Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

They Imagine They are Destined for Paradise

One of the characteristics of hypocrites is that their belief in the Hereafter is very weak and distorted. Most of them do not believe that after death, they will have to account for crimes they committed in this world. And even if they do admit such a possibility, they regard themselves as destined to enter Paradise on account of having done everything necessary to do so. Examples of this flawed thinking are given in the Qur’an:

“I do not think the Hour will ever come. But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return.”

Al-Kahf: 36

According to their own flawed logic, simply because they live among believers, they must have performed various services, for better or worse. That being so, they will be rewarded for these in the Hereafter and will inevitably be admitted to Paradise. At the very worst, they think they will suffer punishment in Hell and then be admitted to Paradise. Allah reveals these misconceptions in the Qur’an:

That is because they say, “The Fire will only touch us for a number of days.” Their inventions have deluded them in their religion.

Ali ‘Imran: 24

As the verse informs us, this is an invention, on account of which hypocrites have been deluded in their religion. This verse, which follows on from the one cited above, reveals the kind of end awaiting them as a result:

But how will it be when We gather them all together for a Day about which there is no doubt? Every self will be paid in full for what it earned. They will not be wronged.

Ali ‘Imran: 25

Damage Wrought by the Disease of Self-Satisfaction

And so that He might punish the men and women of the hypocrites and the men and women of the idolaters—those who think bad thoughts about Allah. They will suffer an evil turn of fate. Allah is angry with them, and has cursed them and prepared Hell for them. What an evil destination!

Al-Fath: 6

Self-satisfaction is by itself a source of trouble for hypocrites. However, as you have seen in the preceding chapters, most of the time they are unaware of this. So self-satisfied and conceited are they that they are even able to ask, “Why does Allah not punish us for what we say? . . .” (Surat al-Mujadala: 8). As emphasized above, however, they are unaware that instead of the evident calamity they expect, they actually suffer numerous calamities, including physical and spiritual harm.

Allah refers in His verses to this harm suffered by hypocrites. Let us now examine these, one by one.

1. They are not Wise

Wisdom is one of the greatest assets a human being can possess. An unwise person is in a most wretched position, even though, being unwise, he is not even aware of this. He confuses wisdom with intelligence and so makes inaccurate decisions.

The same thing applies to the hypocrite, who may enjoy a particular level of intelligence. But he can never enjoy the wisdom that Allah bestows only on true believers, which allows them to distinguish right from wrong. They are thus deprived of one of the greatest blessings.

Wisdom is also one of a person’s greatest needs. At every moment of his life, a person needs it to be able to distinguish right from wrong and to protect himself from evil. The hypocrite’s devotion to this world leads to his being unwise. Therefore, he is unsuccessful when it comes to even the simplest matters requiring wisdom. The greatest proof of hypocrites’ lack of wisdom is how they imagine that Allah does not see what they do. (Surely Allah is beyond that!) Therefore, they seek to deceive believers and imagine that they can do so with impunity. They are addressed in the following terms in the Qur’an:

Don’t they know that Allah knows what they keep secret and what they make public?

Al-Baqara: 77

Another unwise claim they make is that Allah will not bring their iniquity into the light of day. However, on the Day of Judgment, Allah will round up and punish all the hypocrites who have ever lived. Before the Day of Judgment, He will also humiliate them in this world.

2. They are Unable to Comprehend the Verses

Sincere Muslims are, as set out in the Qur’an, “those who, when they are reminded of the signs of their Lord, do not turn their backs, deaf and blind to them” (Surat al-Furqan: 73). They are particularly sensitive to the verses of Allah. All believers know that all the verses of the Qur’an directly concern them and that they cannot remain unconcerned or distant from any of them. However, for possession of this state of mind, there is one very important precondition. An individual must be very humble, and not regard himself as free from any imperfections or defects. Only when a person has this sincerity and humility will Allah bestow the meaning of His verses in his or her heart.

Hypocrites, on the other hand, are very proud and a far cry from being sincere. They can never possess such an understanding due to their self-satisfaction. Although constantly exposed to the messenger’s message, they lack the ability to understand a single word he says. Their lack of comprehension is related in the Qur’an:

You will not make dead men hear; you will not make deaf men hear the call, when they turn their backs in flight. You will not guide blind men from their misguidance. You will not make anyone hear except for those who believe in Our signs and so are Muslims.

Ar-Rum: 52-53

The Qur’an also tells us how hypocrites, unaffected by the messenger’s words, possess a closed understanding due to the effects of their own self-satisfaction:
Who could do greater wrong than someone who is reminded of the signs of his Lord and then turns away from them, forgetting all that he has done before? We have placed covers on their hearts, preventing them from understanding it, and heaviness in their ears. Though you call them to guidance, they will nonetheless never be guided.

Al-Kahf: 57

Again, as a consequence of the self-satisfaction that infects them and their inability to understand Allah’s Book, they misinterpret various of His verses. The reason for this is their pride and unfounded trust in their own limited wisdom. Allah warns believers beforehand against this disease carried by hypocrites by telling how they will seek to create strife in the community of the faithful:

It is He Who sent down the Book to you from Him: verses containing clear judgments—they are the core of the Book—and others which are open to interpretation. Those with deviation in their hearts follow what is open to interpretation in it, desiring conflict, seeking its inner meaning. No one knows its inner meaning but Allah. Those firmly rooted in knowledge say, “We believe in it. All of it is from our Lord.” But only people of intelligence pay heed.

Ali ‘Imran: 7

 

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Qur`an Passages ‘Appear on Baby’s Skin’

October 22, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Muslim World News

 

2009-10-21T194556Z_659097707_GM1E5AM0AGQ01_RTRMADP_3_RUSSIA-BABY-KORAN

A Muslim cleric holds baby Ali Yakubov at his house in Kizlyar in Russia’s Dagestan Region, October 19, 2009. A miracle baby has brought a kind of mystical hope to people in Russia’s mostly Muslim southern fringe who are increasingly desperate in the face of violence. From hunchbacked grandmas to schoolboys, hundreds of pilgrims lined up this week in blazing sunshine to get a glimpse of 9-month-old baby Ali Yakubov, on whose body they say verses from the Qur`an appear and fade every few days. Picture taken October 19, 2009. 

REUTERS/Amir Amirov

dagestan markings on skin
Ali Yakubov’s skin, with Qur`an

 

Ali Yakubov with mother and father.jpg
Ali Yakubov with his mother and father.

The parents of nine-month-old Ali Yakubov claim the phenomenon began when the word Allah showed up on their son’s chin when he was a few weeks old, British newspapers report.

Other words then started appearing on other parts of his body, including his arms, legs and back, before mysteriously fading away, the parents claim.

“Ali always feels bad when it is happening — he cries and his temperature goes up,” his mother was quoted as saying.

“It’s impossible to hold him when it’s happening, his body is actively moving, so we put him into his cradle … it’s so hard to watch him suffering.”

The marks usually appear each week on a Monday and then again sometime between Thursday and Friday, she claims. Medics at the family’s town in Daghestan province, near Chechnya, are said to be baffled by Ali’s condition.

They have reportedly dismissed speculation someone the words are caused by someone writing on his skin. The phenomenon has reportedly made Ali the subject of religious homage by many locals in the troubled region.

One local MP even hailed Ali as “a pure sign of God.”

“Allah sent him to Daghestan in order to stop revolts and tension in our republic,” Akhmedpasha Amiralaev was quoted as saying.

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Somali Shabaab Rebels Say They Shot Down U.S. drone

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Abdi Sheikh

2009-10-19T142349Z_601044172_GM1E5AJ1Q6Z01_RTRMADP_3_SOMALIA-CONFLICT

Hardline Somali Islamist insurgents from Hisbul Islam patrol the streets of the capital Mogadishu, October 19, 2009. Hardline al Shabaab rebels have destroyed a mosque and the grave of a revered Sufi Muslim sheikh in central Somalia after shooting in the air to drive away local protesters, residents said on Monday.                  

REUTERS/Stringer

MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Insurgents of the Somali al Shabaab group shot down a U.S. drone aircraft flying over the southern port of Kismayu on Monday and were searching for the wreckage, an insurgent spokesman said.

U.S. commandos killed a ‘most wanted’ al Qaeda suspect allied to al Shabaab last month in a helicopter raid in the rebel-held south of the failed state.

“We fired at an American plane spying for information over Kismayu. Our forces targeted the plane and shot it and we saw the plane burning. We think it fell into the sea,” said Sheikh Hassan Yacqub, spokesman for al Shabaab in Kismayu.

“We are still searching for it,” he told Reuters.

Lieutenant Nathan Christensen, spokesman of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, said all its unmanned aerial vehicles had been safely recovered but could not give further details.

Al Shabaab, which Washington says is al Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia, controls much of the south and center where it is waging an insurgency against the fragile U.N.-backed government.

Residents in one small central town, Galhareeri, said al Shabaab fighters destroyed a mosque, the grave of a revered Sufi Muslim cleric and a Sufi Muslim university there on Sunday.

The hardline group has targeted Sufi holy sites and religious leaders in the past, saying their practices conflict with the insurgents’ strict interpretation of Islamic law.

“They destroyed the Sheikh Ali Ibaar’s grave and our mosque. They also knocked down our Islamic university,” elder Hassan Ali said by telephone. “We do not know where to flee.”

Fighting in Somalia has killed 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven 1.5 million from their homes.

A spokesman for Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, a moderate Sufi militia group that is battling al Shabaab in central regions, denounced the desecration of the holy sites in Galhareeri.

“We strongly condemn al Shabaab for its evil acts,” Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf told Reuters. “They are notorious for destroying great graves, even in places where they just spend a couple of nights.”

Al Shabaab has shocked many Somalis, moderate Muslims, with its stern version of Sharia law, involving amputations for theft, and lately the public whipping of women for wearing bras.

Al Shabaab fighters have banned movies, musical telephone ringtones, dancing at weddings and playing or watching soccer.

Some residents, however, give the rebels credit for restoring a degree of law and order to parts of the country.

In the capital Mogadishu, police displayed on Monday the body of a foreign gunman who appeared to be Arab and was killed on Sunday during an al Shabaab attack on government forces.

“You see this dead Arab. He was among the members of al Qaeda who came from other countries just to destroy Somalia,” police spokesman Abdullahi Barise told reporters, standing over the corpse of a light-skinned man with several bullet wounds.

Al Shabaab have urged foreign jihadists to join their battle against what they describe as Somalia’s apostate government.

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Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

They Seek to Harm Believers and to Create Divisions

When those who disbelieve were plotting against you to imprison you or kill you or expel you: they were plotting and Allah was plotting, but Allah is the Best of Plotters.

Al-Anfal: 30

Harboring a subconscious hatred for believers, hypocrites seek to incite strife and division among believers in order to do them harm. As we’ve already made clear, their true aim is to divide believers, imagining that in this way, their community will be weakened and can be prevented from living by religious moral values.

Unity among believers of course constitutes a major support and strength for them. Yet believers draw their real strength from Allah. With the unity among them, believers fulfill the various responsibilities imposed on them, remember Allah, and wage a common struggle against deniers. The hypocritical mindset, which is unable to comprehend that believers draw their true strength from Allah, imagines that it can deal them a heavy blow by causing rifts between believers. Thus emerges one of the consequences of their perspective, in that they expend great energy on an endeavor that they regard as very important but which is actually fruitless and hollow. In their own view, this is the most effective way of weakening such a strong, unified community. After causing rifts among them, they continue their efforts to provoke strife against believers.

