Islamic Trade Finance Seen Lifting Growth of Sector

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Shaheen Pasha

DUBAI, June 9 (Reuters) – Islamic trade finance has benefitted from shifting preferences towards Sharia-compliant banking and could serve as one of the key growth drivers to help the nearly $1 trillion Islamic finance industry double in size.

The global Islamic finance industry, which has been growing between 15 to 20 percent a year, is widely expected to reach $2 trillion in the next three to five years.

While Islamic banking and Islamic bonds, or sukuk, are expected to lead growth, bankers say Islamic trade finance could serve as the dark horse emerging to propel the industry further.

Trade finance, the lifeblood of global commerce, underpins 60-80 percent of the $12-13 trillion trade in global merchandise and practitioners say it is safer than other forms of lending.

Total trade finance among the 57 members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which includes Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Turkey, is expected to reach $4 trillion by 2012, said Mohamad Nedal Alchaar, secretary-general of the Accounting & Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI).

“(Islamic finance) could tap 20 percent of the total trading financing, that’s very reasonable,” Alchaar said, adding that while the current Islamic trade finance market remains fragmented and non-competitive, there has been a shift towards pushing trade finance among Islamic practitioners.

Part of the increased interest in Islamic trade finance is that the Islamic finance industry, which prohibits interest, has matured and can provide complicated instruments, such as Sharia-compliant hedging products to protect trade transactions, said Yakub Bobat, global head of HSBC Amanah commercial banking.

“If you don’t have access to Islamic hedging, there will be a currency conversion impact. In the absence of those solutions, people go for conventional,” Bobat said. “But the proposition is now complete and you can now use Islamic hedges for trade transactions.”

Bobat said such innovations in the industry will help persuade people inclined toward Sharia-compliant business to opt for Islamic trade finance over conventional forms.

In Islamic trade finance, a bank will provide a letter of credit, guaranteeing import payments using its own funds, for a client based on sharing the profit from the sale of the item.

But some banks are still wary of providing Islamic trade finance services, citing it as more costly and time consuming.

In addition, some see little difference between conventional and Islamic trade finance as both are fee-based products, resulting in lower demand for the Islamic product.

Changing that view will be key for the industry, said Shabir Randeree, chairman of the European Islamic Investment Bank.

East-East Trade Flows Grow

“There is a very compelling reason to promote this product given that the returns of trade financing can be very attractive, much more than real estate financing, for example,” he said. “Providers of this product have not been as aggressive in promoting it.”

But with increasing cross-border trade among Asian and Middle Eastern countries, demand for more Sharia-compliant financing from Muslims is still expected to increase.

Asia to Middle East trade flows more than doubled between 2005 and 2008, according to the World Trade Organization.

“If I compare three years back, volumes have gone up overall in the Islamic trade finance market,” said Ghazanfar Naqvi, managing director, Islamic origination and client coverage at Standard Chartered Saadiq.

“It’s a function of more awareness and more offerings. Today we are seeing customer preference changing and trade finance is a key component of growth in Islamic finance.”

Naqvi said it was difficult to pin down tangible global figures for Islamic trade finance as the majority of deals are not public transactions.

The International Islamic Trade Finance Corp. (ITFC), an independent entity within the Islamic Development Bank, said in its annual report that it approved $2.17 billion in Islamic trade finance transactions at the end of 2009.

That grew to around $2.55 billion in 2010, with a majority of transactions taking place in OIC member nations.

HSBC Amanah’s Bobat said Islamic trade finance will be a significant contributor to growth in Islamic finance but the industry will have to look beyond asset finance.

“The industry today is pretty much focused on asset finance and it needs to have the ability to capitalise on trade,” he said. “(Islamic trade finance) should be as much bread and butter business as it is for conventional trade flows.” (Reporting by Shaheen Pasha; Editing by Jon Hemming)

13-28

Day of Goodness

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, MMNS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12-17

Obama Picks Special Envoy to World Muslim Group (OIC)

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

ResizedImage130160-rashad Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama appointed a special envoy Saturday to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the 57-nation organization that calls itself the “collective voice of the Muslim world.”

