Saudi Arabia Tightens Media Laws

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Royal order threatens fines and closure of publications that jeopardize kingdom’s stability or offends clerics.

Security has been strengthened in Saudi Arabia in an effort to crush possible protests [AFP]

Saudi Arabia has tightened its control of the media, threatening fines and closure of publications that jeopardised its stability or offended clerics, state media reported.

The tighter media controls were set out in amendments to the media law issued as a royal order.

They also banned stirring up sectarianism and “anything that causes harm to the general interest of the country”.

“All those responsible for publication are banned from publishing … anything contradicting Islamic Sharia Law; anything inciting disruption of state security or public order or anything serving foreign interests that contradict national interests,” the state news agency SPA said.

Saudi Arabia, which is a major US ally, follows an austere version of Sunni Islam and does not tolerate any form of dissent. It has no elected parliament and no political parties.
It has managed to stave off the unrest which has rocked the Arab world, toppling leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

Facebook call unheeded

Almost no Saudis in major cities answered a Facebook call for protests on March 11, in the face of a massive security presence around the country.

Minority Shias have staged a number of street marches in the eastern province, where most of Saudi Arabia’s oil fields are located.

Shias are said to represent between 10 and 15 per cent of the country’s 18 million people and have long complained of discrimination, a charge the government denies.

Clerics played a major role in banning protests by issuing a religious edict which said that demonstrations are against Islamic law.

In turn, the royal order banned the “infringement of the reputation or dignity, the slander or the personal offence of the Grand Mufti or any of the country’s senior clerics or statesmen”.

King Abdullah has strengthened the security and religious police forces, which played a major role in banning protests in the kingdom.

According to the amendment published on Friday, punishments for breaking the media laws include a fine of half a million riyals ($133,000) and the shutting down of the publication that published the violation.

It also allows for banning the writer from contributing to any media.

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Saudi Arabia Tightens Media Laws

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Royal order threatens fines and closure of publications that jeopardize kingdom’s stability or offends clerics.

Security has been strengthened in Saudi Arabia in an effort to crush possible protests [AFP]

Saudi Arabia has tightened its control of the media, threatening fines and closure of publications that jeopardised its stability or offended clerics, state media reported.

The tighter media controls were set out in amendments to the media law issued as a royal order.

They also banned stirring up sectarianism and “anything that causes harm to the general interest of the country”.

“All those responsible for publication are banned from publishing … anything contradicting Islamic Sharia Law; anything inciting disruption of state security or public order or anything serving foreign interests that contradict national interests,” the state news agency SPA said.

Saudi Arabia, which is a major US ally, follows an austere version of Sunni Islam and does not tolerate any form of dissent. It has no elected parliament and no political parties.
It has managed to stave off the unrest which has rocked the Arab world, toppling leaders in Tunisia and Egypt.

Facebook call unheeded

Almost no Saudis in major cities answered a Facebook call for protests on March 11, in the face of a massive security presence around the country.

Minority Shias have staged a number of street marches in the eastern province, where most of Saudi Arabia’s oil fields are located.

Shias are said to represent between 10 and 15 per cent of the country’s 18 million people and have long complained of discrimination, a charge the government denies.

Clerics played a major role in banning protests by issuing a religious edict which said that demonstrations are against Islamic law.

In turn, the royal order banned the “infringement of the reputation or dignity, the slander or the personal offence of the Grand Mufti or any of the country’s senior clerics or statesmen”.

King Abdullah has strengthened the security and religious police forces, which played a major role in banning protests in the kingdom.

According to the amendment published on Friday, punishments for breaking the media laws include a fine of half a million riyals ($133,000) and the shutting down of the publication that published the violation.

It also allows for banning the writer from contributing to any media.

13-22

Drugs and Medicines in Historical Context

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

medical_marijuanaDid you know that George Washington used to grow marijuana on the White House lawn? America’s first president often spoke fondly of “female plants,” pointing obviously to marijuana’s medicinal uses. Benjamin Franklin, who avoided alcohol, was an ardent marijuana smoker. Did you know that up until World War II, American farmers could pay their taxes with hemp? Hemp, the mother of marijuana, is a native plant of every continent, and has been used during all periods of history to create rope, paper, cloth, oil, fuel, fiber, and medicine. Avicenna, the medieval Arab author of medicinal textbooks recommended marijuana, the hemp flower, for stomach ailments and many other health problems.

American, European, Asian and Arab-Islamic civilizations combined efforts during the 19th century to upgrade the standard of using drugs. The American Indians introduced the idea of smoking tobacco in a pipe to the world. Until then, Muslims had been using medicinal plants including hashish and opium by cooking them in food. The Arabs were so inspired by the New World to invent the water pipe. Using American tobacco, the Orient supplied the herbs, and a new world culture, a new economy began.

What does Islam say about drugs? According to hadith, if a person is ill, there is no sin on him whether he takes medicine to feel better, or if he chooses not to do so. During the 4th Caliphate, Muslims were introduced to drugs in the far regions of the expanding Islamic empire. But because of the deep fear of the sin of misinterpreting or over-interpreting scripture, there was no punishment for any medicinal plant other than fermented alcoholic beverages. Muslim governments never even destroyed vineyards. Even while wine is haram, grapes are not haram. Plants are protected by God.

Obviously, we have to give the Muslims credit for this. The use of the syrup from the poppy flower could kill a person’s pain making an amputation without huge physical trauma possible. Smoking marijuana could give a person dying from cancer the strength to write a book about his life. There is nothing more precious in this world than the ability to physically kill pain or nausea. God gave these things to us. Sometimes we can copy these medicinal effects in pill form. But the fact is, human beings want and require medicine. God gave us plants to reduce suffering. It is a crime against God to make a plant illegal. These plants save lives. These plants save the quality of people’s lives as well.

During World War II, the US used hemp fuel for their airplanes and tanks. Henry Ford actually created a car that was made entirely of cellulite from the hemp plant as well as ran on hemp fuel. It is an amazing idea, that American farmers could actually attain financial security growing the fuel that runs our cars! However, after the oil companies won the war, plant-based fuel became obsolete. The reason was because of Lobbyists.

Around the world today, you will still find many countries such as Canada, Indonesia and Malaysia growing hemp for industrial purposes such as oil or textiles. And it is an unspoken fact that marijuana is the top cash crop in the United States, year after year. People might pay up to $90 for 1/8 of an ounce of these flower buds. That is way more than any farmer could ever hope to get from parsley or chives.

When the Roman Emperor offered Maria and her sister to the Prophet Mohammed (s) as gifts, also included in the gift was some medicine. The hadith does not say what kind of medicine but it was probably opium or hashish given the time period. The Prophet Mohammed (s) returned the drugs and kept the girls. He freed from slavery and married Maria the Copt, who became his youngest wife, and he married her sister to one of his companions. This is the only hadith translated into English that specifically mentions drugs. In this hadith, the Prophet (s) said, “My Sunna is the best medicine.”
In a true Islamic society based on historical norms, drugs would not be illegal. They would be used for positive purposes. We would not distinguish between herbal vs. chemical versions of a medicine. People should be allowed to have access to whatever drugs make them feel better. This is a human right. Modern laws making all drugs illegal are neither halal nor beneficial to society. God gave us so many plants to help alleviate our suffering. It would be a rejection of His Mercy not to fully explore the medicinal properties of all the plants we have on earth.

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The Fallacy of Islamic Reform

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Macksood A. Aftab

In recent times many individuals are advocating for an Islamic reform along the lines of the reforms which occurred in Christian Europe and brought Christianity out of the dark ages and into the modern one.   The advocates of such reform appear unaware of Islamic intellectual and cultural history.  Their assertion lies on the mistaken assumption that like medieval Christianity, medieval Islam must also have been similarly backward and barbaric.    However, the exact opposite is true in the case of Islam.

Medieval Islam gave rise to a beautiful civilization filled with culture, tolerance and diversity.   It nourished a whole array of scientists and sciences in the fields of philosophy, astronomy, medicine, history and others.   As an example of the culture of learning the main library in Cordoba (Islamic Spain) contained between 400,000 and 600,000 books, and was one of 70 libraries in the city.

Art, architecture and poetry flourished in medieval Islam.  Some of the most beautiful world landmarks such as the Alhamra, the Taj Mahal, and the Blue Mosque are from this era.   Bernard Lewis states,  “The civilization of Islam was by far the most advanced and the most creative in the world. Muslims led the world in science.”   Fischer adds, “ The brilliance of Perso-Turko-Islamic civilization provided architectural, painting and music forms to a world stretching from Andalusia to India to Central Asia.”

Islam during this time embodied a liberal worldview which embodied religious tolerance not only towards non-muslim minorities but also amongst the various schools of thought within Islam.

Contrast the progressive city of Venice with the Islamic capital of Istanbul.    Goffman narrates the experience of a Muslim merchant who visits Venice in 1567 CE and notices that Muslim were not allowed to build mosques and were even denied water for ablution.   Whereas, “In his beloved city of Istanbul, the large and thriving communities of Christians and Jews fraternized with Muslims on the streets and in the work places of the city.”   Classical Islamic civilization celebrated and preserved religious, ethnic, and linguistic diversity amongst its population.

Women enjoyed privileges in society and status unthinkable in Europe.  Ruth Roded has documented that that the proportion of female lecturers in many classical Islamic colleges was higher than in modern Western universities.  She writes,   ‘If U.S. and European historians feel a need to reconstruct women’s history because women are invisible in the traditional sources, Islamic scholars are faced with a plethora of source material that has only begun to be studied. [ . . . ] In reading the biographies of thousands of Muslim women scholars, one is amazed at the evidence that contradicts the view of Muslim women as marginal, secluded, and restricted.’ 

Reform movements did take place in Islam in the 19th and 20th century.   However, unlike in the case of Europe when reform brought it out of the dark ages into enlightenment.   This reform took Islam from enlightenment into the dark ages.     These movements form the basis for the ideology of today’s Islamists, extremists and “puritans.”

Professor Fadl summarizes , “Puritans render the humanistic legacy of the Islamic civilization irrelevant as they ignore the accomplishments of past generations of Muslims in fields such as philosophy, the arts, architecture, poetry and music, moral and ethical theory, and even romanticism and love.” 

