Global scholars gathered on Sunday to discuss problems facing the Muslim world at the "International Conference on the Muslim Ummah."
The three-day conference bringing together 20 international scholars was organized by the Center for Islam and Global Affairs at Istanbul's Sabahattin Zaim University.
Speaking at the opening session, Sami Al-Arian, the center's director, said that the conference was "the embodiment of some of the problems that we see across the Muslim world."
The conference will discuss "four problems that the Muslim world is facing today," namely sectarianism, secularism, nationalism, and colonialism, he said.
For his part, Mehmet Bulut, the university's rector, said those issues "continue to exert incredible pressure and influence on the lives and destinies of Muslims across the world."
"It is not only essential that we know how to understand, express, and outline these multilateral problems but it is also incumbent upon us thinkers, researchers, scholars, and academics to articulate some of these potential ways by which we -- and by that I mean we as citizens of the world -- can begin to advance solutions," he added.
"The problems we face as Muslims are not easy ones to discuss. They are even harder to solve," he said.
Louay Safi of the College of Islamic Studies at Qatar's Hamad Bin Khalifah University said the challenges that Muslim societies face today are many and growing more complicated by the decade.
"It is our duty to shed light and clarify the picture, to bring clarity because defining the issues … forces understanding of what is going on, (which) is the most important step in addressing and moving toward a better future," he said.
"I am always optimistic, I think the entire Muslim world has been going through tough times, to say the least, but I see under the surface many currents that give a lot of hope and optimism," he added.
"There are changes," he said, stressing "the level of consciousness, which is to me the most of important level of change because that is where all the changes start."
At the conference, Halil Berktay of Istanbul's Ibn Haldun University made a presentation titled "Muslim Societies & the Legacy of Colonialism: What History Tells Us About Today."
Joseph Massad of New York's Columbia University also spoke on "Liberalism versus Liberation: The Arab World at Present," and Farid Esack from South Africa's University of Johannesburg gave a presentation on "Muslim Societies and Modernity: The Struggle for Liberation and Pluralism."