Stories of Friendship & Faith: The Wisdom of Women Creating Alliances for Peace

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

opening hearts, opening minds, opening doors

By Brenda Naomi Rosenberg

WisdomWomen_PROMOcover In Metro Detroit, a mostly segregated area of isolated and sometimes hostile communities, with almost every person affected by the failing economy, a devastated auto industry, sky- rocketing unemployment, an area where homes have been devalued by as much as 50%, I saw a spark of hope. A spark ignited with my friends from WISDOM (Women’s Interfaith Solutions for Dialogue and Outreach in MetroDetroit), women who share my passion for opening hearts and opening minds, women who dare to cross boundaries to make friends. Together, we created FRIENDSHIP and FAITH; the WISDOM of women creating alliances for peace, a book that offers hope and the possibility of how we can create peace if we are willing to extend our hands in friendship and formulate meaningful connections.

Twenty nine of us, ages 20 to 80 from seven different faiths -Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Baha’i, Sikh, and Buddhist-collaborated for a year to produce a collection of inspiring stories, stories of creating friendships across religious and cultural divides. Stories that describe everything from surviving flat-out hatred—to the far simpler challenge of making friends with someone of a different religion and race when you share a hospital room; stories that describe making friends at school, overcoming misunderstandings with colleagues at work and even daring to establish friendships that circle the globe; stories that will lift spirits—perhaps even inspire people to spark a new friendship wherever they live.

Our Journey to create Friendship & Faith began on January 24, 2009, when 14 WISDOM leaders gathered for a retreat at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, led by the Rev. Sharon Buttry, whose story appears in the book. The retreat was called “Building Bridges”. Together we explored ways to strengthen relationships between women and create innovative projects for the future. To deepen our reflections that weekend, we divided into pairs— I teamed up with Gigi Salka, a Muslim friend and board member of the Muslim Unity Center. Our first exercise was to draw the bridge that connected us. Our bridge was a beautiful rainbow of colors; filled with many of the interfaith and educational projects we had worked on together, including placing a mini Jewish library, a gift of the Farbman family, at the Muslim Unity Center.  I wanted to share not only our bridge-building efforts but all the stories in the room. I proposed a book of our personal stories of how we built bridges across religious and cultural divides, with the hope to inspire others to reach out and to expand the circle of WISDOM.

The group’s enthusiastic response led to a task force focused on gathering stories from dozen of women from diverse backgrounds. Our task force includes WISDOM members Padma Kuppa, Sheri Schiff, Gail Katz, Trish Harris, Ellen Ehrlich, Judy Satterwaite, Paula Drewek and me. We turned to another friend: David Crumm, (founding editor of Read The Spirit www.ReadTheSprit.com, an online magazine, and publisher of ReadTheSpirit Books. David not only published our book, but helped us expand our creative circle. We invited writers from a similarly wide range of backgrounds to help us. Some of the writers are still in college—and some are veteran, nationally-known writers.

As you open the book, you’ll meet my three dear friends; Gail Katz, (Jewish) Trish Harris, (Catholic) and Shahina Begg, (Muslim) who will invite you to sit down with them around a kitchen table. They’ll tell you about the creation of WISDOM – their meeting at an interfaith event, the documentary premier of “Reuniting the Children of Abraham” at Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church, and how WISDOM has developed into a dynamic women’s interfaith dialogue organization hosting many successful educational and social-service programs.

Many stories will feel like you’re witnessing events unfolding in your back yard – stories about overcoming tough problems with relationships at school—or finding solutions when families suddenly encounter friction over interreligious marriages. Other stories take you to times and places around the world that you’ll find so compelling—so memorable—that you’ll want to tell a friend – two girls in Iran risking the wrath of religious authorities with their interfaith friendship,  a Jewish woman, child of holocaust survivors, who finds an unexpected friendship when a German couple moves in next door – a Muslim-Hindu marriage that raises cross-country anxiety in India—and a rare true story about an innocent Japanese girl who bravely faced hatred  in an internment camp here and also in Japan during World War II.  You will read the heartfelt stories of personal struggles. One Muslim woman shares her story of how challenging it was for her to start wearing a head scarf after 9/11, and another about how she ended an abusive marriage, stopped wearing her head scarf and started helping other Arab woman in all their relationships. And, some stories like mine show how a lunch with an Imam led to creating an interfaith project  “Reuniting the Children of Abraham”  that has crossed race, faith, cultural barriers and  international boundaries.

