Sukuk Market Starved of Benchmark Sovereign

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Carolyn Cohn and Shaheen Pasha

LONDON/DUBAI, March 23 (Reuters) – Sovereign borrowing still eludes the Islamic bond, or sukuk, market, leaving investors hungry for a benchmark issue to reinvigorate trading after the credit crunch and the Dubai World crisis.

Where issuance from euro zone and emerging market borrowers in 2010 has been fast and furious, with emerging market borrowers alone issuing over $50 billion, there have been no sovereign sukuk issues at all.

Only one international sukuk has been issued so far this year, a $450 million Islamic bond for Saudi property developer Dar al-Arkan.

A resolution of debt woes at state-owned Dubai World, the mounting of domestic regulatory hurdles for issuers and improved liquidity could bring sovereigns to the sukuk market from around the third quarter.

But for now borrowers have been deterred by thin trading, the extra premium which borrowers have to pay to attract investors into this relatively small and specialist market, question marks over sovereign guarantees and regulatory conundrums.

“There is genuine need for issuance,” said Muneer Khan, partner and head of Islamic finance at law firm Simmons & Simmons in Dubai.

“Government-related issuances and good credit corporate issuances can often open the gates for further corporates.”

A sukuk is similar to a bond but complies with Islamic law, which prohibits the charging or payment of interest.

The typical path for any debt market is that the initial borrowers are sovereigns, seen as relatively risk-free, followed by state-owned entities, and then by corporate borrowers who will offer a higher yield.

“If sovereigns get deals away at a certain level, corporates should trade 30-40-50 basis points above,” said a London-based Islamic finance specialist.

But without sovereign deals, it is hard for corporates to follow.

The Philippines last week shelved plans for a debut sukuk issue, citing legal hurdles.

Indonesia, which has previously issued in the sukuk market, has no plans to issue again before September.

Gulf borrowers such as Bahrain and Dubai have also previously issued sukuk. But trading is weak after the shock payment standstill on Dubai World debt, which includes Islamic debt, and other defaults in a market once boasting a zero default rate.

In addition, the lack of a government guarantee for some state-owned Dubai World debt came as a shock to many investors.

Sukuk prices are generally trading below par and the market is highly illiquid, market participants say, even as benchmark emerging sovereign debt spreads are trading at their tightest over U.S. Treasuries in nearly two years.

Global sukuk issuance is likely to range between $15-17 billion in 2010, down from $19 billion last year, a recent Reuters poll shows. Currently even those forecasts look ambitious — in 2009, nearly all sukuk issues were made by states and quasi-sovereign entities.

“The sukuk market has been doubly affected by the downturn and the situation in the Middle East, so people are not pushing ahead — it’s not an easy market for a first-time borrower,” said Farmida Bi, partner at law firm Norton Rose in London.

European sovereigns have failed to issue any sukuk at all.

The UK was at the forefront of plans for sukuk issuance, and has the legal framework in place. But its original plans coincided with the outbreak of the global financial crisis, and the country has since saddled itself with huge amounts of debt.

“The reality is that the UK government has to fund a 178 billion pound ($266 billion) deficit,” said the Islamic finance specialist.

“To come to the market with a $500 million to $1.0 billion sukuk is not the highest on their priority list.”

France was also hoping to issue a sukuk but has become bogged down in legal changes, and market participants say sukuk issuance in countries such as Turkey remains some way off.

However, there are a few signs of light.

Investors are awaiting a restructuring any day of $26 billion in Dubai World debt, which will draw a line under the four-month old problem.

“The more positive news that comes for resolutions, the better,” said Khan. “It can’t hinder further issuances, but it could help.”

Sovereigns such as Jordan and Kazakhstan have said they want to issue sukuk for the first time, although there is no set timing.

And as markets around the world recover, led by emerging debt which is seeing strong demand, sukuk could yet attract investors.

According to a Gulf regional banker at a major investment bank: “The sukuk market is a natural follower of the debt capital markets and we’re starting to see more activity there. There is liquidity in the bond market.”

12-13

Community News (V12-I13)

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Sayed Naved appointed to MD Board of Education

BALTIMORE, MD–Sayed Naved has been appointed to the Maryland Board of Education by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Mr. Naved is a current member and former chair of the Islamic Council of Maryland. He earlier served as the principal of the ICM Sunday School.

His four year term on the board begins this April.

Application filed for mosque in Norwalk

NORWALK, CT–The Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk has submitted plans to the city’s Department of Planning and Zoning to construct a facility consisting of a prayer hall, classrooms, library and gymnasium. The submitted plans show a 420 seat prayer hall and eighty seven parking spaces.

“Currently Norwalk’s Muslim community has no established house of worship in which to pray or conduct other religious activities. Individuals must meet to worship in private homes without the benefit of an established place of worship where all may gather as a religious congregation,” wrote John F. Fallon, the attorney representing The Al Madany Islamic Center, in a narrative of the proposal “The center has purchased property at 127 Fillow Street in order to address this need and seeks approval to construct a mosque on the property as shown in the plans submitted herewith.”

Madison County mosque plans approved

MADISON COUNTY, MS–County supervisors have approved plans to build a mosque in Madison after a lengthy process, WLBT TV reported.

Earlier attempts to get approval by the Mississippi Muslim Association to build a mosque were stalled by concerns over who would provide utilities for the 9,000 square foot proposed facility.

Supervisor Tim Johnson said the board will ask the Madison County Wastewater Authority to allow the mosque to tap into its sewer line, eliminating the need for a separate septic system.

He said the Mississippi Muslim Association has done all that’s required.

“They have completed all the things that we have asked of them as far as our rules and regulations in regard to the county of Madison and our zoning to we, upon receiving those certificates, we granted them approval to move forward on their building,” said Johnson.

New Jersey Hospital to Receive Diversity Award

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Saint Peter’s Healthcare System in New Jersey will receive the 2010 Corporate Citizen Award from the American Conference on Diversity at the conference’s Central Jersey Chapter Humanitarian Awards this week.

Tab Chukunta, community outreach director for the healthcare system, said the hospital reaches out to people of a variety of religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds through religious accommodations such as offering halal meals to Muslim patients and through annual celebrations such as an event marking the Hindu festival of Diwali, or an annual Iftar dinner during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Accommodating diversity not only helps the patients but also has immense benefits for the institutions. As the word gets out more and more clients turn to institutions that cater to their needs.

Sec. Clinton Invites CPR to Event

(WASHINGTON, D.C. 3/23/2010) — Reflecting its presence in Washington D.C., the Council on Pakistan Relations has been invited by Secretary Clinton to attend a March 24 reception commemorating the first Ministerial-level U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi will co-chair the talks.  

Topics for discussion will include economic development, water and energy, education, communications and public diplomacy, agriculture, and security.  High-level officials from both governments will come to the table to discuss issues of common concern and shared responsibility.

According to Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, “President Obama and Secretary Clinton have repeatedly stressed the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, a partnership that goes far beyond security. The Strategic Dialogue represents the shared commitment of both nations to a strengthening the bilateral relationship and building an even broader partnership based on mutual respect and mutual trust.  The United States is supporting Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions, as it seeks to foster more economic development, expand opportunities, deal with its energy and water problems, and defeat the extremist groups who threaten both Pakistan’s security and stability in the larger region, and American national security as well.”

The Council on Pakistan Relations is a pro-America, pro-Pakistan not-for-profit advocacy organization interested in strengthening ties and enhancing mutual understanding between the two nations.

CONTACT: Mahera Rahman, mahera@pakistanrelations.org

SALAM Islamic Center Honored

Sacramento–Mohamed Abdul-Azeez

2009 Director’s Community Leadership Awards

The Sacramento Division has selected Mohamed Abdul-Azeez to receive the Director’s Community Leadership Award.

Mr. Azeez is the religious leader of the SALAM Islamic Center in Sacramento, California, which is a mosque, a community center, an elementary school, a preschool, a weekend school, an educational institution, and a place of spiritual uplifting and personal development. Imam Azeez, through SALAM, strives to present the true essence of the message of Islam and to promote moderation, community service, and interreligious dialogue to build a better society.

Educated in medicine, political science, sociology, Islamic history, and Islamic theology, Imam Azeez holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from Ain Shams University, a Bachelor of Arts from Ohio State University, and a Master of Arts from the University of Chicago. He has been involved in Islamic activism and education for the past 10 years and has worked with numerous institutions from the Midwest to the West Coast. He has taught at some of them.

Imam Azeez is a passionate advocate of interfaith work and dedicates much of his time educating the community about the religion of Islam. In his capacity as the Imam of SALAM, he is a member of the Sacramento Interfaith Services Bureau and participates in most inter-religious dialogue in the area.

SALAM, in its involvement with other faith-based organizations, has been a steady contributor to building and maintaining bridges within the Sacramento community. SALAM believes further understanding and cooperation can be achieved for the betterment of the greater Sacramento area.

SALAM has instituted many outreach activities, including the Children of Abraham program, interfaith prayer services, interfaith tree planting and, with the help of the members of the San Juan School District, the increase of religious sensitivity and awareness in scholastic curricula. Imam Azeez has also been a regular guest speaker at the Sacramento FBI on the topic of Muslim culture and on July 26, 2009, gave a Muslim Cultural Awareness briefing to members of the FBI Sacramento Citizens’ Academy Alumni Association.

12-13

Shakh Tahir Qadri’s Fatwa Against Suicide Bombing and Terrorism

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Continuation, part two

Shaykh-Tahir-Qadri

1. The first question in this connection that bothers all relates to use of force to spread beliefs: Is it lawful for a group or organization to use force to promote and put into effect their own creed and beliefs in the name of reforming others’ beliefs and ideologies, presuming themselves to be on the right path? Does Islam allow, somehow, the killing of people maintaining ideological differences, looting their wealth and properties and destroying mosques, religious places and shrines?

