Hindu Mobs Ransack Villages as Christians Hide in Forests

September 4, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy Gethin Chamberlain, The Observer

2008-09-03T125407Z_01_DEL04_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA-RELIGION

An activist from Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI (M) attends a protest against the killing of Christians in Orissa, in New Delhi September 3, 2008. Hindu mobs have burnt at least four more churches in eastern India, officials said on Monday, as religious violence appeared to spread. Thousands of people, mostly Christians, have taken shelter in makeshift camps in Orissa state, where Hindu mobs went on the rampage last week after a Hindu leader was killed.  

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

Thousands of terrified Indian Christians are hiding in the forests of the volatile Indian state of Orissa after a wave of religious ‘cleansing’ forced them from their burnt-out homes with no immediate prospect of return.

A mob of Hindu fundamentalists rampaged through villages last week, killing those too slow to get out of their way, burning churches and an orphanage, and targeting the homes of Christians. Up to 20 people were reported dead, with at least two deliberately set alight, after the murder of a Hindu leader last Saturday provoked the violence.

In some districts, entire villages lay deserted, abandoned by Christian populations who would rather shelter in the forests than return to face the risk of death. Some villagers attempted to return to their homes yesterday despite threats of further violence.

But Christian leaders who had spoken to those who have fled said that even among the trees they were not safe. Some of their tormenters have pursued them, trying to finish the job.

One of those hiding in the forest, Abalkora Diggal, described how a group arrived at Balkidadi village on Monday morning chanting anti-Christian slogans. ‘In the evening, a much bigger group of over 1,000 people fired in the air and warned us to leave if we wanted to stay alive,’ he told a local journalist.

They fled into the forest, emerging only when they saw an aid convoy arrive under heavy police protection. Afterwards, they returned to the forest, without food or fresh water. ‘I had a home and a tractor. I reared goats and hens. Now I have nothing,’ said Mr Diggal.

Babu Joseph, spokesman for the Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India, told The Observer that many people were too frightened to return to their homes.
After speaking by mobile phone to some of those in hiding, he said: ‘They are living without food or drink and even there they are being hunted down by these people. I have spoken to nuns and priests who are hiding in the forests.

‘They said that it was a horrifying experience. Groups arrived at their villages carrying guns, swords and homemade weapons and even small bombs, which they used to blast the places. The groups targeted every Christian house in their villages. The people had a list of the Christian houses and institutions and none were spared.’ The Church said nearly 3,000 houses had been destroyed, most of them owned by Christians. More than 60 churches were burned down and at least half a dozen convents.

‘It is the result of a sustained hate campaign against Christians in Orissa,’ Rev Joseph said.

Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, described the violence as a ‘national shame’, while Raphael Cheenath, the Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, called for an end to the ‘ethnic cleansing of Christians’.

The violence erupted after the murder of Hindu leader Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati at an ashram last Saturday night, along with four other activists from the hardline Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) party.

It was claims by the VHP that Christians were to blame for the deaths that acted as a trigger for the killing spree, although Maoist guerillas have since claimed responsibility for the murders. Reports said that about 30 Maoists opened fire on the ashram. A spokesman for the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army said it had targeted Saraswati, who had campaigned against conversions and the killing of cows, for ‘fascist activities’.

The revenge killings have been indiscriminate: a 19-year-old Hindu Rajni Majhi was burned to death by a mob who attacked the Christian-run Missionary Orphan Centre in the Bargarh district.

Some of the 150,000 Christians in the Kandhamal area have been sheltered by Hindu neighbours, but about 5,000 are believed to have sought refuge in the forests, with up to 10,000 under guard in camps set up by the government.

Underlying the violence is a long-simmering dispute between Hindus and Christians in the state over the conversion of low-caste Hindus to Catholicism. The success of the Christian churches has fuelled resentment among hardline Hindus. The Vatican has condemned the violence. Most of India’s billion-plus citizens are Hindu, while just 2.5 per cent of them are Christians.

Shoot-on-sight orders were issued to security forces in eight districts and a curfew remained in place yesterday in nine districts.

About 3,000 Christians demonstrated outside the Orissa state building in New Delhi yesterday, holding placards calling for peace and condemning the state government. On Friday about 25,000 Catholic schools were closed in a symbolic protest against the killings.

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Community News (V10-I31)

July 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Asif Chaudhry appointed US envoy to Moldova

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A Pakistan born agricultural economist has been appointed as the new American envoy to Moldova. Asif Chaudhry will take over the charge as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Moldova from August, the Pakistan Post reported.

In an interview with the journal, Chaudhry said he was the first Pakistani appointed as United States’ ambassador to another country on merit, and was proud to be the first Pakistani-American to take oath on Holy Quran.  

Dr.Chaudhry, a member of the US Foreign Service, was born and raised in a farming family in a small village in Pakistan, Mr.Chaudhry completed his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan, before going on to the American University of Beirut, Lebanon for a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics. He completed a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Washington State University, Pullman Washington, and had a brief stint as Assistant Professor of Economics at Montana State University, Bozeman Montana, before joining FAS.

Mr. Chaudhry’s language skills include Russian, Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, and Polish. He is an avid squash player. He is married to  Charla Chaudhry and they have two sons and a daughter.

He has also served as the Assistant to the General Sales Manager (GSM)in FAS Washington from 1999-2002, and was the GSM’s principal advisor on USDA commodity assistance programs for the Former Soviet Union and other Eastern European Countries. Prior to assuming this role in Washington, he served at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during 1996-1999, where he was assigned as the Senior Agricultural Attaché and was promoted to the position of Agricultural Counselor after one year.

In his first overseas tour (1992-1995), Mr. Chaudhry served as the Agricultural Attaché in Warsaw, Poland overseeing the USDA assistance programs designed to help with the transformation of Poland to a post-Soviet free-market economy. He worked as a Marketing Specialist and an Agricultural Specialist in the Horticultural and Tropical Products Division of CMP prior to converting to Foreign Service and starting his overseas career.

Obama campaigns hires Muslim liaison

WASHINGTON D.C.—US presidential aspirant Barack Obama’s campaign has created a Muslim liaison to reach out to the community, the Politico website reported.

The website reports that the position will likely be filled by Haim Nawas, a Jordanian-American. She had worked in a similar capacity for the campaign of Gen.Wesley Clark in 2004.

Obama’s campaign did not confirm the report at print time.

