Houstonian Corner (V11-I29)

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Sultans of Science: Yours’ To Rediscover At IDC Downtown Houston

Sultans of Science Exhibition At IDC (A)

The world famous Exhibition called “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered”, has opened on Wednesday, July 01, 2009 at the Islamic Da`wah Center (IDC), located at 201 Travis Street, Downtown Houston, Texas 77002. “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered” is a global touring exhibition celebrating the contributions of Muslim scholars in science and technology during the golden age of the Islamic world and the influence their inventions and contributions have had on our modern day society. The exhibition is very interactive, with sensory displays, and enticing designs and presentations.

With the summer break, the “Sultans of Science: 1000 Years of Islamic Science Rediscovered” Exhibition is especially beneficial for Youth to attend. Organized by Liberty Science Center and MTE Studios, the Exhibition will run from July 01 till September 07, 2009. Hours of Admission and Fees to the Exhibition are: Monday to Thursday 10am – 7pm; Friday Closed; Saturday 10am – 7pm; and Sunday 12pm – 5pm. Tickets online at http://islamicdawahcenter.org/ are $15 (Adults); $10 (Children) and at the IDC Box Office $20 (Adults); $10 (Children). All tickets are for single entry: Special Groups Field Trips and School Groups require Reservation.
A Pre-Opening Celebration event was held last Friday, where several influential local political, professional and social leaders were present. Ameer Abuhalimeh, Executive Director of IDC welcomed everybody and read the message of famous basketball player Hakeem Olajuwan, who is President and Founder of IDC (he is presently in Jordan). Keynote Remarks came from City of Houston Councilmember, the Honorable M J Khan and Mayoral Proclamation was given by Minnette B. Boesel, the Mayor’s Assistant for Cultural Affairs.

Consul Generals of Pakistan, India, Egypt and Great Britain were present. Everyone was mesmerized to see the depth of information in a most interactive manner provided to the attendees. “It is a must to attend exhibition for all Houstonians’ and Americans,” said the Former Honorary Consul General of Pakistan in Houston Joanne King Herring.

For further information, one can visit http://islamicdawahcenter.org/ or call 713-223-3311.

Hundreds Thronged Rice University for 4th Annual ICNA-MAS South Region Conference

bill white Fourth of July saw a Major Islamic Conference coming to Rice University Houston: This was the 4th Annual ICNA-MAS South Central Region Conference. Several hundred families came from Texas, Louisiana and elsewhere to attend this one day event, whose theme was: “Serve Humanity for the Love of Divinity”. “Not only the theme was unique, but after attending various lectures and segments, I am convinced that all the speeches at the Conference had distinctive message and it was conveyed by all the speakers in a unique manner, which I have never felt at other Islamic Conferences. One needs to get the DVDs and CDs of this Conference for future reference and study,” said one of the regular attendee of the many Islamic Conferences in the Greater Houston Region.

Renowned scholars like Sheikh Nouman Ali Khan; Sheikh Abdool Rahman Khan; Imam Omar Suleiman; Imam Khalid Griggs; Imam Yousuf Estes; Dr. Zahid Bukhari; Dr. Muhammad Yunus; Dr. Mazhar Kazi; Sheikh Nisar-ul-Haq; Hafiz Tauqeer Shah; Sheikh Wazir Ali; Samid AL-Khatib; Reverand Kimberley; and many more, mesmerized the audiences with excellent presentations that had practical solutions to various issues facing communities nationwide in USA, as far as volunteering and assisting humanity is concerned.

“Window to Islam” Morning Session brought some Non-Muslims with Muslims and the Chapel besides Rice Memorial Ley Student Center was packed with people of all ages, as they understood the basics of Islam and learnt from Imam Yousuf Estes as to why he became Muslim. Other topics included “Islam: Not just a Middle Eastern Religion”; “The History of Relationship between Muslims and Non-Muslims” and “Interfaith Panel Q-&-A”.

Special “Young Muslims Conference” in the afternoon drew many youth in the community to learn their very crucial role in the society, like “Lead Your Friends to Humanity for Your Lord”; “Islam: A Religion That Came on the Shoulders of Youth”; “Muslim Youth: Serving Humanity”; “Muslim Youth is Ready to Face Challenges”; and much more.

The main topics discussed in the Central Programs included “The Islamic Solutions to Contemporary Social Problems, like the Declining Family System”; “Dawah and Relief Go Hand in Hand”; and “Deliverance Through Service”.

Sumptuous food was served by Lazzezza Restaurant. For more information and getting Conference material, one can call Omer Syed, Secretary of ICNA Houston at 713-253-4599.

11-29

Czech Muslims!

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By  Marie Aubrechtova, Islam Online

PRAGUE — Not so long ago the words Czech and Muslim were two polar opposites and it would be almost unthinkable to use them together. But now, two decades after the fall of the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia, Muslims are increasing in numbers, becoming more active and founding new organizations to represent them.

“About 300 come to the main mosque and at least 200 come to the prayer hall in the centre,” Vladimir (Umar) Sanka, one of the managers of the main mosque and prayer hall in Prague, told IslamOnline.net.

He said the numbers of Muslims are slowly but surely growing in the Czech Republic.

“The prayer hall is so overcrowded every Friday that we have been forced to have two Friday prayers and lectures so that all the Muslims can even fit.”

The mosque had to hire a sports hall for `Eid Al-Adha, one of the two main religious festivals on the Islamic calendar which was celebrated in December, to accommodate the record-breaking number of 1,500 Muslims who showed up.

The increase of Muslims is linked to the growing number of Czechs embracing the Muslim faith.

“In our mosque in Prague we are honoured and happy to witness a new conversion almost every week,” says Sanka.

The last recorded number of Muslims was around 12,000 in 2007, but the latest estimate is around 20,000, including 400 converts.

The first official Muslim organization, the Islamic Foundation, was established in 1991.

In 1998 it opened its first mosque in Brno and then one year later in Prague.

There were also attempts to build mosques in smaller cities, mainly Spa towns which are popular with Arab clients, but these plans were met with resistance from both the public and churches.

Islam itself was not legally accepted as a religion by the Czech state until 2004.

New Representatives

“We want to hold more lectures and generally host events which portray Islam in a positive light to the public,” Jitka told IOL.

Until recently, the mosques in the cities of Brno and Prague were the only official bodies representing Muslims in the Czech Republic.

But now new organizations are appearing to meet the needs of the growing and increasingly diverse Muslim community.

Mohamed Abbas is a well-known media figure and publisher of Islamic literature, including the Qur’an and a translation of Riyad us Saaliheen, the only book of hadith so far published in the Czech language.

Abbas is now also one of the founders of a new organization called the Islamic Community, whose aim is to provide more activities for Muslims.

Currently the Islamic Community is in the process of securing 300 signatures needed to become officially recognised, which will make it the second Muslim body in the Czech Republic eligible for state funding.

“At the moment organizations here represent only a marginal number of Muslims in the country and do not include everybody,” Abbas told IOL.

“We want to change this and create an organization for all, and one that is truly democratic and transparent.”

Abbas is optimistic about garnering the needed 300 signatures.

“The number of Muslims here is definitely increasing, especially after Czech Republic joined the EU, and they are interested in seeing an active organization serving them.”

State registration will give the organization a wider scope.

It will be able to rent, build and manage Islamic centers, establish Islamic schools and after 10 years it can ask for other special rights like taking care of the spiritual needs of Muslims in the army and jails as well as support of state for Islamic marriages in mosques.

Another completely new organization, which is quite different from the ones already being set-up, is a new Facebook Group called Muslims from Czech Republic, created by 21-year-old fresh convert Jitka Cervinkova.

When Jitka first embraced Islam in September of last year she searched Facebook for a group of Muslims in her country.

When she didn’t find any, she decided to create one.

Since its creation in November 2008, the group has grown rapidly and now has over 300 members.

“I think Facebook is great for meeting other Muslims as I don’t really go to the mosque here in Prague because it is too far for me and it seems that women there are mainly mums with children,” she told IOL.

“I didn’t meet any young girls of my age when I visited.”

Now Jitka, along with other administrators of the group, are faced with the great responsibility of becoming leaders of the fastest growing, and perhaps most influential, Muslim group in the country.

“I feel the Muslim community in the Czech Republic is growing at great speed, although I don’t know any statistics I feel I meet more and more young Muslims here every day.”

The Facebook group has attracted mainly a young generation of people and consists of both Czech converts and Muslims from other countries, such as the Arab world or Bosnia, who are living or studying in the Czech Republic as well as non-Muslims who are interested in Islam.

Jitka, who is usually busy studying for a degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic, now also finds time to organise events and post topics to the group.
So far the group has hosted social events for its members and has also organised a film viewing for the general public.

Volunteers from the group translated a film about Islam from English and answered questions about Islam to the non-Muslim audience.

“We have ideas for many projects and events,” said Jitka, citing the need for funding and sponsors who could be able to help.

“We are hoping to organise an exhibition about Islam, as well as set up information stalls with leaflets and information,” she said enthusiastically.

“We want to hold more lectures and generally host events which portray Islam in a positive light to the public.”

11-26

The Muslims of Sri Lanka

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

Oakland–It is scarcely known that there is an ample society of Muslims caught within the middle of Sri Lanka (Ceylon’s) recent tragically war-torn civil insular nation-State. 

There are three major groups of Muslims in that island’s nation – the “Moors,” Indian (originally from the Subcontinent) Muslims and the Malays.  The two Islamic non-South Asian subminoritities – one from the Middle East and other from Southeastern Asia, with the long-standing immigrants from India, make up about the same percentage as European descendant settlers, the Burghers at 8%.  The rest of the population is made up of the ultra-orthodox Hindus in the Tamil areas, and the majority 70% are Buddhists.  The total population of all main groupings within the island is between 19 through 21 million (2009) persons.  In 2005, the Islamic “Moors” represented 2 million of these souls.  The “Moors” were descended from a troupe of traders from the Arabian Peninsula, who came to Colombo’s island between the Eighteenth until the Fifteenth Century (CE) supposedly (by tradition) from the Arabian Peninsula.  In fact, one source I evaluated claimed that the “Moors were traversing the Indian Ocean between Lanka and Mecca before the Hijra (622 CE).  Nonetheless, the “Moors” had settled partially on Lanka bringing Islam to their ancient culture to the island.  Yet, the earliest came late in the Seventh Century as traders between the Middle East and South Asia.  Yet, most did not settle down on this Southern Asian Island, and took up the culture of the Tamils after they established a permanent residence upon the soil.  Although they first employed Tamil as their “Father” tongue — that parole (speech) used outside the house — (they soon devised Awi, which, in turn has become archaic, was a mixture of Tamil and Arabic.)   By marrying converted wives, they became a multi-lingual, multi-cultural people — Tamil, Sinhalese and English — while maintaining their religion inviolate:  They are largely Sunni Muslims of the Shafi School.  Although they can be described as a multi-ethnic, and religious alliance, they lack a linguistic cohesion, though, anthropologically (since they are tri-lingual).