• Islam is a religion of peace and safety that champions love and harmony in society. According to Islamic teachings, only such a person will be called a Muslim at whose hands the lives and properties of all the innocent Muslims and non-Muslims remain safe and unhurt. The sanctity of human life and its protection occupies fundamental place in the Islamic law. Taking anyone’s life for nothing and killing him is an act forbidden and unlawful. Rather, in some cases, it amounts to infidelity. These days, the terrorists, in a vain attempt to impose their own ideas and beliefs and eliminate their opponents from the surface of the earth, killing innocent people ruthlessly and indiscriminately everywhere in Mosques, Bazaars, governmental offices and other public places are in fact committing manifest infidelity. They are warned of humiliating torment in this world and in the hereafter. Terrorism, in its very essence, is an act that symbolizes infidelity and rejection of what Islam stands for. When the forbidden element of suicide is added to it, its severity and lethality becomes even graver. Scores of Quranic verses and Prophetic traditions have proved that massacre of Muslims and terrorism is unlawful in Islam; rather, they are blasphemous acts. That has always been the edict unanimously held by all the scholars that have passed in the 1400 year Islamic history, including all the eminent Imams of Tafseer and Hadith and authorities on logic and jurisprudence. Islam has kept the door of negotiation and discussion open to convince by reasoning, instead of taking up arms to declare the others’ standpoint wrong, and enforce one’s own opinion. Only the victims of ignorance, jealousy and malice go for militancy. Islam declares them rebels. They will abide in Hell.

2. The second question in this regard is: what are the rights of the non-Muslim citizens in a Muslim state?

• Islam not only guarantees the protection of life, honour and property of Muslim citizens of an Islamic state, but also assures the equal protection of life, honour and property of non-Muslim citizens and of those people too with whom it has entered into a peace treaty. The rights of non-Muslim citizens enjoy the same sanctity as those of Muslim citizens in an Islamic state. There is no difference between them as human beings. That is why Islamic law metes out equal treatment to both Muslims and non-Muslims in blood money and Qisas. Non-Muslims have complete personal and religious freedom in a Muslim society. Their properties and worship places also enjoy complete protection. Besides non-Muslim citizens, even the ambassadors of non-Muslim countries and others working on diplomatic assignments have also been guaranteed complete protection. Likewise, the protection of life and property of non-Muslim traders is the responsibility of Islamic state. Islam does not allow and recommend the use of violence against and killing of peaceful and non-combatant citizens under any circumstances. Those indulging in attacks on peaceful non-Muslim citizens, kidnapping them for ransom, and torturing them mentally and physically, keeping them under unlawful custody, are in fact committing serious violation of Islamic teachings.

3. The third question arises: does Islam offer manifest commands on the sanctity of human life? Is it lawful to kidnap and assassinate the foreign delegates and innocent and peaceful non-Muslim citizens to avenge the non-Muslim global powers’ wrongs and atrocities?

• The emphasis Islam lays on the sanctity and dignity of human life can be gauged from the fact that Islam does not allow massacre even when Muslim armies are engaged in the event of war against enemy troops. The killing of children, women, the old, patients, religious leaders and traders is strictly prohibited. Nor can those who surrender their arms, confine themselves to their homes and seek shelter of anyone be killed. The masses cannot be massacred. Likewise, worship places, buildings, crops and even trees cannot be destroyed. On the one hand, there is a clear set of Islamic laws based on extreme discretion, and on the other, there are people who invoke the name of Islam to justify the indiscriminate killing of people, children, and women everywhere, without any distinction of religion and identity. It is a pity that such barbaric people still refer their activities as Jihad. There can be no bigger discrepancy than that seen around on earth. This can no way be permissible to keep the foreign delegates under unlawful custody and murder them and other peaceful non-Muslim citizens in retaliation to their interference, unjust activities and aggressive advances. The one who does it has no relation to Islam and the Holy Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him).

4. The fourth and very significant question underlines rebellion: Is armed struggle permissible against the Muslim rulers to remove their governments because of their non-Islamic policies, or get accepted the demands, bring them on to the right path, giving up their impious activities? Is rebellion permissible against the constitutional government, its writ and governance? What should be the legitimate way to change the rulers or make them mend their ways?

• Islam is not merely a religion. It is a complete Din, a code of life. Providing a complete set of principles for every walk of life, it has also made arrangements for the protection of the collectivity of society. The rights and duties of state institutions have manifestly and clearly been spelled out. All citizens of Muslim state have been placed under obligation to abide by state laws, rules and regulations. One of these principles is that a Muslim state and society should be a paragon of peace, and mutual coexistence. That is why Islam strictly prohibits the taking up of arms against a Muslim state, challenging its authority and writ, and declaring war against it. Islamic law holds such an action as rebellion. God forbid if such conditions are created, then it is the principal responsibility of an Islamic state to take urgent measures to eliminate rebellion with iron hand and exterminate terrorism so that no individual or group can dare destroy the social harmony of society, ruin peace and shed innocent blood. Islam holds the peace and tranquility of a society, in general, and of a Muslim state, in particular, so dear that it does not allow people to raise the banner of revolt in the name of injustice, oppression and other vices of ruling elite. In the light of Prophetic traditions, the banner of rebellion against a Muslim state cannot be raised unless the rulers commit explicit, declared and absolute infidelity, and stop the performance of religious rituals like prayer through the use of force.

12-12

Democratization in the Former Islamic Majority Soviet Republics

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

The Case of Kazakhstan

In looking for a unique subject to write on, your author came upon some of his notes of a discussion with an ethnic Kazakh (or the citizen of the newly independent Kazakhstan).  The “new” nation is now the ninth largest country in the world in geographical area, but only the sixty-second in population because of the largess of its open spaces.  In this essay the name of the source, place and date of the interview will be kept anonymous because of the possible political ramifications of my interviewee’s comments.

The newly independent land in Central Asia, separated from its Islamic roots for several centuries, had been violently Russified (made in the image of the Slavs in Saint Petersburg), and secularized over a period of their captivity under the Russian Empire, and later under the policy of secularization after the Communist Revolution in the European Center of the U.S.SR.  It has only been recently (1991) that they have gained independence from Moscow, and have been able to connect with the remainder of the Islamic World, and for this reason Islam, tinged with the Soviet secularism currently found in Central Asia, is developing its unique Muslim modernism of its own.

Kazakhstan, because of Josef Stalin’s policy of internal deportation within the (former) Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, is an ethnically diverse Republic (where many of its contemporary citizens are descended from unwilling immigrants…much like Afro-Americans in the Western Hemisphere).  Therefore, religious freedom is granted to all.  Yet, Kazakh Muslims dominate the social landscape.  As in all the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a loose organization of the (now) independent (post-) Soviet (Colonial) States, the societal environment has been in a flux into the first decade of this new century.  In fact, Altmay, the then capital of the Kazakh Republic was the last to declare its sovereignty of the non-Russian territories (to do so far).  Many of these Central Asian and Eurasian States have often held on to the past U.S.S.R. political paths with its bureaucracy, and their methodologies still dominate although with the younger generation pushing for Western-style economic “liberalization” and (democratic political reforms are gaining interest).  The question that was being asked in this lunchtime meeting was is Kazakhstan the next Central Asian Republic to go down the path toward Western ways?

The dominant feeling amongst the Kazakhstanis was that political reorganization was absolutely necessary, but most other States in the region discouraged such restructuring because of the threat to the financial and procedural status quo.  Within Kazakhstan itself, the Russian period has exited with an enormous embedded corruption.  One of the hefty problems is the remaining clannishness within the culture – especially the ruling elite.  The strongest clan actors – whether blood relations or not — are those who owe their allegiance to the Executive and the Bureaucrats – especially in the new center, Astana.  These political actors make most of the States’s decision without any larger (more democratic) consultation.  “The Presidency is controversial,” since it supports an economic “liberalization” that is Neo-Ricardian in form, and has gained the imprimatur of most of the international organizations — who matter – as the way to stabilize their economy.  Although Kazasthan is struggling to rediscover its Islamic roots, its Civil Society has not protested its strategy of the development corrupt of a new un-Islamic State-controlled neo-Capitalism.  Kazakhstan’s government has opted for a similar market economy as most of the post-Marxist States of the old Soviet Union, and has not incorporated any Islamic financial procedures at all.  Both the Capitalist and Leninist theories have to be adjusted to fit into the Muslim monetary tradition.  “Our President is the founder of [the modern Kazakhi] ” predatory financing!  The current Administration is leading the country into a systemic process of privatization.

One of the post-Communist Republic’s largest challenges is that of political secession.  The ruler is an oligarch (one of a group of wealthy decision makers with the State itself).  There is a great possibility that his eldest daughter will succeed him into the State Executive’s office in time.  Officials and businessmen will grab “shares” of the Commonwealth while the bureaucracy, in classic totalitarian fashion has been employed to develop policy; and, thus, to maintain the rapacious State; and, consequently, to assist the elites to control and oppress, for the President is concerned over any feasible democratic opposition that may arise.  It is largely his peers within the Oligarchy who supports the status quo.  Yet contenders are arising, and Kazakhstan is nominally a two-party State, but, still, the laws have been crafted to discourage challengers.  In fact, two of the leaders of the “loyal” opposition have been persecuted as enemies of the State.

In this emergent nation, free again to dig deeply into its Muslimness, Islam itself is being discouraged through its Socialist past.

12-12

Islamic Pluralistic Democracy In Southeast Asia

March 11, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Berkeley–Anwar Ibrahim (b. 1947), leader of the Opposition in the Malaysian parliament and Former Deputy Prime Minister (1993-1998) of Malaysia came here to give an important speech last Fall. Early in his career, he was mentored by the then Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, but he became one of the most prominent critics of Mahathir’s administration; and, thus, ran afoul of his mentor, and was convicted of corruption in 1999 (this is ironic with Mahathir’s Administration’s infamy for the deceit of his Administration).  During 2004 this judgment was reversed by a Federal Court, but later the Deputy PM (Prime Minister) was arrested for sodomy.  (“My high hopes were betrayed…,” for homosexuality is a most serious charge under Islamic law), but, because of an international hue, this charge was, also, abandoned.  During 2008, he was recharged under that accusation, but won a Ryding (a representative seat) to Parliament, nonetheless, by a 15,000 plurality in the same month as the second accusation.  This made him the head of the opposition in government as leader of the Permtang Paug Party.