As already seen, hypocrites employ cunning methods to try to create such discord among believers. They never create strife by saying, “We will cause rifts to emerge among you.” On the contrary, they maintain that they are trustworthy people who seek to spread truth on Earth. With this cunning behavior, they seek to inspire trust and to create strife without making it apparent. They see this as a major opportunity, but as always, their endeavors come to nothing:

They will not harm you except with abusive words. . . .

Ali ‘Imran: 111

Their Beliefs Regarding the Hereafter, and Their Preference of This World Over It

For the believer, the goal of all his endeavors is the life of the Hereafter. Therefore, all the preparations in this world are in order to attain the life of the Hereafter in the best possible manner. When the subject is the Hereafter, having faith with a sure and certain knowledge becomes especially important. That is because people are reluctant to live for something in which they do not fully believe, which in their view seems illusory. In any case, the small number of believers and the presence of hypocrites is the result of this logic. Although what awaits them is a sure and certain fact, most people still live in constant doubt, despite the detailed accounts in the verses of the Qur’an and the countless proofs that they themselves witness. The reason for their doubts is that because of their earthly desires, they are reluctant to reflect on the truth about the Hereafter that they read in the verses of the Qur’an. Anyone who definitively believes in the Hereafter has understood that this world is of no great worth in comparison to the Hereafter, and will have turned his back on its deceptive baubles. For hypocrites, on the other hand, the world is their most valuable goal, and for that reason, they blind themselves to the Hereafter. Their situation is described in these terms in verses:

No, their knowledge stops short of the Hereafter. In fact they have doubts about it. In fact they are blind to it.

An-Naml: 66

The main reason why they harbor doubts about the Hereafter is the weakness of their faith and their worldly desires. Since they are unwilling to think about the Hereafter, they are unable to comprehend how imminent it is. As is revealed in the Qur’an in the verse, “They did not expect to have a reckoning” (Surat an-Naba’: 27), being called to account is something they never expect. The hypocrisy that dominates their desires manifests itself in this vitally important subject.

The reason, of course, is not unawareness of the Hereafter. They are merely unwilling to call to mind the Day of Judgment, the Hereafter and Hell. Not reflecting on these great truths, they are knowingly taken in by the deceptive nature of this world. By not thinking, they regard themselves as advantaged; and though they regard themselves as profiting from this, they are actually losing eternal Paradise.

They are Passionately Devoted to the Life of this World

The life of this world is nothing but a game and a diversion. The abode of the Hereafter—that is truly Life, if they only knew.

An-Ankabut’: 64

According to what Allah reveals to mankind in the Qur’an, the world has been created as only a temporary home. Our true home is that of the Hereafter, which is where our true lives will be lived. Moreover, those true lives will not be restricted to a mere 60 or 70 years, and people will remain there forever.

This is a great truth which everyone must bear in mind; and in this world, people must prepare for the true home to which they will go after death. Yet most people are unaware of this. To put it more accurately, they have no wish to think about it. They wish to live out their lives in this world, and avoid any ideas that might impinge on that. The existence of the Hereafter deals a heavy blow to their devotion to their worldly concerns. Since they are unwilling to accept this, they prefer to keep the idea as far away as possible. They disregard the information and spend their entire lives avoiding it. This is one way of not doing what they should.

The reason why they are so devoted to the life of this world is their failure to consider death. That is why, whenever the subject of death is brought up, they immediately try to change the subject: Because death will take away all they possess—their bodies, their goods, their money, their beauty, rank and station.

The fact remains, though, that no matter how they may seek to avoid it, death is a great reality. Every human being is born because Allah so wishes it, lives a destiny determined by Him and dies after an allotted period of time, in line with the destiny He has set out. Every rational human being must consider this with an open mind and at that point, fulfill the responsibility befalling him. That responsibility consists of not devoting oneself to the short, transitory life of this world but of living according to the bounds Allah has set.

But to the hardened hearts of hypocrites, life seems very bright and exciting, because the life of this world has been adorned with many baubles, as a requirement of the testing of human beings. By this, the deniers are deceived. People of faith, on the other hand, understand that these adornments are deceptive and that the life of this world will be over and done with in the blink of an eye.

Hypocrites avoid this reality. So strong is their devotion to this world that they ignore the reality of the Hereafter, even though they are very well aware of it. These people read the Qur’an, learn the true nature of events, and are of course familiar with the true nature of this world. Nonetheless, they never renounce it because, as revealed in the verse, they “prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter . . . .” (Surah Ibrahim: 3).

Love of the world has literally bewitched them and left them unable to accept the truth. Therefore, hypocrites engage in worldly calculations, as if they were never going to die. They make endless plans, and the cunning schemes they draw up against Muslims also lie within the framework of these worldly calculations. But being taken in by the adornments of the life of this world and forgetting about the Hereafter will in fact benefit them nothing. On the contrary, a worldly life full of difficulties, woes, humiliation and terrified suffering awaits them.

In their own minds, they have very good reasons for not reflecting on such exceedingly important matters as death, judgment, the Hereafter, Paradise and Hell. The main reason, however, is their hypocrisy. For them, life seems so long as never to come to an end, whereas they imagine that in the Hereafter, if they go there at all, they will merit the very best. The story of the vineyard owner in the Qur’an is an excellent example of this:

He entered his garden and wronged himself by saying, “I do not think that this will ever end. I do not think the Hour will ever come. But if I should be sent back to my Lord, I will definitely get something better in return.”

Al-Kahf: 35-36

The main barriers that prevent one from living by religious moral values, turning to Allah alone and living in the light of His wishes in order to attain His Paradise are his earthly desires—in other words, his passions. However, the common feature of all passions is that they distance people from Allah and His path. The important point is that sooner or later, worldly passions will leave them high and dry. When death comes, none of the values they so overvalued will prove of any use. They will leave behind everything they valued in this world and go alone into the presence of Allah.

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Community News (V11-I39)

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

World’s tallest man honored for honesty and service

tallest man MIAMI, FL–Aurangzeb Khan, the world’s tallest man alive, has been honored by the Miami-Dade County Services Department for his quality service as a cab driver. He was recently given the Chauffer of the Quarter Prize for his efforts to help his passenger. In one stance he even drove long distance to return a purse full of credit cards, cash, and medicines left behind by an Australian tourist.

`It is actions like this that restores faith in human nature, and as a regular traveler to America, it leaves me with a great feeling about traveling in your country,’’ the Australian tourist wrote ina commendation which was later used by the county in its press release announcing the award.

The Pakistan born Khan is 8 feet tall and now stands taller than Shaquille O’Neal.  He has been living in US since 1981 and now drives a cab after stints with circuses around the country.

But Khan is a towering figure not only in his physical height but also his honesty and kindness.

In 1992, he returned a bag with $10,000 a passenger forgot in the cab.

“Mr. Khan represents the kind of attitude that all chauffeurs should have when providing services to visitors and residents of this community,’’ said Sonya Perez, of the Miami-Dade Consumer Service Department. “By doing a kind deed, Mr. Khan gave this tourist a positive experience as well as a positive view of our county.’’

Hillary Clinton hosts Iftar at State Department

WASHINGTON D.C.–Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hosted an Iftar on Sept.15 at the State Department. She said that the White House is committed to improving relations with the Muslim world.

In her speech to the guests she said, “Now, this time of self-reflection and clarity reminds us that the principles that are the hallmark of Ramadan – charity, sacrifice, and compassion – are also values we cherish as Americans. They guide us towards good stewardship of our families, our communities, our country, and our world. It is, as one of my wonderful young aides who Farah has already referenced – Huma Abedin – summed up in the words of Abdul Ghaffar Khan, that we need to be inspired by our leaders to fight poverty, injustice and hate with, “the weapon of the Prophet—patience and righteousness.” Well, that, to me, sums up much of what we celebrate tonight as we break fast.

Now, we recognize that the relationship between the United States and Muslim communities has at times suffered from misunderstanding and misperception. But we are committed to learning and listening; to creating bridges of understanding and respect; and building stronger bonds of cooperation. We believe that there is more that unites people of all faiths than divides us.

The Obama Administration will work to ensure that our communication, our partnerships, and our policies reflect that core belief. Because whatever God you pray to—or even whether you believe at all—we all need to work for the same goals: a world where our children can live together in peace and prosperity, and fulfill their own God-given potentials.”

Sultana Ali promoted at Massey Communications

ORLANDO, FL–Massey Communications, Orlando, has promoted Sultana Ali to account executive, business development.

Ali is a former national board member of the United Nations Association-USA (UNA-USA) where she represented the Young Professionals for International Cooperation. Currently, she serves on the board of directors locally for the Central Florida Women’s Resource Center, FHSMUN (Florida High Schools Model UN) and Harbor House of Central Florida, where she serves on its executive committee as Second Vice-President.

She  has been honored with a Global Young Advocate Award from UNA-USA, the Central Florida Women’s Resource Center Junior Summit Award, the Girl Scout Council of Central Florida’s Young Woman of Distinction and was named one of Central Florida’s “13 Shining Stars” by Central Florida News 13 and the American Red Cross. She also received the agency’s Todd Persons Award. Recently, she was named as a Finalist for the eWomenNetwork Foundation’s Emerging Leader of the Year Award.

A Walt Disney Scholar and Florida Academic Scholar, Sultana graduated from University of Central Florida with a Bachelor of Science degree in International Business Marketing and a minor in Political Science where she was recognized with the J.C. Aspley award and scholarship.

Muslim students at Lehigh U. fight hunger

BETHLEHEM, PA–Muslim students at Lehigh University have joined the national push against hunger by volunteering at the Trinity Beth Episcopal Church’s soup kitchen.

The students are part of a national organization called Muslims Against Hunger, an organization that partners with soup kitchens and food pantries to provide volunteers and food, the student newspaper reported.

Taha Haque, contacted Zamir Hassan, the founder and head of Muslims Against Hunger, and expressed interest in bringing the organization to Lehigh. Haque said the chapter will be the first in Pennsylvania.

About 15 students helped serve a lunch of Hassan’s special chicken, rice and green beans to the people gathered at Trinity Beth. Haque said the participating students were from all different campus groups, including ROTC, Hillel Society and Hindu students.

Sierra Foundation hosts Iftar

sierra RENO, NV– The Sierra Foundation,a Reno based nonprofit intercultural and interfaith dialogue foundation, hosted three Iftar dinners in the past two weeks. The events were attended by a large number of non-Muslims.

Apart from the dinners the participants were treated to lectures on Islamic practices and a  cultural presentation on the poetry of Rumi.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I38)

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Qari Sharafat Ali & Hafiz Amjad Saeed Featured At Pakistan Center

Picture M Houston, Texas (Pakistan Chronicle Report): The First Annual Iftar-&-Dinner and Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers were organized this past weekend by Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD) at Pakistan Center located along Bissonnet at South Dairy Ashford.

For this program, famous Qari Sharaft from Baltimore and Hafiz Amjad Saeed from Atlanta came and made motivational presentations. Qari Sharafat Ali presented heartwarming recitation of Quran and during the Taraweeh Prayers, he moved people with recitation of Surah Ar Rahman. He also presented a couple of Nasheeds.

Program started with Quranic recitation by students of Hafiz Tauqer Shah of Houston. Program was open to public and around 150 people attended.

In his Motivational Presentation, Hafiz Amjad Saeed informed everyone about Helping Hand’s project, especially the $1/Day; or $365/Year; or $30/Month-For-12-Months Orphan Sponsorship Program, where Helping hand and its aligned organizations take care of the educational, health and food needs of an orphan for one year in one of the fifteen countries. About $10,000 were raised during this program, while almost $22,000 were already raised before the program through the efforts of volunteers of HHRD.

