An international conference on ‘Islamic Bioethics: The Interplay of Islam and the West,’ opened at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar yesterday with a call by acclaimed scholar Dr Tariq Ramadan for a holistic approach and better transnational communication.
“This is a central field and there is a lot to be shared with people of other faith,” said the keynote speaker, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at the University of Oxford, and a visiting professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies, Qatar.
The two-day conference, also sponsored by Qatar National Research Fund, Faculty of Islamic Studies, and Leiden University of the Netherlands, aims to create an opportunity for direct conversation between those working on bioethics in the West and in the Islamic world.
It is also intended to encourage and foster research in the field of bioethics by featuring the results of a research project, funded by the Qatar National Research Fund, which has brought together the writings of scholars and theorists in a multi-lingual searchable ‘Islamic Medical and Scientific Ethics’ database.
A special workshop on how to use the database is included in the programme of the conference which is being attended by leading local and international thinkers, practitioners and experts on bioethics.
Dr Ramadan, a senior research fellow at Doshisha University (Kyoto, Japan) and director of the Research Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics in Qatar, has contributed to the debate on the issues of Muslims in the West and Islamic revival in the Muslim world. He is active at academic and grassroots levels, lecturing extensively throughout the world on theology, ethics, social justice, ecology and interfaith as well intercultural dialogue. He is president of the European think-tank, European Muslim Network, in Brussels.
Today’s keynote address at the conference is by Dr Henk ten Have, director of the Center for Healthcare Ethics at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh. He is involved in many public debates concerning palliative care, euthanasia, drug addiction, genetics, choices in healthcare and resource allocation.
Dr Hen ten’s research has focused on ethical issues in end-of-life care. He was the co-ordinator of the European Commission funded project, Palliative Care Ethics. Over the last decade, he has been particularly involved in debates on global bioethics.
“Bioethics is a recent discipline that arose from the need to find answers to moral and religious questions that come about during medical practice and research – whether for the researchers or the subject, the practitioner or the patient,” said Frieda Wiebe, organiser from Georgetown SFS-Q.
Dr Willem Drees, vice dean of Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities pointed out that the interplay of Islam and the West has been one of the front-page issues in both socio-political and academic discourses for decades.
“However, the overarching conflict-tone has dictated the way the public and the academy portrayed the encounter between Islam and the West,” he observed.
Dr Drees said that the field of contemporary Islamic bioethics was the main focus of the conference in order to elucidate the possibility of having a rich and intriguing mode of encounter between Islam and the West.
The conference also includes sessions on the theory and methodology of bioethics, as well as talks from scientists and practitioners who have encountered Islamic bioethics in the field, during the session Islamic Bioethics in Practice.