Although Malaysia does not have the population or the square miles of China or India, it is one of Asia’s tigers by its economic growth and achievement since its Independence from Colonialism.  During 1942-1945, it was occupied by the Japanese.  In 1948, the Federation of Malaysia was formed while still a dependent of London.  It included a third of Borneo and Sabah (counter-claimed by Indonesia) the Malay Peninsula, the contested oil-rich Spratly Islands and, at the time of founding, Singapore which, after Independence (1957), seceded from the union.  The Philippines claimed the entire of the new nation’s territory at inception, too! 

The CIA (the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency) describes the constitutional monarchy of Malaysia as a middle income multi-sector country with a bicameral legislature, — with an upper House, the Dawn Negara (Senate) and a lower House of Representatives.  Succinctly the Malays have adopted the English West Minister form of democracy with an adaption of the British legal system. 

Economically, electronics exports are leading the way although its GDP (Gross National Product) has been hit hard by the worldwide recession.  Yet, circa 88% literacy gives hope for even expanding development in the future when negative global pressures subside.  Further the Peninsula of the Malays is rich in natural resources.  Yet, this and industrial development has produced a pollution problem that has to be addressed for the health of their residents.  What are weak in the Monarchy’s future are the demographics of the population:  The age balance between the young and old and middle age is weak.

The Federation is diverse with the majority Islamic Malays being approximately slightly over 50%, but there are Chinese (24%), Indigenous (11%), Indians (7%) and various others (8%).  The national religious and linguistic divisions are just as varied.  Besides Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and even Shamanism co-exist within the same sphere with a population of about 24 million.

Malaysia dominates most of the Malay Isthmus and is located on the strategic Straits of Malacca.  It is roughly the size of the Western American state of New Mexico – 329,750 sq. km. to be exact, but with a tropical-based agriculture that has allowed for an expediently larger and a more diverse populace and development.

There is a high literacy rate within the amalgamated hereditary States and Territories (the latter is appointed by the Central Government) which can counter the imbalance in demographics.   It is important to remember that the super city of Kuala Lampur is not the capital of this new Muslim-dominated country, but a much smaller traditional aristocratic nucleus holds the honor of the political hub.  In this way it can be compared to Karachi and Islamabad.

Although Anwar was incarcerated for seven years in total, he still holds that “Islam and democracy are not incompatible!”  He declared that, although he was in solitary confinement for most of that period, he was able to read; and, thereby, was able to extend his education into new areas.

Although there is a rising tide of Islamaphobia, and the fear of a Muslim totalitarianism, “Sharia embodies the freedom underlying Islamic law.”  The Islamic entrance into Southeast Asia was peaceful.  “It included the seeds of pluralism” as we have seen above. Ibrahim perceives that Malaysian democracy is domiciled peacefully within Modernism.  “The citizens have [utterly] rejected radicalism” through the ballot box!

The abuse of human rights leads to terrorism!  “With free societies, we learn to cope with terrorism.”  He asserted that there were three major parties in Islam, but he failed to elaborate on his statement.  Emphatically, “We should address poverty,” though!

“The Judiciary often mimics their political masters.”  The ruling elite hinder politics.

Talking about America, “[Bush] insisted [that] security [must be] a betrayal [of his international friends].  Cowboy diplomacy has given way to [a more free] consistency.”  Your previous Presidency lacked democracy!

Therefore, optimism will [must] succeed!

12-11

Muslim Americans for Palestine Event

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

muzammil-siddiqi
Muzzamil Siddiqi

The plight of the Palestinian people as they suffer under the boot of Israeli occupation is at the forefront of humanitarian concerns of people throughout the globe. Many individuals and organizations have addressed themselves to the Palestinian plight.

In December of 2009, as the world observed the first anniversary of Operation Cast Lead and the devastation wrought then by Israeli forces on an already beleaguered land, a new organization pledged to help Palestine was introduced to the public.

Muslim Americans for Palestine (MAP) is a project of the youth division of the Muslim American Society (MAS). Readers of The Muslim Observer will be familiar with MAP as its formation was announced at the MAS convention during the last weekend of the year. Its objectives are in many ways similar to those of other Palestine oriented group, yet it is also distinctive.

This past Saturday the group held its first formal event, a banquet and fundraiser at the Crowne Park Anaheim Resort in Garden Grove, Ca. Islamic Relief cosponsored the event and was the recipient of the funds collected. Islamic Relief will use the funds for their relief work in Palestine.

After prayers the evening began with a recitation and translation from the Holy Koran. Dinner followed.

During the early evening as people took their seats, two screens presented a video of MAP and its founding principles and goals.

The keynote speaker was Alison Weir, a human rights activist from Northern California. She spoke of the plight of Palestinians from her personal experiences and from the testimony she has received from eye witnesses, victims, and victims families. Her first trip to the oPt was in 2001 and was a fact finding expedition. What she discovered was the reverse of what she had been told by the media and her own government. Her organization, If Americans Knew, and her web site, www.ifamericansknew.org  are excellent and hard hitting sources of knowledge about Palestine.

As she spoke, her quiet voice and her presentation of facts and the inevitable conclusions these facts indicated, captivated the audience. Her emphasis was on the bias of the American media toward the state of Israel and against the Palestinian people. Ms Weir cited major news outlets: The New York Times, ABC, CBS and NBC Evening News and the Associated Press. “I am not talking about Fox News” she said.  She spoke of their unerring misreporting of deaths, always exaggerating Israeli losses and minimizing Palestinian ones; always manifesting a bias towards Israel with such consistency that it defied simple error or random chance. As she spoke, charts were shown on the two screens, statistical proof the accuracy of her claims. In addition cards were passed out to every guest with similar data.

Ms Weir included National Public Radio in her list of news outlets biased towards Israel.

Ms. Weir concluded by urging her audience toward action.

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi was another informative speaker. Dr. Muzammil’s leadership in the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California (ISCSC); the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); the Fiqh Council of North America, and the Islamic Society of Orange County (ISOC), to name but a few organizations, have made him a sought-after speaker. As a theologian and Islamic scholar he is also famous for his interfaith work.

Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi spoke of his trip to Palestine with interfaith leaders. The audience gasped when he spoke of the  650 checkpoints imposed on Palestinians by their Israeli occupiers..

“ I never imagined that there would be so many. How do you get through the day?” asked one young woman. As if in answer to her question Dr. Siddiqi spoke of the hardships wrought by these checkpoints on workers, students, and people in need of medical help.

Dr. Siddiqi urged people to visit the oPt and “see with their own eyes” the conditions there.

Dr. Siddiqi also spoke of the place of Jerusalem in the Islamic faith and referenced Koranic verses.

Attorney and human rights activist Reem Salahi spoke of the “Irvine 11”. A murmur passed through the audience with this familiar reference. These eleven students are threatened with expulsion or suspension by the University of California in Irvine (UCI) for exercising their free speech rights during the appearance on campus of Israeli Ambassador to the United State Michael Oren. In addition, the University has referred their case to the District Attorney in Orange County.

Ms Salahi was part of a delegation to Gaza a year ago, a delegation sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild. There the group found numerous violations of International law on the part of the Israeli forces during Operation Cast Lead.

Ms Salahi said that to speak of the Irvine 11 was not off subject. They are symbolic of the plight of the Palestinian people. The Israelis are the occupiers and the oppressors. The presence of their representative at UCI is not acceptable.

In dealing with the Israeli/Palestine issue she made an analogy with a boat that should be parallel but is instead diagonal with Israel on top. Muslims want fairness for Palestine: they want to right the boat.

Muslim Americans for Palestine has a three pronged approach to the Palestinian problem: Educate, Empower, Preserve. It is a grass roots organization dedicated to justice and self determination in Palestine. Recognizing the natural affinity between the American Muslim community for Palestine and recognizing also the pioneering spirit embodied in youth, MAP, in accordance with the Islamic faith. has been launched.

For further information, please access the MAP web site at: www.mapalestine.org

Islamic Relief may be accessed at its web site: www.islamic-relief.com.

12-10

Talal Asad

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Camp Meeker (Calif.)–February 28th–This discussion was observed some time ago in Berkeley, but your essayist is only finding the time to write it up this Sunday afternoon.   

Asad’s father was an Austrian Jewish convert to Islam and his mother was a Muslim-born woman.  The philosophically-oriented Talal was born in the Saudi Kingdom, but raised in India and Pakistan.  The younger Asad was trained as an anthropologist, and now is a professor in New York City.  Your critic is mainly familiar with his compilations as an historian.

He began the exchange with “…I can give you a…location [of] where I am [stand] today.  I was much more confident [of] rational criticism” in the past than now.  “Working through certain materialists, [can be]…positive.”  In this way, he has transformed the Islamic tradition to respond to Western Secularism with an (Islamic) Modernism of its own uniqueness, “…a straight forward approach …” to problem solving (“reality testing”) is required according to our philosopher. 

“… [cultural] continuity is still relevant…for creativity.”  The question is “What can be continued and why,” but he still has much to work out for a comprehensive “critique…I don’t know what we can do…Thinking is good [positive], but what kind of thinking?”

Speaking especially of the Middle East, “Life is…entangled…The scope of the horror has tremendously increased” with the Afghani and Pakistani theaters, “We are in a new type of War…”  Unlike President Obama, he disagrees with the Just War theories (both Christian and Islamic).    There is a threat of a nuclear holocaust at present.  We are following a suicidal logic!

In the Occident, Classic Eighteenth Century “Liberalism has…evolved historically [into Neo-liberalism during our generation]…”  Sarcastically, he exclaimed “Let the market rule” although “…the State can intervene…”        “The…West… [‘s cultural] language’’ contains violence…”  He, personally, does not hold to a Culture of Death as he describes it. 

“…any texts we write can be interpreted in many ways…”  Curiously, therefore, he maintains he is not responsible for his writings.

Although he is fully conversant in European and American humanism, “…I am committed to… [the]…values of Islam…” constantly employing his religion within his philosophical doctrines.  Towards the end of the dialogue, he noted certain similarities between Eastern Christianity and Islam.  In this manner, he has emphasized the commonality between the roots of the West and the Islamic; and, thereby, a space for meeting.