Read our book with a friend or neighbor. Meet us online at our www.FriendshipAndFaith.com web site.  Look for our stories on www.ReadTheSpirit.com.,and our book on www.Amazon.com.  We would love to come to your congregation or organization and present our program 5 Women 5 Journeys, an insightful exchange about our faiths, beliefs and challenges as women. If you are interested in organizing a congregational –wide “read” of this book contact: Gail Katz at gailkatz@comcast.net

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M.K. Gandhi and the Birth of Israel

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Gandhi1 Oakland–My Pakistani friends have no great respect for the “great soul,” because they are of the opinion that his great political skills dominated his moral authority, but it must be remembered that, although a Hindu, he supported the Caliphate Movement (the Sultan of Turkey as the temporal leader of Islam) during the 1920s.  Further, he gained the ire of international Zionism’s claims to Palestine which was an exacerbating point to South Asian Islam, in addition.  Therefore, your essayist has decided to write about the ideas of this great man on Palestine.  It must be remembered that he spoke up for the welfare of Muslims as well as Hindus in India.  If many of his ideas had been incorporated at the birth of an independent South Asia, there may not have been a Partition, nor would we be staring down a nuclear “gun” in that region, too.

Your author starts his composition with a remembered reading of “The Jews in Palestine” (Harijan of November 26, 1938: Collected Works, Volume 74).   As remembered, it permitted some room for a one-State solution in Israel-Palestine, but reading it closely again, there is not; yet, in a comment to a reporter, shortly before his death the profound man gave a suggestion for a solution to resolve the conundrum.  If that proposal had been taken seriously, the crisis in the Middle East might not be before us today.

Gandhi’s mind was a curious mixture of the practical and impractical.  His ideas on the Abrahamic “Holy Land” bear this out.  “I cannot…say…I have made a…study of the…religion [Judaism], but I have studied as much as a layman can…” (Interview in The Jewish Chronicle, London, Oct. 2nd, 1931).  In fact, he makes no references of the traditional Indian Jewish communities — the Cochin, the Bombay and the Baghdadi.  He seems to have known little about them.  In fact, as he states in his article we shall be discussing, he knew “…the Jews…in South Africa…” (“The Jews in Palestine,” the Harijan Nov. 26th 1938).  Incidentally, South Africa was where he developed his methodologies on non-violence.

Although he states that he will be talking about the “Jewish Question” in relation to Palestine and Germany, he knows very little about European Jewry and Palestine itself.  He states in the same commentary as mentioned above:  “I should love to go… [to]…the Holy Land…”  Much of what he does know about contemporary European Jewry and Palestine comes from Central European (German) and Zionist itself propaganda.

The whole question of a one-State resolution of the Israeli issue, which I do not personally hold, came in a conversation I had with Richard Falk, the United Nations’ Human Rights Rapporteur to (Israel’s) Occupied territories (Palestine) [Muslim Observer, March 19, 2009].  The Legal Doctor stated “The two-State solution is being undermined…because of the expansion of the Settlements and house demolitions…” Although some Palestinian intellectuals themselves are beginning to come to this position, too, such as Ali Abunimah who founded and maintains the Electronic Infitada (see his One Country).  A one State solution would not work well in my opinion because the Israeli right would repress it due to the fact that Israel would cease to be a Jewish State.  Within Israel itself, it has support within their Left, though.

Curiously, Falk had not read Gandhi’s central essay which we shall look at, and he made a note to do so.  In other collections of what M.K. Gandhi said and in Zionist replies to the piece the subject is often called the “Jewish Problem.”  Most scholars who discuss it today note this is not how we speak of it today.  No way is Judaism a “problem,” but a perversion of it, Zionism, is.  Most politicized aspects of all religions do have a “perverted” wing, also.  Politics and religions make devious bedfellows.

