Mona Eskandari Receives Leadership Medal

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Eskandari M.lg_vertTUCSON, AZ–The Nugent Medal at the University of Arizona is given to well-rounded individuals whose contributions through co-curricular and community activities and leadership have had a positive impact on the University and surrounding community. Mona Eskandari is this year’s one of two recipients.

She  graduated last week Summa Cum Laude and received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with honors and a minor in Near Eastern studies. 

She has been selected as the Outstanding Senior for mechanical engineering and for the College of Engineering.

As a mentor to the Girl Scouts at the Design and Robotics camp, she taught girls how to solder and work mechanical gears as they created robots. As an Engineering Ambassador at the UA, Eskandari is involved in outreach, seeking to inspire students as young as grade school to foster a love of learning. She also worked as communications chair for the annual Women’s Leadership Conference helping UA students learn about the workplace experience.

She has been involved in student organizations since being voted an officer for the Society of Women Engineers when still a senior in high school. She also served as a research intern in the agriculture and biosystems engineering department.

Additionally, Eskandari has demonstrated leadership skills as the mechanical lead on her Interdisciplinary Senior Design Team contributing to the novel creation of a gem classifier, a device capable of uniquely identifying precious stones. As vice president of the Muslim Students Association, she served the community of Tucson and the University as she united students in an effort to raise money for the less fortunate.

Eskandari’s exemplary academic record and involvement at the UA has earned her numerous scholarships and honors, among which are the Arizona President’s Award for Excellence scholarship, the National Society of Women Engineers Scholarship, the Alpha Omega Epsilon National Foundation Engineering and Technical Science scholarship, the Arizona Power Authority scholarship and the College of Engineering Award for Highest Academic Distinction. She also is a three-time recipient of the UA Honors College William and Marguerite Hesketh Memorial Scholarship.

In addition to performing research funded by the National Science Foundation and presenting her findings at national and annual conferences, Eskandari was nationally selected to work for IBM as a research intern in San Jose, Calif. this past summer.

Eskandari has earned acceptance to continue graduate studies in engineering at MIT and Stanford. Her energy and strength is drawn from her foundational Islamic faith and the adage, a quote from Martin Luther King Jr.: “Faith is taking the first step even when you do not see the entire staircase.”

13-21

Islamophobia: a Media Creation

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. AS Nakadar

IMG084 (1)
File:  Interfaith and media event headed by David Crumm.

Note:  Mr. David Crumm, founding editor of ReadtheSpirit.com, former staff reporter for the Free Press,  and activist for interreligious harmony, has held several meetings  of Michigan reporters and newspaper editors in the metro-Detroit area. At the most recent one Dr. Nakadar, publisher of The Muslim Observer, spoke on the importance of diversity and tolerance.  See remarks below.

Ladies and gentleman, I greet you with greetings of peace to you all.

Thank you Mr. David Crumm for giving me this opportunity,

It is a pleasure, privilege and honor to speak to this distinguished group of Journalists,

I am not a journalist, neither a writer nor I a communication expert.

I am a physician by profession, trained to be an Internist and cardiologist. I practiced medicine for 30 years in Western suburbs before I took an early retirement to pursue my social obligations and publication of The Muslim Observer.

This newspaper has been in the circulation for over 11 years serving the community and you may say it is an alternative voice,

Today my biggest concern and the concern of all of us should be the challenges that our pluralistic society and our country face.

Pluralism is the Achilles Heel of our society’s foundation.

And it is this ethos that has led our social, economical and political progress in a democratic setup.

The followers of Abrahamic faiths; Judaism, Christianity and Islam have played a crucial role in shaping the world and its civilization, especially, the two largest faiths, Christianity and Islam.

Today we see this pluralism and cohesiveness shaken to its roots.

In the current scenario the media coverage of Islam may be primary factor for creating Islamophobia.

Most of the time when a reporter covers the news where Christians or Jews or other religions are involved it is covered and analyzed as a political issue, or a conflict and are reported in general terms without linking of any community to an individual or a group’s act.

While a similar news event where Muslims are involved it is covered and analyzed in light of Muslim tradition, beliefs and practices. Apart from this the whole community is held responsible for the action of an individual or a fringe group.

This kind of news reporting about Muslims often invokes emotional response; it captures the audience and helps to improve the bottom line.