These reform movements revolted against traditional and progressive Islamic civilization and were largely reactionary to Western colonialism, ironically adopting western organizational structures at the expense of traditional Islamic institutions.  “Indeed, today’s Islamist militants reject the heritage of traditions in their endeavor to politicize Islam. Ironically, they contribute to the process of detraditionalization of society.” 

Therefore, the traditional Muslims of today are wary of a call towards Islamic reform.   This call is a result of the imposition of a western worldview on Islamic history.   Rather, the traditional Muslims are calling for a Revival of Islam.    A restoration of what were a great religion, and a great civilization begun in Madina by the Prophet (s) of Islam and which flourished for the following millennium.  Not for reform which had derailed the success story of Islam.

Dr. Macksood A. Aftab is Clinical Instructer at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine.  He is also a candidate for Masters in History of Science at Harvard University’s Extension School.  He is a Neuroradiologist having completed his fellowship training at the Harvard Medical School.  He is also editor of the Journal of Islamic Philosophy.

13-20

The Fatah- Hamas Reconciliation

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Richmond, Va.–May 3rd–I was just informed of the commencement of this project (Saturday, the last day of the previous month) that one of Colonel’s Khadafy’s seven sons was slain– and the Colonel nearly so–at the Libyan government’s Armed Forces Command and Control Center in Tripoli by an Anglo-Franco-American air strike.   Cyrenaica’s civil war is emerging as an extended one.

While from the Maghreb to Far Western Asia, Syria appears to be degenerating into a Civil War of its own.

On the bottom of the Arabian Peninsula agrees to step down immediately as soon as he receives (legally-binding) assurances that neither he nor any of his family is not prosecuted for their decisions in attempting to put down the initial unrest.  As a negotiator himself, your observer does not deem this to be an unacceptable compromise.  Yet, the great hoi-polloi have rejected this compromise, and continuing their rioting for the instant removal of the administration as it is currently constructed without any pre-conditions.

Over the world — and even the larger Islamic world — political unrest has sprouted, but I would like to focus upon the most central point of the Arab “Spring,” and this is Palestine, for their non-Arab, non-Islamic neighbor, Israel, is, as your scribe has repeated in past pieces is the key or failure of the success or failure of a unique Arab democracy (ies).  

Your author shall switch from the third to the first person because what I am to compose is opinion, and based on plan guessing.  It is, also, e  aqua — from the “tope of my head.”

Probably, the most newsworthy incident to come out of the Middle East was the reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah, the two main political parties within Palestine.  Fatah controls the West Bank while Hamas the Gaza Strip. 

After the 2006 Gaza election, which (Former U.S.) President Jimmy Carter declared the polls in that mini-(Palestinian) nation as the most free and fair that his teams had ever observed, Hamas, an Islamist Party won fairly without question.  This lead to a bloody, short civil war between the two Palestinian political parties.  With Hamas driving their “brother” faction from Gaza city.

As so often in the Arab world, the eternal world demands democracy within the Arabic-speaking peoples.  When that very things comes about the bloc that comes to power is declared a “terrorist” organization  — both the United States and Israel refused to recognize the Strip.  (In fact, Israel brought a most vicious to the innocent civilians within that State.)  Because Hamas had been mentored by the second largest party in Cairo, the Muslim Brotherhood, Mubarak, who lately headed, the Nile State, blockaded, their border into the Gazan “nation” at Rafah because the last oppressive government where afraid of Hamas (Gaza is not that far from the oldest continuous nation’s) reforms would have on their mock “Parliament” on the River.  (After disturbances brought down Mubarak’s regime Gaza is finally being supplied from their Western borders!)

Here, at Richmond, I have had several intense talks with (U.S.) Defense Department officials who were quite perturb of the Muslim Brotherhood growth of influence within the largely North African nation.  I assured them that they were politically right-of Center party who wished to put their religious morality within their policies.  The universal reply I received was “I hope you’re right!”

Back to last weeks rejoining of Hamas with Fatah to form a united political over all the Palestinian nation as it now exists.

As I have said before I am in dialogue with many progressive Jewish-Americans and even a  few Israelis.  For the most part, these groups are for settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian, and I fully support most but not all of their proposals.  What concerns me, though, is that even the liberal organization stand in opposition to the unification of the Palestinian political parties because Hamas does not recognize Tel Aviv’ right to exist.

In the next ballot, provided it is free and fair, Hamas would not only prevail in the Mediterranean, but the West Bank as well.

Although Hamas refuses as yet to recognize a Zionist State, it is better that all parties are discussion amongst themselves than not.  The object of negotiation is not that they agree with each other, but that they can find a middle ground from which a compromise; otherwise, the end object will be War, and with Israel being a nuclear State (from the Negev) mega-tragedy can develop.  I would call upon Jews in the United States to call upon your State to react diplomatically rather than militarily.  I would urge American Muslims to pressure Washington to be even-handed!

Finally, Israel has made a veiled threat to Egypt (and, thus, to other nations in the region) that, if the Brotherhood should dominate, the forthcoming vote, Israeli Jerusalem would take it as a hostile act.  Both Hamas and the Brotherhood are fully democratic organizations.

The Arab “Spring” must succeed!  An Islamic democracy must be based upon the religion’s principles and culture must be allowed to developed.  Israel must not allowed to be the spoiler.  Besides, strong regional sponsors may allow for a resolution for the dilemma of the Occupied Territories to be solved, and, incidentally, for the survival of the State of Israel’s within the Middle East in accepted secure borders alongside a viable Palestinian State.  For the present actions of that nation can only guarantee its worst fear — that will be driven into the Sea within a hundred years or less!

13-19

Islamic Relief Malaria Conference

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

It is easy to forget that people suffer and die unnecessarily from disease as well as from natural and man made disasters, though the latter make the headlines. It is even easier to believe, as many in this country do, that the disease will never impact their lives. Fortunately their are organizations, impelled by their faith, that address this issue. One of them is Islamic Relief.

Islamic Relief USA, one of the world’s foremost charities, held its second annual Malaria Conference this past Sunday in Anaheim, Ca. Titled: Bite the Bug, the event included workshops with well known and informative speakers and an end of Conference dinner.

The Conference was both educational and a call to action. The theme of the Conference was: Educate, Communicate and Eradicate.

The event began with a welcome by Mohammed Mertaban. He told the audience that Malaria is a scourge that effects the entire world. Though its exact time of origin remains unknown, it has impacted mankind since the beginning of history. Children constitute a disproportionate number of Malaria’s victims.

Workshops were: Malaria: Beyond A Disease; Malaria Firsthand: Effect on Community and Family, and Eradicate Malaria: As little as $10 can Save A Life.

Dr. Faisal Qazi, a neurologist, began his address by thanking Islamic Relief for two reasons: first for embracing the cause of eradicating Malaria, and second, for recognizing the global impact. He said that one must not only address the epidemiological aspects of the disease – morbidity and mortality – but the economic and social burden the disease imposes.

He cited imperatives from the Holy Quran – tools in any battle fought by Muslims: wisdom, compassion, justice and excellence.

Imam Siraj Wahaj, one of the most revered Islamic figures today, cited some of the many instances of compassion on the part of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). “Let us have the same compassion as our Prophet (s).”

He asked the audience to study American history, particularly African American history. Imam Wahaj cited Medgar Evers, an African American killed in the early 1960’s for speaking out against the policy of the South which kept his people from voting.

With the Muslim vote “You have to power to do something about government”, he continued. Muslims have a right to guide this country and to demand more money for Malaria relief.
“I have learned so much about Malaria and its effects” said one young woman toward the end of the workshop.

Malaria, while it is a global concern, particularly affects people in Central and South America; Southeast Asia; Africa, and the Eastern Mediterranean. Malaria can be cured, and it can be prevented. It is a blood disease caused by the bite of the female Anopheles mosquito. It only takes one bite to cause infection and probable, in the absence of treatment, death.

The United Nations has estimated that Malaria could be eradicated by 2015 with the proper international effort. Islamic relief would like to see that happen sooner.

Islamic Relief has offices around the world and works not only with people afflicted with disease but also with people who are the victims of natural and man made disasters. Islamic Relief partners with many other charities both international and local and has NGO status with the United Nations.. The group serves all people regardless of their nationality, race or religion. Islamic Relief has been in Haiti in the earthquake’s aftermath; Pakistan after the earthquake and floods; Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina; Libya during the current crisis; Republic of the Congo in the aftermath of the recent renewed decades old civil war, and Darfur with its many internally displaced people. The foregoing are but a small portion of the places and times where the presence of Islamic Relief has made and continues to make a difference in saving lives and improving the quality of existence.

To access Islamic Relief’s web site and find more about the organization, please visit: www.islamicreliefusa.org.  To learn more about Malaria and to donate to that cause or the numerous others on the web site, please follow the appropriate links.

13-19

Amnesty: Iran Steps Up Public Executions

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran has sharply stepped up its use of public executions, hanging 13 men this year, nearly as many as in all of 2010, in an attempt to intimidate its citizens, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Eight of the hangings have taken place since mid-April, including two juveniles convicted for a rape and murder committed when they were 17, the human rights group said.

“It is deeply disturbing that despite a moratorium on public executions ordered in 2008, the Iranian authorities are once again seeking to intimidate people by such spectacles which not only dehumanize the victim, but brutalize those who witness it,” said Amnesty official Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Iran executed at least 252 people last year, 14 in public, Amnesty said.

Human rights groups often criticize Iran, saying the Islamic republic has one of the highest execution rates in the world.

Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and apostasy — the renouncing of Islam — are all punishable by death under Iran’s Islamic law practiced since the 1979 revolution.

(Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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Community News (V13-I16)

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Khawja Shamsuddin Receives Outstanding Volunteer Service Award

Khwaja-ShamsuddinOLYMPIA, WA — Bellevue Police Volunteer Khawja “Shams” Shamsuddin received the Governor’s 2011 Outstanding Volunteer Service Award at a reception on April 11. This award, in its seventh year, is presented by Governor Gregoire on behalf of the Washington Commission for National and Community Service to citizens who “effect real change in their communities through volunteer service.”
The award is presented to coincide with the start of National Volunteer Week.