First I shall go through an exegesis of his text “The Jews in Palestine.”  He refers to it as the “Arab-Jewish” question – not the Palestinian issue.  Moreover, in accord with my statement above, when Gandhi applies the words “Jew” or “Jewish,” etc., please mentally replace it with ”Zionist” or “Zionism” to avoid the sectarianism of the time.  The founding and maintaining of the State of Israel was a Zionist project that involved only a small part of the Jewish people.  Furthermore, the function of Christian Zionism cannot be ignored although it is not relevant to this paper; and, thus shall be ignored in this paper.

Mohandas Gandhi, ever the adroit politician, states, “My sympathies are…with the Jews,” Then, he switches his position “…my sympathy does not blind me to the requirements of justice.”  He points out the “mythical” basis for the demand for homeland for the Jews in Palestine within the text of the Bible itself.  Clearly, he states his opposition to a Jewish State with these famous words, “Palestine belongs to the Arab…[as]…England belongs to the English or France to the French.  It is wrong and inhuman to…impose the Jews on the Arabs.”  Further, the Mahatma, as in his struggle in India, appeals to his readers’ ethical sensibility:  “What is going on…cannot  be justified by any code of conduct.”  It is quite apparent here that Gandhi’s perceptions are still relevant in this century.
More importantly, “It would be a crime against humanity to reduce the…Arabs…that Palestine can be restored to the Jews…”  This is a pretty strong attack upon the Zionists of the time since the principle of “crimes against humanity” had not been established in International Law.  Strangely, Gandhi had accused Zionists of collaboration with the Nazis as Lenni Brunner’s book (Zionism in the Age of Dictators), written in our generation, does.  Gandhi states in the essay under discussion, “…a cry for a national home affords a…justification for the German expulsion of the Jews…” to which, curiously, the archives of the Third Reich, that Brenner utilizes in his book, attest. 

M.K. Gandhi goes on to damn the National Socialist regime in Berlin.  He asks “Is England drifting towards armed dictatorship….?”  Here he is  equating his struggle in British India and the conflict in West Asia.  He makes assumptions that often are inaccurate because he cannot get away from his Indian environment.  He applies the Jewish concept of God with his Hindu perception of the Divine:  “…Jehovah of the Jews is a God more personal than the God of the Christians, Mussalmans [another word not used much anymore because it is in bad taste] or the Hindus.”  Gandhi’s theology is quite mistaken here.  Muslims and Christians look to a most personal God, too.  All three religious systems deriving from the Numen of Abraham share this principle.  Therefore, for Mohandas Gandhi “…the Jews ought not feel helpless.”  Further, “The same God rules the Jewish heart…[that]…rules the  Arab heart.” 

M.K. Gandhi felt that the Jews (Zionists] were going about it the wrong way.  He does not say that they cannot emigrate there, but they have to do so under Palestinian law. “The Palestine of the Biblical conception is not a geographical tract.”  This is, also, true for non-indigenous Muslims and Christians — except for their sacred places.  Thus, it is mere a locality “…in their hearts.”

“…it is wrong [for the Zionists] to enter it under the shadow of the British bayonet…”  Here Gandhi is speaking in terms of the Indian reality again, and, I believe, does not fully understand the crisis in the Levant of his period in history!

“ They can settle in Palestine …by the goodwill of the Arabs.”  That is under their law and permission, and it follows that they can only buy the land that the Arabs may alienate – not grabbing it violently from the Palestinians as they have proceeded to do!  He advises them to “…seek to convert the Arab heart.”  Further, he emphasizes the commonality between the two peoples, “…there are hundreds of ways of reasoning with the Arabs, if they [the Zionists] discard…the…British bayonet.”  (Again he is in looking at Palestine from the perspective of India once more, and considers the two resistances as one against the same Imperialism,) but the Mahatma accuses the Zionists that “…they are co-sharers with the British in despoiling…people who have done [them] no wrong…”  For the Mahatma his interest and attraction for Palestine is that they are both English “possessions,” which is only partly accurate.  For him what pushes this view askew is the Zionist factors that are actively plotting to steal the land when the Colonialist leaves.  Fortunately, this was not true in South Asia where the dominant demand was just as disrupting – a homeland for the Muslims.  Gandhi seems to have envisioned Palestine as a Muslim majority Mandate, which in actuality it was not so.  Although the United Kingdom invented the census for British India, they never had a chance to apply it to their Middle Eastern jurisdictions.  The best estimates are that before 1948, 45% of the population were native Christians; next the Muslims; then Palestinian Jews. 

