The East-West Bridge Project
The Bridge Project is an introductory, knowledge-based project providing cultural and scholarly grounds for discussion and exchange of ideas among religious and intellectual scholars and all those interested in religious affairs from different religions, sects, and schools of thought.
To provide a global intellectual vision that serves humanity and builds the foundation for a mindful and safe future for all.
Our mission is to discover areas of commonality, by finding and strengthening intellectual common ground to promote introductions and meetings among religious scholars and intellectuals in Islamic seminaries in the East and think tanks and research centers in the West. This serves the best interests of humanity, including improving knowledge, enhancing human dignity, and helping to establish a safe future for humankind.
Causes and Motives
- The absence of strong relations between these the seminaries in the East and the knowledge centers in the West, which has created relative ignorance on each side about the other, particularly the principles each side depends on, their origins, and the means that each group uses. Thus, both sides have lost a vast amount of knowledge and ideas that can be a springboard to achieving their important interests.
- Relatively little knowledge on each side about the other, and knowledge which is often based on the written word rather than face-to-face discussion and interaction. This has provided the basis for an unhealthy environment in which biased third parties make introductions that do not to show the real picture.
- The influence that knowledge, spiritual, and religious centers have over decision-makers all over the world. These centers could affect the decisions of governments even at times of conflict between government and religious authorities.
- The necessity of communication and discussion with believers who have challenges of coexistence that cause them to refer to their religious authorities to share the theoretical and practical problems that face them because of being Muslims living in non-Muslim countries.
- Achieving one of the most important goals of the divine message by presenting Islam in its true charitable form as a mercy sent to the world, not as a temporary agenda suitable only to a certain time or place.
- Introducing think tanks and research centers to authentic Shia thought to distinguish the global Shia view (of the hawzah) which can provide safety and stability from temporary Shia states, such as the Hamdanids[i], the Fatimids[ii], the Safavids[iii], and the Mazidis[iv], which critics more often try to associate with instability
- Establishing global academic pacts that can help spread the true message of Islam and improve the standing of Shia seminaries and institutions among global universities and research institutions
- Establishing a global culture of awareness, stability, and security that can pave the way to a just and equitable world
Written discussions have limited effectiveness, while face-to-face meetings and discussions are proving their effectiveness daily. That is because face-to-face meetings show the kindness and tolerance that our religious scholars possess, remove ambiguity and confusion, and establish warmth and closeness. This achieves positive results and at least defuses conflict with an opposing side.
Therefore, we are sparing no effort inviting figures from Islamic seminaries, including lecturers, intellectuals, and scholars, and providing the right circumstances for them to meet with western scholars and professors.
We are also working on providing opportunities for western scholars to visit the Islamic seminaries in the East. Moreover, we are trying to facilitate cultural and intellectual exchange by sending students to stay in western universities for various periods to experience the environment. In addition, we are working to provide scholarships to promising students to complete their graduate studies in western universities and become lecturers in them, because theological schools in these universities lack professors who follow the Shia Ja’fari Imami Ithna Ashari of Ahl al-Bayt[v] school of thought. As a result, they depend on followers of other religions and sects who may exhibit bias against the Shia school of thought. Finally, our ambition extends to obtaining honorary chairs at western universities for well-known Shia scholars.
Fields of Research
There are various fields of knowledge and intellectual subjects to research and discuss. The list below only contains examples and is not exhaustive:
- The theory of knowledge and the universal divine vision according to the school of the progeny of the Prophet, may peace be upon them, as opposed to the global atheism movement. This should be a common goal that Muslims, Christians, and other monotheists pursue.
- The view of the seminary of Najaf, since more than a millennium ago, toward the universe and humanity and achieving global peace and justice, and its contributions throughout history even in the most difficult circumstances
- Emphasizing the oppression of Shia Muslims and the Seminary of Najaf throughout the ages
- Discussing the sources of religious extremism in general and Islamic extremism (Wahhabis[vi], Kharijites[vii]) and ways to minimize its effects by adopting the healthy Shia school of thought
- Mahdiism, not as a crushing revolution, but as a reformist movement that will convince people to enter “God’s religion in throngs” (110:2) using reason and not force or coercion as a link in the chain of human progress as the viceroy of God on earth
There is a vast range of knowledge and research arenas. Some of the well-known, established institutions and universities are:
- Seminary of Najaf
- Seminary of Qom
- University of Kufa
- Hartford Seminary in Connecticut
- Department of Religion at Oberlin College in Ohio
- School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University
- Department of Religion at the George Washington University
[i] The The Hamdanid state (276–394 AH/890 –1004 CE) appeared as a result of the conflict between the Abbasids and the Turks. It was founded by Hamdan son of Hamdun who was known for his allegiance to the Prophet’s progeny, thus the name Hamdanids. His lineage is traced to Banu Taghlib, a branch of Banu Rabiah. Based in Mosul, he gained control of some parts of Iraq and the Levant. Later, the Hamdanids moved their capital to Aleppo. There were several wars between them and the Byzantines in which their leader Saif al-Dawlah al-Hamdani had famous heroic feats. The Hamdanid state ended after the death of Saif al-Dawlah and the rising clashes among the Hamdanids which enabled the Fatimids to seize Aleppo and end the Hamdanid rule.
[ii] The Fatimid state (296–566 AH/909 –1171 CE) was founded as a result of the valor of the Abbasids and their outrageous oppression of the followers of the Prophet’s progeny that made them flee to North Africa and the Arabian Maghreb. They began their political movement and rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate from a region in Africa they called al-Mahdiah. They advanced until they conquered Egypt and took it under their control, founding Al-Azhar University. They expanded their reach to vast areas including some of the Levant and Hijaz to the east andmost of Africa to the west. Their state receded because they lost their justness and began oppressing their people, which weakened them gradually, enabling Saladin to conquer the Levant and then Egypt easily.
[iii] The Safavid state (906 –1148 AH/1500 –1735 CE) was founded by Sunni Sufis in Tabriz under the command of Shah Ismail. After gaining control of Iran, the Safavids officially declared themselves as Shias. They entered many wars against the Ottomans for the control of Iraq.
[iv] Mazidis or Banu Mazidi were from Iraq and traced their lineage to Banu Asad. Their state was founded by Ali Abu al-Hasan son of Mazid al-Asadi in 388 AH/998 CE in a town called al-Nil near the city of Hillah on the west bank of the Euphrates river between Kufa and Baghdad.
[v] Shia Ja’fari Imami Ithna Ashari of Ahl al-Bayt: are the most common titles that refer to the school of thought that follows the religion of Islam through the twelves infallible divine successors among the lineage of prophet, Muhammed (pbuh&hp), after his death.
[vi] Wahhabism is referred to the extreme thoughts and beliefs of Mohammad bin Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1791 AD) from Arab peninsula. Wahhabism is an extreme armed movement which established its theology based on exploiting a wrong understanding of Islamic teachings. Mohammad bin Abd al-Wahhab and Mohammad Bin Saoud Allied and established the first Saudi kingdom by their armed theology movement in 1744 AD. Taliban, Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Alshabab are newborn versions of Wahhabism today.
[vii] Kharijites are members of a group that appeared and confront the rulings and leadership of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (601 – 661). As a theology point of view, Kharijites meaning those who broke into armed revolt against the Religious Authority, Imam Ali as a Caliph, after he agreed and gave the allegiance to him.
مشروع “لتعارفـــــوا” جسر معرفي بين الشرق والغربEastWest Bridge Project_Arb