Shamsuddin has been a Bellevue Police volunteer for more than 12 years. To date he has served in excess of 2,600 hours, primarily at the Factoria substation. Throughout the years he has participated on several entry-level officer oral boards and is a member of Chief Linda Pillo’s Diversity Focus Group, which helps the department understand and respond to the needs and concerns of the city’s various ethnic communities.

When not volunteering at the police department, Shamsuddin is a mediator, interpreter, community relations advisor and fundraiser in the local Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Arab and Indian communities. He also is a sought-after speaker with the Islamic Speakers Bureau and an organizer for the Eastside Interfaith Group.

As Police Volunteer Coordinator Marjorie Trachtman wrote in his award nomination, “Being of service to others is as instinctive to Shams as breathing. (He) embodies the values this award seeks to recognize.”

“We are so fortunate to have such dedicated citizens volunteering with our Department. Their efforts are part of the reason we’re able to provide such a high level of service to the community,” says Chief Linda Pillo.

Ahmed Zewail received top chemistry honor

AhmedZewailNobel laureate Ahmed Zewail has another top feather in his already dazzling cap.  The Linus Pauling Professor of Chemistry & Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology and Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, was recently  honored with the 2011 Priestley Medal for developing “ultrafast-motion” imaging.

The prestigious award was presented to Zewail by the American Chemical Society (ACS) in recognition of “his development of revolutionary methods for the study of ultrafast processes in chemistry, biology, and materials science.”

Zewail’s pioneering work in femtochemistry—the study of chemical processes on the femtosecond (10–15 second) timescale—established methodology for following the intricacies of chemical transformations as reactants evolve into products by way of fleeting reaction intermediates. His laser-driven “pump-probe” techniques, which were demonstrated initially on gas-phase reactions, captured “snapshots” of intermediates that existed for barely more than the femtosecond period of a molecular vibration.

It may also be noted here that Zewail’s name was also mentioned as the possible president of Egypt as that is his country of birth. However, he had rejected such speculations saying that while he supports democracy he is not interested in that job.

Islamic Studies program to reopen at UCLA

LOS ANGELES,CA–The Islamic Studies graduate program at UCLA has reopened after being suspended in 2007. According to the Daily Bruin the suspension was due to the concerns of the Graduate Council over the lack of faculty commitment to students. Because the program utilizes professors from many departments, students often felt marginalized or ignored because they did not have full-time faculty to guide them, said program chair Khaled Abou El Fadl.

Islamic Studies has significantly changed its policies since its suspension. It is better organized and administered, and professors who want to be involved with the program now have to sign a contract that states they will give students appropriate attention, Abou El Fadl said.

Consequently, one of the most important admissions criteria is a good match between a student and an interested professor.

Colorado State University to Host Lecture on Impact of Muslim-Based Media April 20

Nabil Echchaibi

As unrest grows in the Middle East, what impacts are new Muslim-based media and social media having on revolutions in the region?

To address these and other topics, Colorado State University will host a lecture by Nabil Echchaibi, assistant professor of journalism and media studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. The lecture, “Formations of the Muslim Modern: Media, Islam, and Alternative Modernity,” will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 20, in CSU’s Clark Building, Room A202.

The lecture will focus on the rise of new media in the Muslim world and the impact media has on Muslim culture and identity, especially among young people.

Echchaibi has a forthcoming book of the same title. In his research on this topic, he analyzed case studies of Muslim media in six cities around the world. He examined how satellite television and digital media have created a new platform for discussion of what it means to be a modern Muslim.

A native of Morocco, Echchaibi also serves as associate director of the Center for Media, Religion, and Culture at CU. He specializes in identity politics among young Muslims in the Arab world.

He also is currently directing a project funded by the Social Science Research Council, which will compile a cultural history of Muslims in the mountain west region of the United States. The project will produce a web resource and a documentary film.

13-16

All Muslim Cemetery to Open in Flint

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

Farmington–May 12–Any Muslim who enters a non-Muslim cemetery to visit a relative or friend is confronted with a difficult dilemma, that in order to approach the grave of his friend he must walk across the graves of other people, or must sit on the graves of other people–meanwhile there are ahadith that this is a terrible act.

Thus, we Muslims need a cemetery planned from the beginning around Islamic law, where in order to visit a friend or relative, or to pray jinaza for that person, it is not necessary to walk across or sit upon the graves of other people.

And so it is a welcome event that a new all-Muslim cemetery is launching in Flint.  Garden of Peace is a fledgling cemetery with so far approximately five people interred–the cemetery features Shari’ah compliant planning, competitive pricing, and maintenance and ownership all by Muslims.

Hossam Shukairy, Abed Khirfan, Muhammed Saleem, and Dr. Khalid Shukairy held a meeting this past weekend to introduce the cemetery to local imams. And in attendance were imams and other representatives from Detroit, Ann Arbor, Bloomfield Hills, and Flint.

The initial effort of the Garden of Peace meeting held this past weekend was to spread the word about the cemetery, and especially to introduce the idea of each local mosque buying plots of 25 to 50 gravesites to distribute to the people who attend that mosque. 

One person in attendance emphasized that “They offered any mosque who buys 50 plots at one time, will get the best deal.  50 or more.  And price, they didn’t want to haggle about price right now.”

Some in attendance at the meeting from Detroit expressed doubts about buying gravesites in Flint, hours away, when for $1,400 one can buy a site in Detroit.
The new cemetery is intended to build to “10.5 acres in 3 phases,” explained Dr. Shukairy, the head of the cemetery committee.  The three phases comprise growing from its present modest size of five graves to 2,500 graves in 10.5 acres, with more than adequate parking.

Dr. Shukairy explained that each grave will be aligned facing qibla, pointing to the Northeast. 

The graves will be covered with uniform stones parallel to the earth, with uniform markers perpendicular, to show names and dates of birth and death.  Not like the public cemeteries with all different kinds of stone markers.

People will be interred on their right sides with their heads toward the qibla, and the graves are designed to acommodate both Michigan law and Shari’ah, so that each person is enclosed in a concrete vault as required by Michigan law, but without a casket and in contact with dirt below and above as required by Islamic law.
According to Michigan law, Dr. Shukairy explained, bodies must “be transferred in a wooden casket… but at the [burial site] the vault is opened from the top, the body placed inside without a casket, and with dirt inside, and the vault is sealed from the top–More acceptable from Shari’ah,” explained Dr. Shukairy.

There will be adequate space in the cemetery for maneuvering the heavy machinery required for digging graves–without their needing to drive over occupied graves.

Dr. Shukairy explained “the other advantage is that a public cemetery is maintained by [non-Muslim] public cemetery management; when they are digging or cleaning, they might not respect our concerns about respecting gravesites.  People might step on graves or not know the direction of graves.”

A theme on which Dr. Shukairy’s focused was the issue whether it is acceptable in the presence of an all-Muslim cemetery for Muslims to continue to be buried at mixed cemeteries.  The “point is, when we have a purely Muslim cemetery, an Islamic cemetery, is it desirable or allowed to use non-Muslim cemeteries?”

The cemetery is “very very close” to the Flint Islamic Center [on Corunna, west of Flint], which is only 7 minutes away.

The cemetery directors have also made efforts to smooth the entire transition from life to death.

For example, Dr. Shukairy explained that “assuming someone in Flint dies in the hospital, a shaykh or scholar does the preparation of the body, a funeral home transfers the body to the Islamic center, there is a prayer over the deceased, and a funeral home takes the body to the cemetery to be buried, and according to Shari’ah guidance.”

Imams were present from the Detroit Muslim Unity Center, Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center, Muslim House in Flint, the MCA in Ann Arbor, and several others.

“It was a really good gathering, imams were present from Lansing, Ann Arbor, and so forth–we believe this is a good service in Michigan,” said Dr. Shukairy.

“We tried to invite mosques through the Islamic Shura Council of Michigan–we know we did not do a complete job–some imams probably were not invited and we will invite them later.  Spread the word,” he said.

Some issues regarding the cemetery are still in flux.  For example prices, and arrangements for individuals to buy pre-need. However, Dr. Shukairy emphasized that “I believe prices will be less than other public cemeteries or at least comparable, with the advantage of having been buried in a purely Islamic cemetery.”

The cemetery is at 1310 South Morrish Road, in Swartz Creek, Michigan.  For more information, you can call Hossam Shukairy, 810-691-7738, Abed Khirfan, 810-877-1415; or Muhammed Saleem, 810-730-1776.

12-20

War & Water in South Asia

May 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Los Angeles—April 10th—Ashok C. Shukla, an independent scholar, who has written and edited several books on South Asian security issues that are largely available in India, but, unfortunately, too often have to be imported from there into North America.  He has been commissioned by an editor to compose a chapter on energy security in the environs for as yet unnamed publisher.

Most of the presentation was on the problematic future transport of oil and gas across Pakistan into India.  Yet, the crucial issue of water came up early.  With today’s political situation, fresh water is problematical there, too — competitive to say the least. The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin provides the fresh water or part of it for all but two of the area’s nations.  This probably supplies a billion people with their drinkable supply of water.  The competition between India and Pakistan is a volatile one, and most likely will not terminate itself to the satisfaction of all parties anytime soon.  At the very worse it could become a trigger for thermo-nuclear war between the two military giants within Southern Asia that could destroy hundreds of millions of people along with its ancient civilization!

(Also, not as pressing, towards the east, there have been unsubstantiated accusations that India has been skimming off part of Bangladesh’s aquifer.)

As has been intimated, Dr. Shukla’s chapter will examine the energy insecurity of the remarkably expanding economy of India.  (Since this is the Muslim Observer, although Bharat (India’s) population is only 12% Islamic [about the same percentage as Afro-Americans in the United States], it has the second highest Islamic national numbers in the world.  In Pakistan, 98% of the country is Muslim; Afghanistan, who potentially could play a role in the transportation of oil and gas to the Subcontinent, is circa 99%.  Bangladesh is an Islamic State Constitutionally along with substantial non-Muslim minorities, though; and most of the new raw energy-rich former Soviet Republics are (Socialist) secularized Islamic States currently rediscovering their Islamic roots.  (Your essayist wishes to point to the veracity of the Islamic political issues of the discussion which were not considered by Mr. Shukla.)