It was a multi-sectarian State or Province that worked!  There was little tension between the three groups.  The establishment of the State of Israel lowered the Christian population to 7%; the Muslims now dominate the Occupied Territories, and the Arab Jews there were forced into Israel proper where they are treated rather shabbily for being “Oriental.”  Historically, the Jews were treated better in Islamic dominated areas than in Europe.  The Christian less so probably because of the mistrust generated from the Crusades.  After the establishment of Israel, unfortunately, Jews in other Islamic lands became highly resented.  Israel itself, also was perceived as a European neo-colony in the midst of Arab territory, and a threat to all of Islam.

Although Gandhi did not approve of the ferocity of the Arab defiance, for he wishes they had chosen non-violence, under the circumstances, “…nothing can be said against the Arab resistance…”

M.K. Gandhi concludes his important essay by urging the Jews to employ non-violence in Germany since it had been effective in India, but, realistically, would not in Germany.  Unfortunately, Zionism itself was entwined within the fascist goals by destabilizing the British Empire in the Middle East.  In his last paragraph Gandhi says “[The Jews] can command…[the] respect of the world by being [truly] the chosen creation of God instead of the brute beast…forsaken of God.”

Shortly before the end of his life, when it was likely that a State of Israel would be formed, a Doon Campbell of Reuters (the news gathering agency) asked our subject, “What is the solution of the Palestine problem?  Gandhi replied, It “… seems almost insoluble.  If I were a Jew, I would tell them:  Do not…resort to terrorism [in which the Zionists were engaged at the time].  The Jews should meet the Arabs, make friends with them, and not depend on British [non-players now]…or American aid.” (A.K. Ramakrishnan, The Wisdom).  How much different would the world be if we followed Mohandas Gandhi’s words, and that includes the Islamic world in the Middle East! 

M.K. Gandhi, a South Asian thinker has had a tremendous influence worldwide during the last century into this century.  Although his solutions were or seemed impractical, many of them can be re-examined now to see if we can extract anything practical for our times.  Though he had never been to West Asia, if his suggestions had been factored into the equation, the crisis that presently threatens a World War, which, most assuredly, would bring in the West, would never have unfolded in such a dangerous manner.  Still, what he replied to Doon Campbell’s question is even now applicable.  Washington should step aside from acerbating the conflict, and let the two parties negotiate amongst themselves.  At this point both sides should follow non-violence to allow the talks to proceed, and the West can enforce non-violence only if it has to do so.  M.K. Gandhi even at this time has much to say to our world.

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Jesus: The Perfect Sufi Master

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sadia Dhlvi

shahada Feb.15 : I grew up in an Irish convent boarding; regularly attending the school church and studying the Bible. Since then I have felt connected with Prophet Jesus and Virgin Mary. It is amazing how understanding another religion can bring one closer to one’s own faith, traditions. I love Jesus for He is Ruh Allah, the Spirit of God, and like Adam carries the Breath of Divinity.

I love Mary, the beloved friend of God who in Islam stands at the summit of the hierarchy of women.

Every faith depends upon the Divine word, which may manifest itself in a book or man. In Christianity the word is Christ, and the New Testament is an inspired history of the Word made Flesh, whereas Judaism and Islam are based on the word made Book.

Today, if the followers of Jesus, Moses and Mohammad are at odds, it is not because of the their teachings, but despite their unifying message of the Oneness of God. Islam, the last of the three Semitic monotheistic religions, incorporates all the prophets from the lineage of Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses) and Isa (Jesus). According to the Quran there has never been a time when God did not send messengers who did not speak the language of the people. “Nothing is said to thee that was not said to the apostles before thee”. (41:43) Interestingly, there exists more references to Mariam (Mary) in the Quran than in the New Testament.