An Obama aide told the Politico.com that the job had been created, but said the campaign had not made a final decision on who would fill it.

Former prison guard files discrimination lawsuit

CHICAGO, IL—A former guard at Kane County Jail in Illinois has a filed a federal lawsuit claiming that he lost his job because of his Muslim faith. Abal Zaidi worked for a six month period in 2006 as a correctional officer at the county jail located in Geneva.

He claims that he was fired after the new sheriff mandated that all office employees be clean shaven. Zaidi objected to the order because having it was “an expression of his Muslim practice and belief.”

He was initially asked to show the religious meaning of the beard but was never given the opportunity to do so.

Zaidi claims that he was fired despite having a flawless record and good performance reviews.

The one-count suit claims violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and seeks a written apology from the sheriff’s department; all wages and benefits he would have received if not for the discrimination; compensatory damages; punitive damages; attorney fees; additional relief; and an unspecified amount of money.

Township assessor forwards anti-Muslim email

FRANKFORT, IL—An assessor with the Frankfort township in Illinois has forwarded an email containing vile anti-Islamic comments.

The e-mail, circulated last month, said America should follow the lead of Australia’s former prime minister John Howard, who said Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law should get out of Australia.

“Once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our Christian beliefs or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, the right to leave,” the e-mail said, supposedly quoting Howard.

“Maybe if we circulate this amongst ourselves, American citizens will find the back bone to start speaking and voicing the same truths,” the e-mail continued. “If you agree, please send this on.”

The assessor did not respond to a request for comments.

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Community News (V10-I30)

July 17, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Mohammad Khan, President and Founder. ViVotech is the President and Founder of ViVOtech Inc.

Mr. Khan held several engineering, marketing, and business development management positions during the 15 years he worked with VeriFone.

Joining VeriFone in its early stage in 1983, Mr. Khan helped the company develop its payment automation systems and later helped successfully market these products in more than 96 countries.

Included were the smart card and security payment products he conceived for VeriFone and launched to its worldwide markets in the early ‘90s.

Mr. Khan was also a co-founder of the Internet Commerce Division within VeriFone and was responsible for expansion of its Internet payment systems business into more than 25 countries. Khan is a co-founder of Sparkice, Inc., China’s e-Hub for global commerce, where he worked as its senior vice president.

Mr. Khan holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. In 2006 Mohammad Khan was recognized as a leader of the Electronic Payments Industry by the Transaction Trends Magazine and in 2005 as a “Mover and Shaker” of the Electronic Payments Industry by the Transaction World magazine.

ViVOtech is a market leader in contactless payment software, over the air (OTA) card provisioning, promotion, and transaction management infrastructure software, NFC smart posters, and contactless readers/writers.

These innovative solutions allow consumers to make contactless payments with radio frequency-enabled credit cards, debit cards, key fobs, and NFC-enabled mobile phones. ViVOtech’s products are used by some of the most prominent retailers in the United States.

ViVOtech’s products are in use at movie theaters, fast food restaurants (QSR), casual dining establishments, convenience stores, gas stations, drug stores, grocery stores, buses, taxicabs and vending machine locations, enabling a wide variety of businesses to accept contactless payments.

Nevada brings people of diverse faiths together

LAS VEGAS–With an interfaith picnic Sunday, Nevada showed to the world that Christians (various denominations), Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and others could discuss similarities and differences in their religions across the picnic tables and make friends with people of “other” faith.

There were prayers in Hebrew, Sanskrit, Arabic, and English when Christians Muslims, Hindus, Jews and others gathered at Second Annual Northern Nevada Interfaith Community Picnic in Rancho San Rafael Park of Reno.

Besides coordinators Methodist Pastor John J. Auer, Rabbi Myra Soifer, Imam Abdul Rahim Barghouthi, several other religious leaders from the area participated in the event.

Muslim and Christian leaders to meet at Yale

NEW HAVEN–More than 150 Muslim and Christian leaders, including some of the world’s most eminent scholars and clerics, will gather at Yale University July 28-31 to promote understanding between the two faiths, whose members comprise more than half the world’s population.

Prominent political figures and representatives of the Jewish community also will speak at the conference, which launches a series of interfaith events planned around the world over the next two years.

These gatherings respond to the call for dialogue issued in an open letter, A Common Word Between Us and You, written by major Islamic leaders, to which Yale scholars responded with a statement that garnered over 500 signatures.

A watershed in Muslim-Christian relations, this interfaith meeting was organized by Yale Divinity School’s Center for Faith & Culture under the leadership of its founder and director, Miroslav Volf, together with the director of the Center’s Reconciliation Program, Joseph Cumming. Volf will co-teach a course on faith and globalization at Yale this fall with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

“I firmly believe that few things are more vital to our shared future than that people of different faiths understand each other better, respect each other more, and work together more closely. That is why I, along with countless others, was hugely encouraged when A Common Word was published.

I warmly welcome the fact that one of the world’s premier academic institutions, by hosting this gathering, is seeking to carry the debate and the dialogue further and deeper,” said former Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Yale Divinity School Dean Harold Attridge said, “I am extremely pleased that Yale Divinity School is hosting this important conference.

The Divinity School is committed to bringing the best insights of faith and intellect to bear on contemporary life, and the relationship between Christians and Muslims is one of the most pressing issues of our time.”

Notable leaders expected at the conference include Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan; former Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi of Sudan; top Evangelical leaders Leith Anderson and Geoff Tunnicliffe; prominent Ayatollahs from Iran; Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi of Palestine, Grand Muftis of several Middle Eastern countries; Antonios Kireopoulos of the National Council of Churches; and John Esposito of Georgetown University. Senator John Kerry as well as other senior U.S. government officials also are expected to attend.

Residents pack meeting on Wallingford Mosque

WALLINGFORD, CT-Residents opposed to the construction of a mosque in Wallingford packed  Planning and Zoning Committee meeting. They held signs saying they don’t want any new development in the area.

The dispute is over the construction of the Salma K.Farid Islamic Centre on a 6.5 acre site. The mosque which would serve up to thirty people on Fridays is being built by Tariq Farid,39, a successful entrepreneur in the area.

Opponents of the mosque say that they are concerned about traffic. Some of them denied that they are anti-Islamic and said that they are only opposed to development.

A recent traffic study found the intersection and road satisfactory for the mosque’s traffic projections.

The Planning and Zoning Committee is expected to vote on the subject in September.

