The Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), subsidiary of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), commemorated its twentieth anniversary with a cultural ceremony held on 25 October 2000 in Istanbul, Turkey. The event was placed within the program of the Sixteenth Session (23-26 October 2000) of the OIC Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation (COMCEC), an international ministerial committee chaired by the President of the Republic of Turkey.
H.E. Ahmet Necdet Sezer, President of the Republic of Turkey, opened an exhibition exposing IRCICA’s accomplishments, on 25 October 2000.
An anniversary ceremony was held the same day under the patronage and in presence of H.E. Dr. Devlet Bahçeli, Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey. H.E. Dr. Azeddine Laraki, Secretary General of the OIC was present at the ceremony together with ministers from the OIC Member States.
During the ceremony, the third group of the IRCICA Award for Excellence in Research, and the IRCICA Award for Patronage in the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and Promotion of Scholarship instituted for the twentieth anniversary, were presented to the awardees, as was approved by the Twenty-seventh Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (June 2000) at the recommendation of the Governing Board of IRCICA.
On the occasion of this anniversary commemoration, the Governing Board of IRCICA met on its Sixteenth Session on 26-27 October 2000.
A number of cultural events marking IRCICA’s twentieth anniversary were organised throughout 2000. One of them was “IRCICA Week”, a cultural program that was held during the period of the Twenty-seventh Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, in Malaysia, June 2000. The program included a ceremony at Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (Academy of Language and Literature), Kuala Lumpur, on 24 June 2000, held under the patronage and in the presence of The Honourable Datuk Seri Syed Hamid bin Syed Jaafar Albar, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia.
The Twenty-seventh Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers and IRCICA Week were the first venues for IRCICA to present the OIC Member States’ delegations with copies of the commemorative book titled IRCICA 1980-2000, a record of all the activities undertaken by the Centre since its establishment that was published earlier in 2000.
The anniversary commemoration in Istanbul took place within the framework of the Sixteenth Session of the OIC Standing Committee for Economic and Commercial Cooperation.
The COMCEC session was inaugurated by H.E. Ahmet Necdet Sezer, President of Turkey, in the morning of 25 October 2000. In his opening address, the President reviewed the OIC’s activities in various fields, in particular those undertaken by COMCEC to promote economic and commercial cooperation. The President also referred to the missions of OIC bodies and institutions working in other fields such as IRCICA. The President evoked the successful achievements made by IRCICA during its first twenty years and underlined the significance of commemorating its anniversary on the occasion of the COMCEC ministerial session. The President said “I would like to take this opportunity to convey my best wishes to the Istanbul Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) on the twentieth anniversary of its foundation. I wish to congratulate the Director General as well as all the staff for their fruitful work. The Istanbul Centre has been extremely successful in the twenty years of its existence and, with the valuable support and sustained interest of the OIC General Secretariat and Member Countries, has achieved meaningful results on the cultural and artistic works which are a treasure of Islamic civilisation”
Following the inaugural ceremony of the COMCEC session, H.E. Ahmet Necdet Sezer, President of Turkey and Chairman of the COMCEC opened an exhibition of photographs that illustrated IRCICA’s accomplishments. The exhibition was put up in a hall adjacent to the session hall at The Marmara Hotel.
After the opening of IRCICA’s exhibition, the President of Turkey and Chairman of the COMCEC received the heads of delegations attending the conference. During this reception, IRCICA Director General Prof. İhsanoğlu presented the Centre’s plaque of gratitude to H.E. President Sezer as an expression of appreciation for the continuous support given by the Republic of Turkey to IRCICA and the patronage kindly extended by President Sezer to the Centre since his taking the office.
The twentieth anniversary ceremony of IRCICA was organised in the evening of 25 October 2000, in the same hall where the COMCEC session took place. The event was held under the patronage and in presence of H.E. Dr. Devlet Bahçeli, Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey. H.E. Dr. Azeddine Laraki, Secretary General of OIC was present, together with H.E. Dr. Akın İzmirlioğlu, Undersecretary of the State Planning Organisation, as well as the recipients of the IRCICA Award for Excellence in Research and the IRCICA Award for Patronage in the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and Promotion of Scholarship, and the members of IRCICA Governing Board. This international ceremony was attended by the ministers and delegates of the OIC Member States participating in the COMCEC session, the representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Culture and other high officials from Turkey, guests from diplomatic, cultural and scholarly circles and representatives of the press and television.
The ceremony was opened by H.E. Dr. Devlet Bahçeli, Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey. Dr. Devlet Bahçeli congratulated IRCICA on the occasion of its twentieth anniversary and pointed out that this ceremony resulting from a fruitful cooperation between the COMCEC Secretariat and IRCICA was another indication of the multi-dimensional development achieved through cooperation between the Member States.