Both India and Pakistan are important to the interests of Washington because of the economic rise of New Delhi and the strategic military significance of Rawalpindi.  Also, within, South Asia, there are overbearing ecological issues impacting the entire globe.  India desperately, requires propulsion sources for their spectacularly expanding industries which resides in raw form in Central Asia and Iran, but Islamabad (and to a lesser extent Afghanistan) holds the key transit routes for the necessary pipelines.  The bad feeling between Indo-Pakistan means that in any crisis the Pakistanis have the capability to turn off the valves bringing India’s burgeoning economy to a halt.  Further, the United States is against India buying Iranian gas which would, also, transverse Pakistan.  (This goes back to our bad relations with the Persians which probably will turn out to be temporary anyway.) The United States is pressing for the pipelines to go through Turkestan.  Nevertheless, added to American opposition, New Delhi does not accept Pakistan’s terms to permit a pipeline from Tehran.) 

Whatever, SAARC (the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation) will not involve itself in political matters between India and Pakistan by the very nature of its charter (it is only an economic organization), and, thus, will not intervene in bi-lateral matters.  (For this reason, it lacks relevance as a prospective influential territorial negotiator on dangerous political issues over the vastness of the geographical extent of the Indic sphere. 

Ashok C. Shukla ended his proposed chapter with the statement that South Asia totally lacks energy security.

(Your reporter pointed to the fact that Bangladesh, one of the poorest countries in the world, may be sitting on a sea of gas.  Although a Muslim country it is friendly to India [as is Iran and the Central Asian Republics].  One of the reasons that the gas fields have not been developed is that the technology to liquefy the gaseous energy has not been perfected yet in large enough quantities to ship it to the West and China on ships.  It would make sense, though, to send it to India through pipes, and that would solve the energy security issue for New Delhi, and, further, it would help with the ecological problem since the Republic of India depends on coal for its industrial expansion, and natural gas is much, much cleaner burning).

Dr. Shukla rejected this due to Bangladesh’s nationalistic sensibilities (which your writer finds it hard to believe, for the East Bengals badly require foreign exchange, and their gas could make them as rich as some of the Middle East oil giants! ) 

12-20

Community News (V12-I19)

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Advertisement–Enroll at university of phoenix california and broaden your horizons.

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.

12-19

Gulf Islamic Banks Eye Conversion of Conventional Peers

May 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Frederik Richter and Shaheen Pasha

MANAMA/DUBAI (Reuters) – More banks in the Gulf Arab region may convert to Islamic finance in a bid to tap rising demand for sharia-compliant products and to avoid the heavy investment required to launch new banks.

A source told Reuters this month that Qatari investors are planning to buy a 25 percent stake in Ahli United Bank <AUBB.BH> <AUBK.KW> from Kuwaiti investors and have plans to convert Bahrain’s largest retail bank, which itself plans to take its Kuwaiti unit Islamic.

“Converting to Islamic is compelling in the region. In Kuwait Islamic banks have rapidly won market share from conventional ones,” said Sayd Farook, senior consultant at Dar Al Istithmar.

Converting conventional banks would help the industry expand its retail footprint — for instance in countries where no new licenses are given out but conversions are allowed –, which experts say the industry needs to develop a more sustainable business model.

The Islamic banking industry in the Gulf Arab region has mostly relied on channeling the region’s oil wealth into real estate and private equity, and was badly hit by a regional property correction late in 2008.

“I would say between 70 to 80 pct of the Muslim market (in the region) would bank with an Islamic bank….if you are an Islamic bank you get to capture that market,” said Sameer Abdi, head of Islamic finance at Ernst & Young.

Scholars have said they do not oppose converting conventional banks as long as their investments and debt levels are brought in line with sharia, which bans investments in certain sectors such as alcohol, over a grace period.

“There is usually a two-year conversion gap from the moment you convert….during which you need to give away to charity any income from conventional instruments,” said Farook.

Experts say that converting a bank comes cheaper than launching a green-field retail bank, but costs associated with revamping the bank’s work-flow, accounting and core banking IT systems are still high.

“Depending on the scale of the bank and the market in which it operates, it could take two or three years before the investment pays off,” said Hatim El Tahir, a Bahrain-based director at Deloitte & Touche.

Abdi said he estimated that up to 15 percent of existing customers could leave a converted bank, not necessarily because they disapprove of the switch to sharia, but because the bank might struggle to maintain its service level during a difficult transition period.

Bahrain’s Al Salam Bank <SALAM.BH> is converting Bahraini Saudi Bank <BSBB.BH>, which it bought last year, as is Egypt’s National Bank for Development <DEVE.CA> after Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank <ADIB.AD> partially bought the lender in 2007.

But the Gulf Arab region is rarely seeing mergers and acquisitions due to cultural sensitivities and opaque ownership structures, which could be the biggest obstacle to the conversion of conventional assets.

Bahrain’s Ithmaar Bank <ITHMR.BH> this month concluded the transformation from an investment house to an Islamic retail bank to improve its funding base, but could do so because it fully owned Islamic retail bank Shamil.

But Kuwaiti banks and merchant families have been badly hit by the financial crisis and are trying to sell down their international assets, which could be a way in.

Their ownership in many banks in the off-shore banking center Bahrain, both Islamic and conventional, could migrate to Qatari investors and banks that are awash with cash, bankers and analysts say.

“Qatar is a small economy…the bigger banks are looking at other markets,” said Janany Vamadeva, banking analyst at HC Brokerage, adding that Qatari companies would also be best positioned to raise money in current capital markets.

(Reporting by Frederik Richter and Shaheen Pasha; Editing by Dinesh Nair and Louise Heavens)

12-18

Prairie Muslims Build Mosque for Arctic

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

CBC News

mom_billboard2_prev

Muslims of Manitoba billboard sponsored by the Islamic Social Services Association.  Similar billboards are on display throughout Winnipeg, the capital of the Canadian province of Manitoba.

TMO Editor’s note:  There are approximately 850,000 Muslims in Canada, out of which about 5,000 live in the Canadian mid-western state of Manitoba.  The following article is a Canadian Broadcasting Service feature about an interesting project by Winnipeg Muslims.

Winnipeg Muslims are building a little mosque on the Prairie, and plan to ship it to the Arctic.

Dozens of Muslim families in Inuvik, in the Northwest Territories, currently send their children to live elsewhere in Canada because the community doesn’t have a mosque or Islamic education centre.

A Winnipeg-based charity plans to change all of that.

‘It is very important to this community — really important.’—Abdalla Mohamed, Inuvik resident

The Zubaidah Tallab Foundation is raising money to build a mosque in Winnipeg then ship it 4,000 kilometres by truck and barge to the northern community.

Abdalla Mohamed, who lives in Inuvik but sent his children to live in Edmonton, said he cannot thank the Winnipeg group enough.

“This project will help us along for planning, and putting some curriculum in place and putting some schooling in place. It is very important to this community — really important,” he said.

Right now, the business owner travels between Inuvik and Edmonton to visit his children as often as possible.

“It’s really tough, but sometimes you do what you have to do,” he said.

About 100 Inuvik Muslims

The Muslim community in Inuvik has tried raising money for a mosque, but it’s just too small to do it on its own — only about 100 members, Mohamed said.
What it has raised it will contribute to the Zubaidah Tallab Foundation, which needs almost $300,000 by September to get the mosque on the final barge of the year to Inuvik.

“What a beautiful project. It’s amazing sending a mosque [almost] to the North Pole,” said Hussain Guisti, who heads the foundation.

When it arrives, the structure will be the northernmost mosque in the world.

“We’re looking at a very small charity that’s ready to make Islamic history,” said Guisti.

12-17

Day of Goodness

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

P4178782 Southfield–April 21–Small fundraiser highlights up and coming local Muslim organizations, delivers goodness despite missing keynote speaker.

The Islamic Shura Council of Michigan’s “Day of Goodness” last Saturday night was deprived of its keynote speaker due to a problem with specialized visas. 

However, many prominent and active Muslims from local organizations still attended, perhaps showing more in quality than in quantity, with about 100 people present, but among those people perhaps 10 imams, and the leadership of the many organizations associated with the Islamic Shura Council of Michigan.

The event is essentially a fundraiser, and by the end of the evening it had earned approximately $75,000 towards its stated goal of $150,000.  The event was in a conference room at the Southfield Westin hotel on Town Center Drive.

ISCOM Chair Dr. Mouhib Ayas explained that intended keynote speaker Jamal Badawi’s visa did not permit him to speak at Not-for-profit fundraisers.  So Badawi was not able to speak despite his coming to Michigan from Canada, and despite his having given the khutbah at the Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center earlier in the day.

ISCOM was established in 2005 as a non-profit umbrella organization with, according to the dayofgoodness website, “the mission of providing coordination between and building cohesiveness among the Islamic centers mosques, and organizations in Michigan.  The council works for the betterment of all Muslims, to advance Muslim interests, and to promote Islamic values.”

The chairman of the Board of Directors is Mouhib Ayas, and its Vice Chair is Arif Huskic.  Attorney Misbah Shahid is the Secretary, and several other prominent Southeast Michigan Muslims are also on the board–the executive assistant and first employee is Reheem Hanifa.

20 different mosques, comprising the majority of the major mosques in Southeast Michigan, including the biggest Shi’a mosque and most of the big Sunni mosques, are involved.

Dr. Ayas gave a long but interesting presentation with a slideshow demonstrating the accomplishments of ISCOM.  He pointed out the association of ISCOM with Gleaners Food Bank, and also showed the institutional progress the organization has made by hiring a grant writer to apply for available grants–this alone has netted thousands of dollars in projects and may likely bring more projects in the near future.  One project the grant writing process obtained was a $25,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield project.

One program he spoke about was the “Maintaining Houses of Allah” program, which is designed to address the disparity between the wealthy mosques and the mosques with less money that are sometimes dilapidated and run down for lack of funds.

In a moving presentation Dr. Ayas pointed to pictures, first of a wealthy mosque then of a more destitute mosque, saying “This is a house of Allah, and this is a house of Allah,” driving home the point that ISCOM is working to benefit Muslims who really need help in order to worship Allah in clean and nice mosques.

P4178785 Another ISCOM project is working with MSA’s, using them really as a lever to connect to non-Muslims in universities–”we need to start influencing minds when people are young.”  He explained the goal is to meet future leaders of this country early on, and Dr. Ayas gave examples of programs where non-Muslim students fasted (not during Ramadan) in order to understand the effects of fasting on Muslims.