Prophet Muhammad (s) said, “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The Prophets are brothers of the same father with different mothers, and their religion is one. I am the closest in relationship to Jesus, the son of Mary, because there was no prophet between him and me. Jesus will descend. If you see him, then know him. He is a man of a moderately ruddy complexion. He will be wearing two faintly yellow garments. His hair will seem to have drops of water upon it, even though it will not be wet”.

Sufis have forever expressed profound reverence for Jesus, regarding him a perfect Sufi Master and knower of Divine mysteries. Jesus said, “It is to those who are worthy of my mysteries that I tell my mysteries. I took my place in the midst of the world, and I appeared to them in flesh. I found all of them intoxicated; I found none of them thirsty. And my soul became afflicted for the son of men, because they are blind in their hearts and do not have sight; for empty they came into the world, and empty too they seek to leave the world. Whoever has come to understand the world has found only a corpse, and whoever has found a corpse is superior to the world. Whoever finds the world and becomes rich, let him renounce the world. Become passers-by.”

Jesus declared, “I am the Master, I am the way”. As the Spirit of God, Jesus is pure compassion, a Godly attribute that Sufis seek to manifest in their own spirits. Through the centuries, Jesus and Mary have played significant roles in Sufi thought and poetry.

Rumi writes:

The hermitage of Jesus
Is the Sufi’s table spread
Take heed, O sick one,
Never forsake this doorway.
Fariduddin Attar praises the Spirit of God:
When God shadowed grace on the breath of Jesus
The world was filled with passion.

Sadia Dehlvi is a Delhi-based writer and author of  Sufism: The Heart of Islam.

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Hajj Explained

November 25, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

THE HAJJ: A TIME OF IMPORTANCE, BLESSINGS AND HOPE

By Imam Dr. Zijad Delic

2009-11-03T135104Z_496352578_GM1E5B31NMF01_RTRMADP_3_BANGLADESH Muslims – wherever they are geographically located — live in continuous connection with the sacred house called the Ka’bah, the symbol of their relationship with the Creator, the homeland of the Prophet (s), and the first Masjid on earth. Allah has chosen this Masjid as the place where His servants will make ‘Ibadah (worship) to Him and glorify His Name.

The word Hajj means to make a resolve to visit the Ka’bah in Makkah (Mecca). This was the first House of Worship appointed for humanity. As Almighty Allah mentions in the Qur’an: “Verily, the first House (of worship) appointed for humanity was that at Makkah, full of blessings, and a guidance for all ‘Alams (worlds).” {Ali ‘Imran 96}

Thus a visit to this sacred house, in the revered ancient city of Makkah, in this most sacred land, is the wish of every Muslim (brother) and Muslimah (sister).

This central pilgrimage of Islam, whose origin dates back to the Prophet Ibrahim (or Abraham, pbuh), brings together Muslims of all races, nationalities and tongues to share in one of life’s most memorable spiritual experiences. In fact, for fourteen centuries, countless millions of Muslims from the four corners of the earth have performed the Hajj to Makkah, the birthplace of Islam.

In reality, Hajj is the greatest annual congress of believers anywhere on earth. Not only is it important to more than two billion Muslims around the globe, but to the whole of humankind. Hajj marks part of the Ummah’s (Islamic world community’s) preparation for the Qurbani, or sacrifice, which reminds us of the sacrifice that the patriarch Ibrahim was commanded to make of his son Isma’il, ‘alayhimassalam. It reminds us of the mercy Allah extends to those who surrender themselves in complete trust to His Will just as Ibrahim and Isma’il did. As the Qur’an records the words of young Isma’il: “O my father! Do what you are commanded. If Allah wills, you shall find me … steadfast.” {As Safat 102}

This Hajj is a vibrant proof of Unity among all Muslims around the one inalterable principle of Islam – Tawhid, the Oneness of Almighty Allah.