12-10

DIA Opens Islamic Art Section

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

As Muslims we always have great appreciation when our religion and the various expressions of our religion garner positive recognition and interest from respected non-Muslim institutions—sometimes in fact we take more pleasure from their taking notice than we do from recognition from our own Muslim institutions.  And so we Muslims take great pleasure in the recent exhibition at the Detroit Institute of the Arts (DIA), called the “Gallery of Islamic Art,” which was opened in a very exclusive event this past Saturday at the DIA at 5200 Woodward Ave. in Detroit.  This event was by invitation, with valet parking and a $250 fee for dinner, a black tie event attended by ambassadors and museum officials, and important and well-connected people from Detroit’s Muslim community.

The Islamic gallery itself is very interesting, and important as an expression of respect for Islam, however it is somewhat small, with about 1,000 square feet devoted to Islamic art—another slight detraction is that it seems to be a smorgasbord of Islamic art rather than an exhaustive or even organized look at Islamic art.  There is one large Persian rug, many examples of pottery and ceramics, several copies of Qur`an, and some collections of ahadith, but surprisingly without translations, and a video demonstrating the art of Islamic calligraphy.  There is perhaps as much space given to Christian and Jewish scripture (included as examples of Muslim tolerance, since they were made by Arabic speaking Jews and Christians living under Muslim rule) as there is to Muslim scripture in the exhibit.

There was some modern art which focused on Muslim themes, for example one painting by a modern Iranian painter on Sayyidinal Khadr (as)—who is mentioned in Qur`an.  Modern art on Muslim themes, however, is not strictly Islamic art.

There is nothing in the exhibit on Qur`anic recitation, which is a vital Islamic art.  There was to my noticing nothing from east Asia, or from central Asia, or from Africa.  There were no modern devotional musical forms represented.  There was to my noticing no poetry—one page of Rumi’s poetry in the original text would have been beautiful.  There was not clothing either—the entire exhibit could have been on Muslim turbans of various kinds and their meaning.  Or on kufis from around the world.  Or on any of many rich and different clothing  traditions from around the Muslim world.

There is very minimal calligraphy, which by itself could fill the entire museum with many different and beautiful forms of expression, from Chinese to Arabic to Turkish and even Japanese forms. In fact, likely 1,000 square feet would not be enough space to do a thorough exhibit of any one of several Islamic art forms, such as calligraphy, carpets, architecture, or pottery. 

But on the positive side, as a general approach the exhibit does show a long range of historical works up to the present, covering the past 600 years (including a Qur`an from the 1400s).  And the exhibit does show materials from several countries, although perhaps it centers on Iran a little bit more heavily than elsewhere.
The striking thing about this exhibit is first that Islamic art is in reality something that is in use in daily life, not something that Muslims hide from daily view, from the prayer carpets Muslims use, to the recitation they perform at specified intervals, to the buildings they live in and gardens they nurture, and the clothing they create.  And the natural and intrinsic beauty of this is different at a fundamental level from the concept of art as an icon that is produced and then ensconced in a museum for occasional admiration.

And, perhaps, another lesson from the exhibit is that Islamic art is something best demonstrated by Muslims themselves.  Still, the DIA has done something very gracious and important by devoting a substantial and expensive portion of its real estate to opening the world of Islamic art to museum visitors.

The DIA also opened itself to Muslims from around Detroit, including TMO, which is a very important gesture–when we as Muslims still face tremendous pressure from prejudice and ignorance–it is an enlightened act to show an Islamic art exhibit in this time.

12-9

Hebrew Motivation: 15 Million Jews Need 1.5 Billion Muslims

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Monotheism – We Are All Praying To The Same G_d

By Gary D. Mizel, Special To The Muslim Observer

At the outset of this opinion piece, I would like to express that after reading many issues of The Muslim Observer, I would characterize the newspaper as being journalistically at the same level as most of the highly esteemed papers around the country.  I say this because it is true;  and I also say it because I want to diffuse any criticism of the paper that would be used as a method of opposing me for appearing (as a Jew) in the text of TMO.

I would like to extol the Islamic community by citing a compliment that came from a noted Rebbetzin (Rabbi’s wife), which was expressed during a Torah study lecture.  In the midst of complaining, she came out with the following idea:  Muslims are more observant than Jews in a particular way because they devoutly pray five times a day.  This was meant to shame the audience to a degree whom she was trying to persuade to be more openly observant.  As for myself, I would simply assert that after having met scores of Muslims (mostly from studying the Koran at the Islamic Cultural Center on 96th street) I have never exchanged or been exposed to any harsh words.  One young man told me he did not like Jews and I answered that there is nothing I can do about that.  He smiled as if he were just testing me;  and we became friends.

It is my belief that the followers of the main religions spend more time adhering to the rituals of their faith than investigating what methods can be used to create peace and to bring the world together by declaring that we are all the same – all members of the human species.  Although we are commanded not to kill, we murder ourselves by murdering our own human kind.  The method of war that involves soldiers dying is as offensive as it is primitive.  It is much more cost effective to conduct a war through propaganda and influencing public opinion rather than having a human life extinguish during conflict.  It is exponentially more expensive to equip fighting men, train them, gather their bodies for burial, and take care of the wounded (physically and psychologically) for 50 years, or the rest of their lives.  Marketing leaves no scars and, like political elections, outcomes can change through the application and introduction of laws more easily and without physical conflict.  With this background, let me share what I view as the main pathway to peace – and that is to use the force of capitalism as the ultimate peacetime tool.

There are so many Muslims that are frustrated because they subsist without careers or upward mobility.  When I, myself, had no investment capital but many entrepreneurial ideas – I came to be angry, frustrated, and depressed with ideations of suicide, homicide, and overwhelming anxiety.  During such moods, I found temporary salvation by receiving some kind words and by immersing myself into some sort of creative activity.  Through this process I discovered that what made me feel healthy again was commerce and the pursuit of happiness by making money.

This point of view is what I would like to share with the readership of The Muslim Observer.         

From my experience in the business world, I have never witnessed a more uplifting event than when two or more people make money together.  When my partner Joan and myself went to the real estate office for a closing from the sale of one of our properties, I felt (like the old adage) that I was walking on air.  My mind was filled with the history of our buying a property, fixing it up, changing the zoning, and selling it for 50% more than what we paid.  When Joan and I would go out for a celebration, the feeling was euphoric.  My mind was filled with deploying our new capital to buy another building, buy clothes at the most prestigious store, buy my friend a mink coat, and try to select from my mind a myriad of daydreams all with ecstasy at their root.

This feeling is what I would like to share with my Muslim brothers and sisters.  Here is how.

I suggest that we form a company that would serve as a role model for Arabs and Hebrews alike.  We would start our project in a mosque where a Muslim audience would share with its Jewish hosts what kinds of negative feelings they may harbor towards the Jews.  The Jewish role would be to listen and ask questions so that by the end of the evening the Islamic contingent would feel that their complaints have been heard and understood. 

Then we would go about selecting an Arab (preferably Palestinian) to be my partner in a 50/50 commercial joint venture.  Myself and my Muslim partner would be co-chairmen, have an equal amount of stock in the company, and would receive the same salary and other compensation.  This scenario represents equality in many forms.  We would choose our business together such as bread, coffee, or art;  and we would market this company as being the most important in the world as its success would engender imitation and the concomitant growth of Muslim business sectors worldwide.

We would hire a Muslim videographer to document our salient experiences to use as promotional material or forge into a documentary.  Our marketing and PR would suggest that buying our product would be helping the world.  During the creation of our marketing plan, I would call upon painter extraordinaire, the great Anki King, to draft some sketches of our company logo. 

With permission from my partner, I would go for an icon that is symbolic of the two sides collaborating with each other such as a combination of the Crescent Moon and the Star of David.  Whatever image we decide upon in tandem would be augmented once again with the idea that buying our product is the equivalent of “Tikkun Olam” which is Hebrew for “repairing the world.” 

Once the Jews are in this position, their feet will be set in concrete, and I believe they will become more involved and seek new ways for our company to thrive.  Most importantly, besides the creation of a substantial revenue flow, our Muslim and Jew will work out our conflicts by speaking the language of business and not becoming confused or overwhelmed by making the entire initiative a religious experience.  Speaking for the Jews, I can say that we would not intend to convert anyone because (even though most people want to belong to the best or winningest religion) God hears all prayers.  Lastly, I simply want to express that I would relish having a Muslim partner.  I would promise loyalty to my partner;  and I would look forward to our commercial success as being a far reaching lesson in living and working together.  I would love human beings more fervently and love making a major contribution to the direction in which the human species determines to take. 

12-7

Haiti Fundraiser

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMnS

Despite Islamophobia rampant throughout the world and Muslims everywhere under attack, when disaster strikes as it has in Haiti, Muslims react instantly with charity and a deep sense of humanity.

If the foregoing seems to describe a paradox, to Muslims, helping others in distress regardless of religion, is a Koranic mandate. This past weekend Islamic Relief held a successful fundraiser in Anaheim, Ca to raise funds for disaster relief in earthquake ravaged Haiti. The speakers described the Islamic duty to support this cause citing Koranic chapters and centuries of precedent.

Before a capacity crowd the evening, which began with a recital from the Koran, featured such noted Muslim figures as Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Dr. Maher Hathout and Imam Zaid Shakir. 

A video showing the devastation in Haiti played during the length of the evening.

Dr. Siddiqi said that natural disasters are trials, both for those who are stricken and those who are safe. For the former, it is a test of faith; for the latter, it is a test of charity.

“We are all part of the human family”, Dr. Siddiqi told his audience.

When Dr. Maher Hathout took to the podium he asked his audience to imagine what life must be like for people whose very existence changed in a matter of seconds.

“We do what we do because we are followers of the Koran and of Mohammed (pbuh).”

Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute spoke of the parallel between the tragedy of Haiti and the tragedy of Gaza. In the former there is mobilization through out the world to come to the aid of the Haitians. For Gaza, one year after the devastating attack by Israel, rebuilding has not begun and aid convoys are turned away. Despite this the people of Gaza have raised money for the suffering people in Haiti.

Islamic Relief leader Anwar Khan presided over fundraising and spoke of his experiences in Haiti. He had just returned from a two day visit, and his testimony was particularly compelling because he spoke as an eye witness.

“The smell of death was everywhere”, he said.

