Sound Vision Event for Shariah Education

December 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

A fundraiser was held Saturday evening at the Dearborn Hyatt to counter the “anti-Shariah” legislation that is sweeping the nation.

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Abdul Malik Mujahid speaks at his fundraiser

The voices from the extreme right that vilify Muslims and Islam have made an important strategy shift in recent years, aiming to promulgate their hatred into the law of the land.  That difference has come in the form of plainly unconstitutional legislation that despite its illegality in relation to the religious protections of our nation has been passed as “anti-Sharia” legislation in 5 states to date, with ongoing battles to enact such legislation in other states.

Sound Vision pioneer Abdul Malik Mujahid is therefore planning an intelligent response to the shrill anti-Shariah efforts.  He has begun to assemble a team of knowledgeable people from relevant walks of life including lawyers and professors, and a website (called Sharia101.org) and more, all designed to fill the void on the internet of people knowledgeable about Islam who can respond to the “anti-Shariah” distortions of Christian bigots.

Mr. Mujahid has successfully built Sound Vision, and is prominent for his other contributions as well, in fact he was given the honor of being listed in the “Muslim 500” book of most influential Muslims.

Saturday, approximately 100 influential Southeast Michigan Muslims attended Mr. Mujahid’s fundraiser, one stop on Mr. Mujahid’s tour of several fundraisers, to raise money in support of his vision of educating people on what Shariah is.

Mujahid spoke eloquently on the importance of Shariah legislation, the danger it poses to Muslim investing, the danger to Muslim family arbitration, the danger to the existing multibillion dollar halal investment funds, the danger to the halal industry.

Mujahid also pointed out the profound implications of anti-Shariah legislation for similarly distinct religious groups which apply their religious laws within the American legal system, for example Jews, Catholics, the Amish, and Mormons. 

Mujahid gave one of the first good explanations of the nature of Shariah as being our way of life–something that is not at all fairly represented by sometimes hideous abuses done in foreign countries under the banner “Shariah.”

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The Women of Karbala

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Asghar Ali, Engineer

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Women of the Ahlul Bait at the feet of Zul-Janah (the horse of Sayyidinal Hussain (kw)) who returns after the martyrdom of its rider.

TRADITIONAL Muslim set-ups place many restrictions on women. They cannot even venture out of their homes; most are required to restrict themselves to performing household chores only. Few Muslim women take up public roles; fewer still participate in outdoor events.

All this is being done in the name of Islam by the self-styled guardians of social norms. However, if we cast a glance on the early history of Islam we find women taking part in various events alongside men. Prophet (s) Muhammad (PBUH) had from Hazrat Khadija four daughters and brought them up as model women who participated in his revolution.

Islam’s was not only a spiritual but also a social revolution. It empowered women and gave them equal rights which was unthinkable at that time. Women played at best a secondary role in any civilisation in the seventh century CE. However, Islam raised their status and assigned them an equal role in all worldly affairs along with men. Many women, like Umm-i-Ammara, even took part in various battles which the Prophet (s) had to fight. In the Battle of Uhud, Umm-i-Ammara took the attack of a sword on her arm and saved the life of the Prophet (s).

Hazrat Fatima, as all Muslims agree, was indeed very close to her father, and thus Muslims highly revere her. She too was brought up by the Prophet (s) enshrining the highest values of Islam. Her sons, Imam Hasan and Husain, were equally loved. Her daughter, Hazrat Zainab, played a pivotal role in the aftermath of the battle of Karbala. Bibi Shehar Banu was the daughter of Kisra, the King of Persia who was defeated by the Muslims, and Hazrat Ali married her to his son, Husain.

Shaher Banu also faced the tragic events at Karbala very bravely and sacrificed her two sons, Ali Akbar and Ali Asghar, in the way of Allah.

It is important to note that when Imam Husain was leaving Makkah for Kufa (Iraq) in response to the letters he had received from many important citizens of Kufa to lead them in their fight against Yazid (who had usurped khilafat in violation of the condition laid down by Imam Hasan while abdicating in favour of Ameer Muawiyah), Imam Husain was advised by his well-wishers not to take his family along to Kufa.

It was feared the people of Kufa might betray him.

However, despite the risks, Imam Husain turned down the advice and took along all his family members, including women and children. He knew that the women, who included his wife, his sisters and daughters, would play a very important role even if he had to fight against Yazid’s forces in or near Kufa. The people of Kufa did betray him even though they were the ones who had invited him to lead them in a fight against Yazid’s tyranny.

Yazid stood for all that was against Islamic norms. Not only was his lifestyle against that of the Prophet (s) (PBUH) and his companions he also tried to destroy the institution of khilafat by introducing monarchy.

This was totally against the revolutionary spirit of the political system introduced by Islam. Husain perhaps knew, before he left for Kufa, what was in store and he deliberately took women along with him to show to the world that women could also play a role in saving the Islamic way of life.

The women of the Karbala tragedy did play a role which was no less significant than that of the male companions of the Imam.

The Imam was right: his women played a pivotal role, particularly the Imam’s sister, Hazrat Zainab. After the martyrdom of Husain and his colleagues, Imam Zainul Abidin and all women and children were arrested and taken to Damascus on camelback via Kufa. Bibi Zainab, a brave and bold woman, addressed Muslims everywhere along the way, exposing Yazid and his evil actions and un-Islamic acts.

Bibi Zainab and the Imam’s entire family were kept in prison in Damascus. When they were brought to Yazid’s court, Zainab eloquently spoke in front of Yazid’s courtiers and thoroughly exposed him. She never shied from her mission, so much so that he had to release her and the Imam’s entire family. They were sent back to Madina with their security being ensured.

Syeda Zainab’s role was exemplary. It showed how bold Muslim women were and how they played a key role in consolidating Islamic teachings.

Today, despite so much progress and the spread of education, so many Muslim women are suppressed. In Saudi Arabia, for example, even a woman’s voice is considered ‘awrah i.e. so that it should not be heard in public; and here was Zainab from the Imam’s family who became a public speaker to save Islamic values.

Zainab was the eldest among the women of the Imam’s family, including Imam Zainul Abidin who was very unwell at the time.

The leadership of the family thus fell to Zainab, and she proved to be more than what was expected of her. Today, women have to learn much  from her example and leadership qualities. Her public role in the Karbala saga has much to teach us.

It is wrong to think, as many Muslim men do, that women are weak and cannot achieve much in the public domain. Hazrat Zainab’s role is a wake-up call for those who feel that women are fit only for domestic chores and nothing beyond the confines of a house.

The writer is an Islamic scholar who heads the Centre for Study of Society & Secularism, Mumbai.

Source: The Dawn, Karachi

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The Candidates on Islam

December 8, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Wilfredo Amr Ruiz, Muslim Chaplain, Attorney and Political Analyst

2011-11-23T013356Z_410979054_LM2E7BN04CK01_RTRMADP_3_USA-CAMPAIGN-DEBATE

Republican presidential candidates (L-R) Texas Governor Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, businessman Herman Cain, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), stand at attention during the singing of the national anthem during the CNN GOP National Security debate in Washington, November 22, 2011.

REUTERS/Jim Bourg

As republican voters near the time to elect their presidential candidate for the 2012 election, the candidates’ respective religious perspectives become significant to many. One topic that does not escape public scrutiny is the candidates’ stand on Islam and Muslims in America. It has become an important issue that calls the attention of both Muslim and non-Muslim voters. Noticeably some candidates appear not to realize that the American Muslim community has a significant number of political conservatives sympathetic to many issues within the Republican Party platform.

The GOP presidential hopefuls’ stand on Islam and Muslims has been varied. Their stands have ranged from being thoughtful and considerate to being discourteous, rude and unappreciative of the history, losing potential support.

Some candidates have clearly opted to try to win votes by denigrating Islam and disparaging Muslims. Taking the lead in the anti-Muslim frenzy is Herman Cain, who has consistently held a hostile discourse on Islam, belittling almost anything or anyone resonating Muslim. Among many instances we may take as example Cain’s opposition to the construction of an Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, Tenn., unreasonably arguing that it’s not religious discrimination for a community to ban a mosque. On this same line, Cain has also affirmed that he wouldn’t appoint Muslims to his cabinet and even suggested to impose a loyalty test on any Muslim before allowing him to serve in his administration.

His anti-Muslim rhetoric returned recently when he expressed that more than half of American Muslims are extremists based on a “trusted adviser” who informed him so.

