Community News (V13-I23)

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Minnesota Muslim group receives award

FRIDLEY,MN–A Fridley-based organization has received a rare honor as it prepares to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of its founding,

Islamic Resource Group (IRG) won a special recognition award in May honoring its mission of building respect for human rights, the Patch reported.

The award, which isn’t given every year, came from Advocates for Human Rights (AHR), a group based in Minneapolis that bills itself as the largest volunteer-based human rights organization in the Midwest.

Every individual in the community should be treated with respect and without discrimination, said AHR Executive Director Robin Phillips in praising IRG.

“They have done a great thing in our community in making sure human rights are respected for Muslims in our community,” Phillips said. “They’re a really positive force in our community.”

‘Intro to Islam’ course at UCLA

The Undergraduate Students Association Council is the official student government of UCLA’s undergraduate students. Academic Affairs Commissioner Raquel Saxe is working to get class syllabi online before enrollment. Her office is also in talks with the Muslim Student Association regarding a proposal to develop an “Introduction to Islam” undergraduate general education course. The association said it hopes to have a plan for such a class ready by fall.

Hillary Clinton Launches “Muslim Civilization” Science Exhibition

LOS ANGELES, May 25, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, launched an award-winning exhibition about scientific achievements from the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization, with a special video message at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. The 1001 Inventions exhibition, which has attracted more than 1 million visitors over the past year during an international tour, opened for a VIP launch day on May 25th attended by LA County Sheriff Lee Baca and Ambassadors from LA-based foreign consulates.
In her pre-recorded message, Secretary Clinton praised the work of the 1001 Inventions initiative for “celebrating a millennium of science and innovation in the Muslim world,” and described the launch of the exhibition as “an exciting day.”

Mrs. Clinton remarked that “the Muslim world has a proud history of innovators” and highlighted the achievements of pioneers like Fatima Al-Fihri, who founded the world’s first modern university, and master engineer Al-Jazari, who created the crank mechanisms that drive every plane, train and automobile on the planet.

Prof. Salim Al-Hassani, Chairman of 1001 Inventions, commented, “We’re honored that Secretary Clinton agreed to launch our exhibition here at one of the most prestigious science museums in the world. California Science Center has an international reputation for excellence in providing engaging and entertaining science experiences for young and old alike.

“The goal of 1001 Inventions is to highlight the astounding contribution that Muslim civilization has made in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and how those advances still affect our lives today. More than a million people have already visited the 1001 Inventions exhibition during the first year of its global tour and that is the greatest endorsement we could ever hope for.”

The 1001 Inventions exhibition is currently on a five-year global tour, sponsored by ALJ Community Initiatives. Following blockbuster runs in London, Istanbul and New York, it will open to the public at the California Science Center, in Los Angeles, on May 27, 2011 for a seven-month run. The exhibition explores the scientific contributions made by men and women during the Golden Age of Muslim Civilization. Through interactive displays, guests will explore basic science principles that are often taken for granted, in such fields as optics, time-keeping, hydraulics, navigation, architecture and mathematics.

1001 Inventions highlights the contributions of scholars from a diverse region stretching from Spain through China during the 7th to 17th centuries. Visitors will discover how scholars from this region, of various faiths and cultures, preserved, nurtured, and advanced the world’s knowledge in science and technology.

The 1001 Inventions exhibition was recently crowned “Best Touring Exhibition” of the year at the annual Museums and Heritage Excellence Awards in London – considered by many to be the “Oscars” of the Museum world – fighting off stiff competition from some of the world’s biggest names in exhibitions.

I’m delighted to send greetings to each of you at this year’s 1001 Inventions, celebrating a millennium of science and innovation in the Muslim world. This exhibition honors the remarkable accomplishments of Muslims throughout history. From a woman who founded a University in the ninth century, to a thirteenth century inventor and mechanical engineer, to a surgeon whose writings influenced European medicine for hundreds of years, and so many more.

And of course, we’re looking at the impact of technology in the Muslim world right now as young people throughout the Middle East and North Africa find new ways to use social networking to get organized and to express their aspirations. Connection technologies offer an unprecedented opportunity. A platform through which everyone, from farmers to students to entrepreneurs, can exchange ideas and hatch plans for the world’s next great invention.

But technology does not decide the future. People do. So as this exhibition shows, the Muslim world has a proud history of innovators. Now is the time to tap in to that legacy to harness the power of science and technology, and to create new pathways to prosperity. This is an exciting day and thank you for letting me share it with you.

About 1001 Inventions

1001 Inventions is a global educational initiative that promotes awareness of scientific and cultural achievements from the ‘Golden Age’ of Muslim civilization and how those contributions helped build the foundations of our modern world. This period lasted approximately 1000 years from the 7th century onwards. The 1001 Inventions exhibition and educational products all highlight the scientific and technological achievements made by men and women, of different faiths and cultures, who lived in or were connected with broader Muslim civilization.

Originally funded by the British government and launched in the United Kingdom in 2006, 1001 Inventions was created by the Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization (FSTC). FSTC is a British-based non-profit, international network of the world’s leading academics with expertise in the history of science and technology. Both 1001 Inventions and FSTC are non-religious, apolitical organizations and have received support from various arms of the British government, the Wellcome Trust and the British Science Association. Prior to its London launch in January 2010, the content of 1001 Inventions was rigorously reviewed by its inaugural host, the London Science Museum.

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Swiss Vote Betrays Enlightenment Ideals

December 3, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Juan Cole

swiss miss This campaign poster was banned for being racist, but apparently the goal of the poster, now that is all right.

Swissinfo surveys the headlines in Switzerland Monday morning and finds that the press there universally condemned and expressed dismay at Sunday’s vote. Editors expressed consternation at the inevitable tarnishing of Switzerland’s image and worried about the consequences. Will there be boycotts? Sanctions? Appeals to the European Court of Human Rights?