For more information about the programs of HHRD, one can visit www.HHRD.Org or 832-275-0786 / 1-214-707-8159.

Houston Police Department Seeks Outstanding High School Youth

Houston police are looking for several outstanding high school youth to take part in the department’s Youth Police Advisory Council (YPAC).
The students, 9th through 12th graders at Houston area schools, will take part in the yearlong program which emphasizes leadership, respect, education, community service and an exposure to life outside the inner city.

The high school students will serve on an advisory council to HPD Chief Harold Hurtt that will address such issues as peer-pressure, dating violence, gangs, drugs, as well as career goals and higher education.

The goal of the YPAC program, begun more than a decade ago, is to develop leadership skills among high school students. It stresses the need for participants to serve as leaders among their peers, act as liaisons between students and the City of Houston, and to take what they’ve learned and share it with their fellow students.

Students interested in participating in this year’s program should fill out and submit the attached application by October 02.  Anyone with questions about the program should contact Rhonda Conner, YPAC Director, at 713-308-3292 or E-Mail: RhondaR.Conner@CityOfHouston.Net

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Lockerbie: Megrahi ‘a Convenient Scapegoat?’

August 27, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By BBC News

2009-08-22T113659Z_01_SIN805_RTRMDNP_3_LOCKERBIE

Convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Basset al-Megrahi (L) talks with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Tripoli in this August 21, 2009 video grab from Libya TV. Gaddafi hugged the convicted Lockerbie bomber and promised more cooperation with Britain in gratitude for his release, while London and Washington condemned his "hero’s welcome" home. Meeting Megrahi and his family late on Friday, Gaddafi thanked British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Queen Elizabeth for "encouraging" Scotland to release the dying prisoner from a Scottish jail, Libyan news agency JANA reported.

REUTERS/Libya TV

Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi has left Scotland to return to Libya.

With his departure, a lengthy chapter in Scots legal history has closed.

But many questions remain – and they will not disappear along with the flight to Tripoli.

BBC Scotland’s Home Affairs Correspondent Reevel Alderson has been looking at the mystery which still surrounds the 1988 bombing.

The collection of evidence from Britain’s worst act of terrorism began immediately – and within a week detectives announced it had been caused by a bomb in a radio cassette player.

Throughout the subsequent weeks whole sections of the jumbo jet were recovered to help investigators literally piece together the cause.

Although they knew it was a bomb they needed to find out who had placed it, why they had done so, and how?

Early suspicion fell on Ahmed Jibril, leader of Palestinian terror group the PFLP-GC, who intelligence sources suggested may have been working for Iran.

West German police mounted Operation Autumn Leaves, raiding flats near Frankfurt where the group was preparing bombs in radio cassette players.

They were similar to that used to blow up Pan Am flight 103.

But Dick Marquise, chief of the FBI “Scotbom Task Force” from 1988-1992, said investigators could find nothing later to link this plot with Lockerbie.

“We never found any evidence,” he told the BBC. “There’s a lot of information, there’s a lot of intelligence that people have said there were meetings, there were discussions.

“But not one shred of evidence that a prosecutor could take into court to convict either an official in Iran or Ahmed Jibril for blowing up Pan Am flight 103.”

There were also suggestions that Jibril’s group put the bomb onto a Pan Am feeder flight from Frankfurt Airport to Heathrow, switching the suitcase for one containing drugs being run by another Palestinian group.

But another airport has also come under suspicion – Heathrow in London, from where the doomed jumbo jet took off.

Dr Jim Swire, whose daughter Flora was one of the victims of the atrocity, said a break-in the night before near the Pan Am secure baggage area was not fully investigated by police, who he claims concealed the evidence.

“I wrote recently to the Crown Office (which handles Scottish prosecutions) asking why that had been concealed for 12 years, and if they knew about it all along,” he said.

He said they would not answer his question, which he said meant there must now be a thorough inquiry into the incident.

During Megrahi’s first appeal, held at Kamp van Zeist in the Netherlands, his counsel raised the matter, saying it cast doubt on claims that the fatal bomb must have been loaded in Malta.

But the five appeal judges rejected the suggestion.

Malta had become crucial once police found a fragment of the bomb timer wrapped in a piece of clothing in a Dumfriesshire forest.

The clothes had Maltese labels – but question marks remain about how this discovery was made several months after the disaster, and also over how the material was handled.

The original trial heard labels on police evidence bags containing the fragment had been changed: the evidence of the officer who had done this was heavily criticised by the trial judges.

Worldwide terrorism

There were question marks too over Tony Gauci, a Maltese shopkeeper who was the only man to identify Megrahi.

His evidence was that the Libyan, who he picked out at an identity parade, had bought the clothes at his shop.

But his police statements are inconsistent, and prosecutors failed to tell the defence that shortly before he attended an identity parade, Mr Gauci had seen a magazine article showing a picture of Megrahi, and speculating he might have been involved.

Mr Gauci now lives in Australia, and according to defence claims is believed to have been paid several million dollars by the Americans for his evidence.

It may be that we will never know exactly what happened in December 1988.

Secret documents before the Appeal Court – which even the defence has not seen – might have provided new information.

They will now remain undisclosed, after the foreign secretary issued a Public Information Immunity certificate stating that to publish them would be to the detriment of UK national security.

Megrahi was charged as a member of the Libyan Intelligence Services – acting with others.

Megrahi is now dying, but he may have been a convenient scapegoat for a much bigger conspiracy.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I36)

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Qari Sharafat Ali & Hafiz Amjad Saeed Coming To Pak Center On 9/6/09

“Helping Hand For Relief And Development (HHRD)” is organizing an Iftar-&-Dinner and Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers at Pakistan Center on Sunday, September 06, 2009 (next day is national holiday). Program is open to public, but organizers have requested that if people can RSVP by calling 1-832-275-0786 or 1-214-707-8159, it will make life easier for them, as then they can appropriately arrange for food and other things.

HHRD is cordially inviting the community members, their families and friends to their Annual Ramadan Iftar-&-Dinner and Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers Program, to be held on Sunday, September 06th, 2009 @ 6:00pm. at the Pakistan Center located at 12600 Bissonnet (at South Dairy Ashford), Houston, Texas 77099. They have invited famous Qari Sharafat Ali from New York and Hafiz Amjad Saeed from Atlanta, who will InshaAllah enthrall everyone.

Helping Hand is requesting everyone to bring one or more Non-Perishable Food Items, which will be given to those in Need in our Houston Community.

Before Iftar-Mughrib-Prayers-&-Dinner, Community Youth and Qari Sharafat Ali will present heart-warming recitation of Quran; some Nasheeds & a Motivational Presentation about Helping Hand will be done.

After Iftar-Mughrib-Prayers-&-Dinner, arrangements have been made for Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers at the same place Pakistan Center.

After the Special Isha-&-Taraweeh Prayers around 11:00pm., inspirational presentations by Islamic Scholars (to be determined) will be made on various subjects of public interest.

Again for more information and to RSVP for this inspirational event, one can call 1-832-275-0786 or 1-214-707-8159.

Healthcare System Can Bankrupt USA: US Rep. Al Green

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         “If not reformed, the present healthcare system will bankrupt USA,” informed Congressman AL Green (D-TX) at a Press Conference in his Houston Congressional Office.

“Nationwide, health care costs consume about 20 percent of our gross domestic product. If we continue on our current path, health care costs will consume approximately 35 percent of our GDP by 2040, and the number of uninsured Americans will rise to 72 million, according to the Council of Economic Advisers. That would have catastrophic consequences:” Added the Hon. Al Green.

Congressman AL Green said he favors the Health Reforms suggested by President Obama, where if one does not health insurance, he or she will have a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for themselves and their families – coverage that will stay with them whether you move, change your job or lose your job. Secondly we will cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies that do nothing to improve care and everything to improve their profits. Thirdly, by making Medicare more efficient, we’ll be able to ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies. Lastly, these reforms will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable.

Even though we spend more than any other nation on health care, we aren’t healthier. Only three developed countries have higher infant mortality rates. Our nation ranks 24th in life expectancy among developed countries. More than one-third of Americans are obese.

These statistics are the signs of a system that is both unacceptable and unsustainable. They also show us the high cost of doing nothing. If we choose the status quo, more Americans will be uninsured, costs will continue to rise, and every American’s health care will be at risk.

For more information, one can contact the Office of Congressman AL Green at: 3003 South Loop West, Ste. 460, Houston, Texas 77054; Phone: 713-383-9234.

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Azeez Ali Named Assistant Coach at IPFW

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Azeez Ali FORT WAYNE, IN–Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) has announced the addition of Azeez Ali to its men’s basketball coaching staff.

Ali just completed his second season on John Shulman’s staff at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He served as the Director of Basketball Operations and managed travel, film exchange and the support staff.

“I’m excited to be here, excited to work with Coach Fife and his staff, and am very thankful for the opportunity,” Ali said.  “Hopefully I can contribute and be part of Coach Fife’s vision for winning the Summit League. I’d also like to thank Coach Shulman for the opportunity he provided me at UTC.”

“Azeez brings a wealth of experience and a winning mentality to our program,” Fife said.  “’Z’ has won at every level, including an NCAA berth with Chattanooga this past season.  He will be really good with our young guys as well as on the road recruiting.  We are very pleased to have him become part of our program.”

Ali helped lead the Mocs to the 2009 Southern Conference (SoCon) crown.  Before landing in Chattanooga, Ali worked at Cecil Community College (2005-07) in North East, Md. His duties included advance scouting and serving as the recruiting assistant. CCC had a record of 66-5 during his tenure. It won the 2006 NJCAA Division II National Championship and finished fifth in 2005, while also capturing two Maryland state championships and two region titles.

Ali is a native of Wilmington, Delaware. He helped lead Howard H.S. to the Blue Hen Conference title and the state final four in 2000. He is a 2004 graduate of Maryland-Eastern Shore with a degree in Business Administration.  He will graduate in December with a master’s degree in Special Education from UTC.

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Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Their Real Target is the Messenger of Allah

The real reason for the hatred in their hearts is that believers unconditionally obey Allah and His messenger, constantly remember Allah and the Qur’an, and offer them advice. The more believers warn them about the imminence of death, the reality of the Hereafter and the fact that salvation lies in obedience to Allah and His messenger, the greater their hatred and desire for revenge. They cannot accommodate the concept of obedience because they are unable to appreciate the messenger of Allah, and in the face of the superior virtues they witness in him, their hatred grows still further. For that reason, their real target is the messenger, and their real struggle is waged against him. It is revealed in the Qur’an that hypocrites strove to combat the Prophet (s):

If they do argue with you, say: “Allah knows best what you are doing.”

Al-Hajj: 68

Hypocrites have waged struggles against all the messengers who have ever lived, although all throughout the course of history, their endeavors have proved fruitless. The fact that these attempts against all the messengers have borne no fruit has driven hypocrites to despair, while the messengers and believers have grown ever stronger.

They Seek to Deceive Believers

We have already said that the most distinguishing feature that makes hypocrites of these people is the way they seek to portray themselves as having faith when really they have none. These people, who only reveal their true faces to people they imagine to be just like them, simply act a role alongside believers. The Qur’an, however, refers to hypocrites as seeking to deceive believers but in fact deceiving nobody but themselves:

They think they deceive Allah and those who believe. They deceive no one but themselves but they are not aware of it.