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Baitulmaal Fundraiser

April 10, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz , MMNS

The deteriorating conditions in Gaza – often described as the world’s largest outdoor prison– have shocked and outraged just and humane people throughout the world. With the attention of the world focused on Gaza, another organization has stepped forward to bring aid and alleviate the suffering there.

A banquet and fundraiser sponsored by Baitulmaal was held in the Embassy Suites Hotel in Garden Grove, Ca. this past Saturday night.

Titled: “Light A Candle for Gaza,” the well attended event raised more than $85,000 for the beleaguered people of Gaza who lack even the basics of life as they endure deprivation under the boot of the Israeli oppressors.

The event featured as keynote speaker Dr. Hatem Bazien of the University of California in Berkeley. A native Palestinian, he is currently an adjunct professor at Boalt Hall School of Law and a senior lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Studies there.

Afzar Noradeen was Master of Ceremonies for the event. Beginning with a reading of the Qu’ran by Moheb Daha, the evening also featured Hasan Mahmoud, an Imam from Jenin, Sheikh Mostafa Kamel and Osama Abuirshaid.

The audience listened intently as they were reminded of the ummah they were a part of. Quoting from the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), the speakers told the attendees that they were part of one body and – using an analogy of the human body – when one part of the body was in pain, the entire body was impacted.

“You do not look down on a fellow Muslim, and you do not let him down.”

Brother Abuirshaid told of individuals in Gaza and their suffering – of a pregnant mother of three who lost both legs in an Israeli bombing. Who, he asked rhetorically, will care for her children? He spoke of young children who live out of trash receptacles. He told of a 19 year old girl dying of kidney failure – a disease which could be controlled with medication easily available in the West.

Brother Abuirshaid spoke of individual Gazans and their suffering, giving them names as he did so. The audience gasped as these people became more than statistics.

“I feel as if I know them and suffer with them.” said one young woman in the audience.

Baitulmaal is an organization which strives to aid the poor, the sick and the helpless. Headquartered in Texas, Baitulmaal is a (501)(c)(3) charity. Members work toward preventing disease, improving the educational infrastructure and encourage hygiene in troubled areas of the world. Baitulmaal will be found wherever communities are in danger of dissolution and ruin; they serve communities racked both by war and by natural disaster. Baitulmaal has worked in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and in the United State where, to cite one example, the organization came to the aid of victims of Hurricane Katrina.

A recent feature story in The Dallas Morning News in Baitulmaal’s home state described Baitulmaal and its alliance with a Christian organization. Sheikh Hasan Hajmohammad is the co-founder and now a senior consultant of Baitulmaal. Eric Williams is the CEO of a company that produces a religious talk show. They are working together in places far and wide.

Mindful of criticism from the non-Muslim community that might attend cooperation with Baitulmaal, Mr. Williams said: “With the heightened tension today between Muslims and Christians, I really wanted to…help solve the gap.”

From building a hospital in Jenin; to the rescue of earthquake victims in Pakistan; to providing blankets in the aftermath of a fire in Texas, Baitulmaal serves humanity.

To learn more about Baitulmaal, please access their web site at: www.baitulmaal.org. Or they may be accessed by postal service at: Post Office Box 166911, Irving, Texas, 75016. The telephone number of Baitulmaal is: (972) 257-2564.

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Community News (V9-I39)

September 20, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Faith communities urged to shine the light on post-911 discrimination

CHICAGO, IL—Two leading faith-based publishers – one Muslim, one Christian – urged that faith communities “shine the light” on a disturbing pattern of discrimination across America in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“We live in a xenophobic country,” said the Rev. John Buchanan, editor and publisher of The Christian Century magazine. “We thought we had [even] taken care of anti-Semitism and that has been popping up here and there. One of the things we must do is name it [xenophobia] and keep shining a light on it.”

Buchanan, who is also pastor of Fourth Presbyterian Church here, was responding to a presentation from Imam Malik Mujahid, president of the largest Islamic publishing house in the U.S., who had offered some alarming statistics about what he called “the unreported domestic war on terror.”

Since September 11, 2001, Mujahid said, 500,000 Muslims have been interviewed by the FBI. Mujahid estimated 24% of Muslim American households have had a visit from the FBI. He estimated 28,000 have been detained or deported. Mujahid said special prisons for Muslim prisoners have been established since 9/11 and “Halliburton has a government contract to build more.”

Mujahid, who is imam to three mosques and chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, said he constantly hears critics claim that Muslim leaders do not condemn terrorism. Muslim leaders have been doing that all along, he said, pointing to a unanimous resolution of the U.S. Senate praising Muslim leaders for speaking out. That resolution got virtually no media attention, he noted.

Both religious leaders shared their thoughts on “The Legacy of 9/11 on Media, Faith and Society.” The interfaith dialogue, held on the sixth anniversary of the 2001 terrorism events, was hosted by the Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) meeting near the national headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, one of the NCC’s 35 member communions.

Mujahid had many examples of what he says Muslims call “Islamophobia” but he particularly pointed to the swearing in of Keith Ellison, the first Muslim American elected to the U.S. Congress. Last December Rep. Virgil Goode (R.-Va.) had made anti-Muslim remarks regarding Ellison’s use of the Koran in the private ceremony in taking his oath of office.

“There was no statement from the Republican Party” objecting to Rep. Goode’s remarks, he said. “There was no statement from President Bush.”

Buchanan acknowledged the National Council of Church’s role in speaking up on behalf of those who are being scapegoated in our country but said, “the evangelicals have just ‘out-mediaed’ us in the past few years.” He urged moderate mainline churches to speak out more loudly on behalf of “our Muslim brothers and sisters” and protest Islamaphobia when it is seen.

“We must say no to the late D. James Kennedy’s notion that this is a Christian nation and we must do all we can to elect Christians to office to keep it that way,” Buchanan said. “We must say no to Franklin Graham’s statements…[that disparage] Muslims.”

Buchanan said, we must concentrate on the “inclusive and tolerant tradition” that is in all of our sacred texts. He read from Isaiah 19 as an example of “the inclusive view of God?that’s worth knowing about and talking about.”

“What are you going to do with information like that?” asked the Rev. Michael Livingston, NCC president, who was moderator of the discussion. “The level of ignorance and lack of awareness in the religious community, this war, this is part of our legacy,” Livingston told the church communicators. He challenged his audience to “move this legacy in a different direction.”