But in quest of profit we forget the damage it does to the harmony and pluralistic ethos of our society and to our nation.

Social harmony, respect to each other, and religious tolerance, is a prerequisite for a meaningful progress.

In today’s globalized world the relationship between different faiths is a matter of serious thought   because of increasing interdependence and the changing color of the American mosaic.

Thus it is essential we all work responsibly towards social harmony and pluralistic ethos. 

We will not be able eradicate Islamophobia, like anti Semitism, in near future unless we treat it as our national problem. 

Social activists, religious leaders, politicians our institutions and especially media have critical role to play if we want to transform our societies in eliminating voices of hate and bigotry if we were to promote global understanding of peace.

Our relations have to go beyond “us” verses “them” and to work for our common good.

Zogby survey done in 2004 showed that more than 50% of the Muslims income bracket was over $50,000 as compared to nationwide average income of $47,000 and nearly 60% Muslims are college graduates as compared to 27% as a whole.

We can’t afford to marginalize or alienate the group or the society that has so much to offer for national development.

Let us not define America on our religious or cultural identities but let us define America by the cherished and noble American values of respect for Human Rights, Freedom, Democracy, Justice and respect for the rule of law and to the American constitution. The rest of the world, look up to these values with a universal appeal to them. 

As pointed out by Karen Armstrong, “In the Islamic Empire, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, enjoyed religious freedom.

This reflected the teaching of the Qur’an, which is a pluralistic scripture, affirmative of other traditions.

Muslims are commanded by God to respect the “people of the book” (namely; Jews and Christians) and reminded that they share the same belief and the same God.”

Let us all work responsibly towards better understanding for the sake of our society and our country.

13-19

Community News (V13-I17)

April 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Islamic Center of Augusta breaks ground for new facility

AUGUSTA, GA–The Islamic Center of Augusta is building a new facility to accomadate the growing needs of the congregation. Last month, crews broke ground on an eight acre sight for the construction which is scheduled for completion by next March.

The $3.5 million project will feature prayer area, soccer fields and indoor basketball courts.

A spokesman for the center told the WJBF TV:  “There’s a growth in the Muslim community in Augusta and in surrounding areas. We felt that we need a youth center and youth activitIes that are more open to the community.”

Madina Ali wins leadership award

MORGAN TOWN, WV–Women’s basketball star Madina Ali of West Virginia University has been named by the university for this year’s Leland Byrd Basketball Leadership Award. The award is given to student athletes who outstanding team leadership on and off the court.

Ali, a Williamsport, Pa., native, earns the leadership honor for the second consecutive season. As co-captain of the women’s basketball team for two straight seasons, Ali earned second team all-BIG EAST honors and was a four-time BIG EAST honor roll recipient.

As a senior leader, Ali was one of only 10 total BIG EAST players to record 30 points in a game and led the team’s rebounding efforts, averaging 7.1 rebounds a game to rank 10th in the BIG EAST. At forward, Ali totaled 241 boards, including a team-leading 98 offensive rebounds. As an offensive threat, she recorded a 53.4 field goal percentage on 159-of-298 shooting, which ranked as the seventh highest in the league. Ali also held the teams’ second-highest scoring average of 12.4 points per game, recorded the second-most points for the season with 421 and led the team with nine double-doubles.

Madina Ali is the daughter of Abdul-Rahim and Atiya Ali.

Studies submitted for New Castle mosque

NEW CASTLE,NY–Plans to build a mosque and Islamic center in the west end of New Castle are moving forward with the submission by the Upper Westchester Muslim Society of an updated series of environmental impact studies, lohud.com news portal reported.

The Muslim Society now holds services and classes in a rented space in Thornwood but has outgrown it. The group wants to build a masjid, or mosque, and community center on Pines Bridge Road in a residential area. It needs a permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals to build the 24,690-square-foot structure on 8 acres.

With the second version of the draft environmental study, the Muslim Society submitted more information on traffic and the timing and scope of the activities at the center. If the zoning board decides the document is complete, it will move on to public hearings. The board is expected to discuss the issue at its April 27 meeting.

Muslim conference held at University of Missouri

COLUMBIA,MO–The Muslim Students Organization at University of Missouri organized an Islamic conference recently on the theme “Pursuits of this World — Beyond Material Gains.” I mam Siraj Wahaj and Ustadha Tahera Ahmad (chaplain from Northwestern University) were the keynote speakers at the weekend conference.