He is Rashad Hussein, an Indian-American Muslim who has been a deputy associate White House counsel, described by Obama as “an accomplished lawyer and a close and trusted member of my White House staff.”

Obama made the announcement Saturday in a video message to the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. He said he made the move to broaden the outreach strategy toward the Muslim world he laid out last year in Cairo.

“Rashad has played a key role in developing the partnerships I called for in Cairo. And as a hafiz of the Quran, he is a respected member of the American Muslim community, and I thank him for carrying forward this important work,” Obama said. A hafiz is someone who has memorized the Quran, the sacred book of Islam.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be speaking Sunday at the 7th annual forum and Obama took the opportunity Saturday to laud the event and reiterate what he calls the “new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world” – a relationship that he says has been marred by “misunderstanding and mistrust.”

“The United States is responsibly ending the war in Iraq; we are removing all our combat brigades from Iraq by the end of August, and we will partner with the Iraqi people on behalf of their long-term security and prosperity. In Afghanistan and beyond, we are forging partnerships to isolate violent extremists, reduce corruption and to promote good governance and development that improves lives.

“We remain unyielding in pursuit of a two-state solution that recognizes the rights and security of Israelis and Palestinians. And the United States will continue to stand for the human rights and dignity of people around the world,” he said.

Obama said his administration has held thousands of events with students, civil society groups, faith leaders and entrepreneurs, including Clinton’s “landmark” visit to Pakistan.

“And I look forward to continuing the dialogue during my visit to Indonesia next month. This dialogue has helped us turn many of the initiatives I outlined in Cairo into action,” the president said.

Obama also listed outreach initiatives toward the Muslim world in education, economic development, science and technology, food security, and global health.
“None of this will be easy. Fully realizing the new beginning we envision will take a long-term commitment. But we have begun.”

Hussain has served as a trial attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, a law clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and an editor of the Yale Law Journal. He posted a message on the White House blog saying he is “honored and humbled” by the appointment.

“I am committed to deepening the partnerships that he (Obama) outlined in his visionary address last summer. I look forward to updating you on the Administration’s efforts in these areas over the coming months,” he said.

The Organization of the Islamic Conference says it is the second largest inter-governmental organization after the United Nations and that its 57-state membership is “spread over four continents.”

12-8

Arab American Muslims, Christians–Relief to Haiti

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Arab Detroit, Ameera David

DEARBORN,Mich.–Just a day after a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, the death toll was already estimated at over 1,000 people. Today, only a week later, that toll is thought to stand at 200,000—a number inclining with each passing hour.

Now, in the wake of such a disaster, a host of global organizations are contributing to relief. Joining those ranks are Arab American Muslims and Christians, who from a national to local level are stepping up to the plate and helping in unprecedented ways.

Immediately following the incident, Islamic charity Zakat mobilized as many as 50 volunteers to distribute high-need commodities. The charity, founded and directed by Khalid Demir, has pledged over $50,000 dollars in hygiene products, medical supplies, and hot cooked meals.

Demir himself just returned from a trip to Haiti in hopes of better facilitating the relief but was troubled by the amount of people who still hadn’t received any medical attention or food. “With severely overcrowded streets, there is chaos. These are people who haven’t eaten in over a week” he says.

Other Muslim organizations such as Helping Hands (based largely in Detroit) and Islamic Relief of USA have also dived in to help— both by sending in representatives to assess the calamity as well as by pledging over $1 million dollars in goods and services.

Helping Hands is currently negotiating the start of an efficient medical base clinic in Port-au-Prince. There, they will equip the center with sizeable medical provisions while also contracting quality physicians from the US and abroad into Haiti for treatment.

Umbrella organizations representing America’s Arab Christian population have also taken a stand in supporting the Haitian earthquake survivors.

Arab Melkite and Maronite Catholic Eparchies have opened special collections in their respective churches which will go directly to the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), an organization with a $25 million commitment to relief.

International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), representative of America’s 300 plus Arabic Orthodox churches, will provide over $170,000 in relief.