Rick Perry has wisely distanced himself from the bigoted rhetoric and instead has a history of good and positive relations with the Muslims community. Perry endorsed Texas public high school teacher education programs on Islamic history. As governor he signed a Halal Law, which makes it a criminal offense to sell Halal and non-Halal meat in the same store without specifically labeling the two and to misrepresent non-Halal meat as being Halal. Governor Perry has held constructive ties with the Muslim Aga Khan’s community and hosted their world known leader on his visit to Texas. He followed up by attending the inauguration of their Ismaili Jamatkhana Islamic Center in Sugar Land, Texas in 2002; and later laid the first brick for another of their centers in Plano, Texas in 2005. On the other hand, Perry’s ties to the rest of the mainstream Muslim community as a whole are scarce, and his posture is mostly perceived as neutral, with neither “pro” nor “against” community stances.

Mitt Romney’s relations with the American Muslim community have not been smooth. Recently, the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR) asked the presidential hopeful for the ouster of Dr. Walid Phares a recently appointed foreign policy adviser to his team. Phares authored “Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies Against America” and also acts as an advisor to the U.S. Congress on the Middle East. According to CAIR he worked as an official in the Lebanese Forces, a Christian militia, and other militias that reportedly took part in various massacres of Muslims. The controversial appointment has certainly created a wave of controversy within the American Muslim community that waits for Romney to take their concerns into consideration.

Newt Gingrich’s stance on issues related to American Muslims and Islam has been scornful. Falling victim to the Muslim hysteria on the debate on the Ground Zero Mosque, Gingrich compared the Islamic Community Center project to building a Nazi monument outside the Holocaust Museum. This was clearly a very insensitive position that will take more than a simple apology — not that it is expected — to amend.

Michele Bachmann has not demonstrated a capacity to engage the American Muslim community neither shown capacity to understand and respect diversity. Her comments on the civil uprisings that took place in France back in 2005 were very discomforting: “Those who are coming into France, which has a beautiful culture, the French culture is actually diminished. It’s going away. And just with the population in France, they are losing Western Europeans, and it’s being taken over by a Muslim ethic. Not that Muslims are bad, but they are not assimilating.”

Rick Santorum has joined Gingrich’s Islam-bashing team, expressing misleading comments on the question of sharia taking over the U.S. court system. On the most recent debate Santorum was even more assertive on his opinion on Muslims. When asked if he would support ethnic and religious profiling he replied: “The folks who are most likely to be committing these crimes … obviously Muslims would be someone you’d look at, absolutely.”

Among all candidates, libertarian leaning Ron Paul seems to be the one who have consistently pronounced himself distant from any expression that could be construed as Islamophobic. He issued firm statements condemning Pastor Terry Jones’ controversial call for a “Burn the Quran Day.” In September 2010 Paul stated: “This blame of all Muslims for the atrocities of 9/11 only makes things worse — especially since it wasn’t the Taliban of Afghanistan that committed the atrocities.” More recently, on a CBS interview, Paul said that al Qaeda itself cited American intervention in the region as its motivation for attacking the U.S. and “to argue the case that they want to do us harm because we’re free and prosperous I think is a very, very dangerous notion because it’s not true.”

John Huntsman is another candidate that for the most part has rejected to take a ride on the Islamophobia train that most republic candidates not only designed but are now fueling and giving hand-detailed maintenance.

The comments and actions that vilify Islam and Muslims — or any other religion and its practitioners — by the Republican Party presidential hopefuls show an evident betrayal of commitment to the freedom of religion consecrated in the U.S. Constitution. Exploiting Muslims for political gain will undoubtedly alienate them from a significant section of the voting public who hold religion dear to their hearts.

Follow Wilfredo Amr Ruiz on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnalistaInter

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Jazz Musician Hassan Abdullah Passes

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

084bb818-f0ad-534b-a914-96788bdf5500.preview-300ATLANTIC CITY–Popular musician Stanley Barber, whose Muslim name was Hassan Abdullah, passed away last Saturday. He was 59. He had converted to Islam as an adult.
Imam Umar Salahuddin led the Janazah prayers. Abdullah, a native of Norfolk, Va., moved to Atlantic City with his family when he was a child. The saxophonist played jazz for most of his life and also served as a jazz advocate. One of his greatest accomplishments was playing at Carnegie Hall in New York City.

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One Ummah

December 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The 15th Annual Western Regional Convention of MAS

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

maslogoThe United States faces serious problems, both domestically and internationally, problems that at a glance seem insurmountable.  Ignorance of Islam and Islamophobia are rampant. Muslim organizations are needed to combat the latter two and to offer Muslim solutions based on Muslim values to provide answers to our crises at home and abroad. Our culture is moving from R rated to X rated: What to do?

Many Islamic groups are active in offering such aid. One in particular the Muslim American Society (MAS), deserves special mention.

The Muslim American Society held a highly successful annual Western Regional Convention, the organization’s fifteenth, this past weekend in Los Angeles. The title of the event and its theme was: “One: One Ummah, One Brotherhood, One Pulse”.

More than two thousand people were in attendance in an event that began on Thanksgiving Day and ran through the following Saturday. The Muslim American Society of Greater Los Angeles (MAS GLA) was the host.

The majority of the three day convention was devoted to workshops, many intended for youth. The titles of the work sessions mirrored the theme of the convention. They included, but were not limited to: “The Believers are But a Single Brotherhood”; “One Ummah, One Body”, “The Fiqh of Priorities”, and “Our Means to a Beautiful End”.

Each session was conducted by learned speakers who were available to answer questions and expand on their presentations at the end of each session.

In one particularly timely session,  students from the original Irvine 11 spoke about their legal ordeal which grew out of their collective exercise of free speech at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) in February 2010. At that time the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, addressed a student audience and was confronted by a group of young Muslims vis a vis the illegal actions of the state of Israel.

Their subsequent arrest and indictment – almost a year to the date after the original incident and days before the statute of limitations would expire – angered civil libertarians. The students became a symbol of the limitations on free speech imposed on Muslims.

In a session titled: “I Don’t Plead the Fifth: Irvine 11 Speak out”, the students received a standing ovation, and many in the audience sought their autographs after the session ended. Each of the students stated unequivocally that he was glad of his actions and, given the opportunity, would do it again.

“What brave people” said one young woman in the audience. “It makes me feel  so proud”.

During a session titled: “A Quilt to Cover the Nation: Shaping the American Society by Applying the Fabric of Islamic Family Values”, two young Muslims introduced the Islamic Speaker’s Bureau.That organization will send Muslim speakers to address schools and law enforcement officers, to name but a few potential audiences, in an effort to explain Islam to non-Muslims and to counter act Islamophobia. Farhan Simjee and Shaista Azad invited the attendees and others who are interested to contact them at: isbsocal@gmail.com.

In one of the final sessions of the convention, the topic could not have been more timely. “One Ummah, One Pulse: Education and Mobilization to Help our Syrian Brothers and Sister” featured three speakers who gave the history of Syria, both ancient and modern, and offered practical actions that might be taken on Syria’s behalf.

One of the speakers,  Hussam Ayloush, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the greater Los Angeles area spoke movingly on behalf of the aspirations of the Syrian people. “We have a common bond as human beings and as Muslims”.

He called for the following actions. Be outspoken, use Facebook and e mail; talk to the media, and take part in protests; Get the DVDs sold at the booth of the Syrian American Council (SAC) in the bazaar, stay in contact with the activists (syrianetLA@gmail.com); wear buttons and T shirts to advertise your cause; donate money to help the victims in Syria.

“The right to freedom is a human right”.

A bazaar was held in the lobby during the convention. Attendees could purchase Islamic clothing, books, jewelry, and DVDs, and they could learn of different community organizations.

The booths included, but were not limited to: CAIR (http://ca.cair.com), ACCESS (www.accesscal.org ), InFOCUS News (www.infocusnews,net), One Legacy Radio (www.onelegacyradio.com),and the Institute or Arabic and Islamic Studies (IAIS) (www.islamic-study.org) and (www.legacyofpeace.net).

The Muslim American Society began in 1993 as a charitable, religious, social, cultural and educational  organization. It has grown since then to its present strength of fifty chapters across the United States. It is a go-to group for information and commentary, held in high esteem by the media and government officials on all levels. MAS emphasizes proactive community involvement such as community service, interfaith dialogue, youth programs, and civic engagement. It seeks to build strong Muslims with strong faith and a deep knowledge of Islam.

The recent roots of MAS can be traced to the Islamic Revival Movement that took place at the turn of the 20th century. Its ancient roots, of course, can be traced back to the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). The recent convention lived easily up to the standards of the Muslim American Society – to fulfill its mission for God consciousness, liberty and justice through the conveyance of Islamic values.

For more information on the Muslim American Society, please use the following email address: http://www.mascalifornia.org.

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500 Most Influential Muslims – 2011

November 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

muslim500-cover-2011-web2A new book has been released very recently (available here). 