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake left an estimated 1.5 million people homeless, and initially 200,000 were killed. Many survivors have died since due to malnutrition and dehydration and injuries received during the quake. People are sleeping in the streets with nothing under them but bricks. With a shaky infrastructure to begin with, there is very little that the earthquake did not damage or destroy. Homes, schools, places of worship, government buildings – all suffered damage and those that are not level are unsafe.

Islamic Relief set up temporary shelters in tented areas for 120 families. They worked with and befriended the Haitians whom they helped. This contrasts with many other relief efforts in which the volunteers felt the need for body guards and also the need to construct barbed wire fences between themselves and the Haitians. The humane ambiance of Islamic Relief’s work in addition to the direct aid is an outgrowth of religious faith.

“I never realized how devastated that poor country was” said one woman after hearing Brother Khan speak.

The evening was presented by Islamic Relief in coordination with the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. Sponsors were CAIR-LA, MPAC, MAS, MSA-West and COPAA.

Islamic Relief is a charitable organization which has operated for a quarter of a century to alleviate poverty, illiteracy and suffering and to bring aid and comfort to victims of natural and man made disasters. They are often the first responders to any emergency, and their work covers every part of the globe. They operate without reference to nationality, creed and color. They partner with other aid groups both local and international.

The list of their activities is encyclopedic. Here are a few: an orphan support program; water and sanitation development; education, and income generation. They have been in Pakistan in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes there; in Gaza when Israeli bombs were dropping; in Ethiopia during a famine, and in our Gulf States in the aftermath of Katrina.

To find out more about Islamic Relief and/or to contribute, please access them at: www.islamicreliefusa.org.

12-6

Syrian Singer Abu Ratib Pleads “Not Guilty”

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Michigan Islamic Examiner/Heather Laird

Abu Ratib January 26, 2010. In a Federal court hearing in Detroit on Monday January 25, 2010, singer Abu Raitb pleaded not guilty to the charges of making false statements to the FBI, false oath in a matter relating to naturalization and attempted unlawful procurement of naturalization.

Abu Ratib also known as Mohammed Masfaka is a beloved singer of Islamic songs. He has millions of fans throughout the Arab and Muslim world, and is respected by not only the common person but by government diplomats as well. He is considered by some Michigan residents to be one of the leading Islamic singers of all times, and is believed to have written more songs than the also popular Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens) and Sami Yusuf.  He is the Chair of the International Union for Islamic Art.

After reading the nine-page indictment put forth by the FBI, one wonders what this case is really concerned with achieving. The document states questions asked and answered and some discrepancies in the answers. More specifically, the case mentions that Abu Ratib left off of his immigration papers a low-level job that he held for a short period of time. How many people in the United States everyday leave off previous employment on job applications. His other offense was not mentioning or mentioning incorrectly compensation. I am quite confident this happens everyday in the US as well. In fact, can everyone say Treasury Secretary?

All sarcasm aside, this is serious when it comes to immigration, and I would be on the first line of defense for my Country if you told me an immigrant left off their application that they were affiliated with some group that would harm United States citizens. But, this is not the case here. The government is saying that they knew he worked for an entity that was approved a 501(c)3 status – meaning an organization that already had some governmental scrutiny.  And, he did so here in the United States, so it was not covert or anything. How would or could he know that the government, because of its policies with Israel would change their opinion about their foreign policy? Holy Land Foundation was prosecuted and the first trial was declared a mistrial, the second received a conviction and now it is currently on appeal. So, we are prosecuting an individual because of guilt by association with a group that may or may not be considered affiliated with terrorism, but that the US Courts have not yet decided on, and not because we think “he” was a terrorist, but because he left off information from an application.

Why would we do this? The immigrant story is one that most of us are familiar with in folklore. People come to America to build a better life. They believe the will have certain unalienable rights that they do not have elsewhere. I am positive that the Masfaka family believed they would have in America what they could not find elsewhere. But, the reality for some immigrants is of another nature. Some immigrants are targeted as assets for the government. And because they are immigrants or of immigrant status can be intimidated or coerced into becoming informants or spies for the United States or have their citizenship revoked. They trust their new government. Aren’t we all raised to trust the authority in our midst – our police officers, our government. If you are a minority in the United States, a different reality exists. However, the majority is taught to trust government.

So, if you are an immigrant likely your first language is not English. You come to America wanting to be an American, and fill out your paperwork and then you are a citizen. The process is only not that simple. If the government at any time deems it necessary to use you, then they can very meticulously scrutinize every piece of paper and every conversation you have had to find a small detail left out here, a mistranslation there, etc., until an error is found or omission which to the government translates as a lie and you have now become a defendant.

What Masfaka seems to really be guilty of is not having legal representation with him at critical junctures in his immigration process. But, how many immigrants do not, and are not being prosecuted? We can presume many. This man was targeted, because of an Islamaphobic attitude that has been allowed to prevail in the United States. It is forbidden for Muslims to spy. For a man to take the stance of refusing to commit a sin in his faith is to stand for his freedom of religion. This is one of the positive rights that Americans are supposed to enjoy. It seems in this case, Masfaka may have taken that stand and is now being punished for it.

The result of this case has two very negative implications for the United States. First, it seems to tear at and shred our Constitution a little more. Not providing that blanket of freedoms that we promote as being unique to us. Second, this particular Defendant is Internationally known and beloved. And here we are again, post the Obama Cairo speech being seen as double-speak on the International scene. You say you want peace, but your actions appear to be targeting  and punishing people who do not fit the bill of terrorist.

Muslims will help their Country. No one wants corruption in the Muslim community. Why can’t we ask American Muslims to help in cleansing this Country of corruption instead of thinking the only way to do so is through seeming coercion and intimidation.

The Muslim community is praying for the Masfaka family that these charges are dropped. The American Muslim community prays for its Country in hopes that America can find a new approach and fight for all its citizens.

12-6

Community News (V12-I6)

February 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Farad Ali: Durham City Councilman

DURHAM, NC–Farad Ali serves on the council of city of Durham in North Carolina and is a rising star in the city`s politics.  A life long advocate for the city Ali has been pushing for accountability and integrity in the council.

Having attended Githens Junior High School and graduating from Jordan High School, Ali is a product of the Durham public school system. He remained in the area, obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in finance, from the School of Business at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He went on to obtain a Masters in Business Administration from Campbell University.

His professional career began in the banking industry, Mr. Ali worked for over ten years as a successful community, commercial and corporate banker in the private sector.

Currently an executive at a nonprofit, Farad Ali works within an organization focused on addressing issues related to responsible community economic and minority business development. During his career, he has served on numerous local boards and advisory committees. He has served as a speaker and advisor for state and national financial and economic development programs. Mr. Ali has been intensively involved in programs to foster community development.

BYU publishes Ibn Sina translation

SALT LAKE CITY, UT–Ibn Sina, the great Muslim philosopher and scientist, is being reintroduced to the modern world through translations of his works by the Brigham Young University.

A section of Avicenna’s work from “The Healing” called “The Physics” was translated by Jon McGinnis, an associate professor in the department of philosophy of the University of Missouri-St. Louis. The resulting two volumes, titled “Avicenna: The Physics of ‘The Healing,’” are now available as part of BYU’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative.

BYU’s Middle Eastern Texts Initiative has published 16 works — including Islamic works, Eastern Christian texts and a series of works by Jewish rabbi Moses Maimonides. “Physics” is the seventh volume in the Islamic Translation Series of this initiative.

Hundreds come for Halal food course

TORONTO–In a sign of growing concerns over Halal foods hundreds of Muslim youth in the Toronto area turned out for a weekend course titled ‘Precious Provisions: Fiqh of Food and Clothing,’ taught by Shaykh Yasir Qadhi. Providing a comparative analysis of the rulings on food according to the various Islamic legal schools he said that a majority agrees that the food should be properly slaughtered and that the name of Allah (swt) be recited on the animal or bird.

Throwing light on the various controversies on the topic in North America he went on to demonstrate that the permissibility of the meat of the people of the book is not unconditional. He said it is permissible only if the Islamic conditions of dhabh are met.

He said that the importance of tasmiyah evident from the fact that it is even required for hunted animals, so how about non-hunted? He said that only school, the Maliki, consider the mentioning of Allah’s name is Mustahab. The majority opinion either considers it to be obligatory to mention Allah’s name in all circumstances or obligatory but forgiven if accidentally forgotten.

Shaykh Qadhi also discussed the reliability of the books which contain lists of halal and haram products. He said the utility of such books is limited as they are not written by Islamic scholars and adopt a a mechanical attitude in classifying products as Halal or Haram. This results in classifying things like water and milk in the prohibited category. He said that the just a presence of a particular doubtful or prohibited product on the ingredient list doesn’t make a product Haram but one has to look at its quantity and state.

He urged the Muslim communities to organize locally and develop a system to monitor and certify halal stores.  He also said that Muslims should respect divergent opinions and discuss things in an amicable manner.

12-6

The Muslim Population in Haiti

January 28, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

CNN

2010-01-27T190252Z_394306782_GM1E61S08FL01_RTRMADP_3_QUAKE-HAITI-CANADA

Pallbearers carry Royal Canadian Mounted Police Chief Superintendent Doug Coates in Ottawa January 27. Coates died in the Haiti earthquake.

REUTERS/Chris Wattie

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) — Tucked away on a corner of the Haitian capital’s dusty, congested Delmas Road, a modest white building bears a curious sign, painstakingly stenciled in green Western and Arabic script.

“Mosquee Al-Fatiha,” it reads. “Communaute Musulmane d’Haiti.”

An attendant splashing water on the ground greets a visitor who approaches the gate. “As-salaam aleikum [peace be upon you],” he says, breaking into a smile. “Welcome to the mosque.”

Haiti, the Caribbean nation closely associated with the African-derived faith of voodoo, is home to a small but growing community of Muslims. Two Islamic centers in the capital of Port-au-Prince are among nearly a dozen around the country started by those who have converted to the faith.

Officials with the major Islamic groups estimate there are between 4,000 and 5,000 Muslims in Haiti, a nation of about 8 million people.

In the lanes of the historic Carrefour-Feuilles quarter, a neighborhood that snakes up the mountains surrounding Port-au-Prince, a plangent, timeless sound echoes.