MSO spokesman Mahir Khan in an interview to the student newspaper provided a summary of the speeches. “His topic was just to give back, not just to the Muslim community but to the community at large,” Khan said. “He kind of expanded on that in Friday’s sermon about Muslim’s footprint in America and it got me thinking, ‘What have I done to give back, not only to the Muslim community but to the entire country?’”

Ustadha Ahmad talked about achieving balance in one’s life. MSO President Arwa Mohammad said Ahmad’s experience as a university chaplain made her interaction with the students lively and entertaining.

“She threw tennis balls and basketballs and made us do complex tasks with them to show that if you’re trying to do too much, or if you’re trying to juggle too many things at once, you’re not necessarily going to be successful at those tasks,” Mohammad said.

13-17

Imam Latif Speaks at Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center

April 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Stringer

latif

April 17, 2011, Bloomfield Hills–Imam Al-Amin Abdul Latif, is a leader of the Islamic Leadership Council of NY, was the guest speaker for the evening program on April 15, 2011 at the Muslim Unity Center in Bloomfield Hills MI. Imam Almasmari, the current imam of the center, introduced him.

The theme of his speech was on Mercy, Compassion and Guidance based on the life of our beloved Prophet (s). And through this he said, “I want to present to you the true picture of Islam”.

Giving examples from the life of Prophet (s) he said in a forceful and convincing way that we as a Muslim, respect life, but there are people in the east and the west who believe in destroying life with impunity.

This gives a bad name to Muslims all over the world.

A real Muslim is the one with whom the world feels blessed and safer, who believes in Mercy to the Muslims and to the non Muslims.

We are living in a difficult time, he said, but if we follow the path of our Prophet (s) in dealing with our women, children, neighbors, and those who disagree with us, we will make our communities and societies rise to a higher degree than what we are today. We must continue to strive for a better and safer world.

America is the only country in the world where people can exercise their rights freely. Giving the example of recent huge rally in NY he said, “Look, how people mingled, talked, shouted slogans and moved about fearlessly.” People in the rally hailed from all sorts of backgrounds, they hailed from different ethnicity, different countries, with different cultures, old, young, and some parents with their babies in strollers moved freely, talked and chatted with people unknown to them and even with the people from the law enforcement agencies, in spite of the fact that the whole atmosphere appeared to be highly charged.

He concluded by saying, “American society is an open society and because of current degradation of moral and social values the door for Dawah is wide open. We must utilize this opportunity by remaining on the path of Mercy and Compassion towards all as shown to us by our Prophet (s).

Imam Almasmari thanked the speaker for enlightening the audience and entertained questions from the audience.

13-21

Community News (V12-I14)

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Shah R. Ali Receives Soros Fellowship

679E This is a second in our continuing series on profiles of young Muslim American achievers who are recipients of 2010 Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. 

Shah R. Ali came to the USA  from Pakistan at the age of 10. He quickly adapted to life in New Jersey and excelled in math and science: he spent two summers doing research in chemistry at New York University. He graduated summa cum laude in three years from the Honors College at the Newark campus of Rutgers University, where he spent additional years on a nanotechnology project to detect dopamine for potential diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. His work led to several first- and second-author publications in Journal of the American Chemical Society and Analytical Chemistry, among others.

Now 25, and a second-year medical student at Stanford University, Shah is working in the lab of Irving Weissman, where he is studying cardiogenesis using embryonic stem cells. He has recently become interested in neglected tropical diseases: in addition to helping organize a conference at Stanford Law School on access and drug development for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), he is leading the Stanford chapter of Universities Allied for Essential Medicines and a related lecture series. He has also interned at the Institute for OneWorld Health. He hopes to dedicate his career to drug development for NTDs.

St. Cloud rally in support of Muslim students

ST.CLOUD,MN–A rally was held on Monday in support of Muslim students who attend St.Cloud schools. About thirty people showed up.

The St. Cloud Times reported on Monday that the group claimed that school staff members are not doing enough to keep Muslim students from being harassed and sometimes contribute to it.

The rally crowd Monday was mostly adults. They chanted and held signs that said “Discrimination is intolerable” or “St. Cloud school district must integrate” among other things.

Superintendent Steve Jordahl says the staff responds appropriately to each complaint and denies that staff members aren’t doing enough to stop harassment of Muslim students.