The second group of Muslims, the Malays, came with the Dutch military during the period when Amsterdam controlled the island, and settled there over Ceylon’s Netherlandish period.  The Malays (originally from) Indonesia, and, thus from insular Southeast Asian origin (Ja Minissu), are some of the most orthodox of Muslims in the world today, but, unlike the “Moors,” they did not take up the surrounding Tamil culture, but they resolutely stuck to an adapted Malay cultural and religious norm.  They make up the smallest of minorities – 5% of the total Lankan Islamic citizenry only.

The third group was an alignment of mainly – although not exclusively — South Indian Muslim merchants, who emigrated southward over several centuries and naturally integrated well into the predominantly Tamil (Hindu) culture there on the other side of “Adam’s Bridge” from Tamil Nadu.

The Muslims were well assimilated and accepted into Ceylonese society, but, during the recent civil war, the Tamil Tigers systematized a process of ethnic cleansing that the once flourishing “Moorish” and other Muslim masses are not represented in the Northern Province anymore.  Most of those inhabitants have been forcibly cast largely into the Puttalam Region.  Also, a small Diaspora has been arising in the Middle East, Australia and even North America.  Now, that the Tigers have been defeated, will Islam be allowed back into their former (own) homes with full property rights restored?  Much of this depends upon us individually, and the pressure we can exert upon our own governments plus the Sri Lankan government, and, thereby, institutions of the International Communities – the U.N. et al., and especially Islamic groupings!

The pictures of those large numbers of noncombatants wretchedly entrapped between the Government and the Tigers’ forces during the former’s last stand last stand are staggering.  Amongst them is a significant number of Muslims, and the Islamic charities must especially address their needs, and become involved in their resettlement back to their ancestral homes with other (First World/Western) International NGOs.

11-26

Canada: Sharia ETF Poised for Launch

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Proposed ETF from Islamic firm UM Financial and Jovian Capital could be a Canadian first

By Shirley Won, Funds Reporter, Globe and Mail

Islamic financial services company UM Financial Inc. has teamed up with Jovian Capital Corp. JOV-T in a bid to list Canada’s first sharia-compliant exchange-traded fund (ETF).

On Wednesday, Standard & Poor’s launched the S&P/TSX 60 Shariah Index. In compliance with Islamic law, the index avoids firms involved in financial services, alcohol, gambling and pork products.

The proposed product from UM and Jovian would be based on the S&P/TSX 60 Shariah Index so the two firms are in discussions with Standard & Poor’s to get a licence for the new index to start the Islamic ETF later this year. Eventually, “the goal is to launch a family of ETFs,” UM chief executive officer Omar Kalair said yesterday.

The sharia ETF would target Canada’s Muslim population (which numbers about one million), as well as foreign investors, Mr. Kalair said in an interview.

Jovian’s BetaPro Management unit is a provider of leveraged and other ETFs, while its AphaPro Management unit has actively managed ETFs. “Any product launched would come from BetaPro,” Mr. Kalair said.

In recent years, sharia-compliant ETFs have popped up in various countries including Britain, India, Singapore, Dubai, Malaysia and South Africa. In March, a sharia gold ETF was launched in Dubai.

Barclays Canada, which administers the iShares ETFs and is the largest ETF provider in the country, “has no plans to go down this route,” said Oliver McMahon, its director of product development. “It’s not in our existing product pipeline.”

Jasmit Bhandal, a spokeswoman for Standard & Poor’s in Canada, said there have been talks with ETF, mutual fund and structured products providers for use of the S&P/TSX 60 Shariah Index, but nothing is final. But a licence with an ETF provider is typically an exclusive one, she said.

A couple of sharia-compliant mutual funds are sold in Canada, but both have less than $2-million in assets.

A Toronto-based investment firm, frontierAlt Management Ltd., launched Canada’s first sharia-compliant mutual fund, frontierAlt Oasis Canada, in 2007. The firm also later started sharia-compliant funds frontierAlt Oasis World and frontierAlt Global Income funds, but these were closed last fall because it was no longer cost effective to run them, said Taras Hucal, president of frontierAlt Management.

The two Oasis stock funds invested in firms in the Dow Jones Islamic Market Indexes. The income fund invested in sukuk, which is similar to conventional bonds, but pays out a share of revenue from a designated pool of assets or services rather than interest. Islamic principles prohibit receiving interest income.

A problem with selling the Oasis funds is the fact they are no-load funds; they do not pay financial advisers a commission, but rather a 1-per-cent annual trailer fee as long as investors hold them, Mr. Hucal said.

“There has also been a lack of awareness” about products in this niche, and the steep market collapse didn’t help sales, he said.

The frontierAlt Oasis Canada Fund suffered a 42-per-cent loss for the year ended April 30, and an average annual loss of 23 per cent over two years. Funds need a solid three-year return number to attract inflows of money, Mr. Hucal said.

In March, Global Prosperata Funds Inc. launched the sharia-compliant Global Prosperata Iman, a global stock fund that is sold with front- and back-end load commissions. It now has $1.5-million in assets.

“We are expecting another $1-million to $2-million from a number of different investors in the next 30 to 60 days,” said Glenn Moore, vice-president of Toronto-based Prosperata Funds. “There is a lot of pent-up demand.”

11-26

Pakistan–Towards Theocracy?

March 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy

2009-03-15T151234Z_01_ISL35_RTRMDNP_3_PAKISTAN-PROTEST
Protester holds a party flag as he kicks a tear gas canister towards policemen in Lahore March 15, 2009. Protesters fought street battles with police Sunday that raises questions of Pakistani stability.       REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood

Women in burqas and children from the Bajaur and Mohmand agency areas wait to be registered at a refugee camp near Peshawar in January. Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA, Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of displaced people streaming into cities and towns.

FOR 20 years or more, a few of us in Pakistan have been desperately sending out SOS messages, warning of terrible times to come. Nevertheless, none anticipated how quickly and accurately our dire predictions would come true. It is a small matter that the flames of terrorism set Mumbai on fire and, more recently, destroyed Pakistan’s cricketing future. A much more important and brutal fight lies ahead as Pakistan, a nation of 175 million, struggles for its very survival. The implications for the future of South Asia are enormous.

Today a full-scale war is being fought in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), Swat and other “wild” areas of Pakistan, with thousands dying and hundreds of thousands of IDPs (internally displaced people) streaming into cities and towns. In February 2009, with the writ of the Pakistani state in tatters, the government gave in to the demand of the TTP (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Pakistani Taliban Movement) to implement the Islamic Sharia in Malakand, a region of FATA. It also announced the suspension of a military offensive in Swat, which has been almost totally taken over by the TTP. But the respite that it brought was short-lived and started breaking down only hours later.

The fighting is now inexorably migrating towards Peshawar where, fearing the Taliban, video shop owners have shut shop, banners have been placed in bazaars declaring them closed for women, musicians are out of business, and kidnapping for ransom is the best business in town. Islamabad has already seen Lal Masjid and the Marriot bombing, and has had its police personnel repeatedly blown up by suicide bombers. Today, its barricaded streets give a picture of a city under siege. In Karachi, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), an ethnic but secular party well known for strong-arm tactics, has issued a call for arms to prevent the Taliban from making further inroads into the city. Lahore once appeared relatively safe and different but, after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team, has rejoined Pakistan.

The suicide bomber and the masked abductor have crippled Pakistan’s urban life and shattered its national economy. Soldiers, policemen, factory and hospital workers, mourners at funerals, and ordinary people praying in mosques have been reduced to hideous masses of flesh and fragments of bones. The bearded ones, many operating out of madrassas, are hitting targets across the country. Although a substantial part of the Pakistani public insists upon lionising them as “standing up to the Americans”, they are neither seeking to evict a foreign occupier nor fighting for a homeland. They want nothing less than to seize power and to turn Pakistan into their version of the ideal Islamic state. In their incoherent, ill-formed vision, this would include restoring the caliphate as well as doing away with all forms of western influence and elements of modernity. The AK-47 and the Internet, of course, would stay.

But, perhaps paradoxically, in spite of the fact that the dead bodies and shattered lives are almost all Muslim ones, few Pakistanis speak out against these atrocities. Nor do they approve of military action against the cruel perpetrators, choosing to believe that they are fighting for Islam and against an imagined American occupation. Political leaders like Qazi Husain Ahmed and Imran Khan have no words of kindness for those who have suffered from Islamic extremists. Their tears are reserved for the victims of predator drones, whether innocent or otherwise. By definition, for them terrorism is an act that only Americans can commit.

Why the Denial?

To understand Pakistan’s collective masochism, one needs to study the drastic social and cultural transformations that have made this country so utterly different from what it was in earlier times. For three decades, deep tectonic forces have been silently tearing Pakistan away from the Indian subcontinent and driving it towards the Arabian peninsula.

This continental drift is not physical but cultural, driven by a belief that Pakistan must exchange its South Asian identity for an Arab-Muslim one. Grain by grain, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are replacing the rich soil that had nurtured a rich Muslim culture in India for a thousand years.. This culture produced Mughal architecture, the Taj Mahal, the poetry of Asadullah Ghalib, and much more. Now a stern, unyielding version of Islam – Wahabism – is replacing the kinder, gentler Islam of the sufis and saints who had walked on this land for hundreds of years.

This change is by design. Twenty-five years ago, under the approving gaze of Ronald Reagan’s America, the Pakistani state pushed Islam on to its people. Prayers in government departments were deemed compulsory, floggings were carried out publicly, punishments were meted out to those who did not fast in Ramadan, selection for university academic posts required that the candidate demonstrate knowledge of Islamic teachings, and jehad was declared essential for every Muslim.

Villages have changed drastically, driven in part by Pakistani workers returning from Arab countries. Many village mosques are now giant madrassas that propagate hard-line Salafi and Deobandi beliefs through oversized loudspeakers. They are bitterly opposed to Barelvis, Shias and other Muslims, who they do not consider to be proper Muslims. Punjabis, who were far more liberal towards women than Pashtuns, are now also beginning to take a line resembling the Taliban. Hanafi law has begun to prevail over tradition and civil law, as is evident from recent decisions in the Lahore High Court.

K.M. Chaudhry/AP

Pakistan’s Ministry of Education estimates that 1.5 million students are getting religious education in 13,000 madrassas. These figures could be quite off the mark. Commonly quoted figures range between 18,000 and 22,000 such schools. Here, students at the Jamia Manzoorul Islam, a madrassa in Lahore.

In the Pakistani lower-middle and middle-middle classes lurks a grim and humourless Saudi-inspired revivalist movement which frowns on every expression of joy and pleasurable pastime. Lacking any positive connection to history, culture and knowledge, it seeks to eliminate “corruption” by regulating cultural life and seizing control of the education system.

“Classical music is on its last legs in Pakistan; the sarangi and vichtarveena are completely dead,” laments Mohammad Shehzad, a music aficionado. Indeed, teaching music in public universities is violently opposed by students of the Islami Jamaat-e-Talaba at Punjab University. Religious fundamentalists consider music haram. Kathak dancing, once popular with the Muslim elite of India, has no teachers left. Pakistan produces no feature films of any consequence.