Among the market women haggling over prices while portable radios blare popular Haitian “compas” music, the muezzin’s call to prayer goes forth from a new Islamic masjeed, or prayer center.

“Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, La ilaha ila Allah,” — “God is greater, God is greater, there is no god but God.”

Haiti is about 80 percent Catholic and 20 percent Protestant, according to State Department figures, while some 85 percent of its people regularly practice voodoo.

Muslims noticeable in cities

But followers of Islam have recently stepped into the public eye. Muslim men distinctive in their kufi headwear and finely groomed beards, and women in traditional scarves, are now seen on the streets of several cities.

Nawoon Marcellus, who comes from the northern city of San Raphael, recently became the first Muslim elected to the Chamber of Deputies, Haiti’s lower house of parliament.

“I returned to Haiti in 1985 just to preach Islam,” said Abdul Al-Ali, the Delmas mosque’s white-bearded, commanding imam, or spiritual leader. “I converted while I was in Canada and we bought the space for the mosque in 1993.”

“Haitians would like to have the truth and Islam will bring it to them. If we follow Allah, peace be upon him, I think things can change.”

In impoverished Haiti, beset by a faltering economy, malnutrition, political violence and a two-year-old electoral dispute that has led to a freeze on $500 million of international aid, some converts find the attention Islam devotes to charity and social justice particularly appealing.

“If you see someone who is in need, the ones who need help, whether it’s education, money or what have you, we Haitians as a whole tend to be very generous in helping with one another,” said Racin Ganga, the imam of the Carrefour Feuilles center, who attended college and was introduced to Islam in New York.

“Those who don’t have anything tend to help out. It is in some way inborn to us as Haitians, as well as Muslims, to help out. So that principle of responsibility, of helping those less fortunate, resonated very well.”

Yacine Khelladi, an Algerian economist who has conducted an informal survey of the religion in Haiti, said in its idealized form, Islam could address many of Haiti’s needs, including social justice, literacy and a sense of community.

“It even regulates business, land disputes, banking and other things — all of which could be perceived as attractive in Haiti as an alternative model,” Khelladi said.
Inspiring revisionist history.

The study of Islam has also resulted in some provocative new theories about Haitian history, including a revisionist view of Boukman, a rebel slave who inspired other slaves to rise up against their colonial masters.

“Boukman was never a voodoo priest, like they say; he was a Muslim,” said Samaki Foussoyni, a worshiper at the Delmas mosque.

“When they describe his name, Boukman, in English, as he was from Jamaica, they are really describing ‘book man,’ because of the book he was always reading, which the French here in Haiti always referred to as an “upside-down” book,” Foussoyni said.

“They described it as such because it was the Koran, which you read left to right. When they say they had a voodoo ceremony at Bois Cayman, where Boukman lived, it was in fact ‘Bwa Kay Imam,’ or ‘the woods of the house of the imam’ in Creole.”

Although the mosques are locally maintained and receive no assistance from Islamic charities abroad, the nascent faith got an international boost from the U.S.-led military force that entered Haiti in 1994 to restore exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power.

“The Pakistani and Bangladeshi soldiers came to our mosque to pray and enjoy our faith and they encouraged us with this belief,” Al-Ali said.

Conscious of their status as outsiders in overtly voodoo and Catholic Haiti, a nation that endured decades of dictatorship and brutal military repression, Muslims are quick to stress the peaceful nature of their faith and to distance themselves from the September 11 attacks on the United States.

“Allah says that if a man kills another man it is as if he has killed all humanity,” said Racin Ganga. “The people who did what they did in New York, they are not even human. Islamic people should use the weapon of their love, because violence, as we’ve seen here in Haiti, will not take us anywhere.”

12-5

Islam in Haiti

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

haiti Haiti is a benighted country that your author knows well having made working journeys there, and serving on a Committee in my home State of California to support that nation in her struggles (the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere) for over a decade now. 

The information your essayist is to relay was a surprise to me, too, although I had intended to write about a slave rebellion that a Muslim led during the early history of Creole Hispaniola for the Observer a year and a half ago, but I could not trace the references down even in the largest academic library in Western North America which is literarily down the street from me.  With the Internet, though, I have been able to trace the history and condition of the religion on the western half of that nation’s island.

Islam came at the earliest period of the then Colony by the importation of slaves from Sub-Saharan Africa.  As the current distressing rioting in Nigeria between Christians and Muslims demonstrates, there is a significant population of Muslims from West Africa.  From an historian’s point of view, the fact that the middle men in the slave trade were Arabs (Muslims) is most disturbing.

Much of the early accounts are confused by 200 years of oral tradition (many times relayed memory), legend and mythology.  There are two mangled accounts of rebellion, but they were in another French isle in the Caribbean, Martinique, that became associated with the Haitians.  One says that the leader still wanders around Saint-Dominique, as Haiti was called then.  This is no more than mythology.

Many Muslim slaves from West Africa were forcibly baptized, but there is a belief that the Maroons (any group of slaves descended from fugitive slaves from the Seventeenth through Eighteenth Centuries) mainly held onto their Islamic beliefs.  One such slave, Dutta Boukman, who was smuggled in from Jamaica, received his name because he could read, and his French masters reported he read upside down which indicated he most likely was reading Arabic and, at that, feasibly, the Koran.  This description is an unquestionable fact although legend claims he was a Voo-Doo priest, but “revisionist” Haitian scholarship suspects that he was a Muslim.  Nonetheless, his death by decapitation in a 1791 rebellion, which he commanded, raised the demand, again, that led for freedom and the finally successful Black Haitian Revolution for Independence in which the Muslims, who were instrumental in that War,  spoke Arabic to confuse their enemies!

Before Dutta, another Maroon leader, a Marabout warrior in the Islamic tradition, François Macandal, too, attempted a rebellion, but was burned ghastly at the stake in 1758.  The Mandingos, a distinct linguistic group, from West Africa, provided much of the leadership during the Haitian Revolution, and many of them were most definitely Muslims.              

Islam had a vital impact at the birth of the Republic, and now it is beginning to assert itself once again.  Various estimates are that the Muslim population in this Creole motherland is between 3500 and 7000.  Most of the adherents to the faith live in Port-au-Prince earlier this month, where the majority of the death and destruction befell and the Mosquee Al-Fatiha stands (stood?), and the Bilal Mosque and an Islamic Center in the second largest city in the country, Cap Haitian, on the north coast is situated. (Cap Haitian, fortunately, was not impacted as much.)  There are other places of worship locally maintained throughout the land mass although your writer has not been able to confirm the comprehensive condition of the community after the disaster on January 12th. 

In the 1920s an influx of Arab immigrants entered Haiti from the Middle East – especially from Morocco although ethnically the largest of the Haitian Muslim population today are indigenous to their Caribbean country.  Your researcher did trace down some individual North American Muslims, but not their demographics within the populace.  Being an impoverished mixed assemblage, they were not able to construct their first Mosque until 1985.  It was a built from a converted residence.  The first minaret was built in 2000.  Whether that minaret is standing has not been determined by your journalist, also.

Politically, the first Muslim to enter the Chamber of Deputies (i.e., their Congress) was Nawoon Marcellus on the Fanmi Lavalas ticket, the Left-leaning party led by President Aristide. 

Your writer, who has gotten encouraging press releases from Islamic charities benefiting the citizens irrespective of belief, it is important to know that your Zakat is, further giving succor to your Muslim brothers and sisters.  The figures (0.4of the population) and institutions your writer has mentioned may have drastically been decimated.  After the situation has been solidified, rebuilding this small but burgeoning religious society remains.

12-5

Islamic Relief to Help Haiti

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Press Release

Islamic Relief USA works with Mormon church to aid Haitian quake victims

2010-01-20T185336Z_1133674928_GM1E61L082001_RTRMADP_3_QUAKE-HAITI

Residents leave Port-au-Prince by a bus after a 6.1 magnitude aftershock in Haiti’s capital January 20, 2010.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

(Alexandria, VA, January 13, 2010) — Islamic Relief USA, America’s largest Muslim relief organization, announced today that it will immediately fly a $1 million shipment of aid to those impacted by yesterday’s earthquake in Haiti. That relief aid will be sent in coordination with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Those wishing to donate to Islamic Relief USA’s “Haiti Emergency” appeal may visit www.IslamicReliefUSA.org or call (888) 479-4968. Checks payable to “Islamic Relief USA” may be mailed to: Islamic Relief USA, P.O. Box 5640, Buena Park, CA, 90622.

In October 2009, Islamic Relief USA responded to two Pacific Rim earthquakes by coordinating a massive aid shipment to Samoa and deploying emergency teams in Indonesia.

Islamic Relief partners worldwide also responded to other major disasters such as the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia and the Pakistan earthquake in 2005. More than $100 million in relief aid was collected to assist the victims in those disaster areas. Islamic Relief also responded to Hurricane Katrina, delivering aid to more than 60,000 people in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

[NOTE: Media professionals interested in speaking to aid workers who have experience in disaster zones or to learn more about ongoing response efforts may contact Islamic Relief USA VP of Fund Development Anwar Khan at 818-216-9723.]

Islamic Relief USA, based in Alexandria, Va., is a non-profit 501(c)(3) humanitarian agency with offices also in California, Illinois, New Jersey, and Texas. As an international relief and development organization, Islamic Relief strives to alleviate the poverty and suffering of the world’s poorest people. Since its establishment, Islamic Relief has expanded greatly with permanent locations in more than 35 countries worldwide.

For the sixth consecutive year, Islamic Relief USA has been awarded four stars by Charity Navigator, the largest charity evaluator in the country. This prestigious award puts Islamic Relief among the top 2.25 percent of charities in the nation.
Media Contacts: Anwar Khan, 818-216-9723 (mobile), E-mail: anwar@IslamicReliefUSA.org; Mostafa Mahboob, 310-351-0952 (mobile), E-mail: mostafa@IslamicReliefUSA.org

12-4

Islam’s Challenge to Capitalism

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Turkey’s “Passive Revolution”

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Berkeley–Although Chihan Tugal is based here in Berkeley, he was asked to talk about his research entitled Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism, published by Stanford University. It is written from his observations of a district in the above Asia Minor country which is amongst the poorest and most radical on the outskirts of Istanbul.  What is so interesting about this quarter is that it is dominated politically by Islamists even though the Central administration’s Constitution is that of a Secularist Republic.