Thus far, they have airlifted water purification equipment to accommodate 10,000 people as well as enough tents to lodge 500 families. Not to mention opening a campaign for donors to both finance and assemble “Hygiene Kits” complete with soap, towels, toothbrushes, and band aids.

Amal Morcos, IOCC Communications Director, is pleased to be afforded this opportunity to help. She says, “Faith based organizations play a very important role in humanitarian aid. They should uphold certain values in representing the religion and its followers— demonstrating that they care about all people regardless of their faith.”

Also showing compassion is the Michigan Food and Beverage Association, an umbrella organization which encompasses hundreds of Arab owned restaurants and stores in and around the metro-Detroit area.

The association, founded by Syrian American Edward Deeb, hopes to rally member businesses to contribute monetarily as well as with food products, with the goal of giving $2 million or more in aid.

“They don’t have enough food, enough water, or enough medical supplies. There are 1.5 million people, and they need our help” says Deeb.

While donations are surfacing mostly though large, pre-established organizations, there are also many individual Arab Americans finding creative ways to help.

Just this week, Lebanese American, Reem Sater, has initiated a fundraiser which will support Architecture for Humanity, an organization that works on reconstruction and the building of a sustainable infrastructure that can withstand earthquakes in the future.

Almost immediately after the earthquake hit, Sater thought of ways to activate the younger generation, “I didn’t see anyone from our age group organizing any relief efforts, and I felt like we had a responsibility just as anyone else to assist those in need.”

Taking place at a Ferndale lounge, each $20 donation made to the relief organization will include a drink of the person’s choice. The event promises to attract more than 200 guests and raise $5,000 in proceeds.

With recurring aftershock earthquakes and new problems developing, Haiti holds an uncertain future; however, while the true devastation remains to be seen, Arab Americans are stepping in, actively responding with open hearts and little hesitation.

12-4

Amid All This Chaos

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Beena Inam, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Pakistan Correspondent, from Islamabad

ZI_2
Lions’ Chairman Zafar Iqbal, with his wife Shazia Zafar and their daughter, in Islamabad.

In the midst of all the pandemonium, there are a number of people and organizations who are beyond doubt serving the humanity and making a difference.

Whether it is toward the vision disability, education, health and dowry, Lions Clubs International (LCI) is there for all and sundry and so is its Multiple Council Chairman, Zafar Iqbal.

Their 45,000 clubs and more than 1.3 million members make Lions Clubs the world’s largest service club organization.

According to their web site, LCI, founded in Chicago in 1917, has grown into a worldwide organization, helping where help is needed for nearly 100 years.  There motto is “We Serve.”

Melvin Jones, Chicago business leader, founded the Club and built its foundation. Since1925, conventions are held every year. Helen Keller, political activist who was also deaf and blind, participated in 1925 convention and about 14,000 Lions attended the convention from everywhere around the world.

Due to Keller’s challenge the club today is among some of the highest rank organizations.  She challenged, “knights of the blind in the crusade against darkness.”

The organization is preeminently notorious for combating blindness.

“From that day till today lions are working for the blinds,” Iqbal said.

In Pakistan, LCI began burgeoning in 1956. Cyrus F. Minwalla, owner of Hotel Metropole, was a Founder, and First District Governor of LIC known as Father of Lionism in Pakistan and President Iskander Mirza as Patron of Lionism in Pakistan.

Now, Iqbal monitors the whole affairs of LCI in Pakistan and coordinates all five districts, three in south and two in north which breaks down into 478 clubs.  Each district has minimum 35 clubs. Although all the clubs are autonomous in their policies, their focus, endeavor and purpose is identical.

“I am a country head of this institution in Pakistan,” Iqbal said. He visits all clubs and governors as a MCC and meets head of the state and head of the provinces.
Every district has its own governor but their jurisdiction and authority is restricted to their clubs, “my responsibility is along with the governor to see after the district,” Iqbal said.

Around the world, LCI consist of 22 boards of directors, who run the club. No women became a board of director until 1998 when Nilofar Bakhtiar, a public official in Pakistan, became the first lady international director in their board, Iqbal said. It is an immense acclaim for Pakistan.