A Muslim civil rights group in Minnesota has called for a federal probe of harassment complaints at two St. Cloud schools.

Kamran Pasha speaks at Islam Awareness Week

BOSTON, MA–Boston University’s Islam Society celebrated the second day of Islam Awareness Week Hollywood- style.

Screenwriter, director and writer Kamran Pasha detailed his experiences and challenges as one of the first Muslim-Americans in the film and publishing industries at the Islam Society’s “Lights, Camera, Islam! The Story of a Muslim in Hollywood,” the Daily Free Press reported.

He encouraged the audience to pursue diverse careers which can be fulfilling.

College of Arts and Sciences junior and Islamic Society President Hassan Awaisi said he really appreciated that Pasha encouraged members of the Muslim community to pursue fields that are viewed by Muslim society as “unconventional” and insecure.

“He encouraged everyone to see they can be a devout and practicing Muslim by using their talents to serve God through arts, film and music,” he said. “By sharing personal stories, Pasha allowed people to identify with him and revealed issues many Muslims are dealing with such as inferiority and modernization.”

New mosque opens in Highland

HIGHLAND, IN–The Illiana Islamic Association opened a new 24,000 square foot facility in Highland. The Muslim community now comprises of around 150 families. They earlier used to rent places for worship.

Iman Mongy Elquesny, of the Northwest Indiana Islamic Center in Merrilville, reminded the congregation that with the new facility also comes responsibility.

“Don’t think you’re done now,” he said, smiling. “Today is the beginning because today, you have exposed yourself. You’ll be asked to visit places and have people visit you.”

The leadership of the mosque thanked the township for their cooperation in securing the facility.

Muslim Students Bring Food, Conversation to Florida Homeless

By Imran Siddiqui, Voice of America

In the southern U.S. state of Florida, a group of American Muslim students is running a non-profit organization called Project Downtown.  The project’s goal is to help the poor, poor people of all backgrounds and cultures.  Our correspondent went down to the city of Tampa, Florida to learn more about Project Downtown and the Muslim students who belong to it.

Like just about any major city in the United States, the city of Tampa has its share of homeless people.  But it also has people who are reaching out to help Tampa’s homeless. 

“We are here because, in Islam, we are supposed to feed the hungry,” said one of the students. “So that’s our purpose here.  That’s all.”

The students belong to Project Downtown, an organization that started about two years ago in Miami and now has branches other U.S. cities.  The Tampa members of Project Downtown say what motivated them was seeing people in need.

“Project Downtown was started by a couple of groups and a couple of university students back in Miami, and people have been gathering money after seeing a problem in the community, went out and bought sandwiches,” said another student. “They went to the local city hall and started feeding.”

The city of Tampa has almost 350,000 people.  It is estimated that about 11,000 of these are homeless.  That’s about three percent of the population.  For the students of Project Downtown, the religion of the people they are helping does not matter.  What matters is that they are in need.  Jill Moreida is a member of Project Downturn.

“We come up to them,” said Jill Moreida. “We don’t just give them food and walk away.  We don’t feed them like they’re at the zoo.  We make friends with them; we talk with them.  We interact with them.  Week after week after week.  And we know stories about their family.  We know when they’re sick.  We get to develop relationships with them.”

“Oh, we wait for them!  We wait!  You see, we waited in the rain,” said a homeless man. “We got caught in the rain!   We feel beautiful with them coming.”

As the relationships develop, Jill says, the homeless gain a new understanding of Islam.

“They say they cannot believe how amazing the Muslims are,” said Moreida. “And it’s acts like that, that not only are we serving…we do it for the sake of Allah, when we’re feeding them.  But there’s a bigger message being brought, and it’s exposing a whole new realm of people to Islam.  Teaching them to not be afraid of us, to not have that stereotype that we’re going to hurt them or anything.”

Project Downtown is one of several outreach efforts sponsored by the Muslim community of Florida.  Its funding comes from other Muslim groups in the state, including the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance.  Dr. Hussein Nagamiya, a cardiologist, is head of the alliance.

“Our main idea is to feed the hungry, to clothe the poor, to address their needs, because these are homeless people, and they don’t have anywhere to go,” said Hussein Nagamiya. “So, we give them conveyances such as bicycles that were given away.  We conduct their [medical] tests.  Some of them may never have a test in the entire year.  We detect diseases for them and send them on to free clinics, etc.” 

