Your Highnesses, Excellencies,
Your Excellency Dr. Devlet Bahçeli, Minister of State, Deputy Prime Minister of
Turkey and patron of this ceremony, Your Excellency Dr. Azeddine Laraki,
Secretary General of the OIC, Distinguished Delegates,
I am most honoured to welcome you to the ceremony of the twentieth anniversary of the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture -IRCICA. It is a privilege for us to share the joy of this significant occasion with guests of the highest level from the Member States, members and representatives of governments, international organisations from within and outside the Muslim world and leading figures from cultural and academic circles. At the beginning of my address, I would like to thank you all and to express our deep gratitude, in particular to His Excellency Dr. Devlet Bahçeli, Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, for having given us the honour of extending his patronage and gracing this event with his presence. I believe the high-level chairmanship and support accorded by IRCICA’s host country the Republic of Turkey, and the interest shown by the OIC Member States, reaffirm the confidence placed on us for fulfillment of IRCICA’s tasks and responsibilities. Furthermore, the international and inter-disciplinary composition of this august audience reflects the fact that throughout the first two decades of its existence, the operational environment and support network of IRCICA have reached universal dimensions commensurate with the scope of its mandate.

IRCICA was set up in 1980 as the OIC’s first subsidiary in the field of culture, by decision of the Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers and at the proposal of the Republic of Turkey. The Centre’s assigned objectives crystallised into multifarious projects directed to the scholarly study of Islamic civilisation. We gave emphasis to fostering affinities between Muslim peoples and also acquainting other peoples with the history and culture of Muslim nations. We tried to stimulate scholarly, cultural and artistic endeavours towards reviving and restoring the cultural heritage of Islam within and outside the Muslim world.

IRCICA’s activities grew steadily in depth and scope since 1980. During the same period, the world witnessed decisive changes in the political, economic and cultural fields which accentuated the diversity of interests and the multiplicity of cultures. As a result, the importance of dialogue and inter-cultural understanding increased more than ever. The significance of the objectives IRCICA was originally assigned grew day by day.

I believe the twentieth anniversary is a milestone in the Centre’s present phase where it achieved its full potential in a changing global environment. It is significant that this landmark occasion takes place concurrently with the thirtieth anniversary of the OIC, its parent organisation. In coming years, IRCICA will be expected to highlight the Islamic culture in all forums where cultures of the world are represented through their international institutions. By the nature of its mandate, as well as by the fact that it is centrally located in the Muslim world but at the same time in close geographic proximity to the west, and that it is the only OIC institution placed in the European continent, the Centre is acting as a cultural bridge not only between the core and the geographically peripheral regions of the Muslim world, but also with the western and far-eastern worlds.

Several cultural events have been organised to commemorate the twentieth anniversary throughout the present year. A ceremony organised during the Twenty-seventh Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers last June in Kuala Lumpur, with the cooperation of the Academy of Language and Literature, in presence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, was fruitful in highlighting the Centre’s accomplishments and prospects. Furthermore, special awards have been instituted on the occasion of this anniversary, namely, the IRCICA Award for Patronage in the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and Promotion of Scholarship, and the third group of the IRCICA Award for Excellence in Research. These awards will be presented today, to express gratitude and recognition to four leading figures who extended their patronage and support to the preservation of cultural heritage and scholarly research, and to four other scholars for their remarkable contributions to Islamic studies. The diversity of the fields and the national backgrounds of the awardees is an important feature of the award and reflects the universal coverage of the OIC’s and the Centre’s cultural action.

Your Highnesses, Excellencies, distinguished delegations,
I would like to conclude by thanking you once again for participating in this ceremony and your interest in IRCICA’s objectives. May I take this opportunity to reiterate my profound gratitude to the Government of the Republic of Turkey, which originally proposed the Centre’s establishment, gave it the most suitable premises in the historical Yıldız Palace and extended continuous support to its activities. We are deeply grateful, in particular, to the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey for the care and assistance accorded to the Centre continuously since its establishment. We owe special thanks and appreciation to the Turkish Prime Ministry’s State Planning Organisation, its Departments of External Economic Relations, Social Planning, Administration and other offices for the close cooperation they have extended to IRCICA for years on many such memorable occasions.

For all our achievements so far, we are indebted to the Member States of the OIC for the moral and material assistance they provided either individually or collectively through the OIC’s bodies. I take this opportunity to thank them once again. I reiterate our profound gratitude to the General Secretariat of the OIC for the wise guidance extended to us throughout the years. We are deeply thankful to His Excellency Dr. Azeddine Laraki, the distinguished Secretary General of the OIC, for his support of our activities, and on this particular occasion, for kindly gracing IRCICA’s ceremony with his presence.

As one of those who have been working for IRCICA for the last twenty years, I feel grateful for having been associated with IRCICA, and I am sure my colleagues share the same feeling. I personally believe that whatever our successes and failures are, serving the noble Islamic civilisation through this institution is a source of pride for us.