This is the third edition of the book, which came out for the first time in 2009 and has since been updated annually.

The price of the book is $39.99, and in fact this new edition may be a must-have book for anyone writing about Islam, as it provides snapshots of many key and influential people, not to mention a snapshot of Islam itself.

There are several new qualities in this new edition.  The size and layout have been changed; there is an essay on the Arab Spring; there are quotes from the top 25 and from some others; there are statistics about the top 25 and some others; the bios have been expanded; there is an “Arab Spring box” for the top 50 to show whether the Arab Spring was a plus or a minus for each of the top 50; higher quality photography; expanded honorable mentions section, new obituaries section; updated Muslim population statistics; new maps; expanded glossary.

There is also a companion website (www.TheMuslim500.com). 

The format is improved and despite some changes in position, mostly the same people are in the book. 

Hamza Yusuf has fallen a few places.  The USA is very well represented as before.  Tariq Ramadan is among the honorable mentions but not in the top 50.

There is an excellent discussion of the major schools of thought in the book.

The book’s Introduction was written by a Muslim convert from Judaism, Prof. Abdallah Schleifer, who teaches at the American University in Cairo.  In his introduction he provides an excellent defense of monarchy based on Qur`an, ahadith, and Islamic scholarship, quoting Ghazi bin Muhammad at length, who in turned argued:  “Traditional, Orthodox Islam has always endorsed monarchy as such.”  

It is “the best – and perhaps only conceivable form of government because it can best deliver justice and adherence to God’s laws.”  Islamic Monarchy, he says, “whilst not democratic as such in the modern sense of ultimate power being derived and delivered through universal suffrage, nevertheless makes participative consultation (shura) of experts, the learned and the wise (16:43; 21:7; 4:83) incumbent on the ruler…”

Moreover, he also gives extensive time to Dr. Yusuf Ibish, who taught political thought at the American University of Beirut and who taught a “rather obscure” course on Islamic Political Thought, meaning traditional Sunni Islamic political thought of Imam Abdul Hamid Al-Ghazali” and others.  “Modern Islamic or Islamist political thought is usually a coupling of any number of 19th and 20th century Western ideologies – be they left-wing Leninist (Marxist) or right-wing Leninist (Fascist—be that hyper-nationalist or racist) or the kinder ideologies of Social Democracy (the welfare state) and Democracy blended with Islamic pieties…”

Schleifer gives these arguments in defense of monarchy into the context of the modern tumult in the Arab world and in turn argues that perhaps the grass roots efforts to topple the leadership in Egypt and Tunisia was actually not responsible for their success, but rather the interference of the armies in those two countries.

The House of Islam.  The book has a brilliantly written 10 page introduction to Islam (reprinted by permission of Vincenzo Oliveti) followed by several charts, which manages in such a brief space to define all or most of the major subsets or alternative (and sometimes complementary) models of Islam that exist until today.

This overview is followed by the “Amman Message” (see more at www.ammanmessage.com) which is a restatement of the “historical 2005 international Islamic consensus on the three points of the Amman Message,” namely (1) that the four Sunni schools and the two Shi’a schools adherents are Muslim.  Calling any of those people an apostate is impossible and impermissible.  His/her blood, honor and property are inviolable.  Further, it is impossible and impermissible to declare anyone who subscribes to the Ash’ari creed or who practices real Tasawwuf (Sufism) an apostate.  Further, “it is neither possible nor permissible to declare whosoever subscribes to true Salafi thought an apostate.” (2) There exists more in common between the various schools of Islamic jurisprudence than there is difference between them.” (3) Acknowledgment of the schools of Islamic jurisprudence within Islam means adhering to a fundamental methodology in the issuance of fatwas; no one may issue a fatwa without the requisite personal qualifications which each school of Islamic jurisprudence determines [for its own adherents]. No one can claim unlimited ijtihad and create a new school of Islamic thought.

After this brief but excellent introduction, the book dives into the top 50 influential Muslims.  The first, again, is His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.  The second is the king of Morocco, King Mohammed VI.  Third is Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan—who has gone several steps up since the issue of 500 Muslims from two years ago.  Most of the top 25 are politically powerful people.  Slipping to fifth place was Grand Ayatollah Hajj Syyid Ali Khamenei.

Shaykh Nazim al-Qubrusi, leader of the Naqshbandi-Haqqani Sufi Order, is listed by the book at number 48. Sheikh Ahmad Tijani Ali Cisse, leader of the Tijaniyya Sufi Order, is listed at number 26.

The first scholar listed is Dr. Sheikh Ahmad Muhammad Al Tayyeb, the Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar University and Grand Imam of the Al Azhar mosque.  In fact, of the top 25, eight are scholars from across the world, representing several different schools of thought.  Three are leaders of movements, including Tablighi Jamaat, Ikhwan and Hezbollah.  Sheikha Munira Qubeysi, leader of the Qubeysi movement of scholarship for Muslim women, is among the top 25

The book’s top 25 also includes Dr. Amr Khaled.

Where before (in 2009) the book seemed to sway towards political correctness, by being sure to mention a prominent Shi’a political leader after mentioning the Saudi political leader, now it seems to focus more clearly on those people that the authors consider important—although there seems to be some bias in the still very high status of Hamza Yusuf Hanson (43), disproportionate to his world stature.  While Mr. Hanson is building the Zaytuna Institute, he hardly compares with some of those ranked below him; and also does not compare with those near in proximity but above him.  Does it make sense that the president of Palestine is only seven ranks above Hamza Yusuf? Mahmoud Abbas has the capacity to move newspapers by the ton simply by saying a choice sentence.  By contrast, Hamza Yusuf Hanson’s influence is really confined to an investment in the future of traditional Muslim scholarship in the US.  Certainly his influence is not more powerful than the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, who is ranked at #44, immediately Hanson’s junior.

Sheikh Hisham Kabbani is listed among the top 500, as a spiritual guide in North America.

Paging through the book you will notice a huge improvement in the quality of the pictures—this book is one that is suitable to display on a coffee table.

Islam: Empire of Faith (Full 3-Part PBS Documentary)

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

 

 

Swiss Antagonist of Minarets Is Now Muslim

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Stringer Based on News Reports

daniel-streichRENOWNED Swiss politician Daniel Streich, who previously campaigned against Swiss minarets, embraced Islam a few years ago.

A member of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and a well-known politician, Daniel Streich was the first man who had launched a drive for imposition of ban on mosques minarets, and to lock the mosques in Switzerland. The proclamation of Streich’s conversion to Islam created a furor in Swiss politics, and caused a tremor for those who supported ban on construction of mosques minarets.

Streich had propagated his anti-Islamic movement far and wide in the country, sowed seeds of indignation and scorn for Islam among the people, and paved the way for public opinion against pulpits and minarets of mosques.

But now Streich has become a servant of Islam. His anti-Islam thoughts finally brought him so close to this religion that he embraced it.

He is ashamed of his past doings now, and desires to construct the most beautiful mosque of Europe in Switzerland.

The most interesting thing in this regard is that at present there are four mosques in Switzerland and Streich wants to lay the foundation for a fifth. He wishes to seek absolution of his sin of proliferating venom against Islam. He is thinking of a movement contrary to his previous one to promote religious tolerance and peaceful cooperative living, in spite of the fact that ban on mosques minarets has gained a legal status.

This is the greatest quality of Islam that it comes up with even greater vigour, when it is faced with confrontation.

Abdul Majeed Aldai, the president of OPI, an NGO, working for the welfare of Muslims, says that Europeans have a great desire to know about Islam. Some of them want to know about the relationship between Islam and terrorism; same was the case with Streich.

During his confrontation, Streich studied the Holy Quran and started understanding Islam.

He wished to be hard to Islam, but the outcome was otherwise. Aldai further says.

Later the question of the ban on minarets was put to a vote in Switzerland, wherein the Swiss nationals did ban minarets in the country.

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UnChristian & Unpatriotic

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. A S Nakadar, TMO CEO and Publisher

PglobeOn 11-11-11, the Ford Field in Detroit witnessed a highly publicized bigoted event.  The venue, Ford Field is where the Detroit Lions play and the area is near Dearborn that has a large Muslim population.

The organizer of this event was “TheCall” organization; a relatively unknown organization that has been in existence for about a decade. It claims to tackle issues such as economy, racial strife, same sex relationship, abortion and other such issues. But to many it appeared that the objective of this event was to gain cheap publicity by bashing Muslims and Islam. The organizers had said in their statements that they wanted to raise concerns against the growing Islamic popularity and Islamic renaissance in USA.

