Freedom vs Control: for a democratic response, World Forum for Democracy, Strasbourg, France

Dr Iravani, was invited by Dr. Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, to address the fourth edition of the World Forum for Democracy which took place from 18 to 20 November at the Council of Europe and other venues in Strasbourg, France.

After the dramatic events earlier this year in Europe, the rise of extremism and terrorism in the world, and in the context of the global debate on surveillance, the organizers decided that the theme of this year’s Forum will focus on the tensions which democracies face and to examine the threats to freedom or “Freedom vs control: for a democratic response.”

This year, the Forum was a unique platform for dialogue on institutional and community solutions and innovative ideas to understand the security measures to be implemented today without compromising freedom and democratic stability.

The tragic event of Paris which was right before the opening of the forum gave more importance to the meeting and create an opportunity to look at the problem more seriously.

As the president of the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East, which is committed to promoting mutual understanding between people of different faiths and cultures through research and education, Dr. Iravani had a chance to share his ideas and concerns regarding how to build trust and resilience among divers societies and how to contribute to peaceful intercultural relations.

Over 1500 participants from a wide range of backgrounds – politicians, academics, activists, media and business professionals from around the world – attended the Forum and thousands more followed the live sessions on the internet.

Duties of the faith community in response to the issue of homelessness in America

 Duties of the faith community in response to the issue of homelessness in America was the focus of discussion on July 12, 2015 at the IMAN Cultural Center in Los Angeles, CA.  Dr. Sadegh Namazikhah, president and founder of the IMAN Cultural Center, introduced Mr. Mohammad Mohanna CSIME”S President of the Wes Coast) at this interfaith event.  Many political, academic, and religious leaders were present, along with a diverse audience of Christians, Jewish, Muslims, and other faiths at the Iftar dinner gala.
The Sacramento documentary movie on homelessness, substance abuse, showcased the 30-year work of Mohanna in establishing a continuum of care facility in one of his buildings for the city’s underprivileged and marginalized.
Remarkable dialogue and conversation began among the leaders of the faith community of Southern California and the capitol of the golden state, Sacramento.

Atlantic Council, Albright-Hadley Iftar Reception, Washington, DC

On July 9th following the invitation of Atlantic Council Dr. Iravani, attended a second series of “public hearings” convened by Co-Chairs, Secretary Albright and Stephen Hadley. The hearing was on the role religion does or does not play in the current disorder in the region: the civil wars, the phenomena of radicalization, and increased sectarian tensions. The event had the theme “What’s Religion Got to Do with It?” The point was to explore to what extent religion or politics (or something else entirely) is the main driver – and, to illuminate how religion is often instrumentalized by extremists for political purposes.

There was an Iftar reception immediately afterward and Dr. Iravani talked about the significance of Ramadan and the Iftar to the Washington policy crowd.

Iravani said that In Islam, the way He sees and understands it: all the rituals and laws and regulations related to them are means to an end and a goal. That goal is to become a better person and become closer to God in way that he or she will manifest Absolut Good.

He also talked about ritual and social dimension of fasting and at the end prayed for peace and prosperity in the world in particular for a good agreement based on respect, dignity and trust between Iran and the USA.

Lectures at the Islamic Cultural Center of North California

Following the invitation of the Islamic Cultural Center of North California, Dr. Akhlaq attended and delivered a series of 10 lectures from July 2th to July 12th on occasion of Holy Month of Ramazan in which he presented speeches on “The Unique Features of the Noble Quran,” “The Inward Etiquettes of Reciting the Quran,” and “Imam Ali ibn Abitalib and his Contribution to Benevolence, Beauty and the Knowledge”.  The main focus of speeches was how Muslims should recite the Quran or look at Imam Ali in order to promote virtues, goodness, and the existential qualities for building a better community.  The presentations, following with Q and A sessions, were highly appreciated by Muslim community of the North California with various background including Iranians and Afghanis.  Dr. Akhlaq also talked separately about Muslim Youths and Modern World with Muslim Students of Bleckley and Stanford Universities during his trip to Bay Areas.

Iftar Reception at Iranian Interest Section, Washington, DC

On July 3rd, following the invitation Director of Iranian Interest Section, Mr. Atefat, Dr. Iravani attended Iftar reception and was asked to talk.

In his remark, he mentioned about the unique position of this month that no other months have it.

Nights, days, and hours, and of this month are superior to all times. Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. A month that all Evils and Satan are in chained and doors of repentance and forgiveness are opened.

Then he talked about the importance of “Ibrahim Dialogue” that has been going on between Iranians and Americans for the last 15 years that had tremendous impacts on better understanding and establishing friendship and trust among both sides leaders and thinkers.