In addition to helping the poor and teaching people about Islam, organizations like Project Downtown and the Tampa Bay Muslim Alliance hope to achieve another goal: Showing their fellow Americans that, in the words of Dr. Nagamiya, the vast majority of American Muslims are good citizens who make positive contributions to the United States.  (Courtesy: Voice of America)

12-14

Muslim Americans Inspire at the Apollo

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sarah Jawaid, Common Ground News

apollo_facade Washington, DC – As I peered down from the lower mezzanine level of Harlem’s famous Apollo Theater, I knew I was witnessing history. The village of Harlem has been a beacon of inspiration for artists throughout the 20th century; novelists, poets, musicians and actors found it a safe-haven for expression through various art forms such as music and theatre. On 23 January, a burgeoning Muslim American culture also found voice on the Apollo’s historic stage.

The Inner City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) organised a special edition of Community Café, usually held in IMAN’s hometown of Chicago. This Muslim-led event was meant to provide a space for the socially conscious to celebrate and engage in various artistic forms of expression. Muslims from across the spectrum showcased their incredible talents while shattering self-propagated boundaries of race, gender, sect and vision. A sold-out audience cheered on the dynamic range of creativity from artists, like singer/actor Mos Def, comedian Aasif Mandvi, Progress Theater, musician Amir Sulaiman and The ReMINDers.

The most striking and memorable aspect of the event was not any one performance, but the performances’ effect on those attending. The social cohesion resulting from the event extended beyond the Apollo, sending reverberations throughout the American landscape as attendees returned home. With the recent catastrophic events in Haiti heavy on the hearts of the performers, it was a night of social responsibility, artistic sharing and advocacy.

This event couldn’t have come at a more perfect juncture in the Muslim American experience. Our identity continues to be shaped by our diversity, reaction to world events and sometimes the stereotyping within and outside of our communities. Nevertheless, Muslim Americans are proactively constructing their own unique identities by contributing meaningfully to society through engagement in causes they truly care about.

For example, there’s the woman getting her Ph.D. in psychology to bring attention to mental disorders often seen as illegitimate in many of our communities. There’s the man shattering misconceptions about masculinity by taking on issues of domestic violence. There’s the painter donating proceeds from what she creates to the victims of Haiti.

These are everyday people. They aren’t in the limelight. They don’t have book or movie deals. They are living their lives, doing genuine good work because they believe in it. Yes, they are Muslim, and so much more.

Oftentimes, the media highlights folks on the fringes as the only ones confronting singular expressions of Islam. Those in the middle go unnoticed because they aren’t as sexy, loud or attention seeking. While the former expressions are one patch in the quilt that makes up the dynamic nature of the Muslim American community, they shouldn’t receive a disproportionate amount of attention. Our collective hope for society should be a higher level of consciousness, and that won’t happen by focusing only on those at the edges of society, who are most visible.

Focusing on the everyday folks instead can lead us to a stronger sense of social cohesion. These individuals provide us with something intangible but extremely valuable. They are the steady calm, the heart that keeps beating even when gone unnoticed. These individuals are helping create a Muslim American narrative that is based on God-consciousness by confirming faith with good works, community engagement and a purpose that goes beyond their existence.

As I sat there at the Apollo, listening in awe to the beautiful operatic voice of Sumayya, an African American woman with a pink hijab (headscarf), and Zeeshan, a Bangladeshi American Andrea Bocelli, I knew I was home. They were sharing a part of their soul with me while shattering barrier upon barrier.

Art comes from deep within us, a place that often thrives with mental quietude and presence. And when art is shared with one another, it has the power to inspire, build bridges to uncharted places and heal wounds. As we continue to shape our stories, let’s remember our essence and how we are all connected to friends of other faiths, the earth and our communities–from a place of wholeness.

* Sarah Jawaid is a writer, artist and faith-based activist working on urban planning issues in Washington, DC. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

12-6

Muslim American Convention

January 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS Southern California Correspondent

The issues of family values, of the expectations of family members and even of what constitutes a family and what its place in society is, involves all human beings. This popular subject was addressed by the Muslim America Society in its recent convention.

The Muslim American Society (MAS) held its 13th Annual Regional Convention this past weekend in Los Angeles, Ca. Titled: “Portrait of a Family” the well attended event featured timely and informative issues presented by Muslim leaders and scholars.

