Address of Dr. Halit Eren at the Opening Ceremony of the Second International Congress on Islamic Archaeology

Address of Dr. Halit Eren at the Opening Ceremony of the Second International Congress on Islamic Archaeology

Your Excellency Pir Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani, Federal Minister for Culture
Distinguished participants, dear guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to greet you on the occasion of the Second International Congress on Islamic Archaeology. I am delighted to be in Islamabad, sharing this occasion with you, Mr. Minister, with the cultural authorities and the academic circles of Pakistan and specialists from around the world assembled here. His Excellency Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, Prime Minister of Pakistan graciously extending their patronage underscores the academic importance of the congress and the broad scope and variety of knowledge bases it addresses. This aspect of the event is also reflected in its becoming part of the Pakistan Knowledge Festival that the Ministry of Education is hosting in Islamabad. I would like to record that towards this congress we have developed a fruitful collaboration with the distinguished National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research. Thanks to this, the Congress on Islamic Archaeology which was launched at IRCICA, Istanbul, in 2005, finds a significant continuation, institutionalizing itself as a regular academic event as originally planned.

As is known to the distinguished audience present here, my center IRCICA is the scholarly research organ of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference - OIC It is an intergovernmental organisation representing 57 states. IRCICA’s activities are related to research, publishing, documentation and information about the Islamic civilization and heritage, the history and cultures of the Muslim world, history of culture, arts, architecture and urban studies, archaeology, history of science, cultural development issues and intercultural dialogue. Its work programs are conducted through research, conferences, exhibitions, competitions of arts and architectural design, research and restoration. These activities respond to the cultural objectives of our Member States and involve global academic coverage and collaboration. Within this framework, the support and cooperation extended by the Member States governments to IRCICA activities is a source of encouragement for us. In this light, the state support extended to the present congress is another example among many, of the leading role Pakistan plays in the context of the OIC action for cultural, educational and scientific development. The OIC’s Standing Committee for Scientific and Technological Development (COMSTECH) which is chaired by the President of Pakistan has held its 14th General Assembly meeting here in Islamabad one week ago, resulting in important recommendations for the promotion of science and knowledge in the Muslim world. The same engagement is also reflected in many ways in the cooperation which continues since the 1980s between the Government and the universities of Pakistan and IRCICA.

Starting from the mid-nineteen eighties Pakistan was represented in the Governing Board of IRCICA which is composed of ten specialists of culture nominated from the Member States. In 1986 Pakistan hosted the very first seminar in IRCICA’s series of regional congresses on the theme of Islamic civilization. It was titled Islamic History, Art and Culture in South Asia and was organised jointly with the Islamic University, Islamabad. Furthermore, the First International Islamic Artisans-At-Work Festival was organized jointly by IRCICA and Lok Virsa institution of the Federal Ministry of Culture, Pakistan, in 1994. It comprised exhibitions of artisans-at-work, folkloric performances, an international seminar and the Lok Virsa-IRCICA Craft Awards with participation from 73 countries. A more recent example is the collaboration towards the World Bibliography of Manuscript Translations of the Holy Quran published by IRCICA in 2009 and covering translations in the Urdu language. The bibliography was prepared by Dr. Ahmad Khan, Director of the Centre for the Protection of Arabic Manuscripts, Islamabad. Many other examples can be given to cooperation between Pakistani institutions and IRCICA.

Regarding studies in the field of archaeology, the Islamic period which spans fourteen centuries of the history of mankind encompasses many states, societies and cultures over the vast Muslim geography. The archaeological heritage of this period includes elements of Islamic character as well as elements representing the mutual influences of faiths and cultures. Such a vast content requires that the archaeology of this period be distinguished with the term “Islamic archaeology”. It is observed that generally around the world, archaeological activities relating to this period are conducted in a rather isolated way. Leading studies were done, resulting in important contributions to the stock of knowledge, but these were made possible thanks to individual efforts by the concerned researchers and some interested institutions. It is through these contributions that the archaeology of the Islamic period achieved its present status and scope. Efforts, if any, to establish this archaeology as a distinct field of study, were not far-reaching. These considerations among others had led IRCICA back in 2005 to organise the first congress. The Prime Minister of Turkey Mr. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan extended his patronage to the event. It was recommended the congress be organized periodically.

Accordingly, we thought a good continuation would be given to the initiative by organizing the second congress in Pakistan. In this orientation we took into consideration the experience of cooperation between Pakistani authorities and IRCICA. We also took two other factors into consideration: the richness and significance of the archaeological heritage of Pakistan and the surrounding region, and the advanced state of archaeological research and teaching in Pakistan and its region. For millennia this region has been the land of leading civilisations of the world including the Indus Valley civilisation, the Ghandara, the Islamic civilization, the Sikh, and it is one of the areas where the Islamic cultures found most conducive social and urban environments for outstanding intellectual, artistic and architectural achievements. The resulting archaeological riches will be examined in this congress in their wide diversity. A multi-disciplinary approach was adopted in planning the sessions. I wish the participating scholars and specialists a fruitful meeting. I believe the field of Islamic archaeology will benefit significantly from their joint contribution.

I wish to renew my gratitude to Prime Minister of Pakistan His Excellency Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani for their patronage of the event. I would like to congratulate Your Excellency the Minister of Culture and express my appreciation for your honouring the opening and your support. I wish to record my thanks to Dr. Khurram Qadir, Director of the National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research, and his colleagues. I also congratulate the Government of Pakistan and the Ministry of Education on the occasion of the Pakistan Knowledge Festival and wish success to all the activities. Thank you.