Dr. Ayas explained also that in order for the institution to move forward, ISCOM needs to start hiring professional full-time people, and he gave the example of Mr. Reheem Hanifa who has begun working full-time for the organization.

Dr. Ayas also showed a fairly inspiring diagram which showed ISCOM as the hub of a wheel reaching about 15 different important Muslim organizations in Southeast Michigan, including Muslim Family Services, MSA’s, the Huda Clinic, Islamic schools, and more.

There was a presentation by a relatively new organization called Muslim Social Services, www.muslimsocialservices.com, whose mission is to extend the reach and value of social services to Muslims in Washtenaw County, Michigan. 

There was a strong fundraising effort by a young but dedicated medical student, Farhan Abdul Aziz.  He told a beautiful story of a Chinese Muslim who travelled to the United States and passed away knowing nobody, but who was able to be buried by Muslims because of the social service institutions that had been set up in the city in which she died, which drove home the vital importance of such institutions.

For more information about ISCOM, you can visit either www.islamicshuracouncil.com or www.dayofgoodness.com.  You can also contact Dr. Ayas at 248-705-9137.

12-17

Houstonian Corner (V12-I17)

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Stronger Darul Arqam School means Durable Future of the Community

Picture AAD

“There is a famous saying it takes a village to educate someone. Why it takes a village to educate someone? Because in order to gain knowledge and training over time, there is immense need of resources. And why village needs to take interest in education its population. Because a progressing, resourceful, enlightened and prosperous village is dependent of how we educated and knowledgeable its inhabitants are.” These were the basic feelings of several speakers at Darul Arqam Private School (North) Fundraising Dinner held at Marriott Greenspoint North Houston this past weekend. Emcee of the evening was one of the parents of student of the Darul Arqam School North Houston Wasif Khan. Present on the occasion were Shaikh Moustafa Mahmoud (Scholar of Islam and Imam of ISGH North Zone Masjid); Dr. Aziz Siddiqi President of Islamic Society of Greater Houston (ISGH); Roger Yelton Director of North Zone ISGH; Ibrahim Badat Associate Director Adel Road North Zone; prominent members of the community; and administrative & teaching staff of the school.

Darul Arqam North is the only Islamic accredited school in North part of Houston. It is a full time Islamic School offering classes from Pre K to High school. The school is accredited by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges.

Some of the speakers at the fundraiser included the first Superintendent for Darul Arqam School Dr. Shaikh Ahmad and Esteemed Principal Saboohi Adhami, who in a most enthusiastic presentation notified that Darul Arqam’s idea is not to just give a piece of credential to their students; their task is to give proper identity and direction about life to each and every student, so that they become role models for the community and society at large. Amidst applause, Ms. Saboohi Adhami informed about that with over 90% of students meeting the criteria of TAKS tests, Darul Arqam School (North) has achieved the coveted Exemplary School status. Over the past five years, Darul Arqam School North has also achieved excellent standings at the Islamic knowledge, literary and creative arts categories regional and national championship in the annual Muslim Interscholastic Tournament (MIST). Darul Arqam North has finished among the top in the past five years in the annual city-wide Islamic School Quranic Memorization/Recitation competition in 2007.

Ms. Saboohi Adhami said over the years, people have come with several excuses and points against the Islamic Schools; but By the Grace of God and dedicated efforts by Administrators, Teachers, Parents and Students, we are able to point out to real examples of high standards achieved by students of Darul Arqam School in Grades up till High School & MIST Competition (where public and private all schools compete) and also dispelled the myth that beyond the High School, Islamic School students will feel left out when they will enter Mainstream American Colleges and Universities, but all that has been proven wrong by several shining examples (some of those confident students like Ayesha Patel and Sara Dar made short presentations at the fundraiser as well).

Facilitator for the fundraising on the occasion was passionate speaker Imam Manzar Taleb of North Texas, who informed about history of Darul Arqam, saying Hadhrat Arqam (18) in Mecca accepted Islam on the hands of Hadhrat Mohammad (Peace & Blessings of Allah SWT Be Upon him – PBUh). He had a vision and donated his whole home to Messenger of Allah SWT so that Muslims could get educated over there every day and that was the first School of Messenger Mohammad called “Darul Arqam”. Centuries later few Muslims in Houston came with an insane idea of making Islamic School in USA and named it the same Darul Arqam. People within the community and outside the community came with several negative thoughts, but the visionaries persisted and today we have this realty of four campuses of Darul Arqam in Houston and growing.

“Just don’t be only dreamers: With hard work and dedication comes Blessings of Allah SWT and achievements: Be an Achiever,” added Imam Manzar Taleb. More than $120,000 was raised By the Grace of God.

Elementary and Middle School Students were asked to create Scientific Projects’ for the evening and the Judge of these various science projects was Engineer Kaleem Khan, an able project manager with a prominent engineering company in Houston. Following students got the awards:

Elementary School: First Maryam Beyabani; Second Akrum Alameldin; Third Saman Ansari; Fourth Yusuf Sham; Middle School: First Ceyda Kural; Second Zaynab Khalifa; Third Saddiya Badat; Fourth Jowanna Siddiqui…

For more information, giving your kind support to this school of excellence and enrolling your children for August 2010 – May 2011 School Year, please visit http://www.north.darularqamschools.org/

12-17

Dr. Israr Ahmed Dies

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

israr-ahmed

Dr. Israr Ahmed, (April 26, 1932 – April 14, 2010) died in Pakistan on April 14. He was a Pakistan-based Muslim religious scholar followed particularly in South Asia and also in the South Asian diaspora in the Middle East, Western Europe and North America. Born in Hissar, (today’s Haryana) in India, the second son of a government servant, he is the founder of the Tanzeem-e-islami, an off-shoot of the Jamaat-e-Islami. He hosted a daily show on Peace TV, a 24 hours Islamic channel broadcast internationally, and until recently on ARY Qtv.

His supporters describe him as having spent the “last forty years” actively engaged in “reviving the Qur’an-centered Islamic perennial philosophy and world-view” with “the ultimate objective of establishing a true Islamic State, or the System of Khilafah.” Ahmed is skeptical of the efficacy of “parliamentary politics of give-and-take” in establishing an “Islamic politico-socio-economic system” as implementing this system is a “revolutionary process”.

Dr. Israr Ahmad was born on April 26, 1932 in Hisar (a district of East Punjab, now a part of Haryana) in India, the second son of a government servant. He graduated from King Edward Medical College (Lahore) in 1954 and later received his Master’s degree in Islamic Studies from the University of Karachi in 1965. He came under the influence of Abul Ala Maududi as a young student, worked briefly for Muslim Student’s Federation in the Independence Movement and, following the creation of Pakistan in 1947, for the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba and then for the Jamaat-e-Islami. Dr. Israr Ahmad resigned from the Jama`at in April 1957 because of its involvement in the electoral politics, which he believed was irreconcilable with the revolutionary methodology adopted by the Jama’at in the pre-1947 period.

While still a student and an activist of the Islami Jami`yat-e-Talaba, Dr. Israr Ahmad became a Mudarris (or teacher) of the Qur’an. Even after resigning from the Jama`at, he continued to give Qur’anic lectures in different cities of Pakistan, and especially after 1965 spent a great deal of time studying the Quran.
In 1967 Dr. Israr Ahmadin wrote “Islamic Renaissance: The Real Task Ahead”, a tract explaining his basic belief. This was that a rebirth of Islam would be possible only by revitalizing iman (faith) among the Muslims – particularly educated Muslims – and the propagation of the Qur’anic teachings in contemporary idiom and at the highest level of scholarship is necessary to revitalize iman. This undertaking would remove the existing dichotomy between modern physical and social sciences on the one hand, and Islamic revealed knowledge on the other.

In 1971 Ahmad gave up his medical practice to devote himself full time to the Islamic revival. In 1972 he established or helped establish the Markazi Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur’an Lahore, Tanzeem-e-Islami was founded in 1975, and Tahreek-e-Khilafat Pakistan was launched in 1991.

Dr. Israr Ahmad first appeared on Pakistan Television in 1978 in a program called Al-Kitab; this was followed by other programs, known as Alif Lam Meem, Rasool-e-Kamil, Umm-ul-Kitab and the most popular of all religious programs in the history of Pakistan Television, the Al-Huda, which made him a household name throughout the country.[citation needed] His television lectures generally focused on the revitalization of the Islamic faith through studies of the Quran. Dr. Israr Ahmad also criticized modern democracy and the electoral system and argued that the head of an Islamic state can reject the majority decisions of an elected assembly.[7] Although he did not like to receive it personally, Dr. Israr Ahmad was awarded Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 1981. He has to his credit over 60 Urdu books on topics related to Islam and Pakistan, 9 of which have been translated into English and other languages.

Dr. Israr Ahmed relinquished the leadership of Tanzeem-e-Islami in October, 2002 on grounds of bad health and Hafiz Aakif Saeed is the present Ameer of the Tanzeem to whom all rufaqaa of Tanzeem renewed their pledge of Baiyah.

Supporters describe his vision of Islam as having been synthesized from the diverse sources. He has also acknowledged the “deep influence” of Shah Waliullah Dehlavi, the 18th century Indian Islamic leader, anti-colonial activist, jurist, and scholar.[3] Ahmad follows the thinking of Maulana Hamiduddin Farahi and Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi, concerning what his followers believe is the “internal coherence of and the principles of deep reflection in the Qur’an”. He follows Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi in regards to what he believes is the “dynamic and revolutionary conception of Islam.”

“In the context of Qur’anic exegesis and understanding, Dr. Israr Ahmad is a firm traditionalist of the genre of Maulana Mehmood Hassan Deobandi and Allama Shabeer Ahmad Usmani; yet he presents Qur’anic teachings in a scientific and enlightened way …”[2] Ahmed believes in what he calls “Islamic revolutionary thought,” which consists of the idea that Islam – the teachings of the Qur’an and the Sunnah – must be implemented in the social, cultural, juristic, political, and the economic spheres of life. In this he is said to follow Mohammad Rafiuddin and Dr. Muhammad Iqbal. The first attempt towards the actualization of this concept was reportedly made by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad through his short-lived party, the Hizbullah. Another attempt was made by Maulana Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi through his Jamaat-e-Islami party. Although the Jamaat-e-Islami has reached some influence, Ahmad resigned from the party in 1956 when it entered the electoral process and believes this involvement has led to “degeneration from a pure Islamic revolutionary party to a mere political one”.