They heavily promoted their Detroit event on their website. According to “The Christian Post” they called it, “The Rising Tide of the Islamic Movement.” But after receiving complaints, perhaps, about the factuality and the phrase giving legitimacy to the prevailing situation, TheCall dropped the phrase from its web site.

The Pentecostal Minister, Engle, had announced that the program would start on Friday night (11-11-11) and would end the next day, Saturday morning. Their announcement also touted that they expected a crowd of more than 50,000. But most reports suggest the program was a flop in attendance. The stadium mostly remained empty and according to some reports the attendance was about less than tenth of their predicted number.

The reason given for the night vigil and night prayer, according to “The Christian Post”, quoting their minister Engler, “You got to pray all night long because it’s when the Muslims sleep.”

Looking at the thin attendance, he found out that Christians and others sleep during those hours too. 

Earlier this week and prior to the event, a group of Christian pastors gathered in Grand Circus Park, near the Ford Field venue, to denounce Lou Engle’s “The Call Detroit” rally at Ford Field as “un-Christian, “un-American,” and “idolatrous.”

This group counts Islam among the ills facing the nation. Some Muslims answered this by saying, “their heads needs to be examined” while others said, “I bet you they will say “Occupy Wall Street” movement is Muslim inspired;” others from the group said “I wish to bring to their attention the Muslim contribution to this great nation.” He went on to say: “More than 50% of the Muslims income bracket was over $50,000 as compared to nationwide average income of $47,000 and nearly 60% Muslims are college graduates as compared to 27% as a whole.”

The statement emphasized the great contributions Muslims have made in practically all fields, be it social, military, political, economic, medical, engineering, business, technology and you name it.

Most in the group agreed that we were here to strengthen the country. We want to see communities unified, and not divided. The action of “TheCall” group is divisive and needs to be condemned in strongest terms.

A true American would surely know that pluralism is the Achilles Heel of our society’s foundation.

Today our biggest concern and the concern of all of us should be the challenges that our pluralistic society and our country face.

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Community News (V13-I46)

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Davidson students hear lecture on Islam

DAVIDSON,NC– Middle and high school Students at Davidson Day  School in North Carolina learnt about modern day Islam last week. The guest speaker Ahmad Shakur is the founder and director for the Center for the African Diaspora in Charlotte and director of development for the Museum of Muslim Cultures.

He discussed misperceptions of Islam, its history, and how some modern day conflicts are based on that history. He also visited an Islamic history class at the school and in which the students for their final projects are researching how Islamic history is impacting modern global issues.

“Middle school students really thrive in an environment that allows them to think about the world around them,” Mr. Coddington,a teacher, told the Davidson News said. “It allows them to think about themselves, take an issue that is relevant to their lives, and gain an educated perspective.”

Fast-a-thon held at Southern Methodist

DALLAS,TX–The Muslim Students Association at Southern Methodist University held its annual fast-a-thon on Nov.3. The funds raised this year for orphans around the world.
MSA President Khurram Taufiq told the student newspaper that  Fast-a-Thon allows college students to make a difference.

“We as students oftentimes can’t do a whole lot of donating to charities,” Taufiq said. “But Islam teaches us to always give back to the community what we can, regardless of the amount.”
According to MSA reps the SMU MSA has raised close to $1.2 million for various charitable activities in the last eleven years.

Fire doesn’t stop Wichita mosque

WICHITA,KS–A fire which gutted a Wichita mosque couldn’t deter are Muslims from holding their prayers.

The Islamic Association Mosque held its friday prayers outside the burned facility.  Its caught fire last Monday morning and flames gutted the inside.  The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Federal agents are leading the investigation to determine if the fire was an accident or a hate crime.  The Islamic Association had received threatening letters prior to their building catching fire.

Purdue holds Islamic Awareness Week

The Muslim Students Association at Purdue University held its second annual Islamic Awareness Week by hosting a variety of activities last week and its theme was “Exploring the Muslim World.”

The Muslim Student Association was excited to see a large increase in visitors this year compared to last, with more than 1,250 people visiting throughout the week.

The event aimed to educate others about the fundamentals of the Muslim culture and Islam, as well as correct common misconceptions, which revolved around theology and fine details. The bazaar, located in Memorial Mall throughout last week, hosted a variety of booths displaying different aspects of Islamic culture including food samples, henna tattoos and boards explaining the basics of Islam.

Boston University gets footbaths for Muslim students

BOSTON,MA–Muslim students at Boston University don’t have to worry about spilling the water while they do wudu on campus. The university’s Center for English Language and Orientation Programs has installed footbaths in its bathrooms, the BU Today reported.

Designed to accommodate Muslim students who must wash before prayer five times a day, the footbaths are available to everyone.

Elsie El Dayaa, CELOP’s operations manager, says the decision to add the footbaths fit nicely with the office’s planned remodel and its desire to meet the needs of its growing Muslim student population.

The number of Middle Eastern students enrolled at CELOP—many of them Muslim—has grown by 175 percent in the past four years and Middle Eastern students now comprise nearly 40 percent of the program’s total population, according to El Dayaa. That is due in large part to a significant increase in enrollment of Saudi Arabian students sent by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology and Saudi Basic Industries Corporation. Several other Muslim students come from Africa and Asia.

CELOP is so proud of its new facilities, El Dayaa says, that “now we’re known as the office that shows you its bathroom.”

The footbaths are a first for the University.

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Islamic Awareness Week at Wayne State University.

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Press Release, Wayne MSA

Wayne is planning annual Islamic Awareness Week for November -

Below is the program for the week:

All the events are free and open to the entire campus.

Theme: Revolution of Reason

Monday, Nov. 14th – “Ask a Muslim” – Easel Boards  (people ask q’s about Islam)
—–Location: Undergraduate Library
—–Time: 1:00pm-3:00pm

Tuesday, Nov. 15th – Islam Fair    (with Discover Islam posters, hijab demonstrations, etc)
—–Location: Undergraduate Library
—–Time: 1:00pm-3:00pm

Wednesday, Nov. 16th – Keynote Address with Imam Abdul Malik
—–Topic: Reformation of the Heart
—–Location: Bernath Auditorium
—–Time: 2:00pm-4:00pm

Thursday, Nov. 17th – Fast-A-Thon: A Taste of Islam with Saqib Shafi
—–Location: Grand Ballroom 2nd Floor Student Center
—–Time: 4:45pm-7:30pm

Friday, Nov. 18th – Campus “Jumu’ah” (Friday Prayer) – Islam: Liberating Hearts & Minds
—–Location: Grand Ballroom 2nd Floor Student Center
—–Time: 2:30pm-3:00pm

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Women & Islam: Rise of the Convert

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Richard Peppiatt

16-Women-Islam-1-SUTCLIFFE

Record numbers of young, white British women are converting to Islam, yet many are reporting a lack of help as they get used to their new religion, according to several surveys.

As Muslims celebrate the start of the religious holiday of ‘Eid today and hundreds of thousands from around the world converge on Mecca for the haj, it emerged that of the 5,200 Britons who converted to Islam last year, more than half are white and 75 per cent of them women.

In the past 10 years some 100,000 British people have converted to Islam, of whom some three-quarters are women, according to the latest statistics. This is a significant increase on the 60,000 Britons in the previous decade, according to researchers based at Swansea University.

While the number of UK converts accelerates, many of the British women who adopt Islam say they have a daily struggle to assimilate their new beliefs within a wider culture that both implicitly and explicitly positions them as outsiders, regardless of their Western upbringing.

More than three-quarters told researchers they had experienced high levels of confusion after conversion, due to the conflicting ways Islam was presented to them. While other major religions have established programs for guiding new believers through the rigors of their faith, Islam still lacks any such network, especially outside the Muslim hubs of major cities.

Many mosques still bar women from worship or provide scant resources for their needs, forcing them to rely on competing cultural and ideological interpretations within books or the internet for religious support.

A recent study of converts in Leicester, for example, found that 93 per cent of mosques in the region recognized they lacked services for new Muslims, yet only 7 per cent said they were making efforts to address the shortfall.

Many of the young women – the average age of conversion is 27 – are also coming to terms with experiences of discrimination for the first time, despite the only visible difference being a headscarf. Yet few find easy sanctuary within the established Muslim population, with the majority forming their closest bonds with fellow converts rather than born Muslims.

Kevin Brice, author of the Swansea study A Minority Within a Minority, said to be the most comprehensive study of British Muslim converts, added: “White Muslim converts are caught between two increasingly distant camps. Their best relationships remain with other converts, because of their shared experiences, while there is very little difference between the quality of their relationship with other Muslims or non-Muslims.