He underlined the importance of better acquainting peoples with each other by the medium of their cultures and stressed the importance of IRCICA’s objectives and activities in this field (the complete text of the address is given above).
The Secretary General of the OIC H.E. Dr. Azeddine Laraki delivered an address in which he highlighted the wide spectrum of the OIC’s fields of action and the significance of the Centre’s role in the cultural field. The Secretary General pointed out the Centre’s capability of enhancing the knowledge of Islamic culture and heritage for the benefit of the peoples of those countries which joined the OIC recently and of neighbouring regions outside the Member States. The text of Dr. Laraki’s address is reproduced here (original in Arabic).
Then, H.R.H. Princess Wijdan Ali from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, member of the Governing Board of IRCICA (elected Chairperson the following day, at the Sixteenth Session of the Governing Board held on 26-27 October 2000), spoke on behalf of the Board.
Professor Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, Director General of IRCICA, gave an address, stating that it was a privilege for IRCICA to share the joy of its twentieth anniversary 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. He reviewed the salient features of IRCICA’s aims, policies and programs and expressed his sentiments of pride for being in the service of Islamic civilisation through the activities of IRCICA for the past twenty years.
The ceremony continued with the presentation of 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 to the awardees. The IRCICA Award for Patronage in the Preservation of Cultural Heritage and Promotion of Scholarship was instituted this year, on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Centre, to express recognition and appreciation for exemplary services rendered in the patronage towards safeguarding cultural heritage and supporting research in various areas of Islamic studies. The award was presented to four leading personalities of the field who were nominated by IRCICA Governing Board at its Fifteenth Session (14-15 January 2000) and approved by the Twenty-seventh Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers (27-30 June 2000). These personalities are:
H.H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qassimi, Member of the Supreme Council of United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Sharjah, scholar and author in history, patron of research and cultural heritage, for his cultural, social and humanitarian activities;
H.H. Sheikha Hussa Al-Sabah Al-Salim Al-Sabah, Director of Kuwait National Museum, patron of Islamic arts and antiquities, and former member of IRCICA Governing Board, for her support of international efforts towards preserving and promoting Islamic art heritage;
H.E. Sheikh Ahmad Zaki Yamani, Founder and Chairman of Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, patron of learning and research and promoter of studies on manuscripts;
and posthumously, in memory of Hakeem Abdul Hameed, Founder-Chancellor of Hamdard University and Hamdard Foundation, India, a patron and promoter of research in Islamic studies and the history of medicine.
Then, the third group of the IRCICA Award for Excellence in Research was presented to the recipients. The first group was presented in 1990 on the tenth anniversary of IRCICA and the second in 1997, both to scholars and researchers from around the world. The following four distinguished scholars received the award on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary:
Professor Syed Muhammad Naquib Al-Attas from Malaysia, Founder-Director, International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation, Malaysia, Life Holder of the Distinguished Al-Ghazali Chair of Islamic Thought, professor of Islamic thought and civilisation, International Islamic University Malaysia, for his achievements in the fields of Malay language and culture and Islamic civilisation;
Professor Emeritus Iraj Afshar from Iran, professor of history, specialist in the history of Iran, and scholar of library science and Islamic manuscripts, for his accomplishments in the fields of Iranian studies, Islamic history and library science;
Professor Dr. Yusuf Ibish, professor of Islamic history and political studies, scholar and author, Director General, Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, London, Founder and Chairman, Board of Trustees, Islamic Cultural Center, Beirut, in appreciation of his contributions the field of Islamic history, philosophy and political science;
and Professor William A. Graham, professor of the history of religion and Islamic studies, Chairman, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilisations, and Master of Currier House, Harvard University, USA for his services in the fields of history of religions, in particular the history and philosophy of Islam.
IRCICA took the opportunity of this august event to express its gratitude to some Ministries and authorities for the support and assistance they have offered to the Centre throughout the past two decades. Thus, the Director General of IRCICA Professor Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu presented plaques of gratitude to:
H.E. Dr. Devlet Bahçeli, Minister of State and Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, in gratitude for the Turkish Government’s unfailing support and assistance;
H.E. Dr. Azeddine Laraki, Secretary General of the OIC, for the valuable guidance and assistance provided by the General Secretariat;
H.E. Mr. İstemihan Talay, Minister of Culture of Turkey, in recognition of the continuous support offered by the Ministry of Culture – the plaque was received by Mr. Tuncer Acar, Director General of the National Library of Turkey, on behalf of the Minister;
H.E. Mr. İsmail Cem, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, in appreciation of the support and assistance extended by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Centre – the plaque was received by Ambassador Ferhan Erkmenoğlu on behalf of the Minister;
H.E. Mr. Akın İzmirlioğlu, Undersecretary of the Turkish Prime Ministry’s State Planning Organisation, in gratitude for the close cooperation accorded for years to IRCICA on various occasions.