As a part of General Zia-ul-Haq’s cultural offensive, Hindi words were expunged from daily use and replaced with heavy-sounding Arabic ones. Persian, the language of Mughal India, had once been taught as a second or third language in many Pakistani schools. But, because of its association with Shiite Iran, it too was dropped and replaced with Arabic. The morphing of the traditional “khuda hafiz” (Persian for “God be with you”) into “allah hafiz” (Arabic for “God be with you”) took two decades to complete. The Arab import sounded odd and contrived, but ultimately the Arabic God won and the Persian God lost.

Genesis of Jehad

One can squarely place the genesis of religious militancy in Pakistan to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the subsequent efforts of the U.S.-Pakistan-Saudi grand alliance to create and support the Great Global Jehad of the 20th century. A toxic mix of imperial might, religious fundamentalism, and local interests ultimately defeated the Soviets. But the network of Islamic militant organisations did not disappear after it achieved success. By now the Pakistani Army establishment had realised the power of jehad as an instrument of foreign policy, and so the network grew from strength to strength.

The amazing success of the state is now turning out to be its own undoing. Today the Pakistan Army and establishment are under attack from religious militants, and rival Islamic groups battle each other with heavy weapons. Ironically, the same Army – whose men were recruited under the banner of jehad, and which saw itself as the fighting arm of Islam – today stands accused of betrayal and is almost daily targeted by Islamist suicide bombers. Over 1,800 soldiers have died as of February 2009 in encounters with religious militants, and many have been tortured before decapitation. Nevertheless, the Army is still ambivalent in its relationship with the jehadists and largely focusses upon India.

Education or Indoctrination?

Similar sentiments exist in a large part of the Pakistani public media.. The commonly expressed view is that Islamic radicalism is a problem only in FATA and that madrassas are the only jehad factories around. This could not be more wrong. Extremism is breeding at a ferocious rate in public and private schools within Pakistan’s towns and cities. Left unchallenged, this kind of education will produce a generation incapable of living together with any except strictly their own kind. Pakistan’s education system demands that Islam be understood as a complete code of life, and creates in the mind of the schoolchild a sense of siege and constant embattlement by stressing that Islam is under threat everywhere.

The government-approved curriculum, prepared by the Curriculum Wing of the Federal Ministry of Education, is the basic road map for transmitting values and knowledge to the young. By an Act of Parliament, passed in 1976, all government and private schools (except for O-level schools) are required to follow this curriculum. It is a blueprint for a religious fascist state.

The masthead of an illustrated primer for the Urdu alphabet states that it has been prepared by Iqra Publishers, Rawalpindi, along “Islamic lines”. Although not an officially approved textbook, it has been used for many years by some regular schools, as well as madrassas, associated with the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), an Islamic political party that had allied itself with General Pervez Musharraf.

The world of the Pakistani schoolchild was largely unchanged even after September 11, 2001, which led to Pakistan’s timely desertion of the Taliban and the slackening of the Kashmir jehad. Indeed, for all his hypocritical talk of “enlightened moderation”, Musharraf’s educational curriculum was far from enlightening. It was a slightly toned-down copy of that under Nawaz Sharif which, in turn, was identical to that under Benazir Bhutto, who inherited it from Zia-ul-Haq.

Fearful of taking on powerful religious forces, every incumbent government refused to take a position on the curriculum and thus quietly allowed young minds to be molded by fanatics. What might happen a generation later has always been a secondary matter for a government challenged on so many sides.

The promotion of militarism in Pakistan’s so-called “secular” public schools, colleges and universities had a profound effect upon young minds. Militant jehad became part of the culture on college and university campuses. Armed groups flourished, invited students for jehad=2 0in Kashmir and Afghanistan, set up offices throughout the country, collected funds at Friday prayers, and declared a war without borders. Pre-9/11, my university was ablaze with posters inviting students to participate in the Kashmir jehad. After 2001, this slipped below the surface.

For all his hypocritical talk of “enlightened moderation”, General Pervez Musharraf’s educational curriculum was far from enlightening. It was a slightly toned-down copy of that under Nawaz Sharif which, in turn, was identical to that under Benazir Bhutto, who inherited it from Zia-ul-Haq. (From left) Zia-ul-Haq, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf.

The madrassas

The primary vehicle for Saudi-ising Pakistan’s education has been the madrassa. In earlier times, these had turned out the occasional Islamic scholar, using a curriculum that essentially dates from the 11th century with only minor subsequent revisions. But their principal function had been to produce imams and muezzins for mosques, and those who eked out an existence as “moulvi sahibs” teaching children to read the Quran.

The Afghan jehad changed everything. During the war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, madrassas provided the U.S.-Saudi-Pakistani alliance the cannon fodder needed for fighting a holy war. The Americans and the Saudis, helped by a more-than-willing General Zia, funded new madrassas across the length and breadth of Pakistan.

A detailed picture of the current s ituation is not available. But, according to the national education census, which the Ministry of Education released in 2006, Punjab has 5,459 madrassas followed by the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) with 2,843; Sindh 1,935; Federally Administrated Northern Areas (FANA) 1,193; Balochistan 769; Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) 586; FATA 135; and Islamabad capital territory 77. The Ministry estimates that 1.5 million students are getting religious education in the 13,000 madrassas.

These figures could be quite off the mark. Commonly quoted figures range between 18,000 and 22,000 madrassas. The number of students could be correspondingly larger. The free room, board and supplies to students, form a key part of their appeal.

But the desire of parents across the country is for children to be “disciplined” and to be given a thorough Islamic education. This is also a major contributing factor.

For the rest of this article, please visit our website:  www.muslimobserver.com.

Madrassas have deeply impacted upon the urban environment. For example, until a few years ago, Islamabad was a quiet, orderly, modern city different from all others in Pakistan. Still earlier, it had been largely the abode of Pakistan’s hyper-elite and foreign diplomats. But the rapid transformation of its demography brought with it hundreds of mosques with multi-barrelled audio-cannons mounted on minarets, as well as scores of madrassas illegally constructed in what used to be public parks and green areas. Now, tens of thousands of their students with little prayer caps dutifully chant the Quran all day. In the evenings they swarm around the city, making bare-faced women increasingly nervous.

Women – the Lesser Species

Total separation of the sexes is a central goal of the Islamists. Two decades ago the fully veiled student was a rarity on Pakistani university and college campuses. The abaya was an unknown word in Urdu; it is a foreign import. But today, some shops in Islamabad specialise in abaya. At colleges and universities across Pakistan, female students are seeking the anonymity of the burqa. Such students outnumber their sisters who still dare show their faces.

While social conservatism does not necessarily lead to violent extremism, it does shorten the path. Those with beards and burqas are more easily convinced that Muslims are being demonised by the rest of the world. The real problem, they say, is the plight of the Palestinians, the decadent and discriminatory West, the Jews, the Christians, the Hindus, the Kashmir issue, the Bush doctrine, and so on. They vehemently deny that those committing terrorist acts are Muslims or, if faced by incontrovertible evidence, say it is a mere reaction to oppression. Faced with the embarrassment that 200 schools for girls were blown up in Swat by Fazlullah’s militants, they wriggle out by saying that some schools were housing the Pakistan Army, who should be targeted anyway.

Abdul Rehman/Reuters

This high school at Qambar in the Swat valley was among the 200 schools for girls destroyed by the S wat Taliban led by Mullah Fazlullah.

The Prognosis

The immediate future is not hopeful: increasing numbers of mullahs are creating cults around themselves and seizing control over the minds of worshippers. In the tribal areas, a string of new Islamist leaders have suddenly emerged: Sufi Mohammad, Baitullah Mehsud, Fazlullah, Mangal Bagh…. The enabling environment of poverty, deprivation, lack of justice, and extreme differences of wealth is perfect for these demagogues. Their gruesome acts of terror and public beheadings are still being perceived by large numbers of Pakistanis as part of the fight against imperialist America and, sometimes, India as well. This could not be more wrong.

The jehadists have longer-range goals. A couple of years ago, a Karachi-based monthly magazine ran a cover story on the terrorism in Kashmir. One fighter was asked what he would do if a political resolution were found for the disputed valley. Revealingly, he replied that he would not lay down his gun but turn it on the Pakistani leadership, with the aim of installing an Islamic government there.

Over the next year or two, we are likely to see more short-lived “peace accords”, as in Malakand, Swat and, earlier on, in Shakai. In my opinion, these are exercises in futility. Until the Pakistan Army finally realises that Mr. Frankenstein needs to be eliminated rather than be engaged in negotiations, it will continue to soft-pedal on counter-insurgency. It will also continue to develop and demand from the U.S. high-tech weapons that are not the slightest use against insurgents. There are some indications that some realisation of the internal threat is dawning, but the speed is as yet glacial.

Even if Mumbai-II occurs, India’s options in dealing with nuclear Pakistan are severely limited. Cross-border strikes should be dismissed from the realm of possibilities. They could lead to escalations that neither government would have control over. I am convinced that India’s prosperity – and perhaps its physical survival – demands that Pakistan stays together. Pakistan could disintegrate into a hell, where different parts are run by different warlords. Paradoxically perhaps, India’s most effective defence could be the Pakistan Army, torn and fractured though it may be. To convert a former enemy army into a possible ally will require that India change tack.

To create a future working alliance with the struggling Pakistani state, and in deference to basic democratic principles, India must be seen as genuinely working towards some kind of resolution of the Kashmir issue. It must not deny that the majority of Kashmiri Muslims are deeply alienated from the Indian state and that they desperately seek balm for their wounds. Else the forces of cross-border jehad, and its hate-filled holy warriors, will continue to receive unnecessary succour.
I shall end this rather grim essay on an optimistic note: the forces of irrationality will surely ca ncel themselves out because they act in random directions, whereas reason pulls in only one. History leads us to believe that reason will triumph over unreason, and humans will continue their evolution towards a higher and better species. Ultimately, it will not matter whether we are Pakistanis, Indians, Kashmiris, or whatever. Using ways that we cannot currently anticipate, people will somehow overcome their primal impulses of territoriality, tribalism, religion and nationalism. But for now this must be just a hypothesis.

Pervez Amirali Hoodbhoy is Professor and Chairman of the Physics Department, Qaid-e Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan.

11-13

Sufism in South Asia

December 4, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

hadithSan Francisco–I am in the midst of the insanity of moving, but I am trying to keep up with my basic compilations early in the morning or late into the night.

I would like to discuss three presentations made last year (Summer of 2007) –in the Asian Art Museum — as part of the bi-annual meeting of the American Council of Southern Asian art in this City here on the Western shores of San Francisco Bay.  I found the talks to be slight in news content; thus, I have previously refrained from composing on them, but because of circumstances, they have become a practicable article, and make an acceptable historical feature on an ancient vital Islamic tradition.  An article on this form of piety stated that Sufism “…is a…mystical dimension of Islam” where meditation plays an integral part.