In Karachi, LCI have 3800 underprivileged children in 22 schools in diminutive areas. Iqbal said they work from zakat fund.

They perform 25,000 cataract surgeries every year. Two years ago, when he was the sector coordinator of campaign SightFirst from 2005 to 2008, they campaigned world wide for blind people and helped raised two hundred and twenty two million dollars all over the world, Iqbal said.

“More than four million people will be cured for blindness. About 17,000 people everyday becomes blind. Every five seconds one person is getting blind. According to World Health Organization (WHO) if we didn’t do anything by 2020 this figure will be doubled. We have to join hands with them,” Iqbal said.

They begin from screening and going to schools and visiting undersized areas. They set eye camps; treat people who require surgical treatment for cataract, trachoma, river blindness, childhood blindness and glaucoma.

“We do lot of work but the main focus is toward the welfare for blind people,” Iqbal said.

He added, “White cane stick that blind people use is because of the lions’ invention. We celebrate blinds day on Oct 14. White cane safety day is because of our struggle that it was passed in American Congress. Through United Nation’s recognition it is celebrated all round the world.”

At present, Lions club is functioning in 205 countries. “We are bigger than united nations,”Iqbal said.

He said they have so great collaboration with United Nations that every second Monday of March, United Nations whole building is vacant for lions club and lions can go anywhere in the building. He further said they can even hold a conference in secretary general’s room.

“It’s a tribute or compliment from United Nations to the lions club,” Iqbal said. 

In 2007, Lions Clubs got an inimitable award that Lions Club International is the world largest service project association.

Every club has a project. They dispose eye camps, food and youth camps.

Iqbal said, “Our club is small. But even we try to do one or two projects.  Active members in our group are seven but total there are 20 people in our group….  Some clubs even have 10 to 20 projects running.”

For becoming a lion that is the member of the LCI is by invitation only.

“Attend our meetings so we can see that your thinking isn’t coming in our way. One must be service minded, should have a concept of charity and be loyal to the country. If a person believes in charity but is not loyal to the country than he can’t be a member of our club,” Iqbal said.

11-50

Sania Rahim: National Chair of Young Democrats

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Sania_Rahim Beckley Student Sania Rahim named National Chair of the Young Democrats of America High School Caucus

“Earlier this year the Young Democrats of America held their bi-annual convention in which nearly 2000 members across the nation and abroad convened in Chicago. Local student Sania Rahim was named the National Chair of the Young Democrats of America High School Caucus in the highly contested race for the High School Caucus Executive Board. Miss Rahim is the third National Chair to be elected and the first Muslim-American woman to serve on the Executive Committee of the organization.

“As always, I am very impressed with your dedications to the Democratic Party” said Congressman Nick Joe Rahall of Rahim’s campaign and recent election. “Your long list of accomplishments is a tribute to your excellent work ethic and determination”.

“Because of your involvement in the Young Democrats organization, you are an outstanding leader ready to build a brighter tomorrow for both our great nation and mountain state”, says Governor Manchin of Rahim. “You have certainly cast a positive light upon Woodrow Wilson High School and all of West Virginia”.

The Young Democrats of America (YDA) is the largest youth-led, national, partisan political organization. The YDA has been the official youth arm of the Democratic Party since 1932. The Young Democrats of America High School Caucus (YDAHSC) is an organization within the YDA specifically geared towards high school students. Members of the YDAHSC represent high school students at all levels of the Democratic Party and claim a substantial percentage of YDA’s membership with about 20,000 high school students nationwide.

Rahim is currently in her junior year at Woodrow Wilson High School. She is active in other organizations such as Key Club International, Conservation Club, Student Government, and of course, the Woodrow Wilson High School Young Democrats”

11-40

KinderUSA Event for Gaza

September 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

The deteriorating situation in Gaza is of primary concern to humanitarians throughout the world. Unfortunately the Israeli dominated media have done little to present to the public the true picture of present life in Gaza, often and correctly labeled “the world’s largest outdoor prison.”