Al-Baqara: 9

The Qur’an refers to hypocrites who lived in the times of the prophets and the messengers saying “We believe,” but that actually they had no real faith, thus encouraging all believers to be on their guard against them:

O Messenger! Do not be grieved by those who rush headlong into disbelief among those who say “We believe” with their tongues when their hearts contain no faith. And among the Jews are those who listen to lies, listening to other people who have not come to you, distorting words from their proper meanings, saying, “If you are given this, then take it. If you are not given it, then beware!” If Allah desires misguidance for someone, you cannot help him against Allah in any way. Those are the people whose hearts Allah does not want to purify. They will have disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter they will have a terrible punishment.

Al-Ma’ida: 41

These characteristics of hypocrites have remained unchanged for centuries. The Qur’an refers to the existence of these people, who have claimed throughout history to be possessed of faith. Since hypocrites have had the same features at all times, and since their actions have always been opposed to the messengers, their deeds and what befell them have always remained the same. According to Allah’s promise, they will continue to come to the same “end.” It is revealed in one verse that:

Don’t you see those who claim that they believe in what has been sent down to you and what was sent down before you, still desiring to turn to a satanic source for judgment in spite of being ordered to reject it? Satan wants to misguide them far away.

An-Nisa’: 60

They Feel Enraged by the Strength of Believers

That the actions they take against believers fail to achieve their aims merely increases hypocrites’ anger. In the same way, the increasing strength of the faithful also enrages them. The following verses clarify the hypocrites’ state of mind:

If something good happens to you, it galls them. If something bad strikes you, they rejoice at it. . . .

Ali ‘Imran: 120

If good happens to you, it galls them. . . .

At-Tawba: 50

Hypocrites attempt to use believers to secure their own interests while they are amongst them, but their calculations prove hollow. They fail to secure their hoped-for advantages, while the believers grow ever stronger. This is an unchanging law of Allah, Who has revealed that He will help those who believe and have faith in Him in the life of this world and will bestow on them the finest of blessings. Hypocrites are also well aware of this. However, as a result of the cunning approach they take, the lives of believers, which are full of constant peace and ease, become sources of anger for them. Believers, always at ease, are rewarded with an abundance that the hypocritical logic is unable to fathom. That explains why hypocrites always desire for communities of the faithful, whom they detest, to be in a constant state of vexation. For hypocrites, the blessings that Allah bestows upon believers, and the abundance in which they live, are a source of troubling rage whereas any difficulty experienced by believers delights them. This defective state of mind of theirs is revealed in the Qur’an:

. . . They will do anything to harm you. They love what causes you distress. . . .

Ali ‘Imran: 118

Since believers are subjected to testing by Allah, from time to time they may encounter what appear to be difficulties, but these are all tests for them. They know that difficulties hone them, increase their capacities for struggle and are the means whereby they can attain Paradise. The way that such difficulties enrage hypocrites is the most evident proof of their inability to comprehend the secret of living for Allah and their unawareness that this world is a place of testing. While believers evaluate these difficulties as auspicious, hypocrites regard them as sources of vexation for believers and as a victory for themselves. Their own natures keep them unaware of the measure of believers’ wisdom and the strength of their faith. They imagine that believers will inevitably be downcast by the trials they encounter and that their unity will finally be impaired. They thus harbor great joy and expectations. Yet these expectations will come to nothing. They are unable to understand those who draw strength from and are devoted to Allah, and thus fall into a grave error.

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Pakistan Day Parade and Mela on August 15, 2009

August 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Press Release By PAA President Mohammad Qasim, General Secretary Muhammad Zahid

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l-r:  3rd adult from left, SM Khalid, PAA President Mohammad Qasim, State senate candidate Pam Jackson, Dr. Syed Taj, Canton Treasurer, Mr. Verma Ramesh, Michigan Democratic Party Treasurer, Ms. Natalie Mosher, State senate candidate, Mike McGuiness, Oakland County Demorcatic Pary Chair, fully visible man at farthest right (holding banner), PAA VP Ikhlaq Shah.

Alhamdulillah, it turned out to be the best and the biggest event the Pakistan Association of America has put together in its history since its existence in 1977. Thousands who attended are the living testimony of this fact.

The following are the guests from the Michigan Democratic Party who lead the parade with the Pakistani community and attended the event. Mr. Mark Brewer, Chairman Michigan Democratic Party; State Senator Mr. Micky Switalski; Ms. Rashida Tlaib, State Representative; Mr. Mike McGuiness, Chairman of the Oakland County Democratic Party; Mr. Verma Ramesh Treasurer, Michigan Democratic Party; Dr. Syed Taj Treasurer, City of Canton; U.S. Congressional Candidate Ms. Natalie Mosher; State Senatorial Candidate, Ms. Pam Jackson.

Former PAA presidents Mr. Niaz Ali, Dr. Riaz Ahmed, Mr. Sardar Ansari, Mr. Mansoor Ahmad, Mr. Faiz M. Khan and Mr. Shakeel A. Lari were also present.
Governor Jennifer Granholm and Lt. Governor John Cherry could not make it to the Pakistani Parade, but they sent special messages to the Pakistani Community congratulating them on Pakistan’s Independence Day.

Pakistan’s President, Prime Minister, Ambassador and Consul General sent their special messages to PAA’s President Mohammad Qasim, asking him to convey their best wishes and congratulate the Pakistanis living in Michigan.

Besides the Pakistani community, a large number of non-Pakistanis participated in the colorful parade, which was lead by U.S. elected officials from various districts, famous stars Saud, Javeria, Arif Lohar and professional dholies and other instrument players.

Several media outlets attended: GEO TV, TMO, Urdu Times, Pakistan News and Voice of Pakistan Radio were all present to cover the parade and mela.

PAA gave awards and recognition as follows: PAA Community Services Award for 2009–Dr. Zubair Rathur (who has been doing voluntary community services consistently and generously).

Media recognition awards were presented to Dr. Abdul Raheman Nakadar, Mr. Masood Farooqi, Mr. Khalid Gilani and Mr. Faiz M. Khan. The Sharifan Bibi student scholarship award was given to Ms. Sana Ashraf of Sterling Heights. Special Awards were given to famous Pakistani drama on Geo TV “Yeh Zindagi Hai” to Filmstar SAUD and TV artist JAVERIA, presented by State Senator Mickey Switalsky.

There were various kinds of fun rides for the children who had a good time while their parents were enjoying the shopping for clothes, jewelry, media , etc. The food area was probably the most attractive area all day. Pakistanis and non-Pakistanis alike kept busy trying multiple options of Pakistani cuisine.

There was also a fashion show–American kids wore Pakistani clothes for the show.

Evening Entertainment: The concert was the most popular part of the whole event. Southfield Pavilion was filled beyond maximum capacity. Hundreds of people were celebrating and socializing in hallways and outside the pavilion. People joined the artists in signing, clapping and dancing. The musical concert lasted until midnight.

Artists in attendance: King of comedy Shakil Siddiqui, Chand Puri, Pervez Siddiqui, Fozia, Sumbal Raja, Naeem Abbas Rufi, Queen of Melody Fariha Pervez, and Legendary Arif Lohar.

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Harun Yahya – Secrets of the Hypocrites

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

They Do Not Defend the Truth

During their time they spend in the midst of believers, hypocrites play an imitative role in order to blend in and not give themselves away. They seek to imitate religious observances, but never go near those that impinge on their earthly desires. For example, calling people to proper moral values and advising them of the truth are duties that they see as inconvenient. They are not willing to see others implementing this system that they won’t implement themselves. They are therefore careful to avoid defending the truth.

In any case, there is an inconsistency here: Clearly, anyone who avoids remembrance of Allah and who harbors a genuine hatred for religion and sincere believers can never properly communicate the stipulations of the Qur’an and the importance of living for Allah. Since such people do not live by proper moral values themselves, naturally they cannot explain these to others. And in any case, they have no wish to do so.

In addition, communicating the message—which Allah, in the Qur’an, commands as an important religious duty—is something they can never do. Recommending what is good and trying to prevent what is evil, and issuing reminders in the light of the Qur’an are observances that hypocrites can never perform. Since their true desire is to gain the approval of others, they never wish to offend anyone and never intervene in any errors they happen to see.

They Make Excuses to Lag Behind in the Struggle

We have already seen how, one of hypocrites’ main objectives—for so long as they remain in the midst of believers—is their own interests. Doubtless the one area that most conflicts with those interests are the times of struggle that have been written as obligatory for believers. Hypocrites can see no logic in striving for an objective that they doubt will give them any advantage in terms of their own interests, nor in which they don’t sincerely believe. In addition, due to their lack of comprehension, they think of this struggle as one in which lives and belongings will be lost, not for whose sake there will be a reward in the Hereafter. They cannot understand such superior virtues as making sacrifices for Allah or enduring difficulties.

Hypocrites in the time of the Prophet (s) began fleeing as soon as the order for war was issued, and resorted to various lies and excuses to cover up their crimes. Some of the verses on this subject are as follows:

. . . They were told, “Come and fight in the way of Allah or at least help defend us.” They said, “If we knew how to fight, we would certainly follow you.”

Ali ‘Imran: 167

If it had been a case of easy gains and a short journey, they would have followed you, but the distance was too great for them. They will swear by Allah: “Had we been able to, we would have gone out with you.” They are destroying their own selves. Allah knows that they are lying.

At-Tawba: 42

Those who were left behind were glad to stay behind the Messenger of Allah. They did not want to strive with their wealth and themselves in the way of Allah. They said, “Do not go out to fight in the heat.” Say: “The Fire of Hell is much hotter, if they only understood.”

At-Tawba: 81

When a sura is sent down, saying: “Believe in Allah and strive together with His Messenger,” those among them with wealth will ask you to excuse them, saying, “Let us remain with those who stay behind.”

At-Tawba: 86

And a group of them said, “People of Yathrib, Your position is untenable, so return!” some of them asked the Prophet to excuse them, saying, “Our houses are exposed,” when they were not exposed; it was merely that they wanted to run away.

Al-Ahzab: 13

This attitude, which becomes apparent in times of struggle, is important evidence of the hypocrites’ logic. They abandon their imitation of believers carried out up until then and reveal their true character. Before such times of struggle, however, they will also show evidence revealing their true natures.

Their lack of preparation towards future struggles is characteristic of their attitude. Since they have no such aim, they see no need to make ready. Yet at the same time, this is evidence of the activities they do plan. They deliberately fail to fulfill their religious observances and make none of those preparations for the future that are dependent upon believers. In one verse it is revealed that:

If they had really desired to go out, they would have made proper preparations for it, but Allah was averse to their setting out so He held them back and they were told: “Stay behind with those who stay behind.”

At-Tawba: 46

Their View of Believers

Hypocrites have declared war on the religion of Allah. They oppose His messenger and are unable to bear to listen to His verses. Therefore, one cannot expect them to feel any closeness to believers. That they adopt the requirements of a religion that hypocrites are opposed to, and that they abide by Allah’s verses are sufficient cause for hypocrites to feel enmity towards the believers.

Hypocrites will naturally conceal themselves. In order to do so, they will play a role among believers and say, despite what lies in their hearts, that they are believers too. Therefore at first glance, it may not be possible to grasp the anger that they harbor in their hearts toward believers. Inevitably, however, this anger will give itself away through various signs, which are given to us in the verses of the Qur’an.

In Their Hearts They Feel Hatred & Anger Toward Believers

. . . Hatred has appeared out of their mouths, but what their breasts hide is far worse. . . .

