Conference on the Role of Religious Media in Promoting Tolerance and Moderation

On 20 and 21 December 2015, a two-day conference entitled "The Role of Religious Media in Promoting Tolerance and Moderation" was organized by the Berghof Foundation in cooperation with Dar al-Fatwa in the Lebanese Republic. The conference took place at the premises of Dar al-Fatwa in Beirut upon the invitation of Grand Mufti of Lebanon Sheikh Abd al-Latif Darian. The aim of the conference was to develop a common strategy on religious media in order to promote moderate narratives and increase outreach of religious messages aiming to strengthen tolerance and pluralism. This event took place in the framework of the joint project on "Strengthening the Strategy Development of Dar al-Fatwa Institutions to Enhance Stability and Religious Tolerance in Lebanon."

The Grand Mufti of Egypt, Sheikh Dr. Shawqi Allam, the Grand Mufti of Jordan, Sheikh Abd al-Karim Khasawneh, as well as the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abd Al-Latif Darian, were the keynote speakers of the conference. Together they developed the Beirut Declaration on Enlightened Religious Media, which was signed at the end of the first day. In this declaration, they emphasized the need "to renew commitment towards reformed and moderate religious speech" and "towards spreading enlightened, professional, and appealing religious information and ideas." Furthermore, the three Muftis agreed on enabling cooperation "between religious legislative bodies in Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon in sharing information and expertise." Finally, they called on "Islamic and Christian religious bodies to cooperate on setting up an 'observatory' for coexistence to be based in Beirut." They also called on "private and governmental Arab media outlets to address religious issues with knowledge and responsibility."

During the second day, four panels were held with experts coming from Lebanese, Palestinian and Egyptian religious, professional and academic backgrounds. At the end of the conference, the participants came up with a number of recommendations, such as the necessity to develop a media strategy to counter extremism in the Arab world. Such a strategy would not only condemn extremism, but would also present alternatives and use the Internet and social media to counter extremism in a contemporary manner. Other recommendations were to include media studies into the curricula of religious colleges and universities as well as to develop and diversify Dar al-Fatwa's media outlets and outreach approaches, through social media for instance.