I can anticipate right now arguments to excuse this outbreak of bigotry in the Alps that will be advanced by our own fringe Right, of Neoconservatives and those who think, without daring saying it, that “white culture” is superior to all other world civilizations and deserves to dominate or wipe the others out.

The first is that it is only natural that white, Christian Europeans should be afraid of being swamped by people adhering to an alien, non-European religion.

Switzerland is said to be 5 percent Muslim, and of course this proportion is a recent phenomenon there and so unsettling to some. But Islam is not new to Europe. Parts of what is now Spain were Muslim for 700 years, and much of the eastern stretches of what is now the European Union were ruled by Muslims for centuries and had significant Muslim populations. Cordoba and Sarajevo are not in Asia or Latin America. They are in Europe. And they are cities formed in the bosom of Muslim civilization.

The European city of Cordoba in the medieval period has been described thusly:

‘ For centuries, Cordoba used to be the jewel of Europe, which dazzled visitors from the North. Visitors marveled at what seemed to them an extraordinary general prosperity; one could travel for ten miles by the light of street lamps, and along an uninterrupted series of buildings. The city is said to have had then 200,000 houses, 600 mosques, and 900 public baths. Over the quiet Guadalquivir Arab engineers threw a great stone bridge of seventeen arches, each fifty spans in width. One of the earliest undertakings of Abd al-Rahman I was an aqueduct that brought to Cordova an abundance of fresh water for homes, gardens, fountains, and baths.’

So if the Swiss think that Islam is alien to Europe, then they are thinking of a rather small Europe, not the Europe that now actually exists. Minarets dotted Cordoba. The Arnaudia mosque in Banja Luca dates back to the 1400s; it was destroyed along with dozens of others by fanatics in the civil war that accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

As for the likely comeback,that Muslims came to Europe from the 700s of the Common Era as conquerors, unlike Christianity, actually both were conquering state religions. It was the conversion of an emperor that gave a favored position to Christianity in Europe, which was a small minority on the continent at the time. And Charlemagne forcibly imposed Christianity on the German tribes up to the Elbe. In the cases both of European Christianity and European Islam, there were many willing converts among the ordinary folk, who thrilled to itinerant preachers or beautiful chanting.

Others will allege that Muslims do not grant freedom of religion to Christians in their midst. First of all, this allegation is not true if we look at the full range of the countries where the 1.5 billion Muslims live. Among the nearly 60 Muslim-majority states in the world, only one, Saudi Arabia, forbids the building of churches. Does Switzerland really want to be like Saudi Arabia?

Here is a Western Christian description of the situation of Christians in Syria:

‘In Syria, as in all other Arab countries of the Middle East except Saudi Arabia, freedom of religion is guaranteed in law . . . We should like to point out too that in Syria and in several other countries of the region, Christian churches benefit from free water and electricity supplies, are exempt from several types of tax and can seek building permission for new churches (in Syria, land for these buildings are granted by the State) or repair existing ones.

It should be noted too that there are Christian members of Parliament and of government in Syria and other countries, sometimes in a fixed number (as in Lebanon and Jordan.)

Finally, we note that a new personal statute was promulgated on 18 June 2006 for the various Christian Churches found in Syria, which purposely and verbatim repeats most of the rules of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches promulgated by Pope John Paul II.

That is, in Muslim-majority Syria, the government actually grants land to Christians for the building of churches, along with free water and electricity. Christians have their own personal status legal code, straight from the Vatican. (It is because Christians have their own law in the Middle East, backed by the state, that Muslims in the West are puzzled as to why they cannot practice their personal status code.) Christians have freedom of religion, though there are sensitivities about attempts to convert others (as there are everywhere in the Middle East, including Israel). And Christians are represented in the legislature. With Switzerland’s 5 percent Muslim population, how many Muslim members of parliament does it have?

It will also be alleged that in Egypt some clergymen gave fatwas or legal opinions that building churches is a sin, and it will be argued that Christians have been attacked by Muslims in Upper Egypt.

These arguments are fallacies. You cannot compare the behavior of some Muslim fanatics in rural Egypt to the laws and ideals of the Swiss Republic. We have to look at Egyptian law and policy.

The Grand Sheikh of al-Azhar Seminary, the foremost center of Sunni Muslim learning, ‘added in statements carried by Egyptian newspaper Youm al-Saba’a that Muslims can make voluntary contributions to build churches, pointing out that the church is a house for “worshipping and tolerance.” ‘ He condemned the fundamentalist Muslims for saying church-building is sinful. And Egypt has lots of churches, including new Presbyterian ones, following John Calvin who I believe lived in . . . Geneva. Aout 6 percent of the population is Christian.

The other problem with excusing Switzerland with reference to Muslims’ own imperfect adherence to human rights ideals is that two wrongs don’t make a right. The bigotted Right doesn’t even have the moral insight of kindergartners if that is the sort of argument they advance. The International Declaration of Human Rights was crafted with the participation of Pakistan, a Muslim country; the global contemporary rights regime is imperfectly adhered to by all countries– it is a claim on the world’s behavior, something we must all strive for. If the Swiss stepped back from it, they stepped back in absolute terms. It doesn’t help us get to global human rights to say that is o.k. because others are also failing to live up to the Declaration.

The other Wahhabi state besides Saudi Arabia, Qatar, has allowed churches. But they are not allowed to have steeples or bells. This policy is a mirror image to that of the Swiss.

So Switzerland, after centuries of striving for civilization and enlightenment, has just about reached the same level of tolerance as that exhibited by a small Gulf Wahhabi country, the people of which were mostly Bedouins only a hundred years ago.

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