“My research also found converts came in two types: some are converts of convenience, who adopt the religion because of a life situation such as meeting a Muslim man, although the religion has little discernible impact on their day-to-day lives. For others it is a conversion of conviction where they feel a calling and embrace the religion robustly.

“That’s not to say the two are mutually exclusive – sometimes converts start out on their religious path through convenience and become converts of conviction later on.”

Another finding revealed by the Leicester study was that despite Western portraits of Islam casting it as oppressive to women, a quarter of female converts were attracted to the religion precisely because of the status it affords them.

Some analysts have argued that dizzying social and cultural upheavals in Britain over the past decades have meant that far from adopting an alien way of life, some female Muslim converts are re-embracing certain aspects of mid-20th-century Britain, such as rigid gender demarcation, rather than feeling expected to juggle career and family.

The first established Muslim communities started in Britain in the 1860s, when Yemeni sailors and Somali laborers settled around the ports of London, Cardiff, Liverpool and Hull. Many married local women who converted to Islam, often suffering widespread discrimination as a result.

They also acted as a bridge between the two cultures, encouraging understanding among indigenous dwellers and helping to integrate the Muslim community they had joined. Today, there is growing recognition among community leaders that the latest generation of female converts has an equally vital role to play in fostering dialogue between an increasingly secular British majority and a minority religion, as misunderstood as it is vilified.

Kristiane Backer, 45

Television presenter and author, London

I converted to Islam in 1995 after Imran Khan introduced me to the faith. At the time I was a presenter for MTV. I used to have all the trappings of success, yet I felt an inner emptiness and somewhat dissatisfied in my life.

The entertainment industry is very much about “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”, which is the exact opposite to the more inward-oriented spiritual attitude of my new faith. My value system changed and God became the center point of my life and what I was striving towards.

I recognize some new converts feel isolated but, despite there being even fewer resources when I converted than there are now, it isn’t so much an issue I’ve faced. I’ve always felt welcomed and embraced by the Muslims I met and developed a circle of friends and teachers. It helps living in London, because there is so much to engage in as part of the Muslim community. Yet, even in the capital you can be stared at on the Tube for wearing a headscarf. I usually don’t wear one in the West except when praying. I wear the scarf in front of my heart though!

I always try to explain to people that I’ve converted to Islam, not to any culture. Suppression of women, honor killings or forced marriages are all cultural aberrations, not Islamic ones. Islam is also about dignity and respect for yourself and your femininity. Even in the dating game, Muslim men are very respectful. Women are cherished as mothers, too – as a Muslim woman you are not expected to do it all.”

Amy Sall, 28

Retail assistant, Middlesbrough

I’d say I’m still a bit of a party animal – but I’m also a Muslim. I do go out on the town with the girls and I don’t normally wear my headscarf – I know I should do, but I like to do my hair and look nice! I know there are certain clothes I shouldn’t wear either, even things that just show off your arms, but I still do. My husband would like me to be a better Muslim – he thinks drinking is evil – so it does cause rows.

I haven’t worshipped in a mosque since I got married, I find it intimidating. I worry about doing something wrong; people whispering because they see my blonde hair and blue eyes. Middlesbrough is a difficult place to be a Muslim who isn’t Asian – you tend to be treated like an outsider. Once, I was out wearing my headscarf and a local man shouted abuse. It was weird because I’m white and he was white, but all he saw was the scarf, I suppose. It did make me angry. My family were surprisingly fine with me converting, probably because they thought it would rein me in from being a bit wild.

Nicola Penty-Alvarez, 26

Full-time mother, Uxbridge

I was always interested in philosophy and the meaning of life and when I came across Islam it all just clicked. In the space of four or five months I went from going to raves to wearing a headscarf, praying five times a day and generally being quite pious – I did occasionally smoke though.

I felt very welcomed into the Muslim community, but it was a mainly white convert community. My impression of the Asian community in west London was that women felt sidelined and were encouraged to stay at home and look after the men rather than attend mosque. I think this was more a cultural than religious thing, though.

Non-Muslims certainly treat you differently when you’re wearing a headscarf – they’re less friendly and as a smiley person I found that hard. After a year-and-a-half of being a Muslim I stopped. I remember the moment perfectly. I was in a beautiful mosque in Morocco praying beside an old lady and something just came over me. I thought: ‘What the hell am I doing? How have I got into this?’ It just suddenly didn’t feel right. Needless to say my husband, who was a fellow convert, wasn’t impressed. He remained devout and it put a lot of strain on our relationship. We split up, but are on amicable terms now. I’m not really in contact with the Muslim friends I made – we drifted apart.

I don’t regret the experience. There is so much that I learnt spiritually that I’ve kept and I haven’t gone back to my hard partying ways.

Donna Tunkara

Warehouse operative, Middlesbrough

I was a bit of a tearaway growing up – drinking, smoking, running away from home and being disrespectful to my parents. I converted 10 years ago because I met a Muslim man but I’ve probably become more devout than him.

Sometimes, I miss going shopping for clothes to hit the town and then going home and getting ready with my mates, having a laugh. The thing is no one is forcing me not to – it’s my choice.

It did come as a shock to my family, who are Christian. They’ve not rejected me, but they find it difficult to understand. I feel bad because I don’t now attend weddings, funerals or christenings because they’re often at pubs and clubs and I won’t step inside.

There needs to be more resources for women who convert. I know some mosques that won’t allow women in. But in the Koran there is an emphasis on women being educated. I’ve learnt about the religion through my husband’s family and books – if you want support you have to look for it. It’s taken time to regain an identity I’m comfortable with. Because I’m mixed race and a Muslim ,people don’t see me as British – but what’s important is that I know who I am.

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Crescent Moon, Waning West

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The decline of Western power in the Arab world

ShowImage.ashxAFTER a slow summer, the Arab spring has turned into a turbulent autumn. The past few days have seen the gruesome end of Muammar Qaddafi, the more edifying spectacle of an orderly and open election in Tunisia (see article) and the death of Saudi Arabia’s ancient crown prince Sultan amid demands for the kingdom to modernise faster. Egypt, by far the most populous Arab country, is poised to hold its first proper election next month. Revolts and civil strife continue across the region, from Syria to Yemen and Bahrain.

For the West, whose ties to Arab dictators once gave it great clout in the Middle East, events in the region have spun way out of control.

That fact was underlined this week by the Iraqis’ insistence that all American forces must quit the country by the end of the year. Yet the West should not regret this turn of events. The power that it has lost in the short term should, in the long run, be replaced by influence born of good relations with decent governments.

On balance, the Arab world is in far better shape than it was less than a year ago. For sure, the economies of all the countries affected by the democratic upheavals have slumped. That is true even of Tunisia, which has the best education and skills in the region. But dictatorship and state control suffocated the Arab economies—even those awash with oil. Once Arab countries’ borders open up and their governments become accountable to their citizens, they are likely to grow faster. And that will not happen until they have put in place a system of government that gives a far wider degree of participation than before.

It is beginning to happen. Tunisia has led the way. Egypt promises to follow, though the generals in charge of its transition have been horribly inept of late, raising fears that the country may slip backwards to disorder or military control. But a parliament is due for election next month. It is to choose an assembly that may take a year or so to write a constitution providing for the election of a new Egyptian president. Libya, too, should have elections within a year.

Everywhere risks lapsing into bouts of chaos and strife. But this trio of north African states looks set to give a democratic fillip to other Arab countries, including those such as Syria that seem destined for a time to be soaked in blood while they strive for liberation.

The rise of political Islam is not necessarily cause for alarm among democrats in the West and the Arab world. In Tunisia an Islamist party, Nahda (“Renaissance”), that was brutally banned for decades has won a stunning victory at the polls. Egypt’s Muslim Brothers are likely to do well too. In Libya the Islamists may also be gaining ground. This rattles secular-minded Arab liberals and many well-wishing Westerners.

But a more open and tolerant brand of political Islam better suited to the modern world seems to be emerging, especially now that its proponents must compete for the favours of voters who admire the Islamists’ hostility to corruption, but dislike the sectarian and conservative attitudes that many of them expressed when they were underground.

No one can be certain that if Islamists gain power they will give it up at the ballot box, but secular rulers sometimes fail that test. And, on the whole, the threat of religious extremism with which strongmen used to justify repression has not materialised. Barring a few ungoverned pockets in Yemen and on the fringes of the Sahara, al-Qaeda has failed to benefit from the democratic wind.

It’s a local show these days

The strength of these revolutions is that they have been almost entirely home-grown. Those in Egypt and Tunisia had no outside help.

Syria’s brave protesters are on their own and may, in time, triumph.