Amid the Turkish population, the Islamists have scant support.  These Muslims favor a relatively radical type of Islam for a democratic State, and are against the exacting Secularization that Ataturk set in motion during the 1920s.  The majority of these people had supported the Fazilet (Virtue) Partisi (Party) and to a lesser extent other Islamist Parties such as Welfare.  Their thinking had led them to reject contemporary Capitalism; therefore, the anti-American stance of social and economic-introverted gazing.  Turkish Islamism is logical, but a short time ago, 2001, the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Partisi) was formed out of a schism between traditionalists – such as ruled this area — and reformers within the Virtue Party by the current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Endrogan.  On the other hand, the AKP (Justice and Development) program stresses not only democratic reforms but Islamic moral renewal) as well.  (Incidentally many of these  Muslims came from the radical marginal ethnic groups within Turkiye.)  Ethnology is a competent device to comprehend this societal phenomenon. 

These individuals became disenchanted when it became apparent that an Islamist State was beyond their reach.  Many former adherents of the local Islamist groups, who had become disillusioned, defected to the Neo-Liberal (i.e., Neo-Ricardian) Justice and Development Party which is more broadly Islamic than Islamist, and, hence, more accepting of contemporaneous Capitalism — although they still held onto their antagonism to their former completive Islamist, as well, Welfare Party after they switched their positions outside their former religious ideological political stance. 

Those remaining inside the Islamic political organizations are nevertheless not so much anti-capitalistic as anti- markets.  (Your critic here considers, of all things, that many of these Islamist groups actually have affinities with European Christian Democrats!  Both put their spiritual commitments and moral principles in the forefront of their politics.)  Further, those who have stepped over to the Justice and Development Party have accepted some Keynesian theoretics, thus, they have resemblances to the Social Democrats in Europe. 

The Islamists of Turkiye Cumhurieyeti are a virtual compilation of the Subaltern (a range of the lower and lower middle classes).  Shopkeepers and students are against Capitalism in Istanbul, but the proletariat have sympathy for Corporate Capital, strangely enough, (for they see commerce a source for jobs).

Although the State has become more Islamic, their influence have diminished while that of the bourgeois has risen.  This has guaranteed the position of Secularism within the State.  The traditional patronage alliance between State actors within the Republic has been restored as has the alliance with the West — although the Secular elite can be Islamized, if a large scale Islamic revival is generated in the event the European Union denies Ankara’s entrance into the EU.  This (could) lead to a financial emergency that, may perhaps, lead to an economic meltdown in this NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ally.  

12-4

(Former) Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and Gaza

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Sacramento– January 10th–(Ex-Representative) Cynthia McKinney spoke here at the Salam Center, a Community nucleus for the Islamic Community of the Greater Sacramento Area as part of a program put together by the new American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).  Before the speeches by Cynthia and Hatem Bazian (whose comments your journalist will report on in a future article), we ate a communal Halal dinner at the Center. 

McKinney is an Afro-American Person of the Book who served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives gaining the ire of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the U.S. India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) for her strong support of the Islamic nations of Pakistan and Palestine. The two lobby organizations’ political “war chest” money and power cause her to lose her seat in a prominently Black District twice despite the fact she had served six terms in Congress. 

She has doubts facts about September 11th, 2001, also; so, she served on the Citizens Commission on 9/11.  After looking at the details of that day in New York City, she signed the 9/11 Truth Movement asking for new investigations on the unexplained aspects of that incident. 

While still in the Lower House, she presented Articles of Impeachment against former President Bush, Vice President Cheney and (then) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Further, Cynthia McKinney’s educational background and experience makes her solidly authoritative on foreign affairs.

During Tel Aviv’ attacks upon Gaza she attempted to enter the Strip with humanitarian supplies — twice unsuccessfully by sea and once successfully by land. 

On her first endeavor, the blockading Israeli Navy rammed her ship.  Mentioning that she was not a Palestinian, she asserted “That I [would] die is one of the [most] honorable [things] I could” do. 

On the second effort, McKinney found herself surrounded by Israeli War boats.  All the passengers and crew were “kidnapped” (captured), and imprisoned for ten days.  Cynthia was, additionally, banned from Israel for ten years – including the Occupied Territories (i.e., Palestine). 

After she was released from detention and deported, she received a call from the British Member of Parliament, George Galloway, who is the director of Viva Palestina which has entered Gaza with conveys of trucks containing relief supplies, called Ms. McKinney and asked her to come with his trucks across the Rafah crossing from Egypt into shattered Gaza.  The (prior) Congresswoman described that the horrible devastation of the diminutive State was over-powering, but, on the other hand,  she attested to the defiant spirit of the people.

“We have to resist” our (own) government (U.S.) “…like the Palestinians” the Israeli.  “Washington D.C. is ground Xerox,” too.  Describing her experience on the Coastal Strip, “I was the one whose spirit was uplifted…In my heart, I am a Palestinian!”

12-3

Gentle, Friendly Face of Indonesia and Islam

January 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Greg Barton, Theage.com

ABDURRAHMAN ad-DAKHIL WAHID, FORMER INDONESIAN PRESIDENT

2009-12-31T131642Z_1627607473_GM1E5CV1N0R01_RTRMADP_3_INDONESIA-PRESIDENT WHEN the former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid succumbed to a long battle with kidney disease and diabetes, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono called for seven days of national mourning. For many millions of Indonesia’s 240 million citizens, the mourning is very personal.

Wahid, better known as Gus Dur, although a controversial president, was deeply loved and admired. Even before becoming Indonesia’s first democratically elected president in October 1999, he had built a towering reputation as a progressive Islamic intellectual and as a leading dissident. In fact, many feared that his unexpected entry into political office would tar his reputation as a social reformer and religious leader.

They were right to be afraid. He was never meant to be a president. It wasn’t just that his style was too unconventional, it was that he refused to play by the rules of the game and to do the sort of deals that politicians need to do. Ironically, however, it was this commitment to idealistically championing reform despite a lack of political backing for which he is currently being remembered, as much as for his contributions as an Islamic intellectual and Muslim community leader. He was the wrong man for the job but it was the right man for the time.

Born into one of Indonesia’s most prominent families of ulama, or Islamic scholars, Wahid went on to lead Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) for 15 years from 1984 until 1999. He succeeded in transforming the culture and orientation of this traditionalist Islamic association; with a membership of about 40 million people, it is the world’s largest Islamic organisation. Along with like-minded colleagues he helped ensure that the NU pesantren, Islamic boarding schools known elsewhere as madrassa, completed a transition to becoming modern schools offering the secular state curriculum alongside religious instruction. This ensured that their mostly poor rural students were able to enter fully into modern Indonesia society.

Wahid’s two grandfathers, Hasyim Asyari and Bisri Syansuri, had been instrumental in establishing NU in 1926, and his father, Wahid Hasyim, was minister of religious affairs under Sukarno and one of NU’s most prominent leaders up until his death in 1952, when the car in which he was travelling with his son, the future president, skidded on a mountain road. As the eldest of six children, Wahid felt a heavy responsibility to follow in his father’s footsteps. His solid pedigree gave him a commanding position to call for reform within NU and to challenge the Indonesian military, including president Suharto, on human rights abuses, corruption, nepotism and abuse of power. Gifted with a brilliant mind and near photographic recall, he blitzed through his pesantren studies as a teenager while sneaking off to the cinema as much as he could.

He also developed a love of literature. His mental gifts, if not his personal discipline, meant that when he arrived at Cairo’s famous al-Azhar University to study Islamic studies in 1963 he quickly found the sort of traditional rote learning in place there to be a disappointment. Neglecting his formal studies he spent his time in informal learning, extending his earlier studies to include French cinema and Western literature (read in the library of the American University) as well as hours of coffee shop debates in the cafes of Cairo.

Wahid was working at the Indonesian embassy in Cairo at the time of the 1965 coup that saw Sukarno toppled and hundreds of thousands of alleged communist sympathisers brutally murdered. He translated diplomatic cables and letters reporting events from back home and was all too aware of the culpability of NU members in aiding and abetting the violence. This led to a lifelong commitment to speaking out on human rights abuses, including those linked to his own community. As president, he sought to rehabilitate former political prisoners.

Bored with al-Azhar, he moved to Baghdad University in 1966, where he completed a degree in Arabic literature. Back home to Indonesia in the early 1970s, he threw himself into NGO activism. Like his father, he enjoyed broad friendships across all communities and was an early proponent of interreligious dialogue. He was also a champion of the rights of minority communities, including Indonesia’s Christians and Chinese, and later as president sought to advance their interests.
His leadership of NU positioned him to fearlessly critique Suharto and his regime, especially when beginning in the early 1990s Suharto sought the support of the radical Islamist elements that he previously persecuted.

To oppose this Wahid joined Djohan Effendi and others in establishing Forum Demokrasi to openly criticise the president’s use of sectarian sentiment for political purposes. In 1994, Wahid and Djohan accepted an invitation from Shimon Peres to visit Israel; they participated in the inauguration of the Peres Centre for Peace. Later, as president, he sought to open formal relations between Indonesia and Israel. Despite this bold move his popularity among his support base in NU remained undiminished and he declared that he was now prepared to run for a third five-year term as executive chairman. Suharto did all that he could to block his re-election but Wahid’s triumph established him as one of the few people who could take on Suharto and get away with it.

Nevertheless, he was forced to seek a rapprochement with Suharto following the latter’s ousting of Megawati Sukarnoputri from the leadership of her own party in 1996 and the violent suppression of her supporters. But when the Asian economic crisis hit Indonesia in the 1997, he was again at the head of the movement for reform.

A near fatal stroke in January 1998 robbed him of what was left of his failing eyesight and meant that he spent the first half of 1998 in physical rehabilitation rather than in leading the push against Suharto. Still, following Suharto’s resignation in May, Wahid was able to establish a new party designed to garner the support of members of NU but founded on principles of secularism. The success of this party, PKB, in the 1999 elections set him up for role in government. No one, however, really expected him to become president.

