Diplomats from 10 predominantly Muslim countries joined prominent representatives from the Church to celebrate the first published work of Islamic translations by Brigham Young University Press at a gala dinner in Washington, D.C.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve, BYU Pres. Merrill J. Bateman and LDS members of Congress were at the J.W. Marriott Hotel Feb. 3 to commemorate "The Incoherence of the Philosophers" by Al-Ghazali, a 12th century Muslim philosopher. The text, the first in a series to be published at BYU, highlights the Muslim considered by many to be the greatest after Mohammed."We are very proud of Brigham Young University's efforts to bring this extremely important literary work of the Arab and Islamic worlds to the Western world," said Ambassador Marwan Muasher of Jordan.
Managing editor Daniel C. Peterson, an Asian and Near Eastern Studies professor at BYU, shepherded the project from entering the text through editing and preparing it for the BYU press. The work is part of a sabbatical and constitutes what he calls, "the most important work I could do. He adds, "This text represents an opportunity to permit great thinkers to talk on their own."
Elder Maxwell praised the knowledge now available to students and scholars through BYU's efforts to translate and publish ancient Islamic texts. Many never have been available in modern languages.
"Light and truth need no visas to make their way in the world," he said. "Light and truth need no passport for identification. Light and truth come from God. We celebrate Him and what He has done."
Continuing his address to the diplomats, Elder Maxwell added, "Where there is light, there is warmth and brotherhood and sisterhood. I believe when we see things by God's light, then we see things as they really are, and we see things as they really will be. When we know who we really are, then we know what we are to be."
Ambassadors and diplomats from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kuwait, Kzyrgyzstan, Morocco, Pakistan, Sierra Leone and Turkmenistan dined with United States Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada, Bob Bennett of Utah and Gordon Smith of Oregon as well as Reps. Jim Hansen, Merrill Cook and Chris Cannon of Utah and Reps. Ron Packard and Buck McKeon of California in an evening of exchange across cultures and traditions. For many diplomats, the dinner was their first contact with the LDS Church and its teachings.
Brother Peterson said: "There is something on the order of a billion Muslims in the world and several million Muslims in North America, yet knowledge about Islam is very limited among Westerners. Indeed, much of what is known about Islam in the West isn't true. Among the things most needed to increase Western appreciation and understanding of Islam are competent, trustworthy, readily available translations of Islamic texts."
Drawing on BYU's well-known phrase, "The World Is Our Campus," Pres. Bateman explained BYU's publication of the Islamic Translation Series represents its major commitment to international studies and global understanding. Eight other Islamic works are at various stages of translation and publication. The translations by a variety of scholars across the globe will be published by Brigham Young University Press and distributed by the University of Chicago Press.
"The translation of the work is illuminating, and we feel a great affinity for the Church and BYU in its efforts to learn about the way we think," said Shahnaz Khokhar of Pakistan. "It is now possible for many to understand that our cultures are not so different." Her husband, Ambassador Riaz H. Khokar, added, "This is the first time in my 11 months in the United States that I have seen an Islamic dialogue between the East and West."
After praising Latter-day Saints for their love of learning and knowledge by quoting scriptures from Section 93 of the Doctrine and Covenants, Muslim scholar Dr. Parviz Morewedge, editor-in-chief of the Islamic Translation Series from State University of New York at Binghampton, said, "There is a warranted case that this body
the LDS ChurchT is the most avant-garde and most progressive carrier of the torch of Christianity.
"This university, this Church, these scholars are the grace of not only Christianity and American values, but also of the entire globe. Their brotherly love and compassion make them the hope of peace, the path of peace for our children and grandchildren of the 21st century."
Rep. Packard added, "This translation series opens up a new area in the study of antiquity: the thoughts and masterpieces of philosophers from the Muslim world. We have never tapped this great resource."