Libya’s new rulers could not have succeeded without NATO’s bombers, but the absence of Western ground troops and of proconsuls telling the locals what to do has been in salutary contrast to what happened in Iraq eight years ago, where democracy was crudely imposed on an unprepared people (see Lexington).

After the deaths of some 150,000-plus locals and around 5,000 Americans and other foreigners, Iraq has a freely elected government. But it has not developed the habits of tolerance between communities and the independent institutions that underlie all truly successful democracies. A decade of American hard power has been less effective than a few months of peaceful protest in setting countries on the road towards representative government.

Partly because of the Iraqi adventure, America—at least its foreign policy—remains heartily disliked by Arabs across the region. That is only slightly less true under Barack Obama than it was under George Bush. America’s unpopularity stems partly from its backing of Israel and the continuing humiliation of the Palestinians, partly from its willingness to use force to get its way and partly from its history of supporting useful Arab dictators. Prince Sultan’s death may make this last point particularly salient. If the reactionary Prince Nayef becomes the crown prince and de facto regent, America may struggle to maintain an alliance with him alongside friendships with the Arab world’s nascent democracies.

Yet in the decline of Western power lie the seeds of hope for healthier relations in the future. Although the Arab world’s revolutionaries in general, and the Islamists in particular, are unlikely to hail the West as a model, they seem to be moving towards open political and economic systems. Nobody in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya is arguing for a Saudi Arabian, Iranian or even Chinese model. Arab students, businessmen and tourists in their thousands still choose to go to the West for their studies, their deals and their fun.

The prospects for Western influence in the Arab world are good. But in the future it will be won through education, investment and, when requested, advice on building up institutions. Such levers do not work as quickly as those that were forged from deals with unpopular and unstable dictators. But, in the end, they are likely to prove more reliable.

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Ingrid Mattson Appointed as Chair of Islamic Studies

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

IngridMattsonLONDON, ON–Huron University College, at the University of Western Ontario, announced the appointment of Dr. Ingrid Mattson as the inaugural London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies at its Faculty of Theology. The Chair in Islamic Studies builds on an almost 150-year tradition at Huron University College of open discourse and engagement between people of different faiths. Dr. Mattson will begin her appointment on July 1, 2012.

“Dr. Mattson brings an incredible wealth of knowledge and expertise to this area of study and Huron is privileged to have a scholar of her calibre,” said Dr. Stephen McClatchie, Principal of Huron University College. “We are honoured that, with her pick of many positions around the world, Dr. Mattson has decided to return to Canada and accept our appointment to the London and Windsor Community Chair in Islamic Studies.”

Dr. Mattson was born and raised in Kitchener-Waterloo and earned her PhD in Islamic Studies from the University of Chicago. She is the first convert to Islam and the first woman to lead the Islamic Society of North America. Before accepting the Chair in Islamic Studies at Huron University College, Dr. Mattson was Director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Hartford Connecticut. She has also been an Advisor to both the Bush and Obama Administrations.

“It is an honour to be back in Canada and to accept this position at such a prestigious institution as Huron University College,” said Dr. Mattson. “Huron has a remarkable history of critical inquiry and I look forward to building on this tradition by offering Huron students the opportunity to learn about a faith that more than 20 per cent of the world’s population practices, in an open and liberal environment.”

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Wham Bam Islam!

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Yalla Change Event

October 6, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

AAI and NNAAC coordinate leadership conference in Dearborn

By Adil James, TMO

PA010135Dearborn–October 1–The aftermath of 9/11 has been a trial for Arabs and for Muslims, but Arabs and Muslims have responded by stepping vigorously into the public arena and a reflection of that trend is this weekend’s “Yalla Change” leadership conference in Dearborn.

The event was co-sponsored by the Arab American Institute and the National Network for Arab American Communities and was attended by about 200 guests and speakers.  The event was held at the Doubletree Hotel in Dearborn.  Those in attendance appeared to be mostly professionals who had experience working as leaders in the Muslim and especially Arab communities, and it seemed as though the focus of the leadership conference was in building the capacity of the Arab community for involvement in the arena of public service.

Discussions that contributed to this capacity were a discussion by the “Center for Arab American Philanthropy,” “Maximizing Earned-Income Endeavors,” “Tapping Employee and Volunteer Motivation to Minimize Burnout,” “Telling Your Financial Story to Funders,” and “Innovative Practices for Nonprofits,” among others.  Each of these sessions was a full multi-hour discussion designed to increase the effectiveness of Arab organizations–the majority of the seminars at the event focused on this area.

A few of the sessions focused on broader issues, namely the red herring issue of anti-Shariah legislation and a presentation by Wajahat Ali on the coterie of anti-Islam zealots such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who appeared recently on the national scene but who have garnered disproportionate influence in the wake of September 11th and have, amazingly, by the strength of only a few shrill voices, polarized the American climate in relation to Islam to attempt to deny Muslims even the peaceful enjoyment of good relations with their neighbors.

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Saudis Turn Mecca into Vegas

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Historic and culturally important landmarks are being destroyed to make way for luxury hotels and malls, reports Jerome Taylor

SAUDI ARABIA/

A general view is seen of the Grand Mosque during the Muslim month of Ramadan in the holy city of Mecca August 20, 2011.  Saudi Arabia has begun the biggest expansion yet of the Grand Mosque, to raise its capacity to 2 million pilgrims, the state news agency SPA said. 

REUTERS/Hassan Ali

Behind closed doors–in places where the religious police cannot listen in–residents of Mecca are beginning to refer to their city as Las Vegas, and the moniker is not a compliment.

Over the past 10 years the holiest site in Islam has undergone a huge transformation, one that has divided opinion among Muslims all over the world.

Once a dusty desert town struggling to cope with the ever-increasing number of pilgrims arriving for the annual Hajj, the city now soars above its surroundings with a glittering array of skyscrapers, shopping malls and luxury hotels.

To the al-Saud monarchy, Mecca is their vision of the future–a steel and concrete metropolis built on the proceeds of enormous oil wealth that showcases their national pride.

Yet growing numbers of citizens, particularly those living in the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, have looked on aghast as the nation’s archaeological heritage is trampled under a construction mania backed by hardline clerics who preach against the preservation of their own heritage. Mecca, once a place where the Prophet Muhammad (s) insisted all Muslims would be equal, has become a playground for the rich, critics say, where naked capitalism has usurped spirituality as the city’s raison d’être.

Few are willing to discuss their fears openly because of the risks associated with criticising official policy in the authoritarian kingdom. And, with the exceptions of Turkey and Iran, fellow Muslim nations have largely held their tongues for fear of of a diplomatic fallout and restrictions on their citizens’ pilgrimage visas. Western archaeologists are silent out of fear that the few sites they are allowed access to will be closed to them.

But a number of prominent Saudi archaeologists and historians are speaking up in the belief that the opportunity to save Saudi Arabia’s remaining historical sites is closing fast.

“No one has the balls to stand up and condemn this cultural vandalism,” says Dr Irfan al-Alawi who, as executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, has fought in vain to protect his country’s historical sites. “We have already lost 400-500 sites. I just hope it’s not too late to turn things around.”

Sami Angawi, a renowned Saudi expert on the region’s Islamic architecture, is equally concerned. “This is an absolute contradiction to the nature of Mecca and the sacredness of the house of God,” he told the Reuters news agency earlier this year. “Both [Mecca and Medina] are historically almost finished. You do not find anything except skyscrapers.”

Dr Alawi’s most pressing concern is the planned £690m expansion of the Grand Mosque, the most sacred site in Islam which contains the Kaaba–the black stone cube built by Ibrahim (Abraham) that Muslims face when they pray.

Construction officially began earlier this month with the country’s Justice Minister, Mohammed al-Eissa, exclaiming that the project would respect “the sacredness and glory of the location, which calls for the highest care and attention of the servants or Islam and Muslims”.

The 400,000 square metre development is being built to accommodate an extra 1.2 million pilgrims each year and will turn the Grand Mosque into the largest religious structure in the world. But the Islamic Heritage Foundation has compiled a list of key historical sites that they believe are now at risk from the ongoing development of Mecca, including the old Ottoman and Abbasi sections of the Grand Mosque, the house where the Prophet Muhammad (s) was born and the house where his paternal uncle Hamza grew up.

There is little argument that Mecca and Medina desperately need infrastructure development. Twelve million pilgrims visit the cities every year with the numbers expected to increase to 17 million by 2025.

But critics fear that the desire to expand the pilgrimage sites has allowed the authorities to ride roughshod over the area’s cultural heritage. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of Mecca’s millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades alone.

The destruction has been aided by Wahabism, the austere interpretation of Islam that has served as the kingdom’s official religion ever since the al-Sauds rose to power across the Arabian Peninsula in the 19th century.