A number of charitable organizations have been on the ground in Gaza doing humanitarian work, though such work constitutes only a fraction of what is needed. None of the much vaunted aid pledged to Gaza has been received. KinderUSA (Kids in Need of Development, Education, and Relief) is one such organization.

KinderUSA held a successful Ramadan Iftar and fund raiser at Omar Ibn Al Khattab Mosque in Los Angeles this past weekend.

Titled: “Working Together, Rebuilding Lives”, the event filled the mosque’s Abu Dawood Hall as attendees listened to KinderUSA Chair, Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, and keynote speaker Dr. Hatem Bazian of UC Berkeley describe the dire situation in Gaza. The scope of the presentations focused on  Gaza’s continuing deterioration begun by Israel’s deliberate isolation of Gaza following the successful election of Hamas and exacerbated by Operation Cast Lead. The latter was a month long siege which began in late December of last year.

Dr. Al-Marayati, speaking in front of a video screen, gave some background on KinderUSA and its accomplishments since its founding in 2002. She emphasized the low overhead – 20% – of most projects. With respect to Ramadan projects, 100% of monies collected is used for charitable work. Contributions to KinderUSA qualify as Zakat.

KinderUSA is unique in that instead of goods and services, vouchers are given. These vouchers give greater choice to the recipients, and they can tailor the purchases to their particular needs. Since purchases are made from local merchants, this system also strengthens local communities.

KinderUSA also supports projects for women who are heads of households. Women who are pregnant are provided with special meals, and baked goods are delivered to impoverished families. More than 80% of Gazans are dependent on outside aid.

During Operation Cast Lead, Israel attacked mosques, residential areas, and schools. The infrastructure was destroyed, and Gaza residents were left to live in tents.

Dr. Al-Marayati introduced Dr. Hatem Bazian. Dr. Bazian is the founder of the Berkeley Center for the Study and Documentation of Islamophobia and a Senior lecturer for Near Eastern and Asian American Studies.

Dr. Bazian expressed his admiration for KinderUSA and told of his support for the organization since its founding. He spoke of the Palestinian Diaspora and mentioned in particular the number of Palestinians in South America. He remarked ironically that “Palestinians have been forced to conduct most of their politicking outside of Palestine.”

Dr. Bazian referenced former President and peace activist Jimmy Carter. Mr. Carter has said that there is no question that Israel is responsible for the bloodshed in Gaza.

The audience gasped as Dr. Bazian told of the destruction of Gaza’s electrical plant six months before Operation Cast Lead, which destruction has made Gaza totally dependent of Israel for electricity.

“I didn’t know that.” said one young woman to her table mate. “You don’t read that in the newspaper or see it on TV” replied the other woman.

There has been a lack of courage to take Israel to task, Dr. Bazian continued. The Palestinians do not have control in Gaza, the Israelis do. The speaker referenced Israel’s dismay over Hamas’  electoral victory – their justification for continuing control. He brought laughter from his audience when he postulated an analogous situation vis a vis other nations who may have disapproved of former President George Bush’s victory at the polls. But Israel, of course, plays by its own rules.

Israel, the speaker asserted, wants to starve Gaza into submission. Israel has violated numerous codes of International law. Yet they are not called to answer for these violations. He urged people to speak up. Silence will only help Israel retain the status quo.

Successful fundraising took place. The attendees enjoyed an excellent Middle Eastern meal and were actively engaged in discussion at the end of the event.

KinderUSA is a 501 (c) (3) organization. To learn more of KinderUSA’s work, please access them at: www.kinderusa.org

11-39

OIC Visits TMO

August 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Adil James, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)

OIC-3 Farmington–August 7–A delegation from the Organization of Islamic Countries recently visited the TMO offices in Farmington, Michigan.

The eight representatives of OIC were brought to the US on a US State Department sponsored visit to American Muslim institutions, a part of a program to foster mutual understanding and goodwill. 

The OIC officers are civil service officers paid by the international organization OIC, and are based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

The OIC is the “Organisation of the Islamic Conference,” an organization of 57 nation states across four continents.  Member states pay annual dues to pay for the functioning of the OIC, and maintain foreign service officers who represent them to the OIC.  The OIC thereby maintains a budget and is able to support its own paid staff.