The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of America’s Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and traditional peace churches. Those member communions represent 45 million faithful Christians in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.

Chicago cabbies get tickets while praying

CHICAGO, IL–Muslim taxi drivers in Chicago have alleged that as many as 500 of them have been ticketed for parking vehicles in access lanes near O’Hare Airport while pray at a nearby prayer trailer. The trailer has been set up by the city for making it convenient for observant drivers to pray. Cab drivers claim that despite providing them with the location, the city punishes them with hefty fines for using it.

The tickets ranging from $50 to $80 can cut a driver’s daily profits into half.

“The financial impact, at least from a revenue standpoint, is huge,” says Wolfgang J. Weiss, one of the managing directors of the Chicago Professional Taxicab Drivers Association. “We just want them to back off.”

Aviation Department spokesman Greg Cunningham said authorities do not want to interrupt Muslims and their prayer habits, according to Chicago Suntimes. But he contends that cabbies must follow the rules at a facility that needs to be clear of traffic in order for operations to run smoothly and safely.

“It’s a temporary parking and holding area,” Cunningham said. “If a vehicle blocks off other vehicles from leaving the facility, it becomes a problem.”

Malaysian Fulbright scholar to visit Montgomery County

Rosnani Hashim, professor of education at the International Islamic University in Malaysia, will be at Montgomery County Community College from Oct. 18 until Nov. 11.

During her stay, Hashim will engage in scholarly activities both at the college and in the community.

In Malaysia, Hashim has taught educational philosophy, history and sociology from the Islamic perspective since 1987 at the International Islamic University.

She has written extensively on Islamic education and its roles and position in a multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-faith society like Malaysia, and she has lectured abroad on the issues of Muslim worldview, education, curriculum and women.

Hashim holds a doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree in education from the University of Florida, a master of science degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin and a bachelor’s in mathematics from Northern Illinois University.

She has served as the vice president of Women’s Affairs for the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, and she has published six books and has written more than 30 articles, book chapters and papers.

“It’s tremendously prestigious that our students will have the opportunity to interact with another Fulbright scholar,” said Aaron Shatzman, dean of social science and writer of the Fulbright scholar application.

“We are among a very elite group of institutions to be awarded a visiting specialist under this program. Dr. Hashim will afford both the college and community at large a valuable perspective into higher education from a Muslim point of view.”

“The presence of a Fulbright scholar on our campuses is yet another demonstration of the high quality and excellence of the education and cultural outreach that we provide to our students and the community,” said Karen A. Stout, president of Montgomery County Community College. “We are deeply honored to welcome a scholar of Dr. Hashim’s stature to our institution.”

The Fulbright Visiting Specialist program “Direct Access to the Muslim World” is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State and administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) in Washington, D.C.

Interfaith support for Jewish temple

FAYETTEVILLE, AK–When a Jewish congregation was facing opposition from the community over its plans to construct a synagogue in the Butterfly House neighborhood, help came from an unexpected quarter. Fadil Bayyari, a practicing Muslim, approached the congregation and offered to provide contracting services at cost.

Bayyari was aware of similar opposition faced by Muslims across the nation and wanted to help.

“ Having that partnership with a practicing Muslim and Palestinian Arab, we really feel that spirit will cross religious boundaries and attract people from all walks of life, ” said Ralph Nesson, a member of the fundraising committee.

Mosque proposed in Manchester

MANCHESTER, CT–The Connecticut town may get its first mosque soon, if the plans of a group of local Muslims are approved.

The Association of Muslim Community is requesting a special exception to allow a place of worship in a residential zone. The group hopes to renovate a small, single-family house at 232 Woodland St. and convert it into a mosque, Association of Muslim Community Treasurer Tarek Ambia said.

Ambia said the group consists of about 25 to 30 Muslims, most of them Manchester residents, who now travel to East Hartford, Hartford, and Windsor to worship and who would like to establish a mosque closer to their homes.

“They feel like they should have something here locally,” Ambia said.

Town regulations allow places of worship in residential zones as long as they meet several requirements in areas such as parking and screening between the place of worship and nearby homes.

Plan to build first Mosque in Hawaii questioned

A Muslim group in Hawaii is soliciting donations to build what would be the Island’s first mosque. The “Masjid Al-Baqi Project” plans to acquire a house in the Kona Highlands subdivision and convert it into a mosque.

But the plan has already attracted media scrutiny after the seller of the house and her listing agent say that the house is in escrow but not for Syed Kamal Majid, the only person named in the documents connected with the Mosque project.

The listing agent says the buyers are “a Hawaiian family” and have noting to do with any mosque plan.

MAS Freedom Launches ‘Faith over Fear and Justice for All’ Campaign in Texas

KATY, TX—The Muslim American Society has launched a campaign to fight attempts to slander and intimidate the Muslim community of Katy, Texas. The Muslim community is facing stiff opposition for its plans to build an Islamic center.

Opponents of the center, who own property adjacent to the site of the proposed Islamic Center of Katy, have initiated an Anti-Muslim campaign, which includes the use of a misleading internet website address that continues to post extremely derogatory and inflammatory propaganda directed against the Muslim community and Prophet Muhammad (s).

The purpose of the Faith Over Fear and Justice for All Initiative, according to MAS Freedom Executive Director Mahdi Bray, is to “encourage and build a positive interfaith atmosphere that affirms the right of all people of faith to live in freedom from intimidation and hatred, and that builds bridges of real understanding and mutual respect for the good of the entire community.”

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Effort to Build Large Mosque Rattles Some in Cologne

July 12, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Mark Landler, AFP

COLOGNE: In a city with the greatest Gothic cathedral in Germany, and no fewer than a dozen Romanesque churches, adding a pair of fluted minarets would scarcely alter the skyline. Yet plans for a new mosque are rattling this ancient city to its foundations.

map of Cologne, Germany, close to the Belgian and Dutch borders.

The city’s Muslim population, made up mostly of Turks, is pushing for approval to build what would be one of Germany’s largest mosques, in a working-class district across town from the cathedral’s mighty spires.

Predictably, an extreme-right local political party has waged a noisy, xenophobic protest campaign, drumming up support from its far-right allies in Austria and Belgium.

But the proposal has also drawn fierce criticism from a respected German-Jewish writer, Ralph

Giordano, who said the mosque would be “an expression of the creeping Islamization of our land.” He does not want to see women shrouded in veils on German streets, he said.