A bazaar within the convention area provided an opportunity for attendees to purchase Islamic goods and to learn about Islamic organizations. It also provided an opportunity for people to fraternize and to discuss sessions they had attended.

The convention featured Main Sessions and Parallel sessions with some presentations intended for Muslim youth.

The panels dealt with such topics as: “Empty Nest, Not Empty Life”; “Family: The Heart of the Muslim Ummah”, and “Get Involved: Muslim Americans for Palestine (MAP)”.

“I feel that many of my questions about family situations have been answered” said one young woman after the early morning session.

The invited presenters were truly a cross section of respected and informed Muslim leaders. These included Dr. Maher Hathout, Hussam Ayloush, Reem Salahi, Dr. Jamal Badawi, Shakeel Syed, and Sheik Safwat Morsy.

A secondary topic of the Convention, one that was truly a logical segue from the concept of family that dominated the Convention, was the Palestinian cause. In the words of one presenter “Our Ummah is like one body. When one part aches, the entire body aches”. These three presentations introduced a group called Muslim Americans for Palestine (MAP), a Muslim American Society youth based project which began in August 2009. MAP has three primary objectives for the Palestinian cause: 1)To inform the public of the true story – the true history – of Palestine; 2)To empower the Muslim community to revive and recognize the Islamic value of Palestine, and 3)To preserve the glorious Islamic heritage of Palestine.

There were three panels that covered the subject of Palestine and MAP. During the first panel Reem Salahi, an attorney who has twice visited Gaza in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, told of her experiences. Ms Salahi speaks Arabic and showed pictures that she had taken, so her experiences were truly first hand and not filtered. In February 2009 Ms Salahi went to Gaza in the immediate days following Israel’s attack as part of a National Lawyers Guild (NLG) delegation to investigate possible Israeli war crimes and violations of the basic norms of accepted international behavior. The delegation found Israel in total non compliance. Ms Salahi spoke of “white flag murders”, that is the murder by Israelis of innocent civilians whom they had ordered out of their homes and who had complied and exited waving white flags. In at least six incidents the Israelis shot them in cold blood.

Toward the end of the panel Ms Salahi placed an overseas telephone call to Dr. Nafiz Abu Shaaban at his office in a Gaza hospital. Over a Speakerphone Dr. Shaaban told of chilling experiences that he and other Gazan medical personal had been privy to. He told of people who entered the hospital with White Phosphorus burns and of how these burns, rather than being extinguished, continued to burn as long a there was flesh to destroy. Finally medical personnel called in from Lebanon were able to treat these patients, the Israelis having introduced White Phosphorus to Lebanon during their recent war.

As the convention ended, people who had attend one or more of these sessions spoke enthusiastically about working with MAP and taking back Palestine.

“I never realized how bad things were. I am glad these sessions brought the truth home” said one young man of apparent high school age.

Participants at the bazaar included, but were not limited to: CAIR, ACCESS, Islamic Relief, and Helping Hand. Helping Hand is a humanitarian organization that sends relief teams to all parts of the world when a crisis ensues. Their motto is: No Borders, No Boundaries. They may be accessed at: www.helpinghandonline.org.

The Muslim American Society may be traced to its ancestral roots to the call of the Prophet Mohammed (s). Its modern roots are traceable to the Islamic revival movement at the turn of the 20th century. The revival was intended to re-establish Islam as a total way of life.

The Muslim American Society may be accessed at: www.masnet.org. The local Los Angeles chapter may be accessed at:: www.mas-la.org.

Muslim Americans for Palestine may be accessed at: www.mapalestine.org.

12-1

Death of ‘Soul of Capitalism’: Bogle, Faber, Moore

November 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

20 reasons America has lost its soul and collapse is inevitable

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Jack Bogle published “The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism” four years ago. The battle’s over. The sequel should be titled: “Capitalism Died a Lost Soul.” Worse, we’ve lost “America’s Soul.” And, worldwide, the consequences will be catastrophic.

That’s why a man like Hong Kong contrarian economist Marc Faber warns in his Doom, Boom & Gloom Report: “The future will be a total disaster, with a collapse of our capitalistic system as we know it today.”

Insuring against economic calamity

Gold ETFs are so popular they now hold more of the shiny stuff than most central banks. What will it take to sustain the funds’ big gains? Barron’s Clare McKeen reports.