Talking about the importance of prayer in the Holly month of Ramdhan, Iravani prayed for peace all around the world in particular between Iran and the USA. A kind of lasting peace that based on respect, trust and dignity.

World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa

 Dr. Iravani attended The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa which took place on 21-23 May 2015 at the Dead Sea, Jordan.

Convening under the theme Creating a Regional Framework for Prosperity and Peace Through Public-Private Cooperation, the meeting gathered top decision-makers from the Persian Gulf countries, the Levant, Maghreb and around the world at a pivotal time for the future of the region. Set in the context of national and industry transformations, the program focused on new opportunities for public-private collaboration, which can advance growth and development and address the youth employment imperative.
Meeting also involved high-level multi stake holder dialogues on how to address the humanitarian situation in the Levant and achieve peace and security.

In addition of some private meetings with NGOs, some World leaders and businessmen, Dr. Iravani was part of two panels and workshops:

The first one was about “The Changing Security Landscape interactive workshop” which explored the changing security landscape and the impact of geopolitical trends on the Middle East and North Africa. Participants identified the drivers of change in security and their implications for regional and industry agendas and include experts and stakeholders relevant to security in the region – from business, government, international organizations, civil society and academia.

The second one was being a Discussion Leader at a public session on “radicalization” The role of the Discussion Leader was to facilitate the conversation among a break out group of high level participants considering the psychological complexities around the phenomenon of violent radicalization of youth. As facilitator, He kept the participants focused on the key objectives of the discussion and help advance constructive dialogue on the issue.

http://www.weforum.org/events/world-economic-forum-middle-east-and-north-africa-2015

The 15th International Likhachov Scientific Conference 14-15 May 2015

 Following the invitation of Professor Alexander Zapesotsky, Rector of St. Petersburg University of Humanities and Social Sciences and Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Iravani attended the 15th International Likhachov Scientific Conference On “Contemporary Global Challenges and National Interests” in which he presented a paper on “National Interest Challenged: Religion, part of the solution”.

Please click the link for the full text of speeches

http://www.lihachev.ru/chten_eng/2015/

Webinar on relationship between Jewish and Muslim thought

The Catholic University of America (CUA), Columbus School of Law, along with the CSIME hosted the second webinar which was held on February 23rd of 2015. The other partners were the University of Religion and Denominations, Qom, Iran, University of Kufah, Iraq and University of Chicago. More than 6 professors of Jewish studies from different part of American universities and colleges, and 10 Iraqi and 6 Iranian professors of Islamic studies were participated in this webinar.

This 90 minute webinar was moderated by Dr. Iravani. After a brief introduction, he asked Dr. Ali Shabazi, Research Fellow and Lecturer at the University of Religion and Denominations, to present his paper on “Jewish Theological Systematization in the Context of Islamic Culture”.    Following Dr. Shabazi’s talk, there was an opportunity for some participants to raise questions and comments.

This was the second session of a series of interactive webinars between Iranian/Iraqi/American professors of Islamic and Jewish Studies exploring the relationship between Jewish and Muslim thought. The first session was moderated by Prof. Breger and Professor Josef Stern of the University of Chicago presented his paper.

Two Audio Files Available at:  http://lib.law.cua.edu/mockup/Breger/webinar/

Prayer and talk at St. Anselm’s Abbey, Washington, D.C.

On 12 of February 2015, the Rt. Rev. Dom James Wiseman of St. Anselm’s Abbey invited Dr. Ahmad Iravani to take part in a prayer and discuss issues ranging from Iran and US relations to extremism and fundamentalism. St. Anselm’s Abbey is a Benedictine Abbey based in Washington, D.C.  Dr. Iravani had dinner with the Fathers and Abbots of St. Anselm’s Abbey. After dinner, Dr. Iravani discussed his journey from Iran to the United States. Dr. Iravani also talked about his recent trip to the Middle East that included his visits to the nations of Iran and Iraq. The audience then asked Dr. Iravani questions about the current conflict in the region.

He also talked about the United States and Iranian relationship. Dr. Iravani discussed the growing extremism and fundamentalism in the region and around the world. At the end of the gathering, Dr. Iravani prayed along side the Monks for peace and guidance throughout the world. The visit of Dr. Iravani to St. Anselm’s Abbey is an effort to further interfaith dialogues that will foster understanding among religious leaders from different faiths. Dr. Iravani was honored to be able to speak about his life experience that has led him from humble beginnings in Iran to the United States.

Director of UNESCO Chair at Kufa University Dr. Nadhem visits CSIME

On the 5th of February 2015, Dr. Ahmad Iravani along with Dr. Mosoud Noori hosted Dr. Hassan Nadhem, director of UNESCO Chair at Kufa University in Iraq and Dr. Abbas Kadhim, a postdoctoral fellow at John Hopkins’ Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies and CSIME. At the meeting, both participants agreed to work closely by running projects together in order to advance understanding between the Middle East and the United States.

