Community News (V12-I19)

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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Two Muslim students named winners of  Spirit of Princeton Awards

PRINCETON, NJ–Two Muslims are in the list of eight winners of the 2010 Spirit of Princeton Award, which honors undergraduates at Princeton University for their positive contributions to campus life. The award recognizes eight seniors who have demonstrated a strong commitment to the undergraduate experience through dedicated efforts with student organizations, athletics, community service, religious life, residential life and the arts.

This year’s winners were selected from a group of more than 90 nominations and will be honored with a book prize at a dinner on May 5.

The profiles of the two students are as follows:

Muhammad Jehangir Amjad, from Rawalpindi, Pakistan, has worked to create awareness of Pakistani arts and culture. He is the founder of the student group Pehchaan and is a member of the Muslim Students Association. Amjad also has been involved with the International Relations Council, both as a delegate and as a conference leader. In Rockefeller College, he has served as a residential college adviser for two years and a residential computing consultant for three years. An avid cricketer, Amjad worked with other students to create an informal team that competed with Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania. He is majoring in electrical engineering and pursuing a certificate in engineering and management systems. He was elected to Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering Honor Society, and has worked as a teaching assistant for computer science and electrical engineering courses. Next year Amjad will be working for Microsoft Corp. as a program manager.

Mariam Rahmani, from Kent, Ohio, is majoring in comparative literature and pursuing certificates in Persian language and culture, and European cultural studies. Rahmani has been the president of the Muslim Students Association and a co-convener of the Religious Life Council. She has worked to create a healthy environment for Muslim students through interfaith iftars, Eid banquets, the annual Fast-a-Thon and the creation of an alumni community group. With the University’s Religious Life Council, she participated in a trip to India to study religious pluralism, spoke at the World Parliament of Religions in Melbourne, traveled to Tanzania in summer 2008 and participated in a Muslim-Jewish dialogue trip to Spain. Additionally, Rahmani served on the selection committee for the first Muslim chaplain at Princeton and for the new vice president of campus life. In her senior year, she spoke to the freshman class at “Reflections on Diversity” and is a residential college adviser in Butler College.

Vandals deface Ottawa mosque

OTTAWA, CANADA–Ottawa’s Muslim community has condemned the defacing of a sign in Barrhaven marking the future location of a mosque and community centre.

The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) said local residents discovered on Friday that offensive words, phrases and symbols were spray painted in red and black on the sign.

“Such acts are offensive, hurtful and intimidating to local citizens,” the council said in a statement.

“While the recurrence of such incidents is deeply disturbing, CAIR-CAN does not believe that such acts represent the sentiments of the vast majority of Canadians,” the group said. “Which is why we ask our fellow citizens to join us in condemning this and all such incidents.”

The group said mosques in Calgary, and in the Ontario cities of Hamilton, Waterloo and Pickering have also been vandalized in the last four months.

Dr. Zarzour delivers keynote speech at Lexington Islamic school

LEXINGTON, KY–Lexington Universal Academy (LUA) a full-time accredited K-8 Islamic school in the heart of Central Kentucky held its annual fundraising dinner at the local Marriot in Lexington, KY, on April 25. The dinner attracted close to 330 community members from diverse backgrounds. Addressing the guests, LUA President shared the school’s accomplishments for the academic school year.

The keynote speaker, Br. Safaa Zarzour, Secretary General of the Islamic Society of North America delivered a passionate speech on the importance of Islamic Education.

He shared his personal and professional experience with regards to the important role Islamic schools are playing in building future Muslim leadership.

“In Chicago alone, only 0.5% of Muslim high school graduates come from Islamic schools, yet 60 % of the Muslim student leadership at Chicago universities are graduates of Islamic schools”, said Br. Safaa. He invited the community members to support this noble and critical initiative and exceeded the organizers’ fundraising goal of $100,000.

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Non-Muslim’s Use of Islamic Law to Resolve Disputes Scares Some, in Britain

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Guardian, UK

Muslim Arbitration Tribunal reports 15% rise in non-Muslims employing Shari’ah law in commercial cases

Islam.Shariah Campaigners have voiced concerns over a growing number of non-Muslims using Islamic law to resolve legal disputes in Britain despite controversy over the role of Shari’ah law.

A spokesman for the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (MAT) said that there had been a 15% rise in the number of non-Muslims using Shari’ah arbitrations in commercial cases this year. Last year, more than 20 non-Muslims chose to arbitrate cases at the network of tribunals, which operate in London, Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester, Nuneaton and Luton. “We are offering a cheap and effective service for Muslim and non-Muslims,” said MAT spokesperson Fareed Chedie.

“95% of the people who come to us for arbitration do not feel they need legal representation.” Chedie said that tribunals deal mainly with civil and commercial cases, including mosque disputes referred by the Charity Commission. But the tribunals have also continued to hear cases in the field of family law and divorce, Chedie said.

“We are increasingly dealing with reconciliation and mediation in marriage,” said Chedie. “Many of these are cases where women have petitioned because they have a difficult marriage and want some guidance and direction. If they then want to terminate the marriage then we can help with that.”

The increase in marriage and divorce cases comes as one law firm has begun offering advice on civil Scots law and Shari’ah law, making it the first in Britain to offer both civil and Islamic law as part of one service.

Glasgow law firm Hamilton Burns says that it is responding to a greater demand from Muslim clients who want advice on Shari’ah law alongside civil advice under Scots law. It has teamed up with Shaykh Amer Jamil, a Muslim scholar who specialises in Islamic family law.

“We hope that by incorporating Shari’ah family jurisprudence against a background of domestic Scottish legislation, we can provide our clients with as much relevant information as possible,” said Niall Mickel, a solicitor advocate and managing partner at Hamilton Burns. But some groups have criticised the move by the Scottish firm, arguing that the recognition of Shari’ah law decisions in Britain is regressive and harmful to women.