No, not just another meltdown, another bear-market recession like the one recently triggered by Wall Street’s too-greedy-to-fail banks. Faber is warning that the entire system of capitalism will collapse. Get it? The engine driving the great “American Economic Empire” for 233 years will collapse, a total disaster, a destiny we created.

OK, deny it. But I’ll bet you have a nagging feeling that maybe he’s right, that the end may be near. I have for a long time: I wrote a column back in 1997: “Battling for the Soul of Wall Street.” My interest in “The Soul” — what Jung called the “collective unconscious” — dates back to my Ph.D. dissertation, “Modern Man in Search of His Soul,” a title borrowed from Jung’s 1933 book, “Modern Man in Search of a Soul.” This battle has been on my mind since my days at Morgan Stanley 30 years ago, witnessing the decline.

Has capitalism lost its soul? Guys like Bogle and Faber sense it. Read more about the soul in physicist Gary Zukav’s “The Seat of the Soul,” Thomas Moore’s “Care of the Soul” and sacred texts.

But for Wall Street and American capitalism, use your gut. You know something’s very wrong: A year ago, too-greedy-to-fail banks were insolvent, in a near-death experience. Now, magically, they’re back to business as usual, arrogant, pocketing outrageous bonuses while Main Street sacrifices, and unemployment and foreclosures continue rising as tight credit, inflation and skyrocketing federal debt are killing taxpayers.

Yes, Wall Street has lost its moral compass. It created the mess, but now, like vultures, Wall Streeters are capitalizing on the carcass. They have lost all sense of fiduciary duty, ethical responsibility and public obligation.

Here are the Top 20 reasons American capitalism has lost its soul:

1. Collapse is now inevitable

Capitalism has been the engine driving America and the global economies for over two centuries. Faber predicts its collapse will trigger global “wars, massive government-debt defaults, and the impoverishment of large segments of Western society.” Faber knows that capitalism is not working, capitalism has peaked, and the collapse of capitalism is “inevitable.”

When? He hesitates: “But what I don’t know is whether this final collapse, which is inevitable, will occur tomorrow, or in five or 10 years, and whether it will occur with the Dow at 100,000 and gold at $50,000 per ounce or even confiscated, or with the Dow at 3,000 and gold at $1,000.” But the end is inevitable, a historical imperative.

2. Nobody’s planning for a ‘Black Swan’

While the timing may be uncertain, the trigger is certain. Societies collapse because they fail to plan ahead, cannot act fast enough when a catastrophic crisis hits. Think “Black Swan” and read evolutionary biologist Jared Diamond’s “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.”

A crisis hits. We act surprised. Shouldn’t. But it’s too late: “Civilizations share a sharp curve of decline. Indeed, a society’s demise may begin only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth and power.”

Warnings are everywhere. Why not prepare? Why sabotage our power, our future? Why set up an entire nation to fail? Diamond says: Unfortunately “one of the choices has depended on the courage to practice long-term thinking, and to make bold, courageous, anticipatory decisions at a time when problems have become perceptible but before they reach crisis proportions.”

Sound familiar? “This type of decision-making is the opposite of the short-term reactive decision-making that too often characterizes our elected politicians,” thus setting up the “inevitable” collapse. Remember, Greenspan, Bernanke, Bush, Paulson all missed the 2007-8 meltdown: It will happen again, in a bigger crisis.

3. Wall Street sacked Washington

Bogle warned of a growing three-part threat — a “happy conspiracy” — in “The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism:” “The business and ethical standards of corporate America, of investment America, and of mutual fund America have been gravely compromised.”

But since his book, “Wall Street America” went over to the dark side, got mega-greedy and took control of “Washington America.” Their spoils of war included bailouts, bankruptcies, stimulus, nationalizations and $23.7 trillion new debt off-loaded to the Treasury, Fed and American people.

Who’s in power? Irrelevant. The “happy conspiracy” controls both parties, writes the laws to suit its needs, with absolute control of America’s fiscal and monetary policies. Sorry Jack, but the “Battle for the Soul of Capitalism” really was lost.

4. When greed was legalized

Go see Michael Moore’s documentary, “Capitalism: A Love Story.” “Disaster Capitalism” author Naomi Klein recently interviewed Moore in The Nation magazine: “Capitalism is the legalization of this greed. Greed has been with human beings forever. We have a number of things in our species that you would call the dark side, and greed is one of them. If you don’t put certain structures in place or restrictions on those parts of our being that come from that dark place, then it gets out of control.”