People talking about Islam usually mention Sunnis and Shi’a; among Sunnis are also Sufis – there is mutual tension between Sufis and Wahhabi/Salafis.  Salafis accuse the Sufis, saying “…[Sufism] has never played a part in normative Islam.” 

A position with which your author extremely disagrees!

First, your journalist acknowledges that his main sources for his background on the Sufis in an historical and contemporary context are an excellent unsigned, thorough yet concise article on the Internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia.  My second source is a review essay I wrote on a book that is considered the main Western source on Sufism. Unfortunately, I do not have the piece at my fingertips; therefore, I am paraphrasing it ex aqua.

Sufism has gained much of its doctrine through accretion from the mystic environ of religious clusters that Islam absorbed in its Eastward expansion.  Accordingly, to several Western scholars, Sufism arose initially in the Western Mahgreb in a region of present-day Morocco where Christianity had been repressed three hundred years before.  There was a yearning for the type of mysticism found in monasteries of the old religion, but in the Qur`an there is a strong injunction to marry and procreate!  The early “Order” solved this “problem” by creating brotherhoods of married men who followed Muslim law carefully.  As their Society traveled into new lands, they met new converts.  For instance, the Sufic poet, Rumi, who has had a considerable influence over contemporary thought here in the West’s, name derives from the word “Roman” (i.e., the Eastern Roman Empire ruled from Byzantine) in the local language of Anatolia at that time.  The Turks had held that province from which Rumi wrote for a comparatively short time.  Thus, his family must have been fairly recent converts.  Sufic thought gained much when it crossed into India.  The great poet Kabir, who some scholars claim was a Sufi was not fully Islamized, even though he did accomplished the hajj, for he referred to God both in the Hindu terminology as Ram and, also, as Allah interchangeably in his poetry! Traditionally, in the Sufi-dominated Districts of India, the Hindus revere the Islamic Saints as much as their own.

Yet the traditional Islamic scholarship on the Sufis view their development in quite a different manner.  The Sufic thinkers trace their origins through the Prophet (Blessed be his Name!) himself.  To quote an early Sufi, their teaching “…is a science through which one can know how to travel in the presence of the Divine…”
Their beliefs and persons have been persecuted by more fundamental (and, thereby, less mystically inclined) individuals.  Consequently, their writings and practices took on an esoteric, secretive tone.

In the early centuries, Iman Al Ghazali answered that Sufic doctrine was compatible with Islamic law conclusively.  In fact, “Sufism…is the central organizing principle of many…[other] Islamic groupings.”

With the rise of more strident forms of Islam, Sufism is currently under duress.  In many regions the repression made them illegal, and forced them underground.  For instance, the Turkish government compelled the whirling dervishes into a mere entertainment.  Yet there are areas in the Muslim world where they are still strong.  To understand the attitude for an inquirer, a Sufi master was quoted as saying, “…the seeker must not self-diagnose” the situation.

The Islanicists have no sympathy for the Sufi reverence for saints, and their pilgrimages to the holy tombs for religious merit.  In my following comments, these pilgrimages and the places of devotion and worship will be placed in context.

Persianate culture had a dominant position in the old Hindustan even before the rise of the Mughal Empire.  An Indo-Persian culture dominated from western Persia well into the Subcontinent after the Muslim Empires in India, and Sufism had dominated Persian thinking before it crossed from Southwest into South Asia.  Now, Sindh (presently in Pakistan) had been Islamic since the Ninth Century of the Common Era (i.e., A.D.). Sufism came forward with the Islamic conquest, but not from the top to the bottom.  It burst through at the “grassroots” level (i.e., bottom up), and was greatly embedded in the evolving Indo-Persian Islam.  The “Missionaries” were the humble, holy Pirs, a type of holy men with which the Medieval Indians could easily culturally identify.  Soon, converted Indians adapted Islam and the Persian Worldview of Islam – even though they may not have chosen Shi’a religious views.

An Afshan Bokari pointed out that female devotees upheld the high ideals of religiosity within the Timurid Empire, and were the mainstay of the Mosques during this period which not only included India, but Iran into Mesopotamia – even into Syria — and a good extent of Central Asia.  The Empire, founded by the Sunni military genius Emir Timur (Shakespeare’s Tamerlane) was comparatively short-lived.  Most of the acquisition of territory occurred during the late Fourteenth into the early Fifteenth Centuries (C.E.). This brief Imperial sway not only spread S.W. Asian ideas, but mystical Islam. as well.  This can be termed a Timurid “ideology.”  Mystical Islam centered on feminine participation, also.  This is markedly at odds with the modern Islamicists’ dogma.  A site was shaped into the sacred by an association with a saint or a sacred act, etc.  This confine almost became a “…second Mecca!”

The major contemporary art historian, Catherine Asher, from Minnesota spoke on the “Sufic Shrines of Shahul Hamid in India and Southeast Asia.”  The basic style of the Sufic shrines spread into Peninsular and Insular S.E. Asia forming a consistent Southern Asian approach to sacred space.  On the emigration of the righteous Pirs, it is hard to determine fact from legend.  The Enlightened man often died in his travels.  South Indian Islam, from which Southeast Asian cultural religiousness derived, assumed many traits of traditional Hinduism – in this case the veneration of exceptionally piously devout men, and this practice advanced ever eastward.  Males were encouraged to go to the tombs, besides, for a sort of “darshan,” or, in the Islamic cognizance, a type of religious merit.  Basically, the Sufis’ influence flowed over three different faiths because the Pirs exhibited extraordinary powers to do miracles in their lifetime, and to bequest assistance from the tomb to his devoted believers – whatever the saint’s follower’s religiosity!

Kishwar Rizvi talked about a shrine in the present Pakistani Punjab that was built around circa 1300 (C.E.).   Most of the devoted came from the minority Shia community there.  Further, there are many Sufic elements in the shrine, for it revolves around the casket of a Saint endowing the building as sared space.  Women still retain a great responsibility in sustaining the shrine’s sacredness.  On the other hand, sexual degenerates are attracted to the location because of the laissez faire attitudes of the worshippers which may detract from the great postiveness of the greater Movement to more mainstream Muslims.

In this essay, your scribe has tried to describe a living tradition in Islam in historical and conteporary terms that has been repressed by the main thrust of the religion today, but is still strong among the common people in particular localities all over the World, and, furthermore, has brought many Westerners to the Qur`an, for its mystical saving methodologies.

10-50

Community News (V10-I39)

September 18, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Chicago interfaith Iftar

CHICAGO,IL–Chicago area Muslims and Christians gathered at the Islamic Foundation Mosque recently for an interfaith iftar. It was part of an ongoing effort  between the two communities relations between the two communities. More than fifty people came for the event.

Similar events are being held throughout the Chicago area.

“Had it not been for interfaith relations in the Chicago area, the aftermath of 9/11 would have been very different,” said Ghulam Haider Aasi, professor of Islamic studies at American Islamic College in Chicago in an interview to the Daily Herald. “Muslims of Chicago fortunately did not see as bad a situation (of backlash) as people in other parts of the country.”

Leaders emphasized commonalities between the faith traditions and the significance of building fellowship through the fast-breaking ritual.

“What I think is valuable about this is two communities build personal relationships first in the context of which they are then able to discuss the larger issues between them,” said the Rev. Thomas Baima, Provost at the University of St. Mary of the Lake Mundelein Seminary.

Heitage Hills Mosque plans not approved

GRAND RAPIDS,MI–Heritage Hill residents convinced city planners to reject an Islamic community’s request to convert a former school building into a mosque.
The city’s Planning Commission voted 8-0 against the request by the Masjid Muhammad Islamic Center.

Mosque officials said the daily prayers would attract only a handful of worshippers, while other gatherings rarely would draw more than 50 people.

But neighbors complained that the property has only seven spaces, with three spaces available on the street which will lead to problems.

The Masjid Muhammad Islamic Center has been looking for a permanent home for five years, since a mosque along South Division Avenue was destroyed by fire.

Bus ads spread the message

SEATTLE,WA– Adopting an innovative approach to Dawah, activists in Seattle area have turned to public transit buses. The paid advertisements on the Metro buses simply read:  “Q: Islam. A: You deserve to know,” with a phone number and Web site.

They have been designed to spark curiosity about the most misunderstood religion. The idea was initiated by the Islamic Circle of North America and now ads are displayed on the outside of six metro buses and the inside of about 25. The cost of $5,000 was contributed by ten local Muslims.

Buses in New York and Chicago will also display the advertisements soon.

Memphis Muslim clinic reaches out

MEMPHIS,TN– As the number of uninsured grows in America, Muslim doctors are doing their part to help their fellow citizens and lighten the burden.

The Memphis Muslim Medical Clinic in East Memhis has been serving the uninsured patients for the past two and a half years. With a volunteer base of 100 Muslim doctors have served over 2,000 patients who pay as little as $5 per visit.

Housed on the property of  Masjid As-Salaam the clinic is run by five directors all of whom are on the staff of University of Tennessee.

Open on weekends, the clinic has a $100,000 annual budget, which is funded through private donors, many of whom make direct monthly deposits.

Work at Boonton mosque stopped

BOONTON, NJ–More than two years after the expansion of the Jam e Masjid Islamic Center was approved by the planning board, progress on the controversial proposal has hit a snag, the Daily Record reported.

The town issued a stop-work order in early August on construction of the multi-story 4,000-square-foot expansion to the Harrison Street mosque, after a resident noticed the work on the façade did not conform to the site plan approval of March 2006.

Work on the expansion began several months ago by Perth Amboy-based Troop Construction, mosque officials said.

An amendment to the application—revisited by the planning board on Wednesday night–was denied in a vote of 5-2 following testimony from representatives of the mosque on the site plan changes and protests from several residents who oppose the changes.

Board members Richard Orlusky and Douglas Phelps approved the amended plan.

Roy Kurnos, the mosque’s attorney, said he will meet this weekend with mosque officials and architect David Singer to revise the amended plan, re-file and present it to the board again.

10-39

Muslim scientists and thinkers–Abu Hamid al-Ghazali

September 11, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Syed Aslam

Imamghazali Abu Hamid  al-Ghazali,  also known in west as Algazel, was born at Tus, Iran in the year 1058 CE. His father died while he was very young. He received his early education at Tus and at the age of fourteen he went to Gurgan. Here he studied Fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) and after seven years he moved to the city of Nishapur and became the student of famous scholar Abu Maali Juwayni.

He soon acquired a high standard of scholarship in religion,  philosophy and fiqh. The vizier of the Seljuk Sultan, impressed by his scholarship, appointed him as a Professor at the Nizamiyah University of Baghdad, which was the most reputed institution of learning at that time.

After a few years, however, he gave up his academic pursuits and worldly interests and became a wandering ascetic.

After spending  some time in Jerusalem, Makkah and Medina he came back to Tus and spent several years in seclusion. He finally ended his seclusion, opened a Sufi school khanakah and started teaching and lecturing. He remained in Tus until his death in December of 1111 CE.