“We have a petition signed by more than 22,000 people saying that all religious tribunals should be prevented from operating within or outside the legal system,” said Maryam Namazie, a spokeswoman for the One Law for All Campaign, which campaigns against Shari’ah law in Britain. “I have spoken to women who are losing custody of their children in the Shari’ah councils – under Shari’ah law custody of a child goes to the husband after a certain age, irrespective of the welfare of the child.

There are cases of domestic violence where women have dropped criminal charges and the Shari’ah councils have sent the husbands on anger-management courses. That is just not how we deal with domestic violence in this country,” Namazie said. Many Muslim lawyers have challenged criticism of Shari’ah law in Britain as “islamophobic”, arguing that there is a distinction between Shari’ah councils – which largely operate outside the law – and arbitration tribunals, which are subject to the Arbitration Act passed by parliament.

“The media get this out of context and hyped up,” said Dr Saba Al-Makhtar, from the Arab Lawyers Association. “Under English law there is room to settle disputes on any ground that it is acceptable to the parties involved, provided it doesn’t conflict with English law .… it is an extremely good idea.

Critics deny that the campaign against Shari’ah law is targeted specifically against Muslims, however. “Our campaign is focusing on Shari’ah but we are against all religious tribunals including the Jewish beth din,” said Namazie.

“Human rights are non-negotiable and religious tribunals puts religion before people’s rights and their freedoms. Law based on any religion – whether the Bible, Torah or the Quran – is completely antithetical to rights woman have in this day and age. Many of the rights women have now result in the UK is the result of a hard fight to wrestle control out of church hands.”

12-12

Roxana Saberi’s Release Bodes Well for U.S.-Iran Relations

May 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By William O. Beeman, New America Media

2009-05-12T113428Z_01_TEH102_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN-USA-JOURNALIST Roxana Saberi, the 32-year-old Iranian-American journalist convicted of espionage in Iran has been released to her family, and will soon return to the United States.

While her international community of family, colleagues and friends can rejoice in her release, it was predictable from the moment of her arrest, based on the history of such events in Iran in the past.

Although no one will know for sure exactly how events proceeded against her, it is possible to speculate how Saberi’s arraignment and trial developed.

The espionage charges against Saberi were utterly unfounded. They were likely the result of an escalation within the Iranian judicial system as official after official tried to cover their tracks for a series of abortive attempts to charge her with a crime.

She was first detained for the relatively minor offense of having purchased a bottle of wine. Since religious minorities in Iran are allowed to manufacture, sell and consume alcohol, the country is awash in liquor. It is easily obtainable by everyone—even government officials. Most likely the arresting official did not know that Saberi was an American passport holder born in the United States, and was probably chagrined to discover that this case was likely to create international brouhaha.

A more serious charge was then sought to justify the first arrest. The discovery that her press credentials had expired some months earlier provided that opportunity. Saberi had continued to file stories for a number of American news outlets, reportedly because officials assured her that the expiration of her press pass was inconsequential. Since she could demonstrate that Iranian officials had allowed her to continue writing, this charge would also not hold water.

Finally, the serious charge of espionage was lodged. As foolish and unsubstantiated as this charge was, it was plausible in Iran. Rumors that American CIA operatives were active in Iran were widely promulgated in Iran. These suspicions were reinforced through extensive documentation found in New York Times reporter James Risen’s 2006 book “State of War.” Additionally, on April 4, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz confirmed an earlier rumor that an Iranian nuclear scientist had been assassinated by the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad, inside Iran.

Iran experienced one horrendous situation involving a foreigner arrested for spying in Iran in 2003. Canadian-Iranian Zahra Kazemi was raped, beaten and tortured to death (although Iranian authorities claimed she died of a stroke) for allegedly having photographed prohibited parts of Evin Prison, where she was later incarcerated. Her death caused an international uproar. The Iranian government, clearly badly burned by the Kazemi case has since been careful to make sure that her situation is not repeated.

Foreigners — dual nationals — accused of espionage have been held for a time, usually in conspicuously humane circumstances, while the government wrings as much publicity out of the event as possible for a domestic and regional audience. The accused prisoners are then released in a show of clemency.

This was the case with Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. Ms. Efandiari was visiting her 90-year-old mother in 2006 when she was arrested. It is likely that her connection to Lee Hamilton, director of the Wilson Center, made her an object of suspicion. Hamilton had long connections to the CIA and to groups promoting democratic revolutions in places like Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan.

Kian Tajbakhsh was arrested at about the same time on the same charges. Tajbakhsh worked for George Soros’ Open Society Institute. Soros had also been active in the same “revolutions” in the region.

Both Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh were held under relatively humane circumstances and released some months later.

The Iranian presidential election next month was also a likely reason for a quick dispensation of Saberi’s case. Iran would like the world to focus on the election, and not on an ongoing saga of an international journalist in their prison system.

In the Saberi case, Iran actually did itself some good. It showed that it had a functioning judicial system—however imperfect—with an appeals process that eventually yielded the correct result.

The Obama administration, by engaging in diplomacy and sober statements of concern regarding Saberi, not only aided the process of her release, but likely set the stage for further improved relations between the United States and Iran. We now have a situation where Iran undertook an action of which the United States disapproved. The United States expressed itself in a non-hostile manner, and the Iranian government responded with a positive redress of that action. This bodes well for future U.S.-Iranian relations. It is only regrettable that this had to come at the price of Saberi’s unjust incarceration.

William O. Beeman is professor and chair of the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota. He is past president of the Middle East section of the American Anthropological Association. He has lived and worked in Iran for more than 30 years. His most recent book is The “’Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other” (University of Chicago Press, 2008).