Ali ‘Imran: 118

Scrupulous adherence to the Qur’an and the proper moral values they take from it are an important element of believers’ love and respect, but this works in entirely the opposite way for hypocrites. Everything to do with proper moral values further increases their anger and hatred. That is because they expect degeneration when it comes to religion and morality. They wish to distance themselves from everything that religion regards as good and to implement the exact opposite. Remembrance of Allah, recollection of His verses, and the strengthening and improvement of believers represent the continuing growth of a system to which they are opposed, so all this increases the anger in their hearts.

This anger in their hearts manifests itself in various ways. The various oppressive methods they use, the plans they draw up against believers and the way they take the messenger as their target are some consequences. However, as revealed in the verses, the anger they hide in their hearts is no doubt greater than that which appears on the surface.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I33)

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Unique Fundraising Done For The Oldest Masjid Of Houston

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         “We have lived among masses and understand the psyche of the society. We understand the real issues of people at grassroots level and have always been at the fore-front of serving the humanity by example and not mere words: This is what AL Islam has taught to remain be active. This event is exceptional and we are absolutely delighted to see Muslims from various Immigrant Communities, especially from Pakistan, India and Middle East, coming here in an organized manner and large numbers for the first time to assist Muslims of the African-American Community with no strings attached:” These were some of the sentiments of Imam Wazir Ali of Masjid AL Islam of Houston, which was started in 1950s in a barber shop and later on became a full-fledged Masjid in 1978, is the oldest Masjid in the Houston area. Most of the initial funds for the Masjid came from the famous Boxing Champ Mohammad Ali.

“Muslims from the communities like Masjid AL Islam, are the ones’, who know the local language and culture. They can explain and present Islam to the Americans in much better manner than us, who have come from overseas and America is our adopted home. We can all learn from each other, but when it comes to conveying the message, the local Muslim Americans are the ones, who can do an effective job. As such we need to be at the forefront is making communities like Masjid AL Islam stronger,” said Syed Shahid Ali Sunni, who is In-Charge of the recently formed Moon Sighting Committee of Houston.

Due to the efforts of Syed Shahid Ali Sunni & Associates, more than $140,000 were brought to the fundraising evening for Masjid AL Islam from their anonymous friends of the Pakistani Community.

Masjid AL Islam was rendered unusable as a result of Hurricane Ike. Ever since that time, several members of the congregation and administration of the Masjid have been working themselves to re-build some of the things at the Masjid. Now the real groundbreaking ceremony will be held at 12-Noon on Saturday, August 15, 2009 at the Masjid premises located at 6641 Bellfort Avenue; Houston; Texas 77087.

In order to have a smooth rebuilding of Majid AL Islam, a fundraiser was held at Shahnai Restaurant. Keynote speaker on the occasion was Imam Faheem Shuaibe of California, who in an inspiring and intellectual manner using various metaphors from AL-Quran, the science of inception, etc. explained the Finality of Messenger Mohammad (s). Allama Mukhtar Naeemi, Qari Abdul Ghani Ovaisi and several other distinctive personalities of the community were in attendance.

Imam Wazir Ali of Masjid AL Islam informed that around $500,000 are needed for the re-construction project of which some have already been collected and about $200,000 were needed to be raised that evening. He said he is absolutely delighted that Muslims from various Immigrant Communities, especially from Pakistan, India and Middle East, have come out in an organized manner and large numbers for the first time to assist Muslims of the African-American Community, who have much to offer to the larger Muslim and Other Communities living around Houston, by social and spiritual support. He specially thanked Syed Shahid Ali Sunni, who worked very hard to gather more than $140,000 for Masjid AL Islam from his anonymous friends of the Pakistani Community.

First Islamic Radio Program in Houston: Fifteen Years Have Passed

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Radio Light Of Islam airs every Sunday 10pm.-12am. on Frequency 1460AM and live worldwide at www.KBRZRadio.Com started some 15 years ago: To commemorate the occasion, Anchors of Radio Light Of Islam Maqsood Siddiqui and Abdur Rahman Siddiqui arranged a Community Dinner, where special awards were given to those youth, who have done memorization of Quran (the Huffas of Houston). Heart wrenching recitation of Quran by Qari Ahmad Siddiqui of Madrasae Islamiah was followed by Hamd and Naat presented by young children.

Several prominent speakers spoke on the occasion about the importance of Community Owned Media and ask people to financially support Radio Light of Islam, so that its hours are increased and more languages programming can be done on it like the Spanish. Those included Mufti Saleem, Imam Wazir Ali, Imam Yahya Gant, Imam Abu Mujahid (Spanish), Hafiz Nisar-ul-Haq, Hafiz Tauqir Shah and others.

For more information, one can call 832-298-7860.

Houstonian Corner (V11-I29)

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Sultans of Science: Yours’ To Rediscover At IDC Downtown Houston

Sultans of Science Exhibition At IDC (A)

The world famous Exhibition called “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered”, has opened on Wednesday, July 01, 2009 at the Islamic Da`wah Center (IDC), located at 201 Travis Street, Downtown Houston, Texas 77002. “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered” is a global touring exhibition celebrating the contributions of Muslim scholars in science and technology during the golden age of the Islamic world and the influence their inventions and contributions have had on our modern day society. The exhibition is very interactive, with sensory displays, and enticing designs and presentations.

With the summer break, the “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered” Exhibition is especially beneficial for Youth to attend. Organized by Liberty Science Center and MTE Studios, the Exhibition will run from July 01 till September 07, 2009. Hours of Admission and Fees to the Exhibition are: Monday to Thursday 10am – 7pm; Friday Closed; Saturday 10am – 7pm; and Sunday 12pm – 5pm. Tickets online at http://islamicdawahcenter.org/ are $15 (Adults); $10 (Children) and at the IDC Box Office $20 (Adults); $10 (Children). All tickets are for single entry: Special Groups Field Trips and School Groups require Reservation.
A Pre-Opening Celebration event was held last Friday, where several influential local political, professional and social leaders were present. Ameer Abuhalimeh, Executive Director of IDC welcomed everybody and read the message of famous basketball player Hakeem Olajuwan, who is President and Founder of IDC (he is presently in Jordan). Keynote Remarks came from City of Houston Councilmember, the Honorable M J Khan and Mayoral Proclamation was given by Minnette B. Boesel, the Mayor’s Assistant for Cultural Affairs.

Consul Generals of Pakistan, India, Egypt and Great Britain were present. Everyone was mesmerized to see the depth of information in a most interactive manner provided to the attendees. “It is a must to attend exhibition for all Houstonians’ and Americans,” said the Former Honorary Consul General of Pakistan in Houston Joanne King Herring.

For further information, one can visit http://islamicdawahcenter.org/ or call 713-223-3311.

Hundreds Thronged Rice University for 4th Annual ICNA-MAS South Region Conference

bill white Fourth of July saw a Major Islamic Conference coming to Rice University Houston: This was the 4th Annual ICNA-MAS South Central Region Conference. Several hundred families came from Texas, Louisiana and elsewhere to attend this one day event, whose theme was: “Serve Humanity for the Love of Divinity”. “Not only the theme was unique, but after attending various lectures and segments, I am convinced that all the speeches at the Conference had distinctive message and it was conveyed by all the speakers in a unique manner, which I have never felt at other Islamic Conferences. One needs to get the DVDs and CDs of this Conference for future reference and study,” said one of the regular attendee of the many Islamic Conferences in the Greater Houston Region.

Renowned scholars like Sheikh Nouman Ali Khan; Sheikh Abdool Rahman Khan; Imam Omar Suleiman; Imam Khalid Griggs; Imam Yousuf Estes; Dr. Zahid Bukhari; Dr. Muhammad Yunus; Dr. Mazhar Kazi; Sheikh Nisar-ul-Haq; Hafiz Tauqeer Shah; Sheikh Wazir Ali; Samid AL-Khatib; Reverand Kimberley; and many more, mesmerized the audiences with excellent presentations that had practical solutions to various issues facing communities nationwide in USA, as far as volunteering and assisting humanity is concerned.

“Window to Islam” Morning Session brought some Non-Muslims with Muslims and the Chapel besides Rice Memorial Ley Student Center was packed with people of all ages, as they understood the basics of Islam and learnt from Imam Yousuf Estes as to why he became Muslim. Other topics included “Islam: Not just a Middle Eastern Religion”; “The History of Relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims” and “Interfaith Panel Q-&-A”.

Special “Young Muslims Conference” in the afternoon drew many youth in the community to learn their very crucial role in the society, like “Lead Your Friends to Humanity for Your Lord”; “Islam: A Religion That Came on the Shoulders of Youth”; “Muslim Youth: Serving Humanity”; “Muslim Youth is Ready to Face Challenges”; and much more.

The main topics discussed in the Central Programs included “The Islamic Solutions to Contemporary Social Problems, like the Declining Family System”; “Dawah and Relief Go Hand in Hand”; and “Deliverance Through Service”.

Sumptuous food was served by Lazzezza Restaurant. For more information and getting Conference material, one can call Omer Syed, Secretary of ICNA Houston at 713-253-4599.

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Despite FBI Investigation, Minnesota Mosque Has Support

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Ramla Bile, Mshale, New America Media

spring08-06-grocery
File:  A member of Minnesota’s Somali community

Despite fears of distractions from the missing Somali youth saga that has engulfed the Somali community in Minnesota, the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center held its 9th Annual Convention at the Minneapolis Convention Center over the weekend where thirty speakers addressed 10,000 people over three days.

Participants said it was encouraging to see the number of attendees, the breadth of topics, and the scope of talent.

Despite a tumultuous year, the mosque saw increased attendance at this year’s convention and a spike in monetary support. Since last fall, the mosque has come under fire for the “missing youth” debacle, a connection that the mosque administrators and its supporters continue to deny. People close to the mosque did not believe the annual event would occur this year, they feared that the need to address the allegations would distract the administration and volunteers from organizing the convention. But after successfully meeting fundraising goals and having a record attendance with the help of 200 volunteers, the Abubakar community believes it maintains the trust and love of the Somali community. “This crowd and their energy is a testimony to their commitment to the mosque and its respected leaders,” attendee Ali Abdi said.

People travelled from Columbus, Nashville, Toronto, Kansas City, and across the United States and Canada to listen, learn, and meet. Hundreds of others logged-in to a live broadcast through several websites that serve the Somali community. Twenty-year-old Anab Ibrahim travelled from Seattle to attend the convention. “We came because my aunt was impressed with the line-up. When we arrived, we were amazed with the number of people we saw standing and sitting around in the lobby… we were even more shocked to see the packed auditorium,” she said. At the peak of the event on Saturday, an estimated 7,000 thousand people filled the two auditoriums. Anab said she especially enjoyed the English lectures. “Other conferences are only about the politics of Somalia, and often make us feel hopeless. This was applicable to our lives here and our faith. It showed me what we could do for our community and ourselves.”

Speakers addressed a wide range of topics, including the future of Somalis in the diaspora, the prevalence of autism, the importance of knowing your rights, the danger of gangs and extremism, the notion of Islam as mercy among others.

The only wrinkle on the conference was keynote speaker, Sheikh Mustafa Harun, being denied entry to the United States upon landing at Newark airport. He ultimately addressed the audience via webcam the following day. Participants expressed outrage over their revered scholar being denied entry. Harun said he checked in with the U.S. Embassy in Norway weeks prior to his scheduled flight and was told he should not encounter any issues. Norway has a visa waiver program with the United States. Despite his attempt at planning ahead, he did not make it to the convention. After a 9-hour flight, he was questioned for 3 hours and was told that although his identity was cleared, he must leave the country. He was allowed to make a call before boarding another 9-hour flight back to Norway.