Among the Muslim theologians, al- Ghazali was the most influential; in addition he was a philosopher, a Jurist and a Sufi mystic. He was a prolific writer, authoring more than 70 books. Probably his major work, the multi-volume Ihya ul-Uloom ud-Din, (The Revival of Religious Sciences), can be divided into four parts, which cover perhaps all aspects of Islam, including Islamic jurisprudence, theology and Sufism.

In this series he pointed out that the traditional teaching about Islam did not convince him in his adolescence. His conviction came later, through his Sufi mystical experience. In his autobiography; The Deliverance from Error, he recounts how his spiritual crisis was resolved by a light from God, the key to all knowledge. The Sufi mystical experience brought changes in his theological thought.

Al-Ghazali authored two books on Islamic theology, The Middle Path in Theology and The Jerusalem Epistle. In both books the theological position he expressed matches with the Asharite school of thought. He wrote three books on Aristotelian logic, The Standard Measure of Knowledge, The Touchstone of Proof of Logic and The Just Balance.

Al-Ghazali was  very much interested in logic and philosophy, and he studied intensively while he was teaching at Baghdad. He composed two books on philosophy; The Intention of the Philosopher, in which he has summarized his own conclusions about philosophy, and set the stage for the  second book; The Incoherence of the Philosophers. In this book he has used exhaustive logic against philosophers. He vehemently rejected Aristotle, Plato and all Muslim philosophers starting from eighth century who incorporated the ancient Greek philosophy into Islamic theology. The main among them were  al Kindi, al-Farabi and Ibn Sina. Point by point, he refuted their arguments.

For 100 years his arguments were unchallenged.  Ibn Rushd, an Andalusian  philosopher, made a counter-argument in his book The Incoherence of the Incoherence, but the epistemological course of Islamic thought had already been set by al-Ghazali.

Al-Ghazali divided knowledge into three categories; praiseworthy, permissible and blameworthy–which he has discussed in his book Ihya Ulum-id-Din (Revival of the Religious Sciences). All learning connected to religion is praiseworthy, but when mixed with other than religion sometimes becomes blameworthy. Learning medicine and mathematics he said are permissible and declared it as farze Kefayah, not ferze Ayin. If a man in a town or a locality acquires such knowledge, the whole community get absolved from the sin.

In his book al-Mustasfa which he wrote towards the end of his life, he stated that arithmetic and geometry are pure rational sciences and as such not recommended for study. They fluctuate between false and true knowledge that yield no practical application. He saw no usefulness in the study of physics and said some part of the subject as it was understood in his time contradicted the Shariah and thus were useless or blameworthy.

Al-Ghazali believed in the certainty of God which he experienced by mystic revelation, a phenomena he said was beyond logic or sensory perception. He argued that you can not prove the presence of God by logic or philosophy, and saw philosophy as largely a waste of time and inadequate for discovering the truth. Contingent events, he said, are not subject to natural physical cause, but are direct result of God’s constant intervention. This concept of God is consistent with the Asharite school of theology.   

Al-Ghazali’s work had a widespread influence on western medieval scholars especially Thomas Aquinas. He received wide recognition in the religious institutions of the Ottoman empire, southeast Asia, and Africa. In the Indian subcontinent, he enjoyed wide recognition both among the Deobandi school as well as the arch-rival Barelwi school.

Aslamsyed1@yahoo.com

Turkish Schools Offer Pakistan a Gentler Islam

May 8, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy Sabrina Tavernise

Turkish educators are offering an alternative approach to religious schools that could reduce extremists’ influence.

KARACHI, Pakistan: Praying in Pakistan has not been easy for Mesut Kacmaz, a Muslim teacher from Turkey.

He tried the mosque near his house, but it had Israeli and Danish flags painted on the floor for people to step on. The mosque near where he works warned him never to return wearing a tie. Pakistanis everywhere assume he is not Muslim because he has no beard.

“Kill, fight, shoot,” Kacmaz said. “This is a misinterpretation of Islam.”

But that view is common in Pakistan, a frontier land for the future of Islam, where schools, nourished by Saudi and American money dating back to the 1980s, have spread Islamic radicalism through the poorest parts of society. With a literacy rate of just 50 percent and a public school system near collapse, the country is particularly vulnerable.

Kacmaz (pronounced KATCH-maz) is part of a group of Turkish educators who have come to this battleground with an entirely different vision of Islam. Theirs is moderate and flexible, comfortably coexisting with the West while remaining distinct from it. Like Muslim Peace Corps volunteers, they promote this approach in schools, which are now established in more than 80 countries, Muslim and Christian.

Their efforts are important in Pakistan, a nuclear power whose stability and whose vulnerability to fundamentalism have become main preoccupations of American foreign policy. Its tribal areas have become a refuge to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and the battle against fundamentalism rests squarely on young people and the education they get.

At present, that education is extremely weak. The poorest Pakistanis cannot afford to send their children to public schools, which are free but require fees for books and uniforms. Some choose to send their children to madrasas, or religious schools, which, like aid organizations, offer free food and clothing. Many simply teach, but some have radical agendas. At the same time, a growing middle class is rejecting public schools, which are chaotic and poorly financed, and choosing from a new array of private schools.

The Turkish schools, which have expanded to seven cities in Pakistan since the first one opened a decade ago, cannot transform the country on their own. But they offer an alternative approach that could help reduce the influence of Islamic extremists.

They prescribe a strong Western curriculum, with courses, taught in English, from math and science to English literature and Shakespeare. They do not teach religion beyond the one class in Islamic studies that is required by the state. Unlike British-style private schools, however, they encourage Islam in their dormitories, where teachers set examples in lifestyle and prayer.

“Whatever the West has of science, let our kids have it,” said Erkam Aytav, a Turk who works in the new schools. “But let our kids have their religion as well.”

That approach appeals to parents in Pakistan, who want their children to be capable of competing with the West without losing their identities to it. Allahdad Niazi, a retired Urdu professor in Quetta, a frontier town near the Afghan border, took his son out of an elite military school, because it was too authoritarian and did not sufficiently encourage Islam, and put him in the Turkish school, called PakTurk.

“Private schools can’t make our sons good Muslims,” Niazi said, sitting on the floor in a Quetta house. “Religious schools can’t give them modern education. PakTurk does both.”

The model is the brainchild of a Turkish Islamic scholar, Fethullah Gulen. A preacher with millions of followers in Turkey, Gulen, 69, comes from a tradition of Sufism, an introspective, mystical strain of Islam. He has lived in exile in the United States since 2000, after getting in trouble with secular Turkish officials.

Gulen’s idea, Aytav said, is that “without science, religion turns to radicalism, and without religion, science is blind and brings the world to danger.”

The schools are putting into practice a Turkish Sufi philosophy that took its most modern form during the last century, after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s founder, crushed the Islamic caliphate in the 1920s. Islamic thinkers responded by trying to bring Western science into the faith they were trying to defend. In the 1950s, while Arab Islamic intellectuals like Sayyid Qutub were firmly rejecting the West, Turkish ones like Said Nursi were seeking ways to coexist with it.

In Karachi, a sprawling city that has had its own struggles with radicalism — the American reporter Daniel Pearl was killed here, and the famed Binori madrasa here is said to have sheltered Osama bin Laden — the two approaches compete daily.

The Turkish school is in a poor neighborhood in the south of the city where residents are mostly Pashtun, a strongly tribal ethnic group whose poorer fringes have been among the most susceptible to radicalism. Kacmaz, who became principal 10 months ago, ran into trouble almost as soon as he began. The locals were suspicious of the Turks, who, with their ties and clean-shaven faces, looked like math teachers from Middle America.

“They asked me several times, ‘Are they Muslim? Do they pray? Are they drinking at night?’ “ said Ali Showkat, a vice principal of the school, who is Pakistani.

Goats nap by piles of rubbish near the school’s entrance, and Kacmaz asked a local religious leader to help get people to stop throwing their trash near the school, to no avail. Exasperated, he hung an Islamic saying on the outer wall of the school: “Cleanliness is half of faith.” When he prayed at a mosque, two young men followed him out and told him not to return wearing a tie because it was un-Islamic.

“I said, ‘Show me a verse in the Koran where it was forbidden,’ “ Kacmaz said, steering his car through tangled rush-hour traffic. The two men were wearing glasses, and he told them that scripturally, there was no difference between a tie and glasses.

“Behind their words there was no Hadith,” he said, referring to a set of Islamic texts, “only misunderstanding.”

That misunderstanding, along with the radicalism that follows, stalks the poorest parts of Quetta. Abdul Bari, a 31-year-old teacher of Islam from a religious family, lives in a neighborhood without electricity or running water. Two brothers from his tribe were killed on a suicide mission, leaving their mother a beggar and angering Bari, who says a Muslim’s first duty is to his mother and his family.

“Our nation has no patience,” said Bari, who raised his seven younger siblings, after his father died suddenly a dozen years ago. He decided that one of his brothers should be educated, and enrolled him in the Turkish school.

The Turks put the focus on academics, which pleased Bari, who said his dream was for Saadudeen, his brother, to lift the family out of poverty and expand its horizons beyond religion. Bari’s title, hafiz, means he has memorized the entire Koran, though he has no formal education. Two other brothers have earned the same distinction. Their father was an imam.

His is a lonely mission in a neighborhood where nearly all the residents are illiterate and most disapprove of his choices, Bari said. He is constantly on guard against extremism. He once punished Saadudeen for flying kites with the wrong kind of boys. At the Turkish school, the teenager is supervised around the clock in a dormitory.

“They are totally against extremism,” Bari said of the Turks. “They are true Muslims. They will make my brother into a true Muslim. He’ll deal with people with justice and wisdom. Not with impatience.”

Illiteracy is one of the roots of problems dogging the Muslim world, said Matiullah Aail, a religious scholar in Quetta who graduated from Medina University in Saudi Arabia.

In Baluchistan, Quetta’s sparsely populated province, the literacy rate is less than 10 percent, said Tariq Baluch, a government official in the Pasheen district. He estimated that about half of the district’s children attended madrasas.

Aail said: “Doctors and lawyers have to show their degrees. But when it comes to mullahs, no one asks them for their qualifications. They don’t have knowledge, but they are influential.”

That leads to a skewed interpretation of Islam, even by those schooled in it, according to Gulen and his followers.

“They’ve memorized the entire holy book, but they don’t understand its meaning,” said Kamil Ture, a Turkish administrator.

Kacmaz chimed in: “How we interpret the Koran is totally dependent on our education.”

In an interview in 2004, published in a book of his writings, Gulen put it like this: “In the countries where Muslims live, some religious leaders and immature Muslims have no other weapon in hand than their fundamental interpretation of Islam. They use this to engage people in struggles that serve their own purposes.”

Moderate as that sounds, some Turks say Gulen uses the schools to advance his own political agenda. Murat Belge, a prominent Turkish intellectual who has experience with the movement, said that Gulen “sincerely believes that he has been chosen by God,” and described Gulen’s followers as “Muslim Jesuits” who are preparing elites to run the country.