Hajj gathers millions of believers and calls upon all of them to unify their opinions, ideas and values, helping them collectively to support one another in upholding all that is good and decent. Islam stands for unity of the human race, teaching that all peoples in their global diversity were originally as one, deriving their existence from the sole Creator of All, and that the barriers now separating us — race, color, class, region, ideology, etc. — are really no more than constructed illusions.

In fact, the divisive ideologies based on negative human distinctions are among the most dangerous viruses on earth. Hajj, on the other hand, proves that the hope of unity can be a reality, for Islam removes all differences and evaluates or rates people by their conduct. Islam seeks to build an intellectual, moral, ethical and just ideology throughout international society – an ideology strong enough to stand its ground against existing tribal, racial, linguistic and national barriers which have turned the world into a sea of tragic conflict.

Hajj symbolizes an opposite movement, from chaos and conflict toward unity in Almighty Allah. It is a noble tradition that upholds the hope and potential of kindred love and solidarity among the people. In calling all believers back to the basic principles of Tawhid (which are expressed in the words of Talbiyyah during Hajj) it is the living response of Allah’s servants; on this special occasion, all pilgrims are guests answering their Lord’s personal invitation to visit His house in Makkah.

All Hujjaj (Hajj pilgrims) chant the following words: “Labbaykallahumma Labbayk, Labbayka La Sharika Laka Labbayk, Innal Hamda Wan Ni’mata Wal Mulka La Sharika Laka.”

In English paraphrase, they mean: “Here I am at Your service, O my Lord. My humble submission is only to You, and I am here submitting to You who does not have a partner, for no one is worthy of worship except You. You are the Only One Who deserves every praise. You are the Only One Who has all power, so help me, O Allah, that I benefit from all the blessings that You have bestowed on humankind. This is the only way, for I have no other reason for existence.”

This repeated statement is meant to re-awaken every Muslim’s consciousness that Allah is the eternal Centre of their reality and the source of all meaning and blessing in life. With these words, believers fervently express their belief and their commitment to the Straight Path that Allah has set out for them. The journey to Hajj is purely for the sake of Almighty Allah who wants us to learn from the examples of the Prophets that He chose to be our teachers. Allah wants us to learn that Hajj is a spiritual training ground and a unique experience of worship which changes a person from the inside out, washing him/her clean and restoring his/her belief and attitude.

The discipline of Hajj has often been the key to awaken many Muslims to a fuller and deeper understanding of the concepts of Islam and its true Message. More than simply an annual institution or ritual, Hajj holds the potential to draw all believers, Insha’allah, into a future filled with blessings, among which the following are central:

1. Purification of the soul from all traces of sin. – Hajj provides the greatest opportunity for believers to seek forgiveness of sins accumulated throughout life and to make Du’as for others. This can happen when one has performed Hajj Mabrur, or done the pilgrimage in a proper way, as the Messenger of Allah mentions: “They will return from Hajj as newly born babies (free of all sins).”  Hadith}

2. Unity and understanding. – Through Hajj, the believers come to know each other and are made more aware of the mutual affairs of their brothers and sisters from all over the world. In Hajj they feel more connection and kindred love for each other, irrespective of their geographical or cultural backgrounds. Thus, Hajj unites the believers of the world into one international community.

3. Confirmation of commitment to Almighty Allah. – Through demonstrating that they are ready to sacrifice all material possessions and values for the sake of their Creator, believers show their commitment to Allah; for unless a Muslim really loves Allah, he/she would never undertake such a long, costly and arduous journey to Makkah, leaving all their near and dear ones behind.

4. Reminding believers of complete trust in Allah. – Believers com efface to face with the deep faith and unshaken commitment of Ibrahim and his son Isma’il (peace be upon them) when they were called to make the ultimate sacrifice – of life itself — in His name.

5. Preserving important rites. – Hajj reminds us of the rites which were ordained for us by Allah and taught by His Last Messenger, the Prophet Muhammad (s).

6. Walking in the Prophet’s footsteps. – Hajj is a memorable and cleansing means of acquainting believers with the spiritual, historical and physical environment in which the last Messenger, Muhammad (S), lived and served Allah.