The nucleus of Tanzeem-e-Islami, which Israr Ahmad founded, was created in 1956, following the resignation of Ahmad and some other individuals from Jamaat-e-Islami over its electoral activity and “significant policy matters. They came together and tried unsuccessfully to form an organized group … A resolution was passed which subsequently became the Mission Statement of Tanzeem-e-Islami.”

Later, disappointed with what he saw as the “lack of effort to create an Islamic renaissance through the revolutionary process” he again attempted to create a “disciplined organization,” namely Tanzeem-e-Islami.

Along with his work to revive “the Qur’an-centered Islamic perennial philosophy and world-view” Ahmed aims with his party to “reform the society in a practical way with the ultimate objective of establishing a true Islamic State, or the System of Khilafah”.

According to the Tanzeem-e-Islami website Ahmed and the party believe “the spiritual and intellectual center of the Muslim world has shifted from the Arab world to the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent” and “conditions are much more congenial for the establishment of Khilafah in Pakistan” than in other Muslim countries.[citation needed]

According to Tanzeem-e-Islami’s FAQ, while both Hizb ut-Tahrir and Tanzeem-e-Islami share belief in reviving the Caliphate as a means of implementing Islam in all spheres of life, Tanzeem-e-Islami does not believe in involvement in electoral politics, armed struggle, coup d’état to establish a caliphate, and has no set plan of detailed workings for the future Caliphate. Tanzeem-e-Islami emphasizes that iman (faith) among Muslims must be revived in “a significant portion of the Muslim society” before there can be an Islamic revival.

While Ahmad “considers himself a product” of the teachings of “comprehensive and holistic concept of the Islamic obligations” of Abul Ala Maududi, he opposes Jamaat-e-Islami’s “plunge” into “the arena of power politics,” which he considers to have been “disastrous.”

Nov 19, 2007 Ahmed warned that “the NATO forces are waiting on the western front to move into Pakistan and may deprive the country of its nuclear assets while on the eastern border India is ready to stage an action replay of 1971 events and has alerted its armed forces to intervene in to check threats to peace in the region.

Ahmed has also been criticized as making anti-Semitic and Islamic supremacist statements.

Canada’s National Post newspaper reported in 2006 that, according to Ahmad:

“Islam’s renaissance will begin in Pakistan… because the Arab world is living under subjugation. Only the Pakistan region has the potential for standing up against the nefarious designs of the global power-brokers and to resist the rising tides of the Jewish/Zionist hegemony.

Asia Times reports that in September 1995 Israr Ahmed told the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America that:

The process of the revival of Islam in different parts of the world is real. A final showdown between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world, which has been captured by the Jews, would soon take place. The Gulf War was just a rehearsal for the coming conflict.

He appealed to the Muslims of the world, including those in the US, to prepare themselves for the coming conflict.”

On July 27, 2007, VisionTV, a Canadian multi-faith religious television channel, aired an apology for broadcasting lectures by Mr. Ahmad. The channel had taken Ahmad off the air earlier that week for his derogatory comments about Jews. In reply, Ahmed “strongly refuted the impression that he hated the Jews or he held anti-Semitic views,” according to the National Post, but a “written statement, issued by his personal secretary in Lahore, went on to explain Mr. Ahmad’s belief that the Holocaust was `Divine punishment` and that Jews would one day be `exterminated.”

The Post gave several quotes about Jews by Ahmed including

“It is apparent to any careful observer that the Jews have continued to suffer the floggings of Divine punishment in the present century – the Holocaust during the Second World War being a case in point.

[T]he conflict between the Jews and Muslims is going to result, ultimately, in the total extermination of the former, according to the Divine law of ‘annihilation of the worse.’”

Miss Shagufta Ahmad has submitted her master thesis entitled, “Dr. Israr Ahmad’s Political Thoughts and Activities” to the McGill University, Canada in 1994. The thesis discussed in detail the intellectual development of Israr Ahmad and the influence of Allama Iqbal, Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Maududi’s political thought, especially his theory of revolution and the activities of his three organizations, Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur’an, Tanzeem-e-Islami and Tehreek-e-Khilafat. Anjuman Khuddam-ul-Qur’an published the thesis in 1996.

The veteran scholar died of a cardiac arrest at his home in Lahore on the morning of 14 of April 2010 between 3:00 and 3:30 AM. According to his son, his health detriorated at arround 1:30 in the morning with severe pain in the back, he was a long time heart patient.

His funeral (Namaz-e-Janazah) is planned after Asr (afternoon) prayers at Model Town Park, Lah

12-16

$640b Halal Industry Needs to Align with $1tr Islamic Finance Sector

April 15, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Rushdi Siddiqui, Gulf News

I wanted to take a sukuk break, as the last few months seem to be only about sukuk default, restructuring, conferences/seminars, etc. Islamic finance is not sukuk, its much bigger than an instrument. I wanted to look at an area that Islamic finance (IF) has not been linked to: the $640 billion (Dh2.3 trillion) halal industry (HI). There is a link, but it’s associated with IF ignoring HI!

The halal industry believes that Islamic finance has long ignored its little ‘halal-half’ brother, because it either does not understand the business model or its financing needs.

Islamic finance continues to have expected ‘challenges’ with standardisation, and the halal industry, the issue of certification and certifying bodies appears to be even more nascent. In IF, we have generally accepted guidelines on accounting (AAOIFI and Malaysia), prudential regulations (IFSB), ratings (IIRA), hedging (IIFM), but what and where are the leading HI standard bodies; Malaysia (Jakim), Brunei (Brunei halal), but there are more ‘bodies’ in OECD than OIC countries. Query: is the certification process accepted outside the home country?

The GCC countries are major importers of billions of dollars in foods/products, projected to touch $53 billion in 2020. Now, what if large importers like Saudi Arabia or the UAE impose ‘their’ halal certification criteria for exports from these countries, including G20 countries like Australia (red meat) and Brazil (chickens)? Because of the GCC’s volume of imports, could there be a risk of back-door certification via the GCC? However, if GCC countries do not have certifications or it’s not yet harmonized, then halal exporters still have time to establish certification before externally imposed.

In Islamic (equity) investing, we have Sharia-compliant screening from the five index providers plus AAOIFI and Malaysia, however, what criteria, if any, for investing in listed halal companies. Meat or poultry [and food] companies should have their products according to Quranic guidelines, “O mankind! Eat of that which is on earth, lawful and good…” 2:168.

Global market

Although a Sharia-compliant food-only index may not yet exist, S&P has, as of March 30, 15 Sharia-compliant food companies in the GCC (15 Saudi and one in each Oman and the UAE) and 123 global Sharia-compliant food companies from China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the US and others.

Is it correct to assume that GCC public listed food or meat or poultry companies’ offerings are halal, because large local populations and percentages of the expatriate communities are Muslims in these Islamic countries? Assuming correctly, then the Halal Index is possible with ensuing Halal Funds/ETFs off of such indexes.

Thus, two sets of indexes: Sharia-compliant and Halal index, but what about Sharia-compliant Halal Food Index? Would this be a ‘low-debt non-financial social-ethical counter-cyclical halal index? This could benefit ‘investors of conscience and appetite.’

The reality is the halal industry needs to establish an initial screening methodology for publicly listed companies in the halal industry globally, as the Sharia-compliant screens may not capture them. The present awkward situation is: one can consume the food or products of listed halal companies, yet cannot invest in them because they may fail the present Sharia screening!

Islamic banks (in the GCC) have traditionally financed the chain of ‘borrowers’ associated in real estate industry, commercial and residential, as they allegedly better understand the business model, risk, and recourse. The banks have stayed away from halal companies, possibly ex-Al Islami, hence, the latter has relied on the ‘friends and family finance’ (upstarts) and traditional interest based loans (established companies).

There are halal funds set up, but they are more for acquisition than financing. It would seem the fragmented global halal industry, in OIC and G20 countries, would be ripe for a consolidation strategy, hence, no different than the often heard quest for a big balance sheet Islamic mega bank created via consolidation.

Thus, financing of viable halal companies via roll-up acquisition strategy? Surely, more must be done, otherwise we may continue to consume halal products or meats financed with Riba-based finance companies!

The halal industry needs to get (1) its act together on process, auditing, and certification, and get into the face of Islamic banks and better explain the (2) inter-relatedness of the sectors, (3) better explain the business model, risk and its mitigation, (4) better explain that it establishes the foundation for diversified lending, and increased investor options for Islamic banks’ customers, and (5) allow Islamic finance to talk the talk of a $2-trillion ‘niche’ market in the making!

The writer is the Global Head of Islamic Finance, Thomson Reuters. Views expressed in this column are of the writer.

12-16

Community News (V12-I15)

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Old mosque to site once again hear the azan

TOLEDO,OH–A historic building in Toledo which once served as the first mosque in the city and the ninth in the United States will once again hear the call of azan. The former Toledo Islamic Building was first dedicated as a mosque in 1954 but was shut down after the congregation moved to to Perrysburg Township in 1983, reports the Toledo Blade.

The building was vacant for many years and had earlier been used as a youth treatment center and a government office.

The local Muslim community hadn’t forgotten the importance of the building and the Toledo Masjid al-Islam recently bought it for $60,000. The 3800 square foot facility is now being renovated.

End of Oregon’s Ban on Hijab Welcomed

PORTLAND,OR–The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has praised the signing into law of legislation that will end Oregon’s ban on teachers wearing Islamic head scarves or the religious attire of other faiths.

The lifting of the 87-year-long ban will go into effect after the 2010-11 school year and follows a February vote of 51-8 in the Oregon House of Representatives. To become law, the bill had to be signed by Governor Ted Kulongoski.

“This change in the law protects the rights of educators of all faiths,” said CAIR national communications director Ibrahim Hooper.

He added that his organization has consistently defended the right of Americans of all faiths to wear religious attire in the workplace, in schools, in courtrooms and as customers in public venues such as banks.

Currently only Nebraska and Pennsylvania prohibit their teachers from wearing religious clothing at work, and CAIR has called on their legislators to “follow Oregon’s example of respect for religious freedom and diversity.”