Hakan Yavuz, a Turkish professor at the University of Utah who has had extensive experience with the Gulen movement, offered a darker assessment.

“The purpose here is very much power,” Yavuz said. “The model of power is the Ottoman Empire and the idea that Turks should shape the Muslim world.”

But while radical Islamists seek to re-establish a seventh-century Islamic caliphate, without nations or borders, and more moderate Islamists, like Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, use secular democracy to achieve the goal of an Islamic state, Gulen is a nationalist who says he wants no more than a secular democracy where citizens are free to worship, a claim secular Turks find highly suspect.

Still, his schools are richly supported by Turkish businessmen. M. Ihsan Kalkavan, a shipping magnate who has built hotels in Nigeria, helped finance Gulen schools there, which he said had attracted the children of the Nigerian elite.

“When we take our education experiment to other countries, we introduce ourselves. We say, ‘See, we’re not terrorists.’ When people get to know us, things change,” Kalkavan said in his office in Istanbul.

He estimated the number of Gulen’s followers in Turkey at three million to five million. The network itself does not provide estimates, and Gulen declined to be interviewed.

The schools, which also operate in Christian countries like Russia, are not for Muslims alone, and one of their stated aims is to promote interfaith understanding. Gulen met the previous pope, as well as Jewish and Orthodox Christian leaders, and teachers in the schools say they stress multiculturalism and universal values.

“We are all humans,” said Kacmaz, the principal. “In Islam, every human being is very important.”

Pakistani society is changing fast, and more Pakistanis are realizing the importance of education, in part because they have more to lose, parents said. Abrar Awan, whose son is attending the Turkish school in Quetta, said he had grown tired of the attitude of the Islamic political parties he belonged to as a student. Now a government employee with a steady job, he sees real life as more complicated than black-and-white ideology.

“America or the West was always behind every fault, every problem,” he said, at a gathering of fathers in April. “Now, in my practical life, I know the faults are within us.”

10-20

Community News (V9-I16)

April 12, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Nabil Khan gets Fulbright

Nabil Khan, a senior at Swarthmore College, has been named a Fulbright Grantee for 2007. The son of Shafqat and Khalil Khan and brother of Mehreen and Hasan Khan, he is a 2003 graduate of the Masters School in Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., and also attended the International School of Choueifat in Abu Dhabi. Khan is one of three Swarthmore seniors to have won the Fulbright Grant this year.

Khan plans to use his Fulbright Grant to explore and elucidate contemporary understandings of mental “illness” in urban Morocco and of the cultural import of the psychiatric field in a place where it is governmentally sanctioned and is growing. “I am interested in understanding what mental health services and the worldviews they represent, so rooted in Western diagnostic and therapeutic traditions, mean to those from a country historically considered a frontier of the Islamic world,” said Khan. “Given the country’s eclectic background and demographic, I am interested in the political, religious and social dimensions of psychological understanding and how cultural currents inform daily mental healthcare practice.”

Khan is a psychology major with minors in biology and English literature. He is a Thomas B. McCabe scholar, selected as an entering student based on leadership, ability, character, personality, and service to school and community, and has been active in Swarthmore for Immigrants’ Rights, the Muslim Student group, Deshi (South Asian Students organization), and Forum for Free Speech and is co-editor of Remappings (the Asian/Asian-Diaspora literary publication). He was also a biology Writing Associate (peer tutor) and a member of the steering committee of the 2006 “Beyond the Box” conference on critical multiculturalism.

Administered by the Council for International Exchange of Scholars, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program awards full research grants to graduating seniors and young alumni after an extensive application process. Recipients receive a stipend to cover housing and living expenses.

Four Muslims named Truman scholars

Four Muslim students have been selected for the much coveted Truman Scholarships. Sixty-five students from 56 US colleges and universities have been selected as 2007 Truman Scholars. They were elected by eighteen independent selection panels on the basis of leadership potential, intellectual ability, and likelihood of ‘making a difference.’

Each Scholarship provides $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Recipients must be US citizens, have outstanding leadership potential and communication skills, be in the top quarter of their class, and be committed to careers in government or the not-for-profit sector.

Salmah Y. Rizvi, of John Hopkins University, who is from Laurel, Md., is a double-major in Anthropology and International Relations at the Johns Hopkins University, founded Vision XChange, a nonprofit organization which serves as a mechanism to create entertaining, opportunistic events while spreading awareness of important issues. She has traveled extensively as a student ambassador promoting peace and stability and teaching International Humanitarian Law. She is also an executive board member for the Johns Hopkins University Muslim Student Association and the Foreign Affairs Symposium. Currently, Salmah is a Department of Defence employee and hopes to continue her career in government.

As an active member of the Muslim-American community, Rizvi has also interned for the Muslim Public Affairs Council, published a number of papers regarding Islamic politics and volunteered with various Muslim organizations. She teaches Islamic history every Sunday at her local mosque, Idara-E-Jaferia Center in Burtonsville, Md.

Umair Iqbal was born in Pakistan and immigrated to America when he was nine. He is a junior pre-med student with a major in Biological Sciences and a minor in Political Science at the University of Anchorage Alaska. He conducts research at the Alaska Science Center on the Alaska Avian Influenza Project. After five years of avid participation in the Model United Nations of Alaska, he is Secretary-General of the 2007 conference, which focuses on the Emerging Global Pandemic. He also serves as president of the Pre-Med Club. After college he plans to study for an MPH and an MD in rural health, with the goal of working to reduce poverty and to improve access to health care for the poorest people in the world.

Asma Jaber is a junior anthropology and international studies major at the University of South Carolina. Her passions for helping immigrants and refugees continue to grow as she volunteers at advocacy centers for immigrants and with local Somali refugees. She also helps facilitate refugees’ health care access. Asma plans to pursue a law degree and attain a M.P.H. in Health Policy in order to take on public interest work in the health field and improve the lives of immigrants and refugees.

Nazir is the founder and president of the Muslim Student Association at Seattle University. In 2005-2006 he lived in Cairo and studied classical Arabic. Currently Nazir is researching code-switching among Arabs in Seattle. Nazir enjoys traveling, reading, writing, and learning languages in his spare time. He speaks Spanish and Arabic and teaches Arabic twice a week in addition to organizing many cultural and educational events on campus.

Muslim radiologist sues hospital

BALTIMORE, MD–A radiologist who was kicked out of the University of Maryland Medical Center after he performed a Muslim ritual has filed a $30 million lawsuit against the hospital.

The suit says Doctor Mohammed Hussain was at the hospital last month to undergo surgery. He was washing his hands and feet in a sink in a lobby bathroom when a security guard came in and ordered him to get out “immediately or else.”

Hussain’s lawyer, David Ellin, says the guard made references to Hussain as if he were a terrorist and hurled racial epithets at him. He says Hussain was pushed down a hallway and into the custody of another security guard, who escorted him outside.

The hospital released a statement saying medical personnel reached out to Hussain after the incident. The statement says the hospital is “disappointed” that Hussain filed a lawsuit.

Evanston’s first mosque to open soon

EVANSTON, IL–Evanston, Chicago’s suburb and homes to the Northwestern University, will soon have its first mosque. The Bangladesh Islamic Community Center are converting a former Church and have already received approval from the city council council. The building will feature prayer area, offices, a kitchen and multi-purpose meeting rooms.

The construction expected to last from eight months to a year, according to center officials.

Ald. Delores Holmes (5th), who represents the ward in which the mosque will be located, said the center’s presence would enhance the area’s religious diversity.

“There’s a variety of churches and different denominations,” Holmes said. “This would just be a mosque. There are churches and temples, so why not a mosque?”

Arizona Muslims celebrate Prophet’s birthday (s)

CHANDLER, AZ–Around 200 Muslims gathered at the Chandler Community Center to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). The event, organized by the Naqshbandiya Foundation for Islamic Education, was open to all interested and a number of non-Muslims also attended. Sheik Sayyed Muhammed, a religious scholar from Atlanta, was the featured speaker at the Chandler event.

Paul Eppinger, executive director of the Arizona Interfaith Movement, praised the Islamic group’s efforts to build respect among people of all faiths living in the Valley.

“I am for interfaith dialogue so that people can begin to understand one another,” said Eppinger, 74, a former American Baptist minister for 35 years.

Slain convenience store owner remembered

EAST WINDSOR, CT–Neighbours and community members paid moving tributes to convenience store owner Javed Akhtar,32, who was gunned down on Feb.28. More than 50 people gathered at the prayer vigil held in the parking lot outside the One Stop grocery where he was slain. He leaved behind his wife Rafia and twin children Humair and Hirra. His killers have not been identified yet, the Journal Inquirer reported.

Holding candles and gathering in a circle around Rafia and her children, members of the assembly spoke in turn, describing Javed as a gentle, caring man who they clearly missed.

“When we came and moved here, I needed to have a cup of coffee in the morning, and I came here just a few times, and Rafia and Jay were just so kind,” said Bobbie Taravella, who has since moved away. “I have a coffeemaker, but I never used it because they were always so nice and made me a friend rather than a patron.”

Robert Nicholas, who lives half a mile up the road, said he was in the store buying cottage cheese 45 minutes before Javed was shot. “I used to come down here just to talk, and when nothing was going on we’d play with the kids out in the parking lot – they made me part of the family,” Nicholas added.

“He was definitely an asset to this community and well-loved,” said Officer Bruce Everitt, community resource officer for Mill Pond Village.

As for solving the case, “it’s progressing very well and progress is being made,” Everitt said. “We’re just making sure we cross all our T’s and dot all the I’s.”

Akhtar was Muslim and a Pakistani-American. His death brought outrage to the community at large, with many groups calling for justice and a $5,000 reward posted for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the killer.

Canadian Muslims give $1m to hospital

TORONTO, CANADA–Muslim community of Toronto has provided a huge boost to the William Osler Health Centre Foundation by pledging $1 million to build Brampton’s new hospital. The Muslim Friends of William Osler Health Centre, a group of community leaders,physicians and members of the public, announced their plans last week.

“This pledge represents a promise from the large and active Muslim community to ensure the best possible health care for all people who rely on William Osler to provide quality medical facilities and compassionate care,” said Dr. Farooque Dawood, Muslim Friends of WOHC chair and president of Dafina Holdings Ltd. “The spirit behind (our organization) is to gather support from various Muslim communities in pursuit of excellence in local health care for now and for the future.”

About 50 people gathered for the afternoon reception, held in an auditorium at Peel Memorial Hospital.

9-16

Profile: Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini

February 22, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dana Inayah Cann, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

His mission was to follow in his forefather’s footsteps and become a scholar and religious leader.

What Imam Sayid Hassan Al-Qazwini didn’t realize is that his goals in life would take him to the other side of the world, to America, and captivate the minds of people from all walks of life. Whether for political leaders or for Christians, Al-Qazwini has given a better understanding of Islam in hopes of defeating the widespread misconceptions about Islam and Muslims. Al-Qazwini was born in Karbala, Iraq, in 1964, during the time of the Ba’athist regime, which was gradually brainwashing the people of Iraq.