Other speakers included imams from around the U.S. including Minnesota, among them Sheikh Abdirahman Sheikh Omar, Sheikh Abdirizak Hashi, Sheikh Jamel Bin Ameur, and others. Audience members were astounded by the knowledge and wit of 12-year-old Mohamud Ahmed Mohamud, who was introduced as “Sheikh Mohamud.” He related the story of Salman Al-Farisi, a historic figure in Islamic history, and spoke on the importance of seeking knowledge and asking questions. He shared the Somali proverb of regret where a person says, “when I had youth, I did not want to learn, and when I had age, I wished I had learned during my youth.” Mohamud says he wanted to send a strong message to the youth, and encourage them to take advantage of their time. “I want young people to step up to the plate because I see so much good in them and it’s time for the youth to rise,” he said. Mohamud spent the past three years helping in the bookstore of the mosque, reading and writing as he could.

Gubernatorial candidate Steve Kelley, and Constituent Advocate to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Siad Ali spoke on the health, education, and anti-immigration sentiment. Klobuchar addressed the audience by video where she touched on the cultural and intellectual wealth Somalis bring to Minnesota. Minneapolis welcomed Abukar Arman, the President of the CAIR chapter in Columbus who did a “know your rights” presentation in Somali, while members of the local chapter of CAIR did a program in English. “It’s important for people to understand their legal rights and the implications of their actions – intentional or not. Wanting a lawyer is not an omission of guilt. We want people to cooperate with law enforcement and we want them to know their rights,” he said. Arman also addressed the allegations against certain mosques in the city, saying that, “we’re finding that people are being judged by public opinion, which is ridiculous because this is a nation of law and order, and rumors should not absolve or condemn people or institutions of allegations. Rather, this should be determined by an established legal process.”

Poets Sara Mohamed and Maryam Warsame made their début at the convention. Warsame is one of three organizers for the mosque’s “Youth to Youth” group, a mentorship program for young women. Sara is a student in the program, and the two began writing together this winter. They rhymed about the situation of women in their homeland, and shared the stories of those who did not find relief. “We don’t want to be famous, we just want to get message out and not forget about those who are suffering,” Warsame said. She added that the convention was a good opportunity for students to share their work.

In addition to the poetry and lectures, the convention also included a fundraising component. In a little over an hour, participants pledged $150,000 to help cover expenses incurred over the construction of the second floor of the mosque, as well as to jump-start the next phase of development. The administration hopes to complete the parking lot and make the exterior of the building more visually pleasing.

It is difficult to imagine that this is the same institution that operated from a garage in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood – the epicenter of the city’s newest wave of immigrants. Founding member Abdulaziz Sugule says this vision for a mosque comprehensively serving the community started over a decade ago and the organization began operations in 2000. Then called the Imam Shafi’i Mosque, the name was changed to the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center and the organization moved to an abandoned warehouse in South Minneapolis. “Today, that vision is a five million dollar project,” Sugule said. “The mosque plays a major role in advancing the community; it consists of all kinds of social services including providing family counseling, settling community disputes, celebrating Islamic holidays, working with local and national government leaders, mentoring youth, and providing a place of Islamic worship and education,” he said.

Looking up with a smile, he added, “Contrary to what some people are saying, they (the mosque administration) are trying to build a healthy community with good people… they’re starting a movement for positive change and people love the place and its people.”

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A New Kind of Television Dawns in the USA

July 9, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Adil James, MMNS

box-angle

As Tracy Thompson-West explains it, Talfazat and its sister stations, TV-Desi, and Kylin TV, were born from the union of NeuLion (whose specialty is in IPTV), and JumpTV (whose specialty was Arabic programming).  Ms. West is the Chief Executive of International Business for NeuLion, Inc. The marriage has led to the birth of several discrete and independent television networks, serving discrete niche markets–the Arabic, Chinese, and Desi markets.

Like NeuLion and JumpTV, Ms. West has an impressive resume, having worked for 20 years in the US and European satellite industry–where she had a hand in building Dish’s industry leading collection of international channels.

IPTV is still a mystery to most American consumers–in fact IPTV television providers in this country are far behind their counterparts in Europe.

Even the television services that are available via IPTV are not defined as such–Netflix, AT&T’s U-verse (still with fewer than 100,000 customers), and now JumpTV and its subsidiaries–usually refer to themselves as sources of television, alternatives to satellite and cable. 

In Europe however, the largest IPTV service provider (France’s Iliad) had over 1,000,000 customers as of January of 2008.  Its nine closest competitors, none of whom are American, all have more than 100,000 customers each.

The Talfazat box is simply a set top box (STB) that plugs into the internet and your television.  It uses proprietary technology developed by NeuLion to transfer video signals through the internet to your TV, and is controlled by an ordinary remote control.

talfazat logo shadow The technology is impressive.  NeuLion provides professional business-to-business display of major sports.  The pedigree as listed by Ms. West is simply unimpeachable–NFL, NHL, AHL.  If those guys trust NeuLion, you know their product is top-of-the-line. 

The box that you install in your home speaks over the internet with NeuLion’s servers and accesses the content you want to watch.  It needs a connection, according to Ms. West, of only one Mbs, and a 2 Mbs DSL connection nowadays is pretty standard.  With upcoming improvements in the internet network in the United States, especially for Fiber optics (like Verizon FIOS, for example), speeds ten times as fast will become very standard. 

Talfazat offers about 30 Arabic channels, including as far as I can tell all of the ones offered by Dish Network–with perhaps the exception of Dubai Sports.  The news channels are all available, including Al-Jazeera, Al-Jazeera English, and Al-Arabiya.

control Kylin offers, according to Ms. West, about 40 channels of Chinese language content.

TV-Desi is offered in several discrete packages, each tailored to a particular language group.  Their are Hindi, Bangla, and Pakistan-focused channels.  The channel list includes some news channels however some of the major Bollywood blockbuster movie websites are still missing, although Ms. West of JumpTV indicated to me that JumpTV was working in the direction of making those channels available in the future.

Potential future pitfalls with the technology include the increasing rumors and movements of internet service providers towards limiting bandwidth.  This controversy, frowned on by major net presences like Google, businesses that benefit and in fact need people to access the internet freely, is known by the name “net neutrality” and is increasingly coming up in legislative debates at the federal level–although until now it is unclear whether the movements toward bandwidth caps by ISPs AT&T and Comcast will later be widely implemented.

Asked about this potential problem, Mr. Alyas Ali of Talfazat explained that one of his Canadian customers, whose ISP is Rogers, faced bandwidth overages (which come into effect after 60 gigabits) and was charged for them.  Yet the total maximum fee charged by Rogers for those overages, even when added to his Talfazat bill, is still less than what he would have to pay for Bell ExpressVu Arabic channels.

The Roku box may be the most similar single service.  Roku offers access to Netflix.  You pay $99 and your payments to Roku are finished forever, but you get to enjoy Netflix instant views as long as you have a subscription.

There are free online IPTV sources, but the most professional services that provide IPTV are formed as walled gardens.  Explains Alyas Ali of Talfazat, “We want to provide a clean product that people are willing to pay for.”

Similar services exist from other providers.  AT&T has launched their U-Verse plan, which offers roughly the same channels you would expect from Dish Network.  Unfortunately AT&T has done a really awful job of marketing U-Verse.  Nobody knows that it exists.  If people know about U-Verse, most of them think that it is actually AT&T’s satellite service through its partner (was Dish Network, now DirecTV). 

If you find out about U-Verse, you may not want to buy it because AT&T has priced it at the same level as Dish Network–which is already the most expensive satellite network and fast losing market share as a result.  What could they have been thinking? And on top of that AT&T is maintaining a partnership with their own competitor, DirecTV.

The wild web, however, has much to offer if you can winnow the wheat from the chaff.  Despite its many nonsense or bad-spirited or generally poor quality channels, many fun and interesting videos are available on Youtube.  Services providing free IPTV include Joost, Hulu, Justin.TV, ChannelChooser, and WWITV.  Of these, Hulu may be the most professional, although the focus of Hulu is more on mainstream American shows.  And it is possible to construct an imitation of the walled gardens but without losing the wild and free content–either by connecting a PC running Boxee (and thus indirectly also Hulu) or by hacking an AppleTV box to run Boxee (and thus Hulu).  Surely other hacks will emerge as time passes, but for now the $200 AppleTV (which you buy once and never again pay for) in connection with Boxee is the most cost effective means of accessing free IPTV content.

The price structure of Talfazat and her sisters is middle of the road–but by comparison with other services that are available it is at a fair market rate.  For $30 a month, you can have 30 Arabic channels piped into your house.  Compared to Dish Network this is pennies.  Compared to the freely available content via satellite perhaps it is a little bit expensive–but perhaps the difference in price is made up for in ease of access and professionalism of the end product.

Considering that the price for Dish Network’s foreign content is simply outrageous (on average you would have to pay about $15 for only one foreign channel on Dish), NeuLion is in a strong position to secure customers escaping from long contracts, or sometimes mediocre customer service, and perhaps will recapture some of the former pirates who have been chased away from Dish Network recently by its increasingly aggressive anti-piracy encryption.

DirecTV, Ms. West explained, has just cancelled all its Arabic channels–perhaps a concession to Dish Network, which in fact provides a very decent array of international programming.

The Indian channels available in a standard package from TV-Desi are rather minimal, only roughly four or five from each package–yet if you are from a foreign country and you have access to the four channels you used to watch at home that might be more than enough–especially when TV-Desi is poised to expand into other channels.

Another competitive point emphasized by Ms. West is the ease of installation.  The box is mailed to you, you unpack it, plug in an ethernet cord, a power cord, and turn it on, and you are in business.  Unlike a satellite or cable install, which might require you to stay home from work when “a satellite guy or a cable guy has to come into your house” and install it.

Talfazat and her sisters offer limited American channels–about 30 of the JV American channels including Fox News and Discovery, for a nominal fee.  They plan to expand their coverage in this area, as they do in their ethnic channel repertoire.

Customer service through Talfazat seems excellent.  In a brief call to explore the available service, I encountered excellent, knowledgeable and friendly customer service from an Arabic-speaking customer service representative.  This is a level of niche marketing that, even with some effort, Dish Network or your local cable company will be unlikely to find a willingness to compete with.

As far as quality of the picture, Talfazat is excellent.  Ms. West claims there is no buffering  if a customer has a pipe of 1 Mbs.  The box is HD-ready, although regional programming in HD is slim-to-none.  What looks like an S-Video jack in the back of the Talfazat box is actually a plug for a dongle that can accept HD-ready HDMI or component plugs to connect to your television. 

NeuLion did not discuss the potential impact of the higher quality picture on bandwidth, but presumably that will push them beyond their current 1Mbs. 

Presumably NeuLion are experts at providing HD content, since their expertise has been developed through years of servicing the sports leagues which thrive in large part based on their HD filming.

But the brilliance of the NeuLion team is not only in the quality and availability of their product, it is also in their clever marketing to an available niche, at a marketable price, through friendly customer service.

Note:  Talfazat is a valued advertiser in this newspaper.

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Houstonian Corner (V11-I26)

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Aligarh Bachchon Ka Ghar: A Distinctive Orphanage in India

Mozaffar Ali of ALigarh Bachchon Ka Ghar Orphanage came to Houston last week as guest of Helping Hand. During his stay, he went on Radio Sangeet for an interview, talked to persons at Madrasae Islamiah after Mughrib Prayers and met community members at Shahnai Restaurant.