The OIC was founded after a summit in Morocco in September of 1969, after arson was committed against the Al-Aqsa Mosque.  In 1970 the first meeting of the OIC was held in Jeddah. 

The organization sponsors a once-per-three-years meeting of heads of state of Muslim countries, an annual meeting of foreign ministers, and a full-time general secretariat to implement the decisions of the other two bodies.

In fact, the member states of the OIC are known sometimes more for their distance from Islam than from their adherence to it, and so it is intrinsically ironic that a body known as Islamic is at the same time in reality of a divided heart as to issues related to Islam.  Perhaps the common ground of these nation states is a desire for increased trade, and in fact the OIC delegates, when pressed on the accomplishments of the OIC in the past 40 years, point to nearly tripled trade (from 4% to 16%) between member states in that time.

The OIC professionals asked pointed questions about TMO, and encouraged TMO to form partnerships with other Muslim news organizations.

Dr. AS Nakadar, the CEO of TMO, in turn encouraged the OIC to build educational institutions like universities in Muslim nations, saying this would contribute much to solving the problems of the Muslim world.

For more information about the OIC, you can visit www.oic-oci.org to see their website.

11-34

Huda El Masri Sosebee

August 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Readers of The Muslim Observer are familiar with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF), a humanitarian, charitable organization which addresses itself to the needs of Palestinian children in the Middle East.

On July 15, Huda El Masri Sosebee, the wife of Steve Sosebee, President and CEO of the PCRF, passed away after a brave battle with cancer. She was 46. Huda has left behind a grieving husband and two daughters, 12 year old Deema and 2 year old Jenna.

While Huda held the title of Director of Social work, she dedicated herself to the PCRF in its entirety and to the suffering children in the Middle East. Those who met her even briefly were inspired by her love, her energy, and her enthusiasm.

Huda was a proud and brave Palestinian Arab woman who herself to her work, even sending emails in her final weeks to insure that the work of the organization would not suffer.

Those who knew her feel blessed by their association.

11-32

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

Baitulmaal Fundraiser

April 10, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz , MMNS

The deteriorating conditions in Gaza – often described as the world’s largest outdoor prison– have shocked and outraged just and humane people throughout the world. With the attention of the world focused on Gaza, another organization has stepped forward to bring aid and alleviate the suffering there.

A banquet and fundraiser sponsored by Baitulmaal was held in the Embassy Suites Hotel in Garden Grove, Ca. this past Saturday night.

Titled: “Light A Candle for Gaza,” the well attended event raised more than $85,000 for the beleaguered people of Gaza who lack even the basics of life as they endure deprivation under the boot of the Israeli oppressors.

The event featured as keynote speaker Dr. Hatem Bazien of the University of California in Berkeley. A native Palestinian, he is currently an adjunct professor at Boalt Hall School of Law and a senior lecturer in the Department of Near Eastern Studies there.

Afzar Noradeen was Master of Ceremonies for the event. Beginning with a reading of the Qu’ran by Moheb Daha, the evening also featured Hasan Mahmoud, an Imam from Jenin, Sheikh Mostafa Kamel and Osama Abuirshaid.

The audience listened intently as they were reminded of the ummah they were a part of. Quoting from the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), the speakers told the attendees that they were part of one body and – using an analogy of the human body – when one part of the body was in pain, the entire body was impacted.

“You do not look down on a fellow Muslim, and you do not let him down.”

Brother Abuirshaid told of individuals in Gaza and their suffering – of a pregnant mother of three who lost both legs in an Israeli bombing. Who, he asked rhetorically, will care for her children? He spoke of young children who live out of trash receptacles. He told of a 19 year old girl dying of kidney failure – a disease which could be controlled with medication easily available in the West.

Brother Abuirshaid spoke of individual Gazans and their suffering, giving them names as he did so. The audience gasped as these people became more than statistics.

“I feel as if I know them and suffer with them.” said one young woman in the audience.