As part of the discussions and talks, Dr. Iravani offered CSIME’s aid in providing support and opportunity for students and scholars, who desire to come to the United States for a short term or long term to study, train or conduct research in American institutions. Following the meeting at CSIME, Dr. Iravani invited both Dr. Nadhem and Dr. Kadhim for light visit at the Catholic University of America (CUA). At CUA, Dr. Nadhem and Dr. Kadhim along with Dr. Iravani had a meeting with Robert Destro, Professor of law and the founding director of the Interdisciplinary Program in Law and Religion at CUA and Marshal Breger, Professor of law at the Columbus School of Law and CUA.

At the meeting, professors Destro and Breger agreed that the Law School at CUA along with Professor Destro’s Center are ready and willing conduct joint programs Kufa University and CSIME. The gathering was made possible following Dr. Iravani’s trip to Iraq where he met with the Chancellor and Dean of Kufa University. The meeting prompted a wider dialogue on the need to have exchanges of scholars and students between Iraqi institutions and American institutions. During his visit at Kufa University, Dr. Iravani gave a lecture as well.

Speech at the National Prayer Breakfast,Washington, D.C.

Dr. Ahmad Iravani, director of the Center for the Study of Islam and the Middle East (CSIME) was invited to deliver a message about Muslim and Iranian perspective on Jesus at the 2015 National Prayer Breakfast. The National Prayer Breakfast is a yearly event held in Washington, D.C., on the first Thursday of February each year. Some 3,500 guests including international invitees from over 100 countries attend the National Prayer Breakfast.  The event is designed as a forum for the political, social, and business elite to assemble and build relationships.

Dr. Ahmad Fatfat, a Lebanese politician and a Sunni Muslim, joined Dr. Iravani, a Shiite Muslim on stage. One of the major aspects and ideals of the National Prayer Breakfast is the idea that people who would normally be defined as mortal enemies can come together despite their differences because of Jesus.

In his remarks at the gathering, Dr. Iravani told those in attendance that Jesus has a very unique position within Islam that no one has or will ever have. Dr. Iravani talked about the birth of Jesus and stated that according to the Quran, Jesus was born to Mary or Mariam as a result of vaginal conception. Dr. Iravani also spoke about the departure of Jesus from the earth. Dr. Iravani told the audience that Muslims don’t believe that Jesus was crucified but rather was raised by God to heaven and will return. Dr. Iravani told the audience that in Islam, Jesus is a prophet and thus submits to the will of God like all prophets. Dr. Iravani said that Jesus was the only prophet in Islam that had the capacity level of performing miracles such as healing the blind and raising the dead.

Dr. Iravani listed other two attributes to Jesus. The first was that Jesus was worthy of respect in this world and after. Dr. Iravani told the audience that the second attribute to Jesus was Mubarak, which translates to blessed. Dr. Iravani said that Mubarak also means a source of benefit for others. Dr. Iravani urged the audience that we should all follow Jesus in that manner as a source of benefit for others especially in today’s world where people are seeking and crying out for help.

While speaking on the need to follow Jesus’ example as a source of benefit for others, Dr. Iravani paused to pay tribute and sympathy to the nation of Jordan after the Jordanian pilot, Moaz al-Kassasbeh, was brutally burned to death by the terrorist group ISIS. Dr. Iravani also paid tribute to the people of France after what they had gone through during the Charlie Hebdo attacks by extremists. He also offered his profound sympathy to the people of Iraq and Syria for what they are enduring at the moment.

In his conclusion, Dr. Iravani told the audience that Jesus had two other exceptional talents that belonged to him alone. The first was that Jesus was the word of God and the second being that Jesus was the spread of God. In the end, Dr. Iravani told those in attendance that Iranian literature and hundreds of poems are filled with description of Jesus’ personality. Those personalities of Jesus include his detachment from material love, his sacrifice for others, and his care for the poor. Dr. Iravani concluded by stating that we are all blessed and proud to be followers of Jesus. Dr. Iravani told the audience that we are praying and asking God to bring together the nations of Iran and America and for God to give the leaders of these two nations wisdom in order to bring peace between the two great nations. Dr. Iravani finished his remarks by telling that the audience their prayers are needed.

The underlining message that Dr. Iravani gave the audience was the idea that we all should follow Jesus’ example in all aspects of our lives. The world is hurting and people are looking for help. We can all answer that call by being a source of benefit for the less fortunate among us.

This was the 13th times that Iravani was attending. During the gathering he had many meetings with religious, business and political leaders both national and international.