In the eyes of Wahabis, historical sites and shrines encourage “shirk”—the sin of idolatry or polytheism–and should be destroyed. When the al-Saud tribes swept through Mecca in the 1920s, the first thing they did was lay waste to cemeteries holding many of Islam’s important figures. They have been destroying the country’s heritage ever since.

Of the three sites the Saudis have allowed the UN to designate World Heritage Sites, none are related to Islam.

Those circling the Kaaba only need to look skywards to see the latest example of the Saudi monarchy’s insatiable appetite for architectural bling. At 1,972ft, the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, opened earlier this year, soars over the surrounding Grand Mosque, part of an enormous development of skyscrapers that will house five-star hotels for the minority of pilgrims rich enough to afford them.

To build the skyscraper city, the authorities dynamited an entire mountain and the Ottoman era Ajyad Fortress that lay on top of it. At the other end of the Grand Mosque complex, the house of the Prophet’s (s) first wife Khadijah has been turned into a toilet block. The fate of the house he was born in is uncertain. Also planned for demolition are the Grand Mosque’s Ottoman columns which dare to contain the names of the Prophet’s (s) companions, something hardline Wahabis detest.

For ordinary Meccans living in the mainly Ottoman-era town houses that make up much of what remains of the old city, development often means the loss of their family home.

Non-Muslims cannot visit Mecca and Medina, but The Independent was able to interview a number of citizens who expressed discontent over the way their town was changing. One young woman whose father recently had his house bulldozed described how her family was still waiting for compensation. “There was very little warning; they just came and told him that the house had to be bulldozed,” she said.

Another Meccan added: “If a prince of a member of the royal family wants to extend his palace he just does it. No one talks about it in public though. There’s such a climate of fear.”

Dr Alawi hopes the international community will finally begin to wake up to what is happening in the cradle of Islam. “We would never allow someone to destroy the Pyramids, so why are we letting Islam’s history disappear?”

Prophet’s (s) Wife’s House

The house of the Prophet’s (s) wife Khadijah was destroyed and replaced with a public toilet block. After lengthy negotiations the site was briefly excavated with artefacts found dating back to the Prophet’s  (s) time.

Expansion of the Grand Mosque

In order to accommodate the ever growing pilgrim numbers, the authorities have begun a £690m expansion. Houses have been pulled, and it is likely the old Ottoman and Abbasi columns will also go.

The Prophet’s (s) Birth House

The building where the Prophet (s) once lived lies just a few hundred yards  from the Grand Mosque. Currently a library, the fear is that it could suffer the same fate as his wife’s house when the mosque expands.

Royal Mecca Clocktower

In order to build the clock tower and its surrounding skyscrapers–most of which house luxury hotels–the Saudi authorities approved the destruction of an entire mountain and the Ottoman Ajyad Fortress that lay on top.

Also under threat

Bayt al-Mawlid

When the Wahabis took Mecca in the 1920s they destroyed the dome on top of the house where the Prophet Muhammad (s) was born. It was then used as a cattle market before being turned into a library after a campaign by Meccans. There are concerns that the expansion of the Grand Mosque will destroy it once more. The site has never been excavated by archaeologists.

Ottoman and Abasi columns of the Grand Mosque

Slated for demolition as part of the Grand Mosque expansion, these intricately carved columns date back to the 17th century and are the oldest surviving sections of Islam’s holiest site. Much to the chagrin of Wahabis, they are inscribed with the names of the Prophet’s (s) companions. Ottomon Mecca is now rapidly disappearing.

Al-Masjid al-Nawabi

For many years, hardline Wahabi clerics have had their sites set on the 15th century green dome that rests above the tomb holding the Prophet (s), Abu Bakr and Umar in Medina. The mosque is regarded as the second holiest site in Islam. Wahabis, however, believe marked graves are idolatrous. A pamphlet published in 2007 by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, endorsed by Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, stated that “the green dome shall be demolished and the three graves flattened in the Prophet’s  (s) Masjid.”

Jabal al-Nour

A mountain outside Mecca where Muhammad (s) received his first Koranic revelations. The Prophet (s) used to spend long spells in a cave called Hira. The cave is particularly popular among South Asian pilgrims who have carved steps up to its entrance and adorned the walls with graffiti. Religious hardliners are keen to dissuade pilgrims from congregating there and have mooted the idea of removing the steps and even destroying the mountain altogether.

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Community News (V13-I39)

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Presentation on Islam in Humboldt

EUREKA,CA–In order to obtain cultural/inter-religious harmony in the community through diffusion of information, the Humboldt County Human Rights Commission and the Humboldt County Library are co-sponsoring a one hour presentation on “Understanding Islam” by Abdul Aziz, professor emeritus at Humboldt State University.

It will be held from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in the Conference Room of the Humboldt County Library, 1313 3rd St., Eureka, on Saturday.

Fundamentals of Islam including issues such as the concept of God, the life of Prophet Muhammad, Muslim beliefs, modes of worship, various forms of Jihad, status of women, suicide bombing and terrorism with reference to the current political and social environment will be discussed in light of the teachings of the Quran. However, any question on Islam will be welcome.

Aziz has taught an off-campus HSU course, “Introduction to Islamic Culture,” for a number of years. He is also a past Humboldt County Human Rights commissioner.

There is no cost to attend. Everyone is invited. For more information, call 707-822-8217

Fast-a-thon to be held at UNM

The Muslim Student’s Association at the University of New Mexico will hold its annual Fast-A-Thon this week to raise money and awareness for famine in the eastern horn of Africa.

Last year’s fast raised roughly $1,200 for flood relief in Pakistan. This year organizers says they hope to raise even more money and more awareness to help end world hunger.

“Just because now they don’t talk about it that much in the media, doesn’t mean people aren’t starving to death anymore,” said MSA President Mustafa in an interview to the student newspaper. “We need to keep focus and attention on people who need help, not just because it’s a news story, but because as human beings we all need to take care of each other.”

The event is not exclusive to Muslim students.

“This fundraiser is a human issue, meaning we want people of all different faiths, cultural backgrounds, different political ideologies, etc. to come help and support the people of the eastern horn of Africa,” she said. “As fellow humans we should bear the responsibility in making sure that we all help each other out, and this fundraiser is just another opportunity for doing so.”

New York cabbies win rights to veto racy ads

NEW YORK,NY–New York City cabbies who object to driving taxis topped with ads for strip clubs have won the right to veto the racy ads.

The city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission approved a new rule last week  that lets cabbies who own their vehicles say no to the racy ads.

Several cabbies told the commission they hated the provocative roof ads.

Previously the owners of taxi medallions could decide what ads to put on the cars. Many taxi owners do not own the medallion.

The racy ads were objected to not only by Muslim taxi owners but also others. A Sikh owner told the board that  his six-year-old granddaughter had told him she wanted to become a dancer after seeing an advert for Flashdancers on his taxi.

‘We should keep [the advertisement] there to tell the children that it is good?’ he had asked.

Dupage County approves mosque without dome

CHICAGO,IL–The DuPage County board voted last week to allow a mosque and Muslim community center to be built along Roosevelt Road near Lombard.

It will be built just east of Interstate Highway 355, at the southwest corner of Roosevelt Road and Lawler Avenue. Plans are for a main building with place for worship, a gym, a library, a learning area and a conference room.

But the board did not allow the Muslim group to build a 50 foot high dome to cover the prayer area. This is the second Muslim development in unincorporated DuPage County that has recently modified construction plans because the board denied approval for a dome.

The county sets a height limit of 36 feet in residential areas, and only grants variances to exceed that limit on a case-by-case basis.

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Muslims Rising Above The Ashes Of Misunderstanding

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kari Ansari

As the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 approaches, we’ll be inundated with reports and recollections of where people were at that moment, what they were doing and how their lives have been changed because of it.

This anniversary-keeping activity feels like we have a wound that we know has yet to heal, but we can’t stop ourselves from touching it — just to see if it still hurts.

It does.

The inevitable media coverage will build now until Sept. 12, when folks will try to get back to normal life still smarting from the big press blitz. Muslim Americans will have no choice but to be one of the featured main dishes in this media feasting frenzy, and we will do our part to help heal the wounds caused by those who falsely claimed our faith by telling you again that Islam had no part in this tragedy.

Over these last 10 years, the events of 9/11 taught my faith community that we had been neglecting outreach to the greater society. We’ve had to step away from the cultural comfort of our mosques, Islamic schools and homes to shake the hands of our neighbors who have been there all along, but with whom we may not have engaged with serious effort or effect. Ten years later, Muslims have made these gestures of friendship to the point that a large percentage of the folks who wanted to know us better, now do. There are others who simply refuse to let go of the bigotry and stereotyping of Muslims in America. You may know them: They have their eyes closed with their hands over their ears singing, “la, la, la. I don’t hear you.”