Al-Qazwini’s family, well known in Iraq and in the Muslim community for their scholarship, leadership and community service, were against the Ba’athist regime.

Al-Qazwini’s father Ayahtollah Sayid Mortadha Al-Qazwini was one of the religious scholars who not only spread the word of Islam to the people of Iraq, but also opened Islamic schools and other institutions.

Since Al-Qazwini’s father migrated to the United States in 1984, he has opened Islamic schools, mosques and other institutions in Los Angeles, California.

Because the Al-Qazwini family refused to side with Saddam Hussein and the Ba’athist regime, they fled Iraq and moved to Kuwait after Al-Qazwini’s grandfather, Ayatollah Sayid Mohammed Sadiq Al-Qazwini, was arrested and never heard from again. During his time in Kuwait, Al-Qazwini decided to fulfill his goal as a religious leader and scholar.

As the Al-Qazwini family migrated from Kuwait to Qum, Iran, to escape Hussein’s hunger for more power in his regime, Al-Qazwini joined the Islamic Seminary in 1980 and graduated in 1992.

Towards the end of 1992, Al-Qazwini moved his family to the United States where he directed the Azzahra Islamic Center founded by his father in Los Angeles, California. He also taught several Islamic fiqh and other Islamic courses during his four-year stay.

A year into his migration to America, Al-Qazwini was invited to the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan to speak during the upcoming holy month of Ramadhan.

Having a positive effect on the Muslim community in Dearborn, Al-Qazwini was invited to return a year later.

The Islamic Center, established in 1963, is the oldest Shi’a mosque in the United States.

Wanting to reach out to the younger generations of American Muslims, Al-Qazwini felt that it would be best to speak their language: English. Committed to reach his goal, Al-Qazwini devoted himself and quickly learned English and began to successfully communicate with the youth and cater to their needs.

By 1997, Al-Qazwini moved his family to Dearborn after accepting the role of scholar and religious leader at the Islamic Center of America. A year into his position, Al-Qazwini founded the Young Muslims Association (YMA), which is affiliated with the Islamic Center. The goal of the organization is to educate, promote leadership and create a place where young Muslims can actively support Islam.

Since 9/11, Al-Qazwini has been one of the most influential American Shi’a Muslim religious leaders. He has visited numerous churches, colleges and the White House. He has been invited by the State Department, the Defense Department and has conducted interviews on NPR, BBC, CNN, VOA, The Detroit News, The Detroit Free Press, and The New York Times, among others.

While speaking to the American public, political and religious leaders, Al-Qazwini discusses issues relating to Muslims and he also speaks out against those religious leaders who commence attacks on Islam and Prophet Muhammad (s).

When asked about the biggest hurdle facing American Muslims, Al-Qazwini believes that the major hurdle is misconceptions that non-Muslims have about Islam. Part of the problem is the American media.

”No doubt, there is bias in the media,” said Al-Qazwini, describing how the media gives a negative view with images of car bombings, beheadings and the war in Iraq. “The biased media here in this country is playing a major role in promoting and pushing these misconceptions in the minds of Americans.”

Al-Qazwini blames CNN for having a show with Glenn Beck who spoke negatively about Muslims, along with Fox News and the O’Reilly Factor. He also blames religious leaders Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Franklin Graham for “once in a while inciting hatred against Islam and Muslims in this country.”

”We’re dealing with, I would say, a ruthless enemy that is aimed at discrediting us, at labeling all Muslims as extreme Muslims,” Al-Qazwini said as he mentioned that there are also hundreds of ant-Islamic websites on the internet promoting hatred against Islam. “They brand us all as extremists so they can coax this fear and paranoia in the minds of Americans so they do not get to know us.”

Al-Qazwini said that the other part of the problem for the misconceptions that non-Muslims have about Islam is Muslims themselves.

”We have not done enough to let others know us and learn more of our religion,” said Al-Qazwini. “Our job is to deliver the message of Islam, to show the example of what kind of people we are. We are a people of peace. Therefore, we need to emphasize the concept of peace.”

Al-Qazwini went on to say “I can challenge any person by saying that Islam is the first divine and monotheistical religion that can publicly invite the Jews and Christians to have a dialogue. It is in the Qur`an where God says:

Say: Oh people of the book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him, nor set up any human beings as lords beside God.

If they turn away, say “Bear witness that we are submitters.”

Ali-Imran:64

To spread the word, promote peace, and lessen the misconceptions of Islam, Al-Qazwini says that Muslims should reach out to non-Muslims who want to know about Islam. The mosques are always open for all to attend to seek education about Islam, not motivated conversion. Al-Qazwini says that it is up to Allah to convert people.

”If people don’t want to go to the mosque, we can go to them,” said Al-Qazwini. “In classrooms, with colleagues, or at people’s homes,” Muslims can teach those who want to understand Islam.

When asked if the younger generation is prepared to become religious Islamic leaders in the future, Al-Qazwini doesn’t think so.

Al-Qazwini takes part of the blame with other Islamic centers that “have not done enough in preparing the new generation.”

Al-Qazwini says that if the younger generation is convinced to go to the Middle East, study Islam and come back to America, people will be able to relate to them better because they were born in the same place and speaking the same language. He is willing to work for a sponsor to help a young Muslim to go to the Middle East to study Islam.

”We need to have more English-speaking imams who not only speak the language, but they understand it,” said Al-Qazwini. “And, they can educate in a more adequate way with the American society.”

9-9

SE Michigan, Vol. 9 Iss. 4

January 18, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

‘Eidul Ghadeer at Islamic House of Wisdom

Reported by independent reporter Amanda Khalil

Dearborn Heights–January 13–The Islamic House of Wisdom held its annual celebration of Eid Al Ghadeer on Saturday. It was a sizeable community event commemorating Prophet’s (s) praising Sayyidina Ali (kw).

‘Eidul Ghadeer is an event celebrated by Shi’a in connection with the hajj. According to their tradition, upon the completion of the Prophet Muhammad’s (s) final hajj he stopped in Ghadeer Khum whereupon he announced some core principles of Shi’a belief. .

Upon entering the IHW, aromas of delicious foods and the echo of chatter filled the room. Guests of the dinner enjoyed a scrumptious array of foods, drinks, and desserts. A recitation of the Qur`an permeated the guests’ ears for all to savor. It was an event that kindled the warmth of family and community togetherness.

There were lectures in Arabic and English on the importance of the hajj and the wisdom behind it. Hajj represents prayer, charity, education; submission to God’s will, total connection, and is a purifying process. They said hajj should be a deep spiritual revolution in a person’s mind, heart, and soul. Imam Elahi said, “the lesson one learns on the spiritual journey of hajj should be taken back to every corner of the world as a light and purity to all the nations.”

Imam Jowad spoke of the symbolism of the hajj, “Imagine waking up and seeing such a large number of people rising in the morning, almost as if they were rising from the graves in a sort of metaphorical symbolism for the resurrection, and a humbling experience as one sheds the possessions and comfort of the worldly life for a deeper connection and understanding.” He urged Muslims as they come back from hajj to remember the comforts of this life that they lost on hajj, and carry that appreciation of what they have been blessed with in their hearts. When they see someone without a bed, remember when they didn’t have a bed and feel compassion for humanity.

Imam Mohammed Elahi discussed the importance of togetherness and unity amongst all Muslims on the Hajj, “During the pilgrimage peoples of diverse nations and languages unite together in prayer, love, and brotherhood, which we should take an example from, lighting the way to unify the Sunni and Shi’a schools of thought in order to work together in peace and harmony for a common goal of understanding and communication.”

Carly Chirifi, a Muslim convert who attended the lectures commented on the evening saying, “It was a really welcoming atmosphere. It gave me a sense of togetherness, and the lectures really opened my mind about hajj on a spiritual level. It improved my faith, and I’d recommend all people regardless of their faith to attend events such as these to open one’s mind; and elevate their understanding of the humanity and unity we all share.“

Local ladies go formal

By Beena Inam Shamsi

Southfield–January 14–Muslim Women Up! has found a unique way of helping today’s young women. Sometimes you just need to get dressed to the nines.

Recently, MWU celebrated its second annual “all sisters ball” at Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel in Southfield, Mich. Women of all ages came, dressed in their evening gowns. There were no men allowed.

“It gives the young girls the opportunity to dress up and meet with other Muslim girls,” said Mimo Debryn, a guest attending the ball and an advisor of the Youth of America of the Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills.

MWU is a non-profit social- and community-based organization. Its purpose is to welcome all Muslim women regardless of race, class, or culture. It is working hard to bridge community gaps and form a community of true sisterhood.

The event started at around 6 p.m. with Qur`an recitation and a speech on strengthening the `ummah, followed by games, dinner,, a fashion show and dancing. It was a picture-perfect evening.

The chairman of MWU and a mother, Khadijah Abdullah, said, “I have found huge segregation in the Muslim community. Girls don’t know other girls. We are losing a lot of girls because of it. Lack of knowledge is causing this segregation. Looking at my own daughter, I don’t want to see her lost.” She said she wants the girls to realize they are not alone and Islam is a way to help everyone.

Initiating Muslim events has increased Islamic knowledge and promoted personal religious growth.

“There is still culture segregation, where Indian goes to the Indian events, Pakistanis goes to their Pakistani events and Arabs goes to theirs. When you grow up here, you are growing within diversity. Muslim Women Up! is a wonderful opportunity to bring the community together,” Debryn said.

The chair of the youth council, Yasmeen Thomas was the inspiration behind the organization. She was confused between her Muslim and non-Muslim relatives. She couldn’t decide which path to choose and then she thought about organizing a platform for young women to come forward and have fun within the Islamic norms. “I thought I was the only one with the problems but there were other girls as well. It is a place to reach out to young sisters,” she said.

Abdullah said a cohesive community could be built by introducing girls to other girls. MWU has brought a positive change for the young girls. “Last year there were three races; 90 percent African American, 3 percent European and 7 percent Arabic. This time we have seven races,” Abdullah said.

MWU also offers a monthly spa day to bring together the sisters of all communities for a day of pampering said the publicity chair, Raina Thomas.

Every month, teens from ages 14-19, get together for a sleepover where they are provided with Muslimah counselors to create a safe place where they can talk out their issues and begin on a road to better communication, self-awareness, self-esteem and family relationships.

MWU’s meetings take place in once a month. Meeting are the last Saturday of the month from 3-5 pm starting February 24, 2007.

For more info or to join MWU call Khadijah at 313 205 8764.

CIOM meeting to discuss recent acts of vandalism

Dearborn–A meeting of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan (CIOM) was held last week, comprising about 25 local community leaders from the Sunni and Shi’a communities. The meeting was held in the wake of some very unfortunate acts of vandalism earlier, apparently by radical Sunnis against Shi’a two mosques and several other businesses. Prominent local imams including Imam Qazwini of the Islamic Center of America, Imam Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom, Imam El-Amin of the Detroit Unity Center, and Imam Mohammad Moosa of the Bloomfield Unity Center, among other prominent guests, were present.