In addition to the Muslim organization, a number of interfaith groups, civil rights groups and bar association organizations, including The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, have joined in the appeal.

Usury Free Conference Held in Toronto

TORONTO,CANADA-A two day conference on exploring usury free financial products was held in Toronto last week. Organized by the Usury Free Association of North America it attracted a large number of scholars from across North America and abroad.

Canada’s first Shariah-compliant credit card, the iFreedom Plus MasterCard, was also launched at the conference.

A recent report for Canada’s national housing agency said Islamic mortgages and other Shariah-compliant financial products would pose no problems with civil law.
Representatives from mainstream banks, politicians, and government officials also attended the conference to learn about Islamic finance.

12-15

Upgrade: Islamic Finance 2.0

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Rushdi Siddiqui, Gulfnews.com

sharia_finance_dollar Future of Industry lies in move from sharia-compliant to sharia-based approach

Dubai : We are at an important crossroads in Islamic finance and banking, and I want to explore, in this column, the future of Islamic finance.

We hear about 1.5 billion Muslims, but has Islamic finance benefited the ‘man on the street?’ What is so ‘Islamic’ about Islamic finance?

Have we simply been putting an Islamic wrapper around conventional structures and products and placing a blessing them?

I’ve been in Islamic finance for more than a decade. This inaugural article will set the non-technical tone for the important areas I want to explore in the future, and I encourage the readers to comment as the Islamic finance community’s collective psyche, experience and insight will benefit the industry.

We in Islamic finance want to see a group blueprint of the industry going forward, including the building of two-way bridges — be it with South-east Asia or with Group of 20 (G20) countries.

Islamic finance is, at one level, for all those interested in “boring finance”, asset or project backed/based financing and non-turbo-charged investing (without derivatives and excessive leverage) in selected real economic sectors.

Islam does not necessarily have a monopoly on ethics because these are common shared values with other religions and philosophies. However, the former has ‘codified,’ via scholars, screens and structures into financial contracts having links to permissible real economic activities.

Sharia compliance

Among the 57 Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) countries, not one Muslim country in the last 40 years has ‘Islamised’ its economy for general acceptance; not Sudan, Pakistan or Iran.

The $1 trillion (Dh3.67 trillion) industry operates in a world economy of inter-connected interest rates, debt and other similar factors, hence Sharia scholars have allowed a permissible amount of impurity as long as the industry moves towards removing such impermissibilities.

Put differently, scholars, as Sharia gatekeepers, are seeking progress and prosperity, which is different from modernisation. Thus the reference rates in Islamic mortgages, syndicated loans, sukuks and other financing are the efficient cost of capital credit of the London interbank offered rate (Libor) and/or the Treasury.
However, where is the industry with a methodology for an Islamic interbank offer rate (Ibor)?

There are over 555 Islamic funds with $35 billion (Dh129 billion) of assets under management, and, if we focus on Islamic equity funds, the question that comes to mind is this: ‘What is the link between a Sharia-screened company from any of the five index providers to Islamic finance or a Muslim country?’

The screening results in a universe that can be deemed as a style of investing — ‘non-financial, low debt social-ethical investing.’

Thus, some of the Sharia-compliant companies include Microsoft, BP Amoco, Pfizer (with a bias towards energy, health care, and technology), yet what is their link or connection to Islamic finance?

Could such companies and, in the aggregate, present day Sharia-compliant Islamic indices, be deemed an economic indicator of Islamic finance in a Muslim country? We now need to look at Sharia-based Islamic indices.

IFIs and sukuks

We hear and read about 300 Islamic financial institutions (IFIs) in 75 countries, and the need for larger balance sheets to compete against the ‘big boys’ on the project finance deal table for instance, hence, a call for the consolidation or the creation of established Islamic mega-banks.

A concern with such an Islamic mega-bank revolves round whether it poses a systemic and confidence risk in the home country as concentrated exposure without many compliant-hedging mechanisms?

Is there a need to think about safety nets and stress tests before central banks allows for an Islamic mega-bank?

The sukuk market, roughly equated to Islamic bonds, is now worth over $107 billion, having been the locomotive of Islamic finance during the petro-liquidity spike.

However, recent bankruptcies, defaults, and restructuring exercises, have been portrayed by western media as the beginning of the end of Islamic finance.

In an embryonic industry, like the 40-year-old Islamic finance, these growing pains are welcomed and will actually strengthen the industry, as precedents become known and down-side risk is better understood.

Sukuk growth and development appear to be following the ‘path’ of the Eurobond market, and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and General Electric (GE) sukuk issuances in late 2009 underline the merits of such financing in turbulence.

Contribution factor

We have a number of Islamic finance conferences, and a number of Islamic finance awards.

It is often strange to see or read when different conference organisers or magazines have, for instance, a ‘best Islamic bank’ award, and each names a different bank.

It has been said in certain quarters that some of these awards are driven by sponsorships rather than actual votes or, ideally speaking, real contribution to the industry.

At this stage in Islamic finance, awards should emphasise ‘contribution’ and not ‘best,’ as that latter implies mature and connected Islamic financial institutions globally.

The foremost contribution to Islamic finance has been made by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and Governor Zeti Akhthar Aziz, and, obviously, the real Sharia scholars, regulators like the United Kingdom’s FSA, central banks like the Central bank of Bahrain, and conventional banks with windows and subsidiaries.

Shaikh Mohammad, a standalone stakeholder, raised the profile of Islamic finance globally via the Dubai brand before oil reached $140 a barrel, and Zeti, as a globe-trotting ambassador, made her a separate asset class in Islamic finance.

They have established the awareness and macro framework, and now the industry has to move towards Islamic finance 2.0.

Pulse of Islamic finance

One of the serious issues the markets are tackling is to how to find an effective, overall pulse of Islamic finance. In most instances, numbers such as $1 trillion and the like are used to demonstrate the awesome potential of this industry.

However, how can we really gauge what’s happening to the industry on a daily basis?

The path to Sharia-based Islamic finance is expected to have speed-bumps, pot-holes, diversion road signs, construction vehicles with signs such as ‘do not follow’, but lets raise the issues from Sharia-compliance to get to the destination of Sharia-based.

The writer is the global head of Islamic Finance & OIC Countries for Thomson Reuters. The views expressed in this column are his own and should not be attributed to his organisation.

12-14

Iranian Student With $750 Turns Billionaire — Made by Islamic Art

April 1, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By William Green, Bloomberg

stoneHead_plate March 30 (Bloomberg) — Nasser David Khalili stands in an exhibition hall in St. Petersburg’s Winter Palace, gazing at an 18th-century painted enamel of flowers that’s one of 25,000 works of art he owns. “I’d have paid anything for it,” he says, appraising this miniature by Frenchman Philippe Parpette. “There’s no way I’d have let anybody else buy it.”

Khalili, 64, an Iranian-born billionaire who lives in London, has come to Russia to unveil his fifth art collection: On this overcast December afternoon, 320 of his 1,200 enamel treasures will go on display at the State Hermitage Museum, home to the collection of Catherine the Great, Bloomberg Markets magazine reports in its May issue.

Having flown in on a chartered plane, Khalili is relishing a private preview, peering through tinted eyeglasses at such possessions as a gilded clock with matching candelabras that once adorned the home of U.S. railroad tycoon William Vanderbilt. Khalili, who says he has a photographic memory, recalls paying $16,500 for these three pieces 34 years ago. He estimates that they’d now cost $600,000.

In all, Khalili says the enamels he has lent the museum are insured for more than 100 million pounds ($150 million). Even so, they are a trifle compared with the obsession that’s consumed him for four decades: his 20,000 pieces of Islamic art. “His collection is certainly the best in private hands,” says Edward Gibbs, Sotheby’s London-based head of Middle Eastern art. “He is the man who has everything. He’s come to define the market.”

Khalili is revealing his latest collection just as the $43 billion global art market is showing signs of reviving — with an Alberto Giacometti sculpture selling for a record 65 million pounds in February to a buyer later identified by dealers as London-based billionaire Lily Safra. In the Islamic art world, prices for the best pieces have been buoyed by a new generation of Middle Eastern buyers, including museums in Qatar and Abu Dhabi.

“There’s fierce competition for anything unique, rare, beautiful or important,” Gibbs says, noting that an Islamic textile Sotheby’s estimated would fetch $250,000 to $350,000 in a March 2009 auction went to Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art for $3.4 million.

The limited supply in this niche within the art market has made Khalili’s collection all the more precious, says Claire Penhallurick, an Islamic art consultant for Bonhams auction house. She says it’s impossible to guess what his entire collection is worth.

“How could you value something that’s unique and irreplaceable?” Penhallurick says. “If you had all the money in the world, you couldn’t assemble his collection now.”

When an exhibition of 471 of Khalili’s Islamic pieces opened at the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris in October, they alone were insured for almost 600 million pounds.

The story behind how Khalili built his fortune has long been shrouded in secrets. As a property developer, he shunned publicity and didn’t slap his name on buildings or the company that is his main investment vehicle. He has also operated under the radar when buying art.

“During the collecting, I don’t say anything,” Khalili says. “When it’s done, then I speak.”

His elusiveness has fueled much speculation, often revolving around how he financed his collecting. Khalili, who left Iran in 1967 with $750, says he’s since spent $650 million on art. London’s Sunday Times, which estimated his fortune at 5.8 billion pounds in 2007, gave up guessing his worth the following year and removed him from its annual rich list.

Khalili, whose works are held in a family trust, says he used subterfuge to amass his Islamic collection, pretending for several years to be an art dealer so he could acquire pieces at wholesale prices. While his stealth has often obscured the scale of his buying, the magazine ARTnews says Khalili is one of Britain’s top collectors, along with Safra and private museum owner Charles Saatchi.

The Iranian says he’s aware of whispers within the art trade that he grew rich buying Islamic works for Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. Sitting in his office in London’s Mayfair neighborhood, where the treasures on display include an 8th- century bronze camel and a 7,000-year-old stone sculpture, Khalili beats his chest with his hand when asked about the rumors.

“I didn’t buy anything for anybody. Nobody, right?” he says. “I bought for myself. This is all bulls—, all right?”

The questions surrounding Khalili stem in part from his emergence in the 1980s as a trailblazer in Islamic collecting.