Giordano’s charged remarks, first made at a public forum here last month, have catapulted this local dispute into a national debate in Germany over how a secular society, with Christian roots, should accommodate the religious yearnings of its Muslim minority.

Mosques have risen in recent years in Berlin, Mannheim and Duisberg, each time provoking hand-wringing among some residents. But the dispute in Cologne, a city Pope Benedict XVI once called the Rome of the north, seems deeper and more far-reaching.

While Turkey itself is debating the role of Islam in its political life, Germans are starting to ask how – even if – the 2.7 million people of Turkish descent here can square their religious and cultural beliefs with a pluralistic society that enshrines the rights of women.

Giordano, a Holocaust survivor, has been sharply criticized, including by fellow Jews, and has received death threats. But others said he was giving voice to Germans, who for reasons of their past, are reluctant to express misgivings about the rise of Islam in their midst.

“We have a common historical background that makes us overly cautious in dealing with these issues,” said the mayor of Cologne, Fritz Schramma, who supports the mosque but is not without his qualms.

“For me, it is self-evident that the Muslims need to have a prestigious place of worship,” said Schramma, of the center-right Christian Democratic Union. “But it bothers me when people have lived here for 35 years and they don’t speak a single word of German.”

Cologne’s Roman Catholic leader, Cardinal Joachim Meisner, is similarly ambivalent. Asked in a radio interview if he was afraid of the mosque, he said, “I don’t want to say I’m afraid, but I have an uneasy feeling.”

Those statements rankle German-Turkish leaders, who have been working with the city since 2001 to build a mosque on the site of a converted drug factory, which now houses a far smaller mosque, a community center and the offices of the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs.

“The 120,000 Muslims of Cologne don’t have a single place they can point to with pride as the symbol of our faith,” said Bekir Alboga, leader of interreligious dialogue at the union, which is known as Ditib. “Christians have their churches, Jews have their synagogues.”

Alboga, a 44-year-old Turkish imam who immigrated here at 18 and speaks rapid-fire German, said the mosque would be a “crowning moment for religious tolerance.” Given Germany’s dark history, he added, “German politicians need to be careful about what they say.”

Alboga said he was particularly dismayed by Meisner, because the Catholic Church, along with Germany’s Protestant churches, has long supported the mosque. Ditib, he said, is a moderate organization that acts as a “bulwark against radicalism and terrorism.” It plans to finance the project, which will cost more than $20 million, entirely through donations.

The group must obtain a building permit before it can break ground, but Alboga said he was confident the mosque would not be blocked. Ditib has agreed to various stipulations, including a ban on broadcasting the call to prayer over loudspeakers outside the building.

Public opinion about the project seems guardedly supportive, with a majority of residents saying they favor it, although more than a quarter want its size to be reduced. The polls, taken for a local newspaper, use small samples, 500 people, limiting their usefulness as a gauge of popular sentiment in city of one million.

Cologne, with one of the largest Muslim populations of any German city, already has nearly 30 mosques. Most are in converted factories or warehouses, often tucked away in hidden courtyards, which has contributed to a sense that Muslims in Germany can worship only furtively.

The new mosque would put Islam in plain sight – all the more so because the design calls for a domed building with glass walls. Showing off a model, designed by a German architect who specializes in churches, Alboga said, “Our hearts are open, our doors are open, our mosque is open.”

In some ways, the mosque seems calculated to avoid touching nerves. It would not be built near a church or loom over its neighbors, like the new mosque in Duisberg. It would be flanked by multistory office buildings and a giant television tower, which would dwarf its minarets.

Yet the Turkish community has run into fervent and organized opposition. The far-right party, Pro Cologne, which holds five of the 90 seats in the city council, collected 23,000 signatures on a petition demanding the halting of the project. The city said only 15,000 of them were genuine.

On June 16, Pro Cologne mobilized 200 people at a rally to protest the mosque. Among those on hand were the leaders of Austria’s Freedom Party, which was founded by Jörg Haider, and the extremist party Vlaams Belang, or Flemish Interest, from Antwerp. Both advocate the deportation of immigrants.

Cologne’s deputy mayor, Elfi Scho-Antwerpes, a Social Democrat, appeared with Turkish leaders at a counter-demonstration across the street. Schramma, she noted, did not show up.

Giordano, the German-Jewish writer, said Germany needed to face the fact that, after three generations of Turkish immigration, efforts to integrate that minority had failed. Immigrants, he said, sought the privileges of membership in German society but refused to bear the obligations.

Germany’s “false tolerance,” he asserted, enabled the Sept. 11 hijackers to use Hamburg as a haven in which to hatch their terrorist plot. Cologne, too, has struggled with radical Islamic figures, most notably Metin Kaplan, a militant Turkish cleric known as the Caliph of Cologne.

“I don’t want to see women on the street wearing burqas,” Giordano said. “I’m insulted by that – not by the women themselves, but by the people who turned them into human penguins.”

Such blunt language troubles other German Jews, who say a victim of religious persecution should not take a swipe at another religious minority.

Henryk Broder, a Jewish journalist who is a friend of Giordano’s, said he should have avoided the phrase “human penguins.”

But Broder said the underlying message was valid, and that Giordano’s stature as a writer gives him the standing to say it. “A mosque is more than a church or a synagogue,” he said. “It is a political statement.”

9-29

Wary serenity in Berlin mosques

January 4, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

Submitted to TMO by independent journalist Frank Payne

Bombings in Madrid and London, riots in Paris. At issue are geopolitics, class and ethnicity. In Germany, it is not terror attacks but alleged plots, police raids, and continuing suspicion. For young Muslims in Berlin, the response to such scrutiny is to be at once welcoming but hyper-vigilant of outsiders.

Neukölln

Scattered groups of Muslim men and women make their way toward Nür Mosque, their faces aglow in the orange light of the setting sun. I watch them through the window of a coffee shop, where American hip hop and R&B music are the soundtrack to an afternoon’s end. The friendly owner of the place is Nayaf, a Palestinian in his mid-thirties who jokes with customers in Arabic, Turkish, German, and English.