The focus of the discussion was on promoting congenial relations between all of the different leaders, to maintain a good and friendly basis and not to be at odds with one another, so that cooperation and communication are facilitated at times of crisis when it is important for all communities to work together.

Another meeting is scheduled on February 5th at the Islamic American University.

Free Fibromyalgia Workshop

Press Release: Livonia–a local authority will be appearing at the Carl Sandburg Library for a free workshop on Wed., January 31, 2007 at 7 pm to “reveal the shocking truth behind what can be causing Fibromyalgia. This event is sponsored by the National Wellness Foundation, a non-profit organization.

To register fro the free workshop, call 248-426-0201 and leave a message.

Florida Stories Vol 8 Iss 18

April 30, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Local Muslims Gather for Annual Celebrations of Prophet’s birth and life

At locations throughout South Florida this April, traditional Milad-un-Nabi programs were held to celebrate the life and times of the Prophet Muhammad. The events coincided with the Prophet’s birthday on the 12th day of Rabbi-ul-Awwal, third month on the lunar Muslim calendar, which this year fell on April 12.

In Muslim countries, the event is marked by numerous festivities, including devotional song, poetry reading, religious devotion, lectures and get-togethers and feature large scale TV and media coverage. In the states, though overseas TV coverage is now present thanks to satellite TV channels, broadcasting Milad-un-Nabi coverage from back home, events here tend to be more subdued, owing in part to the views of some communities and community members that such celebrations are unlawful innovations, religiously speaking.

Despite the misgivings by some, though, many—perhaps the majority—continue the colorful and joyous observances of what all in the community agree was one of the pinnacle moments in human history, the prophet’s birth.

One such program was held at the Miami Gardens Masjid in Miami-Dade County on Saturday evening, April 8, which annually marks the occasion with either lectures, traditional Urdu-poetry in praise of the prophet, or dinners.

Open to men and women, the program featured a lecture by visiting speaker Faisal Abdur Razzaq of Toronto, Canada. Hundreds of families and community members were in attendance for the annual event which included dinner after the sunset prayer of Salat-ul-Maghrib.

Abdur Razzaq received his Islamic studies at the Umm-Al-Qurra University in Makkah, Saudi Arabia and at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah from 1977 to 1986. He is currently the President of the Islamic Forum of Canada, and the Vice-President of the Islamic Council of Imams of Canada. He served as Imam Khateeb of several mosques and Islamic Centers there including the Islamic society of Peel, the Islamic Centre of Brampton, and the Toronto and Region Islamic Center (TARIC).

Razzaq also conducted a workshop for Muslim Youth on Sunday April 9th at Miami Gardens entitled “Sacred Knowledge Training Program concentrating on Fiqh and the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad.”

The mosque has been hosting a number of guest lecturers since the departure of its regular imam Abdul-Hamid Samra in March.

Zaid Shakir Speaks in South Florida

Tall and soft-spoken with a slow, deep, and rhythmic speaking style, Zaid Shakir is an African American Muslim community leader perfectly at ease amongst the immigrant origin segments of the community. Over the years, on his journey from an urban northern California youth to Muslim convert and toward the highest rung of Muslim community speaker and leader, Shakir has continually earned respect though humility, hard work and community efforts around the country.

But that doesn’t mean he can’t get loud and passionate when he needs to. Now at the head of one of the most well-known Muslim educational groups in the country—the Zaytuna Institute in his native northern Cali—this past month, Shakir visited South Florida for a number of events.

On Thursday, April 6th at 7 pm Shakir spoke on the subject of “Muslims in America: Challenges and Opportunities,” at the University of Miami’s Learning Center building, co-sponsored by the school’s Department of Religious Studies and the Islamic Society at UM.

Then on Friday, April 7, the Madinah Foundation presented ‘A Night of Reflection; The Ethical Standard of the Prophet Muhammad; Controlling Anger, Promoting Understanding Through Wisdom,’ a lecture by Shakir. The free event was that time held at the Darul Uloom Institute in Pembroke Pines.

Both events were well-attended with positive reaction from attendees.

At UM, Religion 101 students received extra credit for attending the Shakir lecture thanks to longtime ISUM supporter and head of the school’s Religious studies department, Dr. Stephen Sapp.

ISUM president Sarah Uddin greeted the Shakir visit with excitement and praised the turnout.

“We had an awesome turnout! I’m really happy with the program last night. Imam Zaid’s speech was super engaging. He was able to reach so many non-Muslim students and ISUM alumni, in addition to the rest of the ISUM gang, who all came out,” she said.

A mainstay at such prominent national Musilm community events as the annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America—where he often speaks at the main stage in front of tens of thousands—Shakir was born in Berkeley, California. He accepted Islam in 1977 while serving in the United States Air Force and obtained a BA with honors in International Relations at the American University in Washington D.C. and an MA in Political Science from Rutgers University.

Spending time overseas in Egypt, Syria, and Morocco, Shakir studied Arabic as well as the traditional Islamic sciences including Islamic law, Quran, and Islamic spirituality. Upon returning, he co-founded Masjid al-Islam in Connecticut and taught Political Science at the Southern Connecticut State University. He has translated several books from Arabic into English including “The Heirs of the Prophet.”

Since 2003, he has acted as a professor and scholar-in-residence at the Zaytuna Institute & Academy, alongside fellow well-known Muslim community speaker, Hamza Yusuf Hanson, also from Northern California.

The Madinah Foundation, which was largely responsible for Shakir’s visit, is the local Zaytuna Affiliate in South Florida, staffed by former community youth and college activists who grew up attending Islamic studies programs around the country and listening to speakers such as Shakir and Hanson as role-models, and also organizes annual Islamic study retreats in Zaytuna’s “Deen Intensive Style”—part nature retreat/camp, part traditional Islamic educational experience trying to recreate pre-Colonial modes of Islamic education—throughout the state.

CAIR-FLORIDA: ‘Urge Legislators to Oppose Bill’
‘BILL WOULD CUT FUNDING FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS’

CAIR-FL, along with groups such as Florida Immigration Advocacy Center (FIAC) and the Muslim Student Association (MSA) at the University of Southern Florida in Tampa called for the withdrawal of proposed legislation that would prohibit state funds from being used to provide financial aid to university and college students on visas. The statement came on April 24.
Florida House Bill 205 and Senate Bill 458 target students that hold visas and receive financial support from Florida to attend state schools. A similar bill 2003 HB 31, introduced by Rep. Dick Kravitz, R-Jacksonville three years ago targeting some Muslim countries was defeated during the senate hearing.
FAU Students hold Annual ‘Scholar’s Night’
The Muslim Student Organization at Florida Atlantic University held it’s seventh Annual Scholar’s Night on Saturday, April 22nd, at the Life Long Center Auditorium on the FAU Campus in Boca Raton. Entitled: “Believe it or not, you were born Muslim!” and featuring a lecture by local speaker Fadi Kablawi, the event was of a preaching nature, its flier posing the question: “What do you call a religion whose beliefs, practices and followers are being bashed and bad-mouthed in practically every sphere of activity, in almost every corner of the globe, yet it attracts ever-increasing number of people? A Miracle? A Paradox? or simply THE TRUTH: ISLAM.” Such straightforward, declarative and reactionary themes have become more rare in Islamic events in the post-9/11 environment. The lecture featured free admission and dinner and was open to all interested. The FAU MSO has seen a resurgent past semester of activity.

Cricket Tour / Contest for DeLay’s Seat / Houston Local Cricket

April 27, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

Never Forget the South Asian Quake, Says Pakistan Cricket Team

Islamic Relief Volunteers from the US, UK and Pakistan were already operating on the Azad Kashmir Line of Control when the huge earthquake struck the South Asian Region at 8:50 am Pakistan time, on October 8, 2005.
Many volunteers lost loved ones in the catastrophe, which was twenty times more damaging than Hurricane Katrina which had hit New Orleans just before, on August 25, 2005.
Former captains of the Pakistan Cricket Team, Rashid Latif and Moin Khan and record-holder, first-class c cricketer and coach Haris Ahmed Khan, joined hands with Islamic Relief and went deep into the Neelum Valley to work with their own bare hands to assist those in the region who have lost almost everything.
After what they saw, they determined it would take years to build the lives of the devastated people. Having witnessed many heart-wrenching and dreadful stories of poor people of the region, these three celebrities of Pakistan Cricket came for a long and tiring fundraising effort in North America, which took them to California, Illinois, Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Michigan and Ontario Canada.
During their stay in Texas, they came to Dallas and Houston. In Dallas, they raised more than $200,000, while in an unscheduled last-minute Houston event they were able to raise more than $15,000.
Rashid, Moin and Haris all said that these people may have lost everything and may even have lost their natural emotions or grief, but all of them have the rest of the world to assist them. Many people promised to help—most of those promises were fulfilled. For years to come, the need is so immense that even if we have given to them, we still need to go back to our wallets and pockets and keep giving for another five to eight years.
The cricketers praised the efforts of Islamic Relief and the disciplined manner in which they have taken up this huge task, with just 6% overhead.
For more information on this fundraising humanitarian trip, and for information on ongoing humanitarian projects, call Anwar Khan of Islamic Relief at 1-818-216-9723.

Mayor of Sugarland Wants to take Tom DeLay’s Seat

The popular mayor, David G. Wallace, of Sugarland Texas, wants to take the seat of Tom DeLay, whenever he will decide to vacate.
Toward this end, he is meeting several people in the communities in Texas and also planning to travel to New York and other places to raise funds.
Recently he met, at Lassani Restaurant, a bipartisan group representing Texas communities of Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians.
He said that, having done his job to the best of his abilities at the local level, he now has aspirations to provide service to the people of America by being in the congress. He said although he is not well abreast about all foreign affairs issues, he is interacting with several communities to learn from them how they think about these problems of the world.
He said he is the advocate for low-interest rates to enhance the economy, and will work to build a better lifestyle for all Americans and to build fruitful measures for small businesses.

New Houston Pakistan/India Cricket Win-Loss Record: Tied at 4 and 4!

It was 1998 when the first annual Pakistan v. India Houston Players Cricket Match was played. Ever since then, every April third, these two traditional teams play against each other in a most disciplined, high-class and friendly manner.
The game has been played without a hitch except one year when it was cancelled for rain. Of the remaining years, the win-loss record is as follows: Pakistan has won four times and India three times; this year India won, making the record 4 and 4.
The match was played at the beautiful Harris County Tom-Bass Park. Pakistan scored 232, while India crossed the score when they had two wickets and few balls left to play.
Elegant left handed batsman Sushil made 115*, the first century of these traditional matches. Sushil was declared the Most Valuable Player of the Match. Majid of Pakistan was affirmed as the best bowler for his three quick wickets, which made the game even poised and most exciting at one stage. Captain Rafay of Pakistan for his 45 was given the best batsman award.
Those interested in playing cricket or wanting to know more about this game in Houston, please visit the website of the Houston Cricket League: http://www.houstoncricket. com/

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