“There was this sudden transformation,” says William Robinson, director of Islamic art at Christie’s International. “In the late 1980s he was the No. 1 buyer.” Robinson and others thought he was buying as the exclusive agent for a powerful client. “It was assumed that the Sultan of Brunei was behind it,” Robinson says. “I really don’t know.”

Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Britain’s press also fueled speculation about the source of Khalili’s riches. “He spends on a scale no art collector has done before,” London’s Independent wrote in 1994. “Yet no one knows where his money comes from. … (Khalili) vehemently denies the suggestion that he has been secretly investing the sultan’s money rather than his own.”

Khalili says he met the Sultan of Brunei around 1984, after the U.K.’s Foreign Office asked him to advise the monarch on creating an Islamic gallery at the Brunei Museum.

“He had about 10,000 pieces,” Khalili says. “I chose about 1,000 pieces and said, ‘Throw the rest away. They’re junk.’”

As a favor, he says, he selected several items for the Sultan to buy at auction and the Khalili family trust sold him a dozen pieces from its Islamic collection, including Qurans, metalwork and textiles, for about 4 million pounds.

Khalili dismisses rumors that he sold art to the Sultan at inflated prices, pointing out that he later convinced him to donate 10 million pounds to the University of London for an Islamic gallery.

“If you rip somebody off, would they turn around and give you 10 million pounds to build a gallery?” he asks.

It’s now obvious he was buying for himself, Khalili says, since his Islamic collection is cataloged in 19 books written by an army of scholars he has hired to document its provenance and authenticity.

Khalili, who has also built collections of Japanese Meiji art, Spanish metalwork and Swedish textiles since 1975, says the value of his artworks is irrelevant, because he will never sell them.

“All five collections are priceless: 2 billion pounds, 3 billion pounds, 4 billion pounds, it doesn’t make any difference,” he says. “These collections cannot be replaced.”

His Islamic treasures include a 14th-century Iranian world history by Rashid al-Din Fadlallah, which he says cost him 12 million pounds in 1990. “It’s one of the greatest illustrated manuscripts in the world,” says Tim Stanley, senior curator for the Middle East at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum.

Khalili, who holds both U.S. and U.K. passports, offered to lend his Islamic collection to the British nation in 1992 if the government provided a museum to house it. Khalili says he stipulated that the loan would become a gift after 15 years if the collection was exhibited to his satisfaction; if not, he could take it back.

Outsider in London

“The offer to the British government was a really terrible one,” says Anna Somers Cocks, editor-in-chief of the London- based monthly Art Newspaper, because of this risk. After months with no response, Khalili abandoned the plan. Still lacking a permanent home, most of his artworks are stored in warehouses in London and Geneva.

Michael Franses, a U.K.-based retired dealer in rare carpets who’s known Khalili since the 1970s, says this rebuff reflected Khalili’s outsider status in his adopted country.

“The British establishment was very closed,” Franses says. “I don’t think people trusted him because he was Iranian and strange and different.”

That setback is a distant memory as Khalili strides through the Hermitage, musing on how far he’s come since leaving Iran. His artworks have been showcased by 40 museums, including the Victoria & Albert and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Khalili also prides himself on the honors he has won for his philanthropy. An observant Jew who says he avoids discussions of politics, Khalili co-founded the Maimonides Foundation in 1995 to foster dialogue between Jews and Muslims through sports, cultural events and education. He also endowed a research center for Middle Eastern culture at the University of Oxford.

In recognition of Khalili’s interfaith work, Pope Benedict XVI anointed him last year as a Knight Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Sylvester.
“I’m self-made. I’ve done it all on my own,” says Khalili, whose 14-page resume is headlined: “Scholar, Benefactor and Collector.”

Khalili sees no contradiction in being Jewish and owning an Islamic collection.

“I fell in love with it because it was the most beautiful and diverse art,” he says.

In 2005, at the launch party for Khalili’s book The Timeline History of Islamic Art and Architecture, Iran’s then- ambassador to London, Seyed Mohammad Hossein Adeli, hailed him as “an ambassador for the culture of Islam.”

First Treasure

Khalili’s journey to the top of the art world began in Iran on Dec. 18, 1945. The fourth of five children, he grew up in Tehran. His mother counseled divorced women. His father — like his father before him — visited homes to acquire artworks he could sell for a few dollars profit.

As a child, Khalili tagged along when his father traded art, once joining him at the home of a former education minister with a collection of pen boxes. The 12-year-old yeshiva student was enraptured by a lacquer pen box painted with 800 men and horses, each one different. Khalili recalls that when he rhapsodized about the box, the owner’s eyes filled with tears.

“He turned round to my dad and said, ‘I’m not selling this to you. I’m giving this to your son,’” Khalili says. He still has the pen box in his Islamic collection. “So the first piece I didn’t buy; I was given,” he says.

Art Mentor

After high school, Khalili did national service, training as an army medic. At 22, he left Iran for New York, where he worked at a Howard Johnson’s restaurant while studying at Queens College, part of New York’s public education system. One evening, as Khalili sipped cream to soothe an ulcer, the restaurant manager scolded him for taking it without permission. Khalili threw his waiter’s jacket at his boss and decided he’d trade art to pay his school fees.

At an auction of Russian enamels months later, Khalili noticed the main bidder was Alan Hartman, whose family ran a Manhattan antiques store. Khalili borrowed several enamels from Hartman on consignment. He says he sold them that evening for a $26,000 profit to Iranian collectors he knew on Long Island, where many wealthy Iranians were settling. (Khalili’s four siblings have since moved there.)

Hartman, now 80, says he wanted to help because Khalili was a Jewish immigrant struggling to build a new life. “We felt sorry for him,” he says.

“Alan and I did a hell of a lot after that,” Khalili says. “In two years, I was a millionaire.”

Friends say it was typical of Khalili that he’d launched himself by charming a stranger into lending him art.

“He has a way of winning people over,” says Sotheby’s Gibbs.

Tactile Billionaire

In person, Khalili exudes warmth: Meeting someone for the first time, he’s liable to introduce himself with a hug. He stands close to people, resting his hand on their arm, shoulder or back.

Before graduating from Queens in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in computer sciences, Khalili was already amassing his own collection.

“I used to buy a group of objects — let’s say, 10 objects for $100,000 — keep 3 or 4 of the best aside and sell the rest for $250,000,” he says. “I used my knowledge to create money to finance my dream.”

In 1978, Khalili married Marion Easton, an Englishwoman he’d met while buying jewelry from her in a London antique store, and they settled in the U.K. capital. They have three sons: Daniel, 28, a jewelry designer, and twins Benjamin and Raphael, 25, who invest family money in startups such as PlayPit Games Ltd., an online entertainment company.

Decoy Shop

In addition to dealing art, Khalili says he began in the late 1970s to buy commercial properties in the U.K., France, Portugal and Spain.

“As he made money with property, he put it into art,” says Franses, the retired carpet dealer. “He was only ever interested in the art.”

Khalili approached him whenever he had cash to spare, buying such rarities as two 16th-century rugs that Franses says would now cost 2 million pounds each.

Khalili deployed misdirection to his advantage when he opened an Islamic art store in London in 1978. For three years, Khalili says he used the shop as a ruse to obtain dealers’ prices.

“I never sold anything there; I used that place as a decoy and bought unbelievable stuff,” he says.

“His timing was impeccable,” says Penhallurick. Islamic art was such a backwater that dedicated Islamic auctions didn’t begin until the 1970s. Khalili — whose main rivals at the time included the Kuwaiti royal family and the David Collection, owned by a Danish foundation — says many pieces he acquired then would now cost 10 to 50 times more.

Beautiful and Overlooked

“Anything that is beautiful and was overlooked, I bought,” says Khalili, who received a Ph.D. in Islamic lacquer at the University of London in 1988.

By the mid-1980s, Khalili says, his purchases were partly funded by venture capital investments that he declines to name. He says he made 30 times his money off shares he had bought in the late 1970s in a company developing technology to treat tumors. In 1987, he says he pocketed $15 million from the sale of a private company that made indigestion pills.

Khalili says he stopped trading art around 1980 and bankrolled his collecting primarily with profits from property. In a typical deal, he says, he paid 32.5 million pounds in 1992 for Cameron Toll, an Edinburgh shopping mall, selling it two years later for 55 million pounds as the market revived. Public records show Khalili has owned various private property companies.

Property Development

His main vehicle, Favermead Ltd., was incorporated in the U.K. in 1992 and sold 97 million pounds of property in 1995 alone, according to the company’s financial statements.

“Business is the least of my pride,” Khalili says. “Compared to collecting, it’s a piece of cake.”

Still, he currently owns a 60,000-square-foot (5,574- square-meter) business park in Exeter, England; a 32,000-square- foot building in Mayfair; and a site in central London where he plans to build a 320,000-square-foot, 13-story office tower when the real estate market recovers.

“If he starts building in the next 12 months, it’ll be very good timing as there’s very little available in the market,” says Gerald Ronson, CEO of London-based developer Heron International, which also bid for the central London site.

Mayfair Mansion

One personal property venture proved more problematic.

In 1993, Khalili began combining two buildings in Kensington that once housed the Russian and Egyptian embassies into a 55,000-square-foot home. Khalili says he spent 90 million pounds on the house, including 45 million pounds on the refurbishment. He employed 400 craftsmen for 4 years, installing 3,200 square meters of marble, a Turkish bath and underground parking for 20 cars. Marion Khalili says she refused to move in, deeming the house too palatial.

In 2001, Khalili unloaded the property for 50 million pounds to Formula One tycoon Bernie Ecclestone, who sold it to steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal for 57 million pounds in 2004, according to public records. Khalili now lives instead in a seven-story Edwardian mansion in Mayfair.

These days, Khalili says, his buying of Islamic art has slowed. With competition intensifying, he’s turned his attention elsewhere. One afternoon in late February, he reveals that he’s already begun his sixth collection. This time, Khalili says, he’s acquired an existing trove of nearly 200 pieces, to which he’ll add more treasures.

And the collection’s theme?

“I’m not telling you,” Khalili says with a smile. With that, he draws a veil on the next chapter in the improbable story of the Iranian yeshiva student who became the world’s leading private collector of Islamic art.

–Editors: David Ellis, Jonathan Neumann

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