues and enhancing inter-religious understanding.

The Grand Mufti, in his remarks, elaborated on the theme of inter-religious harmony. He said he is a strong proponent of moderate Islam which is generous and welcoming of other religions.

The Grand Mufti said the he actively participated in the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, the initiative Kazakhstan initiated to spread the message of love, peace and mutual understanding among the followers of various religions worldwide. He noted that Kazakhstan delivered a message of tolerance when it chaired OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) and OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation). He said the Kazakh government and its leader, President Nursultan Nazarbayev, tried to act as a bridge between West and East, connecting the two civilizations and their religions.

After his eloquent speech, the Grand Mufti answered questions about religious freedom in Kazakhstan and the role of enlightened Islam in society. The participants got a complimentary copy of the book signed by the author.

At the reception and book launch at the Kazakh Embassy in Washington on Nov. 19, Sheikh Derbisali was introduced by Kazakhstan’s Charg? d’Affaires Dastan Yeleukenov. He stressed that Kazakhstan is a secular state, where religion and state don’t interfere with each other and its Constitution protects the religious freedom of each individual. Thus everyone in Kazakhstan is free to practice his or her religion without any hindrance or fear.

A similar view was endorsed by the Grand Mufti who spoke for about half an hour, keeping the audience captivated by the subject matter. Sheikh Derbisali said that he had written many scholarly books about Islamic civilization and Arabic culture and literature. With his latest book, now published in English, he said he wanted to promote moderate, enlightened, progressive Islam, which rejects religious extremism. He said he was glad to have been part of so many inter-faith dialogues in the past and will continue to be part of them in the future.

He spent time explaining the rich history of Kazakhstan, as does his new book. He said that modern Kazakhs are stronger because of their history. They have learned from the past and wish to help others by spreading the lessons. The Grand Mufti invited attendees to visit Kazakhstan to see for themselves the hospitality of the nation and the progress it has made in economic growth and tourism.

The guests also enjoyed the personal interaction with the author, as he signed books for each of for his fans. They also tasted traditional Kazakh food. In the end, the guests left the event with more knowledge about Kazakhstan.

As a scholar, Sheikh Derbisali enjoyed the live discussions of role of Islam in Central Asia at a roundtable hosted by the Jamestown Foundation. During the exchange of opinion moderated by Glen E. Howard, President of the Foundation. Sheikh Derbisali’s speech was complimented by Jacob Zenn whose main argument was that Kazakhstan can play a positive role in advancing moderate and enlightened Islam in the region, where some extremist forms could be on the rise. He also made a point that because of Kazakh people’s forward looking and tolerant attitude separation of power and religion took a deep root there.

Overall, the visit by the Grand Mufti contributed to better understanding of Kazakhstan’s position in the dialogue between civilizations and its contribution to encouraging moderation, enlightenment and development of science and technologies.