Sustainable development was the topic of the keynote address at the conference in the Islamic University of Gaza today. I was eager to hear the presentation by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Sultan Zainal Abidin in Malaysia (Yahaya Ibrahim) but I was not hopeful that I would understand much of it because my Arabic comprehension is so poor.
To my great surprise, the keynote was in English! Al-hamdulillah!
The Vice Chancellor’s education and research is in urban planning. Al-hamdulillah! As a city planner myself, I was immediately drawn to his speech.
He talked about the impact of war, citing Japan as an example, and how society after war usually experiences prolonged trauma.
“The wound . . . can hinder the implementation of development. It also acts as a barrier to post war development as it relates to social, economic, technical, political, and security issues.”
But look at the success Japan enjoys today! he added.
He talked about the Western models of development and cautioned the audience to be skeptical about the conventional meaning of “development”.
“With the western development approach, even though it uses the term ‘sustainable development’, has led to economic, ecological, social and political crises in their own countries. Just look at the U.S. and the European Union where financial crises, widening social gaps, environmental destruction and social ills are becoming increasingly uncontrollable.”
The way forward, he says, begins with understanding that people are the most important assets, and education should be the main priority.
He went into great detail about capacity building which I thought was very interesting. (More about that in a future blog post.)
And then he turned to the Islamic Development Model which he said should be consistent with “Al-Shirathal-Mustaqim” or the “straight path.”
“This development model should be halal, rational, moderate and not excessive, free from abuses such as corruption, nepotism and the like.
. . .
In short, this concept of development supports positive values such as ubudiyyah, cooperation, hard work, living together in harmony and so on. While negative values such as cronyism, corruption, personal interests, worldly gain, ignoring the peace and stability of the ecosystem and other must be rejected completely.”
This may make sense to my Muslim friends, but I want to learn more about it. This keynote address provided an important clue to me about what sustainability means in Gaza . . . and the key for my future exploration here. Al-hamdulillah!