Mozaffar Ali informed the significance of taking care of an orphan in Islam. He said that this orphanage was started at Qasimpur Road Aligarh with 10 children in 1998 and today has around 120 orphans. Idea is to support the orphans till the age of high school. Some of the goals and objectives of the orphanage are to develop teamwork, self-reliance and competitive spirit among these children and to save children from forced labor, illiteracy, begging and deprivation. The orphanage compound can take around 100 children and it is already housing 120 children. New construction on the second storey is needed over the existing orphanage and it will consist of three halls (each can be constructed for $7,500). On each child, the orphanage spends about $1,000/year. A bus carries children to various schools in the area and on return in the evening; children go through extracurricular and moral building activities plus complete their homework.

Mozaffar Ali placed a target for the Houston Community to raise $7,500 (only) for one of these three halls of this project, of which $6,500 have been collected. For more information on ALigarh Bachchon Ka Ghar, one can visit their website www.ALigarhChildren.Org and for all Tax Deductible contributions, visit www.HelpingHandOnline.Org (mention ALigarh Bachchon Ka Ghar in the comments).

Ghazali Education Trust Pakistan Imparting Education to 35,000+ Children: Waqqas Anjum

“You have an excellent opportunity to donate education by becoming supporter of Ghazali Education Trust, one the largest  Educational Networks’ of Pakistan. Our ultimate goal by the Grace of God is to have 100% literacy in Pakistan. Ghazali Education Trust was established in 1997 under the society act as a Non-Profit, Non-Governmental and Non-Political Organization:” These were the sentiments of Syed Waqqas Anjum, as he organized two seminars in North and Southwest Houston about Ghazali Education Trust (GET), where professional DVD presentations were done to appraise the community about the progress of GET.

“By the Blessings of God, we at Ghazali Education trust (GET) are now encompassing 1,500 miles of Pakistan and are in 30 Districts of Pakistan, with 278 Schools, 1,560 Teachers; and 35,000+ Students, of which about 16,400 are Orphans and Needy. GET is not just constructing schools; we develop teachers through our training institutes and develop up-to-date and state-of-the-art syllabus for our students to excel in their professional lives (this is approved by the Government). People can donate with three of our many contributing options: Adopt a Child $125/Year; Adopt a School $1,250/Year; and LifeTime Membership $1,250:” Added Syed Waqqas.

GET has projected to expand our network to 50 Districts by 2015, with at least one Model Cluster School in each District. GET has started a pilot project of vocational courses for Grade VII to X to develop much needed skills in our students. GET provides a comprehensive library, science lab and computer lab in each of our campuses. In order to streamline our processes and be transparent, we have divided GET into these departments: Pakistan Rural Education Program; Resource Mobilization; Ghazali Colleges for Women; Research & Development; Orphan / Needy Support Program; and Land Acquisition & Construction:” Continued Syed Waqqas.

For more information on GET, one can visit their website www.Get.Org.PK or call 832-366-3351 and for all Tax Deductible contributions, visit www.HelpingHandOnline.Org (mention GET Pakistan in the comments).

Mumbai Terrorist Attacks Awaken Bollywood

December 31, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

The India film stars dictate fashion and customs, but they usually aren’t politically active. The recent killings seem to have changed that.

Courtesy Anupama Chopra, LA Times

Reporting from Mumbai — Amitabh Bachchan slept with a gun. On Nov. 26, as 10 terrorists orchestrated mayhem at Mumbai’s landmark hotels and train station, Bollywood’s most enduring superstar pulled out his revolver.

The following day, he wrote on his blog: “As an Indian, I need to live in my own land, on my own soil with dignity and without fear. And I need an assurance on that. I am ashamed to say this and not afraid to share this now with the rest of the cyber world, that last night as the events of the terror attack unfolded in front of me, I did something for the first time and one that I had hoped never ever to be in a situation to do. Before retiring for the night, I pulled out my licensed .32 revolver and put it under my pillow. For a very disturbed sleep.”

As the bloody face-off between the terrorists and Indian commandos continued for three days, Aamir Khan, another major star and avid blogger, wrote: “Terrorists are not Hindu or Muslim or Christian. They are not people of religion or God . . . an incident such as this really exposes how ill equipped we are as a society as far as proper leaders go. We desperately need young, dynamic, honest, intelligent and upright leaders who actually care for the country.”

A few days after the attack, Shah Rukh Khan, who is known to Hindi film viewers as King Khan and routinely described as more famous than Tom Cruise, told a leading television channel, “I have read the Holy Koran. It states that if you heal one man, you heal the whole of mankind and if you hurt one man, you hurt the whole of mankind. . . . There is an Islam from Allah and very unfortunately, there is an Islam from the mullahs.”

This impassioned, unflinching outburst is rare for Bollywood. Mumbai’s Hindi film industry produces 200-odd films each year for an estimated annual audience of 3.6 billion. Bollywood and its stars dictate fashions, language, rituals and aspirations for millions of Indians and non-Indians around the globe. In Britain and the U.S., Bollywood box office is largely driven by Indian immigrants, but in countries such as Malaysia, Poland and Germany, even locals are avid consumers. Hindi films vary from fantastical entertainers to realistic, low-budget urbane dramas that usually appeal to more educated audiences. Bollywood is one of the few film industries globally that has withstood the Hollywood goliath. In fact, Hollywood is pushing for a piece of the booming Bollywood pie; studios such as Sony and Warner are producing Hindi films.

But despite its cultural clout, Bollywood has largely been an insular, apolitical space — columnist and author Shobhaa De, more acerbically, described it as “apathetic.” Unlike their Hollywood counterparts, stars here have rarely aligned themselves with causes. Even those who join political parties usually serve an ornamental function.

Like much of India’s elite and middle class, the film industry has preferred to disengage from politics and the invariably messy functioning of the world’s largest democracy. “Most Bollywood actors claim their job is to entertain the masses — nothing more, nothing less,” De said. “It is the Republic of Bollywood movie stars owe any allegiance to.”

But the terrorist attacks, which claimed 164 lives (plus those of nine gunmen), have forced the film industry to abandon its customary neutral stance. In blogs, media, petitions and peace marches, Bollywood has come forward to denounce the attacks and demand better governance. Most significantly, many leading Muslim stars who until now rarely delved into the controversies of religion have condemned the attacks as “un-Islamic.” They have, as Gyan Prakash, professor of history at Princeton University put it, “reclaimed their religion.” In an interview, actor Anil Kapoor, now appearing in “ Slumdog Millionaire,” called the attacks “a tipping point,” adding: “I think things will be different now.”

The film industry can play a prominent role in India’s post 26/11 citizens’ movement, not only because of its cultural cachet but also because Bollywood is and always has been inherently secular. India is home to about 151 million Muslims, the third-largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan. The majority Hindus and minority Muslims share a long and tragic history, and politicians of every hue have exploited this divide. Hindu-Muslim relations are usually in a state of simmer, and the decades-old distrust routinely boils over in riots, murder and more recently terrorism.

Intriguingly, Bollywood has largely managed to resist this communal caldron. Through the decades, Hindus and Muslims have worked together without any palpable friction. In fact the biggest stars in contemporary Bollywood are Muslim (this includes the reigning superstar trinity of Shah Rukh, Aamir and Salman Khan). In “Maximum City,” his bestselling book on Mumbai, Suketu Mehta described the Hindi film industry as having “the secularism of a brothel.” “All are welcome,” he wrote, “as long as they carry or make money.”

Among Bollywood’s earliest stars were Australian-born Mary Ann Evans, known to her fans as Fearless Nadia — a whip-wielding, iconic action heroine in the 1930s; the Jewish Florence Ezekiel, known to her fans as Nadira, a legendary vamp who seduced with her smoldering looks in the 1950s; and the Anglo-Indian-Burmese Helen, who from the 1950s to the 1970s was Bollywood’s most famous dancer.
Box office is king

Writer-lyricist Javed Akhtar, president of an organization called Muslims for Secular Democracy, disapproves of Mehta’s brothel comparison but agreed that in the 40-odd years that he had been working in Bollywood, he had never encountered bias. “There is a method in the madness,” he said. “People in films — from the biggest stars to the smallest — know that their survival is in the success of the film. When you go to the racecourse, you cannot not bet on the winning horse because the jockey is of some other religion. You want to win the race so you cannot afford to be communal.”

Bollywood’s reigning deity is the box office. Consequently, Akhtar pointed out, even actors and technicians who are high-profile members of the right-wing Hindu Bhartiya Janta Party will behave “in a totally separate manner within the industry.”

Attempts to divide the industry on religious lines have found little support. In July, a little-known terror outfit called the Indian Mujahideen issued death threats via e-mail to leading Muslim actors, urging them to stop acting in movies or face the consequences. The industry collectively denounced the mail and Saif Ali, one of the actors threatened, responded in a newspaper saying that he would “rather be shot than not do a shot.”

Eight years ago, a Hindu actor named Hrithik Roshan became an overnight sensation with his debut film, “Kaho Na Pyar Hai” (Say You Love Me). As the film ran to packed houses, a right-wing Hindu magazine, Panchjanya, ran a cover story insisting that Roshan was the Hindu answer to the Muslim Khan supremacy in Bollywood. The claim was resoundingly ignored. These contrived divisions also have little meaning in Bollywood because many of the leading stars have had interfaith marriages.

Even at historic turning points such as the 1947 partition, when Hindu-Muslim relations were violently fraught, the film industry has remained impervious to religious bias. In the 1940s and 1950s, the industry was also less self-focused and inward-looking. Cultural groups such as the Progressive Writers’ Assn. and the India Peoples’ Theatre Assn. exerted a great influence on the leading writers, actors and directors of the time. The filmmakers and their films reflected an awareness and engagement with social causes.

But by the 1970s, a disconnect had set in. Prakash pinned it on “the Amitabh Bachchan phenomenon.” After the actor had a string of successive hits, the media labeled him “a one-man industry.” According to Prakash: “The Bollywood space changed then and became about celebrity.”

Star-driven culture

This celebrity has only amplified in recent years. The post-liberalization media explosion and consumerist culture have converted actors into brands and they are constantly “on,” whether in cinema halls, television shows or newspapers and magazines. Hindi cinema and especially its stars dominate India’s cultural landscape, enjoying a super-size visibility. Media doggedly report on the minutiae of their lives, from love affairs to diet to favored hair stylist. Political parties have often attempted to turn this visibility into votes by using stars to campaign for them, but Bollywood stars in politics have largely been, in De’s words, “a monumental joke.”