7. Spiritual blessing. – This is the greatest Hajj blessing of all, for pilgrims (Hujjaj) are encouraged to develop a greater consciousness of Allah in and to return home with a sense of uplifted spirit and fulfillment.

Therefore, during these important days of Hajj and Eid, let us remember the following:

1. There are many Muslims in North America and your own local area who need your help.

2. Your neighbors, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, need your support in different ways.

3. Millions of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Kashmir, Palestine, and in other areas of the world need your ongoing help and support.

4. Your relatives and family value your support; never forget them or take them for granted.

5. During Eid, try to visit one another other on these blessed days.

6. Make a point of visiting those who are sick, hospitalized, in long-term care facilities, or shut-in.

7. Organize Eid dinners among yourselves and take time to ENJOY the occasion!

8. Share all the beauties and blessings of Eid with your children: give them gifts, take them on outings and visits; and participate with them in wholesome entertainment so they can feel proud of having such a great celebration of their own. At this time of year, many Muslim children feel left out when they see all the attention paid to the secular and religious aspects of Christmas; with Eid to celebrate, they have every reason to enjoy the season.

9. Life keeps moving on, and with it, our good intentions! Remember that you and I will be one year older next Hajj season … Now is the time to get serious about improving our lives.

10. Your mission in this great country of Canada is to educate yourselves, help yourselves in order to help all others around you. It all starts with family members and relatives, extending out to our neighbors, our communities, and the world large.

11. Lastly, remember always to be a good representative of Islam and a good citizen of this wonderful country – your homeland and mine – CANADA.

Happy HAJJ Season!

CIC Friday Magazine

Saudi Arabia Improves Hajj Security, Bans Protests

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Louisville Democrat Examiner, Timothy Morgan

2009-11-21T171100Z_1597266078_GM1E5BM032701_RTRMADP_3_FLU-SAUDI-PILGRIMS

A security official wearing a protective mask keeps an eye on cars at a checkpoint between Jeddah and Mecca before the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage November 21, 2009.  Saudi Arabia said on Saturday four pilgrims had died of the new H1N1 flu virus three days before the massive Muslim haj is due to begin, al-Hayat newspaper said.

REUTERS/Caren Firouz

On November 25-29, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca of the Hajj begins in the Islamic world.  The Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and a moral obligation under the religion for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey must do so at least once in their lifetime.

The Hajj is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, with 2.5 million Muslims expected to make the trip this year.

With such a large movement of people, the Saudi government has issued warnings that all protesting during the Hajj is banned.  The government has also stepped-up security, with more than 100,000 Saudi military deployed during the pilgrimage.

While the Saudi Arabian security forces assert that they do not expect any troubles, the interior ministry official in charge of security, Gen Mansour al-Turki, said that “We will not allow any actions that might disturb any other pilgrims, or affect their safety.”

In 1987, 402 people were killed when troops broke up a protest by Shia pilgrims.  This year is also the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the Great Mosque in Mecca, home of the Kaaba and Islam’s holiest site, by Sunni extremists.

The Kaaba is a cuboidal building in the center of the Great Mosque in Mecca that pre-dates Islam and is the holiest site in all of Islam.  Muslim beliefs say that the original building on the site was built by Abraham.  Thus, a mosque was built around the site and all Muslims, regardless of their location, must face the Kaaba during daily prayers, as well as take part in the Hajj if able.

Last month Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that it would take “appropriate measures” if its citizens faced restrictions.  Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader, called for the Shia to show that they were dealing with challenges to their unity.

Thus, the Saudi government has responded by both warning Iran not to abuse the Hajj for political purposes, and by the ban on protests.

Authorities are also hoping to prevent a repeat of the deadly stampedes, such as in 2006 when 364 people were killed, that have afflicted the Hajj.  In response, the Saudi Government has recently finished the rebuilding of the Jamarat Bridge at Mina, the 950m (3,135ft) long, 80m (260ft) wide five-story pedestrian walkway, which cost $1.2bn, and that authorities hope will prevent overcrowding.

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