This is Neukölln, a working-class neighborhood in Southeast Berlin, populated by Turkish and Arab immigrants sometimes down to the third generation. Finished with my coffee, I too make way toward the mosque. The exterior of Nür Mosque is painted a clean white but like nearly all places of worship for Muslims in Germany is otherwise nondescript. The interior, however, fits the classic image of a mosque: a light green, ornate oriental rug covering the entire floor and wide pillars supporting the roof and walls. There is a store, a small library, and an upstairs kitchen and eatery where one finds traditional foods like baklava and falafel.

In the mosque’s washroom, the lights are off, but rays from a single large window illuminate the room and balance calm shadows. Cool water flows from a row of aluminum faucets while Zaher, a North African, demonstrates the Muslim purification ritual to me. I mimic his motions as he bathes his hands, arms, face, insides of his nose, and feet. Curious onlookers, also washing, ask Zaher about me with friendly smiles.

I take a seat on the floor among dozens of young men, or brothers, as the mosque fills up. All but a few appear to be under the age of 30. The majority appear to be in their teens. Each wears his own style of dress: traditional robes, shirts pressed and tucked, leather jackets, or sports jerseys hanging over baggy jeans a la hip hop style. Flowing beards and shaven heads mix with gelled, slicked-back and spiked hair.

What the individuals of such a varied group have in common, though, is a commitment to their faith, and at this moment, absolute attention to the words of the imam, Abdul-Adhim or Abu Abderrahman. This bond, so communal that exterior differences become seemingly null and void; shows one of the central beauties of Islam, and what some non-Muslims may fear so much about the religion. These are all obviously very different men. Yet, inside these walls, within the context of Islam, they are not disparate individuals. They seem to be indisputably one.

Today Abu Abderrahman, a small, Tunisian-born man between thirty-two and thirty-eight years of age, is speaking about the corruption of Muslim youth. In German, he sermons into a microphone from his own seated position at the front of the congregation. An animated speaker, Abu Abderrahman waves his hands and punctuates every sentence with a wide, jolly grin. His jokes often elicit laughs from the crowd.

I tightly frame the face of a bearded young man in the viewfinder of my camera. My finger on the shutter button, he turns and makes eye contact with me through the lens. In the exact same instant, the imam shouted in a sharp voice over the microphone “halo, no photograph in here!” Dozens of heads turn and hundreds of eyes focus in my direction. Abu Abderrahman is shaking his head in disapproval. I nod and quickly stow the camera away.

During a break in the service, several clerics dressed in white robes approach me one by one. With warm smiles, each says hello and offers a handshake. One man, a native German with chestnut-colored hair and full beard sits down. “There is no danger”, he insists. He talks on, asking questions about the U.S. and proudly admits that he was once a break dancer.

There has only been a misunderstanding. I had taken the imam’s invitation to Nür Mosque as approval to take also photographs. But approval from officials even higher than the imam were necessary in order to do so. “Kein problem”, or “no big deal”, Abu Abderraham insists.

Wedding

It is Easter Monday, and I am meeting the English-speaking Amr at Osloer Strasse U-bahn station for a youth prayer group in the predominantly Arab and South Asian neighborhood known as Wedding. Walking together, Amr tells me the story of Bilal, the namesake of the mosque that we are about to enter. Bilal, an Assyrian slave, converted to Islam then refused to repent even under torture. Moved by his devotion, another follower of the Prophet Muhammad (s) purchased Bilal’s freedom. “Racism existed hundreds of years ago too”, Amr says, but the Prophet Muhammad (s) preached that all men should be accepted into the faith.

In Bilal Mosque, I sit shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee, within a circle of twenty men and boys. Amr consults with a leader of the prayer group about my presence and taking my photographs. A small man, with a light beard and gentle voice, he turns and responds in perfect English “let’s see, maybe after (the service), because I know that some brothers will have a problem with this.”

This evenings prayers and discussion is being led by another lightly bearded, married but altogether youthful looking man. Like the imam of Nür Mosque, he has notable abilities as a speaker. He makes eye contact around the circle and punctuates statements with a smile, as if to ask “You understand, yes? You do believe, right?”

After the service I snack on potato chips and soda, chatting with a couple of brothers on either side of me. Amr then calls me over to the main room to sit down on the carpet with him and two others. Their decision is no to photographs. They are seriously worried about negative media attention, specifically about alleged links between German mosques and terrorist activity. One of them mentions that state subsidies for the youth programs are at risk. Likewise, some well-meaning parents might keep their children from attending the mosque if they got the impression that extremism was being taught.

Later, I am struck by one of the men’s positive perception of Muslim life in the United States, based on anecdotes from friends and relatives in the country. Freedom of worship in the United States, he says, means fewer problems for women who wear veils than in Europe.

Burying a Brother

The Turkish Sehitlik Camii Mosque near Platz Luftbrücke is the only Berlin mosque with a dome, minarets, and other traditional Islamic décor. It used to be the Turkish embassy to Germany. Now, it serves a predominantly Turk-German congregation. I meet Amr, my host once again, this time for a funeral. Shorly on arrival, he interrupts our interview to say that we must be silent for the next few minutes. With a friend, he then distances himself physically to pray. He is two rows ahead as other figures gather. In total, we are six rows of about 120 total men. It is noon as the sun peaks from behind high, white clouds. Lying before us is the coffin, draped in black cloth with gold letters in Arabic.


The Sehtilik Mosque

The funeral is for a German convert to Islam. Remarkably, most of those attending did not know him personally. Amr claims to not have known him at all, neither what he looked like, nor how he died. He asks others and gets much of the same response. Yet, all have come en mass to pay their respects to a member of the community.

At the burial grounds, the graves are separated into Muslim, Christian, and Jewish sections. Only yards away from where the young man will be buried is a large headstone for Kaiser Wilheim II inside a small, fenced plot. The funeral continues, with preaching in Arabic. A man of Black African origins then summarizes what has been said in German. Amr translates for me, speaking softly. “The sermon was a reminder that we are all visitors on this earth. And a visitor must always leave the place that he visits. We came from nothing, dirt, dust, and will return to nothing: taking only our deeds with us as we go back to the Creator.”

The only sounds afterward are light street traffic, and occasional cries from the man’s wife. Her deceased husband’s parents comfort her. Then, the thumping of mounds of dirt against the coffin, as worshippers with shovels take turns filling in the grave. Muslims are generally buried in shrouds, but German law mandates the use of coffins.