Prakash agreed. “Unlike Hollywood, Bollywood has became a space only for stardom,” he said. “Politics is problematic, and it’s not conducive to stardom. It only gets in the way.”
Aamir Khan discovered this the hard way in 2006, when he joined activists demanding the rehabilitation of farmers displaced by the construction of a dam in the western state of Gujarat. The government demanded an apology. When he refused, multiplex owners in Gujarat refused to screen the actor’s film “Fanaa” (Destroyed). Though the film eventually became a blockbuster, losses from the Gujarat ban — deemed unconstitutional by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh — ran into the millions. Not surprisingly then, silence and insularity are the preferred mode here.
Actress Preity Zinta, one of the industry’s more outspoken stars, said the prevailing silence also had to do with the quality of leadership. “Where are our icons?” she asked. “Give me one inspiring leader and I will not even think twice before offering support. Look at the political class abroad. I jumped as high as anyone in America when Obama won.”
Terrorism has provided the impetus that politicians could not. Zinta was among the thousands of people who gathered Dec. 3 at the Gateway of India (opposite the Taj Mahal hotel) to protest the attacks and demand better security. The gathering, organized spontaneously through e-mail, text messages and Facebook, was described in leading newspapers as unprecedented.
Farhan Akhtar, Javed Akhtar’s son and a filmmaker-actor, was also at the Gateway. When the firing started Nov. 26, Farhan was shooting the first episode of a “Saturday Night Live”-style television show called “Oye It’s Friday.” Farhan, who hosts the show, and his producers stopped work because, he said, “we were too depressed to continue.” But a few days later, they regrouped to rewrite a part of the show. The first episode now included several biting comic lines about politicians and their legendary incompetence. “There has been no event of this magnitude, nothing this drastic to get people polarized,” Farhan said. “But now people have had enough. We’re not going to take it lying down anymore.”
The big question is: How long will the anger last? Skeptics like De don’t envision a more politically sensitized Bollywood, but many such as Zinta and Farhan believe and hope that a sustained involvement will follow. But even if the current activism dilutes with time, the Hindi film industry, an inclusive, successful global brand, will remain a symbol of unity in a deeply fractured country.
Chopra writes frequently about Indian cinema. Her books include “King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema.”

Muslim Society of Paraná Celebrates 50th Anniversary

August 16, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

Established to provide support to the Muslims arriving at the city of Curitiba, the organisation currently promotes various cultural, educational and religious activities, acting as a reference point to those who want to learn about Arab and Islamic culture.

Courtesy Omar Nasser, ANBA News Agency

Curitiba – A solemnity to be held on Friday evening (10th) will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Muslim Beneficent Society of the State of Paraná (SBMPR), in southern Brazil. The event will bring together, at the seat of the organisation in Curitiba (capital of Paraná), immigrants, descendents, and relatives, as well as municipal and state-level officials. The members of the Islamic society who have rendered relevant services to the SBMPR throughout these 50 years will be awarded diplomas of Highest Honour.

The minutes of the organisation’s foundation date from July 28th, 1957. “The objective, at that time, was for the Beneficent Society to provide support to the Arab immigrants who started arriving here, in greater number, after the end of World War Two,” explains Jamil Ibrahim Iskandar, the current president. Being a Lebanese immigrant himself, Iskandar recalls that the pioneers had no relatives to help them and, in many cases, did not even know the Portuguese language.

Presently, SBMPR carries out a series of activities of cultural, educational, and religious nature, such as lectures, conferences, and exhibitions. Operating in the premises is an elementary school– the Brazilian-Arab School of Curitiba – and a nursery school. In the evening, Arabic language classes are held. “One can safely say that the Society is now a reference point, not only to the Muslim community in Curitiba and Paraná, but also to the Brazilians who want to learn about Arab and Islamic culture,” says Iskandar.

Currently living in Curitiba are approximately 1,500 Muslims, including immigrants, descendents, and converted Brazilians. The majority of Arab Muslims living in the city is of Lebanese descent, followed by Palestinians and Syrians. Among the Lebanese, there is s significant presence of people originally from the cities of Hermel and Baalbek, in the Bekaa Valley, as well as from the cities of Khirbat Roha and Jezzini, among others. In a recent trip to Curitiba, the then-resigning Lebanese minister of Labour, Trad Hammadeh, was puzzled by the fact that he found, in the city, the preserved accent of the Hermel region, which no longer exists even in Lebanon.

Early on, SBMPR operated from a leased building, in downtown Curitiba, next to the Tiradentes Square. As immigrants would achieve economic stability, they started having financial conditions to afford a property of their own in which to base the organisation. By 1964, the seat of the SBMPR was already established in a solidly built masonry building, where it remains to date. The building has an ample auditorium, rooms for the teaching of the Quran, offices, and an apartment to accommodate travellers.

In addition to the seat of the SBMPR, the Muslim community in Curitiba counts on a Mosque, which bears the name of Imam Ali ibn Abi Tálib, an homage to the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad. In 2007, it will be 35 years since the temple was inaugurated. Another important milestone of Muslim Arab immigration to Curitiba is Cemitério Jardim de Allah (“Garden of Allah Cemetery”). Located in the industrial city of Curitiba, the cemetery occupies a spacious area and has a wake room with bathrooms and a kitchen.

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Fresh Wave of Militancy in Aftermath of Bloody Red Mosque Operation

July 19, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ashraf Ali, Special to Muslim Media News Service

Peshawar, Pakistan–The ‘operation silence’ at last broke the silence when 102 persons including Red Mosque deputy cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi, seventy two seminarians and ten soldiers were killed and over 130 injured as security forces stormed the Red Mosque-Jamia Hafsa complex–on July 10.

The operation, although it put an end to a six-month long stand off between the Red Mosque clerics and the government authorities, has given birth to many questions.

The foremost question asked is: why did President Musharraf chose this time for launching an operation against the mosque, and secondly, how come the heavy piles of arms and ammunition could make its way to the mosque and Jamia Hafsa in the capital right under the nose of intelligence agencies? The political observers believe that the launch of the operation at this times was aimed at diverting people’s attention from the on-going judicial crises which started with the suspension of the Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the governments’ failure in delivering to the flood-hit areas where the torrential rains during the current monsoon played havoc with thousands of people in parts of the country; and finally sabotaging the efforts made for making the All Parties Conference a success, which was due in a couple of days after the operation was launched.

According to a government spokesman, the assault was necessary to free hundreds of female hostages and young seminarians, but a week after the attack the despondent parents are still seeking their loved ones.

In an officially arranged visit to the Red Mosque and Jamia Hafsa, the security forces showed the media persons a huge cache of arms and ammunitions, which according to the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) was recovered from the mosque and the madrasa Hafsa. This included rockets, landmines, suicide bombing belts, light machine guns (LMGs), Klashnikovs, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic guns, pistols, revolvers, night vision equipment, and over 50,000 live bullets of different calibers. Three crates of petrol bombs prepared from green soft drink bottles, gas masks, recoilless rifles, dozens of AK 47s, two way radios, large plastic buckets held tennis-ball size homemade bombs and knives were also put on display for the visiting media persons. While briefing the media persons, Director General ISPR, Major General Waheed Arshad said “we also recovered the head of a suicide bomber and his body parts.”

If the government is true in its claim, then the question posed is how come the huge dumps of arms and ammunitions could make its way to the Red Mosque and Jamia Hafsa and how it got radicalized itself within the breathing distance of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) headquarters in the capital, Islamabad.

And secondly, why did the government delay any action against the Red Mosque when it knew that the mosque’s administration have been challenging the writ of the government for the last six months when the Ghazi brothers started brandishing un-authorized weapons in public.

The Red Mosque administration became radicalized during the Afghan jihad against the USSR. Maulvi Abdullah, the father of the deceased Maulvi Abdul Rashid Ghazi, befriended Afghan jihadists including Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf and Jalaluddin Haqqani during the early nineties. Later, Abdullah developed friendly links with the Taliban when they emerged as victors of Kabul in 1996. General Zia ul Haq, the then President of Pakistan was more pivotal in radicalizing Pakistan, with the help of US funds and weapons. He encouraged Abdullah’s fraternizing with Afghan worriors. As a result of state encouragement, Maulvi Abdullah and the Red Mosque enterprise grew; Abdullah usurped state land in the prime E-7 sector of Islamabad to establish yet another seminary, Jamia-e-Fareedia and because of his links to the high ups in the establishment, the authorities did not prevent him from using state land.

The former Chairman of the Department of Political Science, University of Peshawar and political analyst, Professor Iqbal Tajik, said, “both the Ghazi brothers of the Red Mosque were pampered by the successive military regimes which lends credence to the widespread nexus between the mullahs and Army.” “How could they build up such a military compound right at the heart of the capital without the knowledge of the army and intelligence agencies?” asked Professor Tajik.

Intelligence agencies thought that by funding and creating radical groups they would be able to switch them off when a situation demanded. But it was a wrong assumption. The government did not take into account that once a radical organization is allowed to sprout and attains a certain level, it becomes autonomous in its management and policies. It is then only a matter of time before such an organization graduates first to a regional and then into an international terrorist network. The Red Mosque was no exception.

By 2001, it began to criticize US policies openly. In 2003, the Red Mosque organized violent protests against the murder of another leader of a jihadist outfit, Azam Tariq of a banned religious party, Sepah-e-Sahaba. Seminary students ransacked petrol stations, cinemas, restaurants and other property.

In 2004, Osama Bin Laden’s driver was arrested from the Red Mosque compound. But despite all this the government was unperturbed at the waywardness of its people. A legal expert cum political activist and former member of the national assembly, Abdul Latif Afridi, explained the logic behind the government’s silence on the issue in question, in these words: “The only explanation that comes to mind for this indifference is that government used periodic Red Mosque eruptions as justification for retaining the role of the military in Pakistani politics.”

The political pundits are of the view that at this juncture President Musharraf, exploiting the situation, wanted to show the American administration that the threat of religious extremism still exists in Pakistan and that he (General Musharraf–a man in the uniform) could be the best option for America to crush these extremist forces with full might.”

But Musharraf and his government had to pay a huge price. Immediately after the operation, a series of retaliatory attacks rocked various parts of the country, claiming hundreds of people including youths of the Pak-Army, police, levies and Frontier Constabulary (FC). During the weekend alone, seventy-one people have lost their lives and scores of others have been wounded as a result of suicide attacks in the North West Frontier Province of the country.

In North Waziristan, a troubled area in the tribal belt, the militants, while unilaterally scrapping their 10-month-old peace accord with the government, have threatened guerilla style attacks against the security forces in the area. Abdullah Farhad, a spokesman for the Taliban in the restive tribal areas while talking to The Muslim Observer on telephone from an undisclosed area, said that “their Amir (leader) has announced that the agreement with the government which reached on September 5thl, last year, stands terminated.”

He further maintained that the Amir had ordered the Taliban to start guerilla attacks against the security forces re-deployed in the area following attacks on the security forces. Leaflets announcing the scrapping of the accord were distributed in Miranshah, headquarters of North Waziristan, prompting scores of families to flee the troubled area. He later claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing on Sunday that killed 26 including 15 policemen and 11 candidates who had gathered for police recruitment, and injured more than 50 in police lines in Dera Ismail Khan, a southern district of North West Frontier Province.

Following a bloody suicide attack in the Swat valley which killed 13 persons including 11 soldiers, the government has already sent reinforcements to the troubled area where a local cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, has challenged the authority of the government. Maulana Fazlullah who has been running an illegal FM radio station is said to have the active support of thousands of armed men at his back in an area which is the stronghold of a banned religious outfit, Tahreek-e-Nifaz-e-Sharia-e-Muhammadi (TNSM)- a movement for the implementation of the Islamic Shari’ah. TNSM was founded by Maulana Sufi Muhammad in 1992 and since then the movement has been struggling for the implementation of a Taliban-style government in the Malakand region of the Swat Valley. After 9/11, Sufi Muhammad took more than ten thousand people to Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban against US-led forces there. In 2002, President Musharraf banned TNSM along with some other religious outfits on charges of their being involved in terrorism-related activities.

It is clear that there will be more retaliatory killings to avenge the deaths of civilians in the Red Mosque. A solution to the problem of jihadism lies in a twin track approach, based on full political empowerment by the return of undiluted democracy and a clear official committement not to use jihadi proxies for political or military objectives–their nexus with the intelligence services can only turn Pakistan into a crippled state. Its is too high a price to be paid.

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