Baitulmaal is an organization which strives to aid the poor, the sick and the helpless. Headquartered in Texas, Baitulmaal is a (501)(c)(3) charity. Members work toward preventing disease, improving the educational infrastructure and encourage hygiene in troubled areas of the world. Baitulmaal will be found wherever communities are in danger of dissolution and ruin; they serve communities racked both by war and by natural disaster. Baitulmaal has worked in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and in the United State where, to cite one example, the organization came to the aid of victims of Hurricane Katrina.

A recent feature story in The Dallas Morning News in Baitulmaal’s home state described Baitulmaal and its alliance with a Christian organization. Sheikh Hasan Hajmohammad is the co-founder and now a senior consultant of Baitulmaal. Eric Williams is the CEO of a company that produces a religious talk show. They are working together in places far and wide.

Mindful of criticism from the non-Muslim community that might attend cooperation with Baitulmaal, Mr. Williams said: “With the heightened tension today between Muslims and Christians, I really wanted to…help solve the gap.”

From building a hospital in Jenin; to the rescue of earthquake victims in Pakistan; to providing blankets in the aftermath of a fire in Texas, Baitulmaal serves humanity.

To learn more about Baitulmaal, please access their web site at: www.baitulmaal.org. Or they may be accessed by postal service at: Post Office Box 166911, Irving, Texas, 75016. The telephone number of Baitulmaal is: (972) 257-2564.

10-16

Plea for Help

May 18, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and Muhammad ibn Abdullah (s) is his last and final Prophet (s). I greet you in the universal language of peace, Assalaamu Aleikum wa Rahmatullah. I thank you for my subscription to The Muslim Observer newspaper.

Dear editor—I am writing to you in regards to many of the ideologies of prisoners in the state of Illinois.

It seems that the government officials have not made it a goal to habilitate or rehabilitate the prisoners to maintain themselves upon their release and throughout the duration of their stay. I am considered a spiritual leader and upcoming imam in Al-Islam. Unfortunately, the talk of the prisons are violence against America and majority of this comes from non-Muslims.

You can hear the roars of inmate celebration when they hear about terrorist strikes against Americans and how they would like to participate in the terrorist action against America upon their release. The inmates are treated as if they were in Abu Ghraib, and this is dangerous to America, because they have made an enemy within their own states. Many gang members as I used to be as well are ready for war.

Many who stood on their block corners selling drugs and willing to die for their mobs are now trying to join al-Islam and join a different war, but some are learning the wrong interpretation of Islam, which is also dangerous to Muslims. It’s imperative for the new converts to fully understand the true prerequisites of al-Islam, and if not, America is looking for a bigger burden.

This is due to a lack of education, a lack of communication, and a lack of organization. The state will provide Christians and Jewish faiths with special diet, but refuse to accommodate Muslims, and officials hate Muslims, and hatred is returned which creates a friction of malice. The inmates at the correctional center are in a realm of desire to become rebels against their oppressors.

This especially comes from a breach of the fourth pillar of Islam which is zakat. There is no Islamic organization that will tend to the needs of Muslims in the prisons. There are Muslims such as I with business ideas that could help to create an Islamic funding for Muslim prisoners all over the country. The Muslims in Arabia make too much money for any Muslim on the face of the planet to be poor. We need to develop organizations that could pay Muslim attorneys to assist incarcerated Muslims.

Many masjids that I have written and organizations, never write back. Currently I am in court fighting to get a halal diet for all Muslims in the State of Illinois and I am acting as a lawyer, but I cannot even procure an affidavit from a Muslim imam or halal food company and it’s a shame. We are in a dangerous situation—you have inmates of all religions speaking of blowing up buildings and other structures and this comes from oppression and depression.

Well we have a depiction of the problem, but we need a forecast of a solution, therefore we call on The Muslim Observer to publish this message, and perhaps a Muslim legal organization will assist me and us in court and others perhaps could subsidize us with the court case of Islam before it’s too late; thank you for reading.

As-Salaam aleikum wa Rahmatullah

Eric Ware, Mustapha Abdullah al-Alim Muhammad, R32516