The Fundamentalist

Amr and I sit down for an interview and a kosher Muslim lunch of roast hen, french fries, salad, and Coke. His beard has grown significantly since I first met him a couple of weeks ago. “By the way, you’re looking at a fundamentalist” he says from across the table. Amr says this with a keenness of how much the term fundamentalist is a watch word for terrorist in Western media and popular culture. However, he brushes off my attempts to distinguish it from the alternate, perhaps more politically correct fundamentalist extremist. These days, most legal authorities, media, and the general public do not bother to make the distinction anyway, he says.

Amr was raised in a devout Islamic household. He is familiar though, with the ways of the Western world from his education in an English-speaking school in Germany and his travels abroad. He speaks four languages – English, German, Arabic, and French – and is well-versed in the nuances of United States society. “I am a Muslim fundamentalist by choice”, he explains, a man who finds genuine insight and intellectual stimulation from the Koran and religious observance. One surmises from talking to him that he gets as much stimulation from Islam as he does from academia and his worldly appreciation of foreign cultures.

So how is Amr, a young fundamentalist Muslim treated by Western society? Echoing the others I spoke with, he feels generally respected by other Germans, but within an undercurrent of fear. On Berlin’s streets, trains, buses, and shops, Amr senses in others a wariness of his Arabic features and traditional, Islamic beard. He is particularly wary of trying to visit the United States for fear of being entered on a terrorist watch list; of being mistakenly detained and interrogated by authorities. Like so many other Arabic and Turkish men in Berlin that I spoke to, he asks that his true name and other specifics about his identity be omitted from this article.

“Islam is peace. If only people would dig deeper, they would find that”. On this point, Amr is most emphatic, stressing that this is what he wants me to leave with. He leans forward, holding his hand eloquently to the side of his face, expressing himself as a professor or an imam would. His large brown eyes hold steadily and benevolently.

Before lunch, Amr and I climb the white marble steps into the dome of Sehitlik Camii Mosque. Inside, an imam in a black, gold-colored rimmed robe and white cap is speaking in Turkish. Rows of adult men sit or kneel in front of him. A few elderly men sit on chairs or on steps at the back. Amr joins the men toward the front to listen and pray.

I absorb the view of the courtyard outside through large windows with wooden doors and the expansive interior. The dominant colors of the mosque are white, green, and gold on the high dome ceiling, marble columns, and wall to wall oriental carpet. The decor is intricate and inspired. Many spiritual people, religious or agnostic, would be moved by such a mosque’s beauty; it’s physical manifestation of man’s quest for spirituality and tranquility.

Amr returns from the front sits on the floor nearby, watching me as I observe everything else. From the nearest window, a white column of light shone down, illuminating his face and everything around him. The other figures closest are partially lit or remain in shadows.

Sitting down too, I see white prayer beads strewn beside a neatly coiled microphone on the rug next to one of the marble columns. It is time for everyone to pray as one. The imam sings the call from the front of the mosque. Then, a teenage boy with black-rimmed glasses, a white Muslim cap covering the black hair on his head, and a moustache and beard sprouting from his face stands directly beside me. He picks up the microphone beside the prayer beads and sings alternatively with the imam. Making neat rows, our feet adjoined, we all pray together, lifting our hands and bowing our heads in rhythm. For the moment, there is no tension with the outside world: only serenity among ourselves and God.

9-2

SE Michigan News for week ending May 31, 2006

June 1, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

UMSA Sponsored Seminar/Conference Held at IAGD

Troy—May 28—The UMSA Udruzenje Muslimana Sjeverne Amerike), the Society of Bosnian Muslims of North America, held a conference this weekend with the support of the Islamic Association of Greater Detroit (IAGD).

About 300 people were in evidence this past Sunday at IAGD, part of a loyal following that attended the entire 3-day-long event. Most of those in attendance were from out of town, from as far away as Florida, Missouri, and elsewhere—reflecting the wide diaspora to which Bosnian immigrants to America have spread.

UMSA is an organization that is not particularly well-known among American Muslims, but which has had a growing presence since its founding in 2001. UMSA maintains an extremely well-organized website in the Bosnian language at www.umsa.org.

Speaking with The Muslim Observer on behalf of UMSA was its Secretary, Mirsad, who declined to give a last name. Mirsad is a huge bear of a man with a dark spot on his head from his prayers, who wore through the beginning of our meeting an artist’s beret, with a flowing beard that extends at least eight inches below his chin and that moves in chance breezes. He immigrated to the United States from Serbian Belgrade in the very early part of the war (1993), without himself serving in any military capacity because he was from the start on the wrong side of enemy lines. He had worked as a rock ‘n’ roll producer before the war, but prompted by Serbian and other antipathy to him during the war faced inward and embraced his own Islam.

Bosnians who came to the United States ended up, says Mirsad, in wildly different parts of the country. Some in Grand Rapids Michigan, some in Jacksonville Florida, some in Phoenix Arizona, some in Dallas Texas, some in Amarillo Texas, some in Hamtramck Michigan—in short a huge community of Bosnian refugees scattered across the US in cities—which cities that have nothing in common other than that they have Bosnian refugees.

According to Mirsad, there are within the United States about 500,000 Bosnian immigrants, refugees from the war, many of whom have had large families here. Therefore, he estimates that in the US (counting immigrants and their descendants) there are “more than one million” Bosnians, most of whom have taken American citizenship—a huge portion of the estimated 4 million Bosnians inside Bosnia itself. He estimates that 30% of Bosnians in America actively practise Islam.

But, surprisingly, he says that despite the Bosnian historical trend that most marriages crossed religious lines, within the diaspora that trend has become minimal and in fact Bosnians usually marry within Islam. Mirsad cites himself as an exception to that rule, as he married an American Christian woman who then converted to Islam—the couple has now had five children.
UMSA’s stated ambition is to “patiently work with our community to help them preserve and restore our Muslim identity,” therefore it was established in May of 2001 as an Illinois religious not-for-profit organization “for the purpose of da’wa in Islam.” Da’wa here refers primarily to preaching to people who are already Muslim, because UMSA focuses its efforts on reaching out to the Bosnian-American community.

The Bosnian community under communism lived under constant threat, and was unable to practise Islam fully; under the war of genocide of the 90’s, again Muslims were forced back on their heels. Now that Bosnians have come to the United States, they are faced with a different threat, that of assimilation. Being white and better able than other Muslim American communities to fade quietly into the American mainstream, they face a choice as to whether they wish to retain their Muslim identity or instead distance themselves from it and quietly merge with mainstream Americans. It is these threats to the Islam of Bosnians that UMSA was intended to counter.