That occurred because Habibie, who wanted to turn his transitional presidency into a full term through election, was thwarted when he supported the referendum in East Timor and Islamist elements and others within parliament moved to block the ascension of Megawati Sukarnoputri. She eventually became president in July 2001 when parliament effectively voted Wahid out of office.

Wahid is remembered today largely for his role as a reformist president, but history is likely to also remember him as one of the 20th century’s leading Islamic intellectuals and as someone who demonstrated how a traditional Islamic scholar can also be modern, democratic and humanitarian.

Professor Greg Barton is Herb Feith Research Professor for the Study of Indonesia at Monash University, and acting director, Centre for Islam and the Modern World. He is also the author of Gus Dur: the Authorised Biography of Abdurrahman Wahid.

12-2

Malaysian Polygamy Club Draws Criticism

January 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Liz Gooch, New York Times

articleLarge
Mohamad Ikram Ashaari and his four wives and children at his home in Kuala Lumpur.      Palani Mohan for International Herald Tributne.

KUALA LUMPUR — Rohaya Mohamad, 44, is an articulate, bespectacled medical doctor who studied at a university in Wales. Juhaidah Yusof, 41, is a shy Islamic studies teacher and mother of eight. Kartini Maarof, 41, is a divorce lawyer and Rubaizah Rejab, a youthful-looking 30-year-old woman, teaches Arabic at a private college.

The lives of these four women are closely entwined — they take care of each others’ children, cook for each other and share a home on weekends.

They also share a husband.

The man at the center of this matrimonial arrangement is Mohamad Ikram Ashaari, the 43-year-old stepson of Hatijah Aam, 54, a Malaysian woman who in August established a club to promote polygamy.

“Men are by nature polygamous,” said Dr. Rohaya, Mr. Ikram’s third wife, flanked by the other three women and Mr. Ikram for an interview on a recent morning. The women were dressed in ankle-length skirts, their hair covered by tudungs, the Malaysian term for headscarf. “We hear of many men having the ‘other woman,’ affairs and prostitution because for men, one woman is not enough. Polygamy is a way to overcome social ills such as this.”

The Ikhwan Polygamy Club is managed by Global Ikhwan, a company whose businesses include bread and noodle factories, a chicken-processing plant, pharmacies, cafes and supermarkets. Mr. Ikram is a director of the company.

While polygamy is legal in predominantly Muslim Malaysia, the club has come under fire from the government and religious leaders, who suspect it may be an attempt to revive Al-Arqam, a defunct Islamic movement headed by Mrs. Hatijah’s husband, Mr. Ashaari Mohamad, who is the founder and owner of Global Ikhwan. Al-Arqam was banned in 1994 for “deviant” religious teachings.

The club denies allegations that it is trying to revive Al-Arqam, and says that the aim of the club is to help single mothers and women past “marrying age” find husbands.

The Ikhwan Polygamy Club says it has 1,000 members across Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, the Middle East and Europe. It recently started a branch in Bandung, Indonesia, and plans to open another one in Jakarta. Most of the members are employees of Global Ikwan or former members of Al-Arqam.

Members get together regularly for meetings and relationship counseling, which is given by senior members of the group.

Under Malaysian law, it is legal for Muslim men to marry as many as four wives, although they must obtain permission from an Islamic, or shariah, court to marry more than one. Women’s groups say it has become easier for men to obtain permission to take multiple wives in recent years, a development they say coincides with a rise in Islamic conservatism in Malaysia.

While some states require men to obtain the consent of their existing wives before seeking court permission to marry another wife, Sa’adiah Din, a family lawyer who practices in the shariah courts, said other states no longer required the wives’ consent.

In 2008, 1,791 men applied to the shariah courts, which apply only to the country’s Muslim population, for permission to take another wife, up from 1,694 in 2007. The government could not provide figures on the total number of polygamous marriages, but researchers including Norani Othman, a sociologist at the National University of Malaysia, said the number could be as high as 5 percent of all marriages.
Despite the growing number of polygamous marriages, the club’s effort to promote the practice has put it in the sights of the authorities.

The Department of Islamic Development Malaysia, a government department that is responsible for the promotion and administration of Islam, is investigating the activities of the Ikhwan Polygamy Club and says it believes Mr. Ashaari and his family may be promoting teachings contrary to Islam. A spokeswoman would not provide further details, saying the investigation was continuing.

Al-Arqam had asserted that Mr. Ashaari had the power to forgive the sins of Muslims, an act Muslims believe can be done only by God. Some reports have suggested that the movement had as many as 10,000 members when it was banned.

A leading religious official, Harussani Bin Haji Zakaria, the mufti of Perak State, said followers of Al-Arqam had claimed that Mr. Ashaari had the power to send people to heaven or hell.

Mr. Harussani said he believed the polygamy club could be a front to resurrect Al-Arqam. “I think because they have been banned they want to attract people to come to him again,” he said, referring to Mr. Ashaari.

The club has also been criticized by women’s groups like Sisters in Islam, a nongovernmental organization based in Malaysia.

Ms. Norani, the sociologist, who is the lead researcher in a Sisters in Islam project investigating polygamy, said the practice could be harmful to women and children, particularly those born to first wives.

She and her fellow researchers have interviewed 2,000 men, women and adult children who have experienced polygamous marriage.

Although she stressed that her comments were based on preliminary observations, Ms. Norani said many of the first wives interviewed reported feelings of resentment and depression after their husbands took a second wife, and “a significant number” had considered divorce.

She said she knew some well-educated, financially independent women in Kuala Lumpur, including business executives and lawyers, who had chosen to become second or third wives.

“Usually they marry late, they do a second or third degree, they put off marriage until later and they find it difficult to find an unmarried man,” she said. “One of them said ‘all the good men are either married or gay.”’

With 17 children among them, ages 6 to 21, Mr. Ikram’s four wives all have their own homes near their workplaces, but on weekends they gather at the family’s five-bedroom house on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.

Most of the older children are at boarding school or university, but the children of primary-school age stay at the family house, where they are usually cared for by the first wife, Juhaidah, during the week.

Mr. Ikram takes turns spending nights with each of his four wives. “It’s like one, two, three, four,” said Dr. Rohaya, pointing to each of the wives.

The wives usually meet Mr. Ikram at the family house but they say there is no strict arrangement, and Mr. Ikram sometimes comes to their individual homes during the week.

On weekends, at the family house, the women take turns doing the cooking.

“We share clothes,” Dr. Rohaya said. “We’re like sisters, really.”

None of the women grew up in polygamous families, and although they admit to having had some initial reservations, they all said they were happy and would recommend polygamous marriage to their daughters.

Mr. Ikram rejected suggestions from the women’s groups that polygamous marriages may benefit men while causing hardship for women.

“Actually, in a polygamous marriage it’s more of a burden to a man than to a woman because the husband has to face four different women, and that’s not easy,” he said, prompting laughter from his wives.

12-2

Al-Qaeda Using U.S. to Accomplish Goals — and U.S. Is Playing Along

January 7, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

William Pfaff, Chicago Tribune

PARIS — It is not widely understood that the policy objective of Al Qaeda is not to attack the Western countries, which in itself accomplishes nothing. Bringing down a Western airliner or blowing up a building in the United States or Britain is of no interest in itself, since the Islamic radical does no good by simply killing unbelievers. The ultimate purpose of Al Qaeda is to bring about an upheaval in the Islamic world in which Islam can be rescued from corrupted governments and degenerate practices.

When Gordon Brown or Barack Obama say that Western soldiers have to fight terrorists abroad so that they will not have to fight them in their own hometowns, they’re being silly, as such sophisticated men ought to know.

Why should Al Qaeda or the Taliban wish to fight in Peoria, Illinois, or a garden suburb of London? There are no recruits to be made there, and nothing to be gained in the real battle that the Muslim extremists are waging: to radicalize the Muslim world, and to rescue their co-religionists from heretical beliefs and Western practices.

The real reason for attacking Westerners in the West, or in airplanes on the way there, is to provoke the Western governments to send more Western soldiers to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere in the Muslim world to attack Muslim jihadists on the Islamists’ own ground, where the latter have tactical and human advantages that Western soldiers can never overcome.

Instead, attack by Western soldiers and the building of Western military bases on the soil of Muslim countries radicalizes and scandalizes ordinary people, and undermines the governments of those countries that choose to align themselves with the invaders — thereby, in the eyes of Islamic true believers, revealing themselves as traitors to orthodox Muslim belief.

The United States and the NATO countries are playing Al Qaeda’s game with every planeload of troops they dispatch to the Arab world and to Central Asia.

A headline in the Paris press says: “The CIA and U.S Special Forces lend a powerful hand to the government of Yemen.” The front-page headline in Tuesday’s International Herald Tribune says: “Yemen corruption blunts Qaeda fight.” This report explains that the Yemeni president’s government “is filled with members of his family and . . . wants to ensure that his son, Ahmed, 38, succeeds him.” The story goes on to say that “the economy has collapsed, with oil revenues down and oil and water running out.” This is the American-allied regime.

At the end of last year, we read about allegations of corruption in Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s own family, and the results of a national election were challenged as falsified. The president of Afghanistan has just ordered the nation’s parliament back from vacation in order to vote on his new cabinet nominees. These are to take the place of 17 of his 24 previous cabinet appointments, all rejected by parliament. Mr. Karzai is, of course, the man the United States put in place in Kabul to bring democracy to Afghanistan, so as to save it from the Taliban and al-Qaida.

No American who witnessed the waltz of U.S. senators with the health industry’s lobbyists during the ongoing effort to legislate health reform in the U.S. is in a position to be condescending about foreign corruption. If the United States has an occupying army that put in place, or sustains, the Afghan, Pakistani or Yemen government, then the ordinary citizen in those countries will see Americans and NATO as sources of their nation’s corruption, and perhaps the main one.

Moreover, the Taliban and al-Qaida are not fighting against corrupt governments in order to reform them. They want to destabilize and eventually destroy all of them so as to clear a political space in which 40 million Pashtuns and their fellow Sunni Arabs can create a new political dispensation of true believers, while the West declines.

That is fantasy, but it is a fantasy in which the United States and NATO are unwittingly playing leading roles.

(Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at www.williampfaff.com.)

« Previous PageNext Page »