Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber awarded a degree of Doctor of Letters from University of Westminster
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Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber awarded a degree of Doctor of Letters from University of Westminster

Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber awarded a degree of Doctor of Letters from University of Westminster
Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber awarded a degree of Doctor of Letters from University of Westminster

At a ceremony in London on 29th November 2004, our Patron and Chairman Sheikh Mohamed was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Westminster for his contribution towards education in the United Kingdom and in particular for the scholarship programme initiated by him in the late 90s and which is now under the auspices of the MBI Al Jaber Foundation.

Receiving his Honorary Doctorate from Vice-Chancellor Dr Geoffrey Copland CBE, Sheikh Mohamed gave the following remarks:

“Chairman of the Court of Governors, Vice-Chancellor, fellow students, ladies and gentlemen, may I first offer my sincere and humble thanks for the honour you have paid to me today, and I am sure that I speak for my fellow Honorand, Sir Eric Richardson, in wishing the University and all who study and teach in it, every success in the future. Never has there been a greater need for study, sound learning and genuine understanding.

Westminster has long had a strong international tradition, and this has been demonstrated today by the awards to graduates from many countries. As the world becomes more complex and more inter-dependent, there is a risk that people will fall back on comfortable stereotypes, branding groups who are in some way different - by colour of their skin, religion or language - as good or bad, friend or enemy.

I am an Arab, proud of my traditions and history. The region I come from is much in the news, at the top of the international agenda and likely to stay that way for some time. Unfortunately, most of the news is bad, and I am saddened that so much focus should be on events that may well have occurred but are in no way representative. The information revolution has not yet led to a revolution in understanding.

As an Arab I have been conscious since my early years of the great contribution of Arab civilisation to learning - in Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, Granada, right across the vast area that was the early Islamic Empire. This was a tolerant civilisation, where Moslems, Jews and Christians lived side by side; where Jewish scholars wrote in Arabic and where Christian craftsmen decorated beautiful mosques. Baghdad was known as the City of Peace.

Our travellers roamed all over the known world, a Moroccan - Ibn Battuta - reaching Beijing. Our greatest Political Scientist - Ibn Khaldoun from Tunis - described the threat of Big Government. Great advances were made in medicine, astronomy, mathematics, geography.

And we are a people that has always been proud to trade and do business. Indeed, our Prophet was himself a businessman and married the first business woman of Islam. We believe that business-people have a major role in society, creating jobs that give dignity to the worker, and paying back to society the benefits they have accumulated.

I am, as you have heard from the Vice-Chancellor, a businessman, with interests in three continents. But I am also a student, and it was the opportunity to study with scholars in London that first retained me here in London.

The reason is simple. If we do not know where we come from, we cannot understand where we are; and if we do not know where we are, we cannot know where we are going.

I have a passion to understand the origins of the current problems that we face. I need that understanding for my business, for the future of my family, and to satisfy my curiosity. And if I, a successful businessman, need to learn from those who have studied the evidence and scorned the propaganda; then how much more important is it that the politician, the diplomat, the journalist and the general public should be educated too. And so I have attempted to repay the teachers and make my contribution to a saner world by supporting educational reform, funding scholarships and assisting those who are willing to listen as well as speak.

People created today's problems - ignorant people, often fired up by information that is biased and usually plain wrong. And people can solve the problems. No danger is unavoidable, no problem too difficult to resolve. Who, twenty years ago would have believed it possible that the Soviet Empire would crumble, China achieve two-figure growth rates, or Northern Ireland fall quiet?

There is nothing unique about my part of the world. We Arabs, whether Moslem or Christian, and our neighbours in Israel are not a hopeless case. The Semitic peoples have been the greatest of travellers, a truly globalised people for hundreds of years. It is my conviction that with true knowledge, understanding and tolerance we can work together to bring about peaceful reform and progress, laying the foundations of a prosperous and peaceful environment for our people, and giving them the chance to enjoy the benefits that are accepted as normal here in the West.

Like you, I have made a major commitment to learn. I hope that as you now go out into the world entering your chosen professions and occupations, you will make a new commitment to keep studying - for the world changes at a dizzying pace - and to make your own contributions to a better world. DonÍt leave it all to the politicians. It is too easy to blame them. Whether as doctors, teachers, artists, journalists or - as in my case, in business - we all have important contributions to make. Westminster University has given you the best possible foundation for that endeavour.

This is your century, and I wish you every success.”

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