Mirsad said that UMSA receives no outside funding for its activities, despite its having been very active since its inception—this week’s conference (though modest in its budgetary requirements—being held at a sympathetic mosque and with few speakers) was its sixth annual conference (UMSA also claims the ability to pay for tickets for Bosnian scholars to travel to the US)—UMSA also sports a publishing house which has already published two books independently, and the professional website mentioned earlier. Mirsad also claims that UMSA has distributed 100’s of thousands of audio tapes on Islam.

UMSA’s website shows that the organization sees the modern world through the prism of the Balkan war of the last decade. It features prominently ten-year-old pictures of murdered Bosnian civilians over whom stand merciless Serb paramilitary members or army soldiers. Random clicking around on the site leads to a disclaimer in English, which specifies that “any mention in any article of any type of weapons is for information purposes only. Udruzenje Muslimana Sjeverne Amerike and the maintainers of this website do not encourage you to commit any illegal acts anywhere, and disclaim liability for the same.”

The website is huge and well-organized—despite its being in Bosnian it is clear that through the website (which Mirsad claims has had millions of visitors since its beginning) viewers can easily access video, audio, and more.

The conference itself featured only three speakers who each spoke multiple times. They are: Dr. Anwar Hajjaj, Dr. Ibrahim Dremali, and Imam Edip Makic. Dr. Anwar Hajjaj is the President of the American Islamic Information Center, which advocates involvement in electoral politics by Muslims. Dr. Ibrahim Dremali is a proponent of the Wahhabi school of thought, featuring prominent and adoring references to the education and background of Mohammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab, and the usual detailed explications of what is bid’a and haram.

Mirsad, asked whether Dr. Dremali was representative of the thought of UMSA as a whole, answered absolutely not, that there were many speakers and in fact the speakers originally selected by UMSA had not been allowed to come to the US because of visa restrictions to their travel from Bosnia. Asked what their names had been, Mirsad declined to specify.

Imam Makic, another speaker, is the imam of a Grand Rapids community mosque. Grand Rapids, he explains, is the home of approximately 10,000 Muslim Bosnians, and is intending soon to build a new mosque. Imam Makic spoke in Bosnian to his primarily Bosnian audience—he spoke of the many benefits of Ottoman rule in Bosnia, of the linguistic abilities of historical Bosnian scholars (who spoke Arabic, Turkish, and other languages in addition to their own native tongue) and especially of the many scholars who have come from that area over the past 500 years. Scholars he mentioned prominently included Hasan Kafija Pruscak (1544-1615) and Mehmed Handzic (1906-1944). Imam Makic also mentioned the Rais-ul-ulama of Bosnia, who is Dr. Mustafa Ceric, who follows in the tradition of those great scholars by speaking many languages including Arabic and Turkish.

Describing the benefits of Ottoman rule in the Balkans, Imam Makic explained that since Ottoman rule was withdrawn from Bosnia, there have been 10 attempts at genocide against Bosnia’s Muslims.

In fact, the analogy which Mirsad applies to Bosnia is that of Andalusia, which likewise was a Muslim state in Europe, and which was over the course of a few centuries completely and bloodily hijacked away from the influence of Islam.

Imam Makic expresses his hope for Bosnians in America, saying that in fact their position is improving every day, with more schools and mosques. He says that Bosnian Muslims are also creating good relations with other refugees who somehow arrived in Grand Rapids (whose immigrant community is composed of Bosnians (the majority), Somalians, Ethiopians, and Kosovar Albanians), as well as with the other non-Muslim inhabitants of that western Michigan city.

The imam explained that his mosque is run out of a small rented building now, but that the community recently bought land for a large $1.5 million project intended to include a school, funeral home, and to be the home for many activities for young people.

Asked why the conference did not feature better-known speakers, Mirsad explained first that UMSA wanted to bring Bosnian scholars to speak, but was prevented because the scholars they chose were not granted visas. Secondly, he explained that UMSA wishes to sponsor speakers that speak as da’ees on political and social issues rather than imams who speak humbly on religious issues.

Mirsad explained that the nationwide Muslim organizations like ISNA and ICNA are not interested in UMSA because its base is relatively small, being able to pull only a few hundred people for one of its conferences rather than the tens of thousands attracted by ISNA or the thousands attracted by ICNA.

UMSA’s Mirsad says he is Hanafi, the madhhab claimed by the overwhelming majority of Bosnians.

He dislikes the celebration of Mawlid, which he claims is a cultural celebration which in Bosnia is celebrated with dancing and alcohol. Confronted with the suggestion that Mawlid is a world-wide Muslim phenomenon not confined to Bosnia, Mirsad bristles and appears deeply offended but retreats to his claims that he does not accept it because its Bosnian practitioners use alcohol. He does not debate that Mawlid and alcohol are two completely separate issues.
He proudly explains that UMSA’s participants take an active role in discussions with their lecturers or imams. They “demand the proof” for anything they hear and question, which itself is different from the absolute acceptance given Prophet (s) by sahaba, given sahaba by the tabi’een, given tabi’een by the tabi’ tabi’een, and so on—in fact this tradition of acceptance and following is an unquestioned one still practised by most Muslims and at most legitimate schools of Islamic instruction, that has only recently been upended by modernist reformers.

Mirsad sheds new light on the present situation of Bosnian Muslims, saying that in fact the entire war was decided in favor of the Serbs by the Dayton accords, which ceded huge lands to the Serb aggressors and which hamstrung Bosnia by appointing an EU “High Representative” with executive powers, able unilaterally to veto or ram through any change in Bosnia. He cites the Bosnian flag as the best example of this. Bosnia’s flag, he explains, was imposed on Bosnia by the EU—it is not a reflection of what the Bosnian people themselves wanted. While he avers his belief that the government’s employees are doing their best, whatever they do is subject to outside control and therefore in fact there is no autonomy.

Asked whether Bosnia now endures a lot of corruption, he argues that in fact corruption is everywhere around the world and perhaps less prevalent in Bosnia than in the United States itself.

As a further symptom of unfairness, Mirsad argues that the majority of prisoners brought to the Hague for war crimes trials have been Muslims, despite Muslims being absolutely the victims of the Bosnian war and despite Ratko Mladic and other prominent Serb war criminals living out their lives in hiding in Serbia with apparently very significant government support.

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