For the next 10 years, I am hopeful that our nation will leave these crooners of ignorance out of our society’s narrative. We’ve already seen some of Islam’s biggest haters recently outed for propagating bigotry under the guise of being “terrorism experts.” Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have been exposed for their racist and bigoted craziness through a Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, who referred to their hate-filled blogs and rhetoric many times in his insanely xenophobic manifesto. The Center for American Progress recently released a report, “Fear, Inc., The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America” that clearly outlines the organized machine operating a small empire of hatred. Besides Spencer and Geller, the report highlights major players like David Yerushalmi (recently featured in a New York Times article outlining his role in this smear campaign) and Fox News (a network owned by the now infamous News Corp and Rupert Murdoch). These people won’t stop their work in unfairly vilifying the American Muslim community, but really, how long can that leaky bucket of lies hold water?

It’s been a challenge to refute every slam and slur against Islam, but Muslims try to follow the example of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s), who persistently treated his neighbors with respect despite their derision.

America’s Muslims look forward to our faith community rising above these ashes of misunderstandings to find ourselves welcome as fellow citizens. To make this climb, we know our focus must stay on our youth.

There are thousands of young, dynamic American Muslims already creating change in our nation’s high schools, colleges and workplaces. Their parents have put heart and soul into raising these young people — especially within the difficult context of the last 10 years. They have been nurturing their kids with love and giving them confidence to be American and Muslim in the same sentence. We have great and lofty expectations of their futures, and these young people are not failing any of us.

Young Muslims are making advances in medicine, science and technology.

Look at the list of young doctors in any teaching hospital and you’ll see Muslim names galore. Most major corporations include a cadre of brilliant Muslim engineers. Beyond technology and medicine (traditionally the career paths of choice for Muslims in the U.S.), we are now seeing young Muslims choosing to pursue careers in the less lucrative, but necessary fields of public service, social services and education. And finally, we are seeing more and more Muslim names coming up in the arts and communications fields. This is a hopeful sign for the future, as public perceptions often change through the media in all its forms. Watch Musa Syeed, a writer and independent filmmaker to produce great movies and documentaries, as well as Qasim Bashir, who wrote and directed “Mooz-lum: The Movie.” There are thousands of upcoming Muslim journalists, writers, artists, photographers and performers that we will be sure to hear more from in the next 10 years.

I’m proud to claim these honest young people who are giving us honest portrayals of Muslims through the arts and media.

We now have young people studying to become Islamic scholars within the American context through the newly instituted Zaytuna College, whose mission is “to educate and prepare morally committed professional, intellectual, and spiritual leaders, who are grounded in the Islamic scholarly tradition and conversant with the cultural currents and critical ideas shaping modern society.” We look forward to the graduates of Zaytuna to actively lead and positively shape the American Muslim community for generations to come.

Young Muslims are the backbone of American-Muslim philanthropic efforts, and what they lack in financial resources, they are making up with their time and hard work. There isn’t a single charitable event that doesn’t depend on student volunteers for its success. Muslims Without Borders has taken this legacy one step further by forming a full-blown relief agency run solely by Muslim students.

I recently had a reporter ask me if it wasn’t too big of a burden for my kids to grow up as identifiable Muslims during these last 10 years.

It was a sincere question, but I wondered how else she thought I should have raised them. Later, I realized that there are some Muslim parents who have discouraged their children from expressing their faith in any way from fear of reprisal. Recently, my heart hurt for the young checker at the grocery store who told me in a wistful voice that she was “technically a Muslim,” but that her parents didn’t want her to practice the faith in case she’d suffer here as a new immigrant. I don’t know if that statement reflected more poorly on our society, or on her parents; however, for the most part, Muslim families in America are raising their children to be proud of their beliefs and are teaching them that God is infinitely Merciful and Gracious to those who struggle for His sake. These young people who are proud of their noble faith realize that despite some people’s innocent ignorance of Islam, or other’s outright bigotry, the majority of our neighbors and greater community will have respect for them as long as their character and behavior follow the example of the Blessed Prophet Muhammad (s). To put it plain and simple, we are raising these young people to trust in God and do good things with their lives.

Muslims in this country are looking forward to seeing an America that once again says we have had enough of hate and fear. We hope everyone will recognize that our country becomes more beautiful with each new color and creed we accept as our own.

Kari Ansari is a Writer and Co-Founder of America’s Muslim Family Magazine

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The Eternal Jihad is Doable

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karima Friedemann

Modern psychology seems to agree with Islam that there are two kinds of people in this world, ultimately: Power Over and Power Within people. Marriages and nations have been destroyed because of the conflict between these two human philosophies. It seems completely impossible that they could ever live in peace, because one viewpoint says that in order for me to win, you must lose. This is the viewpoint of Jahiliyyah. The other viewpoint says, “I can never win unless you win also.” In Islam we have learned that if even just a small part of your body hurts, the entire body cannot sleep. It is the classic domination vs. cooperation framework conflict. It is as old as time. It would take a philosopher to really delve into it, but basically, the Prophet (s) told us this struggle will go on until the end of time! This is the eternal inner jihad.

When the medieval Christian world came into contact with the Arabian and African Muslim world, they did not have a complete code of honor. Because Christ’s teachings involved turning the other cheek, there was no actual Christian law to govern war. Therefore, there were no boundaries. It is very similar to India’s meat industry today. Because eating meat according to Hinduism is a sin, there are no laws or ethics governing the treatment of cows in India. They treat it like an all or nothing situation.

As a result of Europe’s dance with the Muslims during the Anglo-Saxon period, Christians absorbed what they learned from their Islamic enemies and interpreted things in their peculiar ways. Europeans had never before seen women on or near the battlefield. The Muslim women who accompanied their husband “Saracens” on long journeys were described as promiscuous witches in traditional English literature. Yet curiously, indirectly, the Islamic hadith got indirectly written into the tales of King Arthur, who is the fictional equivalent in literature of our Imam Ali.

Ali (sa) is best known for refusing to kill the pagan enemy simply because he didn’t want to kill out of anger or ego, he would only kill for the sake of Allah. The man had spit on Ali’s face. Ali just let him go! Ali is the ultimate historical character across all nations that defined righteous behavior on the battlefield. The Anglo-Saxons after their experience with the Muslim world adopted the creed that war was supposed to be about freeing prisoners, feeding widows and orphans and helping the needy and oppressed, and this wisdom was spread throughout Europe through the tales of King Arthur. Before Christians came into contact with Islam, they thought war was just about killing people for power and commercial products. They didn’t accept Islam directly but they rewrote their own teachings to include the Islamic wisdom indirectly.

There are even earlier teachings in Islam that involve this basic human conflict between ignorance and reason. The Prophet Sulayman (as) when approaching the Queen of Sheba in marriage made it clear that the pagan system of her empire was going to have to submit to Islam if she wanted peace with her neighbors. There truly cannot be any compromise between hedonistic materialism and the prophetic way. They are like night and day.

Margaret Paul, Ph.D writes in an article about Good Self Esteem, “Our society often confuses personal power – “power within” – with “power over,” which is about controlling others. There is a vast difference between personal power and control. Personal power comes from an inner sense of security, from knowing who you are in your soul, from having defined your own intrinsic worth. It is the power that flows through you when you are connected to and feel your oneness with a spiritual source of guidance. It is the power that is the eventual result of doing deep inner emotional and spiritual work to heal the fears and false beliefs acquired in childhood.”

All people on earth are obligated by the promise that they made before time with Adam (as) in front of God to do this work of inner searching towards guidance and ultimate truth, including banishing the false teachings of our childhoods. There are no excuses. According to Islam, nobody has the right to say they didn’t realize they were supposed to do this in their lifetime. We made that promise to God before birth.

Dr. M. Paul continues: “Even if you do manage to have some control through anger, criticism, judgment, or money, this will never give you personal power – When the soul has dominion over the body, you have the power to manifest your dreams, to stay centered in the face of attack, to remain loving in the face of fear. When the soul has dominion over the body, you have tremendous personal power.”

Every person who is serious about their role on this earth is going to have to learn how to control their animalistic impulses especially when feeling wronged. We cannot make rational decisions about how to deal with a situation until we let go of our attachment to knowing we were wronged.

The animal instincts of fight or flight – the instincts of the body – often have dominion over our choices, but these reactions are largely caused by adrenaline. After prolonged periods of adrenaline stimulation without any change in the situation, the immune system begins to shut down. It is a huge journey to learn how to stand up to injustice without losing your center of control within.

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