Greed’s OK, within limits, like the 10 Commandments. Yes, the soul can thrive around greed, if there are structures and restrictions to keep it from going out of control. But Moore warns: “Capitalism does the opposite of that. It not only doesn’t really put any structure or restrictions on it. It encourages it, it rewards” greed, creating bigger, more frequent bubble/bust cycles.

It happens because capitalism is now in “the hands of people whose only concern is their fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders or to their own pockets.” Yes, greed was legalized in America, with Wall Street running Washington.

5. Triggering the end of our ‘life cycle’

Like Diamond, Faber also sees the historical imperative: “Every successful society” grows “out of some kind of challenge.” Today, the “life cycle” of capitalism is on the decline.

He asks himself: “How are you so sure about this final collapse?” The answer: “Of all the questions I have about the future, this is the easiest one to answer. Once a society becomes successful it becomes arrogant, righteous, overconfident, corrupt, and decadent … overspends … costly wars … wealth inequity and social tensions increase; and society enters a secular decline.” Success makes us our own worst enemy.

Quoting 18th century Scottish historian Alexander Fraser Tytler: “The average life span of the world’s greatest civilizations has been 200 years” progressing from “bondage to spiritual faith … to great courage … to liberty … to abundance … to selfishness … to complacency … to apathy … to dependence and … back into bondage!”

Where is America in the cycle? “It is most unlikely that Western societies, and especially the U.S., will be an exception to this typical ‘society cycle.’ … The U.S. is somewhere between the phase where it moves ‘from complacency to apathy’ and ‘from apathy to dependence.’”

In short, America is a grumpy old man with hardening of the arteries. Our capitalism is near the tipping point, unprepared for a catastrophe, set up for collapse and rapid decline.

15 more clues capitalism lost its soul … is a disaster waiting to happen

Much more evidence litters the battlefield:

1. Wall Street wealth now calls the shots in Congress, the White House
2. America’s top 1% own more than 90% of America’s wealth
3. The average worker’s income has declined in three decades while CEO compensation exploded over ten times
4. The Fed is now the ‘fourth branch of government’ operating autonomously, secretly printing money at will
5. Since Goldman and Morgan became bank holding companies, all banks are back gambling with taxpayer bailout money plus retail customer deposits
6. Bill Gross warns of a “new normal” with slow growth, low earnings and stock prices
7. While the White House’s chief economist retorts with hype of a recovery unimpeded by the “new normal”
8. Wall Street’s high-frequency junkies make billions trading zombie stocks like AIG, FNMA, FMAC that have no fundamental value beyond a Treasury guarantee
9. 401(k)s have lost 26.7% of their value in the past decade
10. Oil and energy costs will skyrocket
11. Foreign nations and sovereign funds have started dumping dollars, signaling the end of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency
12. In two years federal debt exploded from $11.2 to $23.7 trillion
13. New financial reforms will do little to prevent the next meltdown
14. The “forever war” between Western and Islamic fundamentalists will widen
15. As will environmental threats and unfunded entitlements

“America Capitalism” is a “Lost Soul” … we’ve lost our moral compass … the coming collapse is the end of an “inevitable” historical cycle stalking all great empires to their graves. Downsize your lifestyle expectations, trust no one, not even media.

Faber is uncertain about timing, we are not. There is a high probability of a crisis and collapse by 2012. The “Great Depression 2” is dead ahead. Unfortunately, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to hide from this unfolding reality or prevent the rush of the historical imperative.

The Quest for Swat…!

September 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Tariq Choudry

June 8, 2009–Swat valley is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world and is known for its splendid natural beauty and legendary hospitality.  The people are somber yet innocent however, reluctant to care about the worldly affairs due in part because of inherent poverty, government’s innate laxity towards general education and welfare of the citizens; and mistreatment of tribesmen.  The ordinary people are hardworking and steadfast in fundamental aspects of religious duties.  They flout deep political dogma in favor of performing religious duties and often defer chores of utmost necessity to fulfill their routine spiritual desires – prayers.  Subtly, the ultimate warriors so they claim to be the guardians of ultimate fate and fraternity betraying all rules of shariah went fervently assailing with full thrust, wit and will, destroying all dwellings of the in-candy poor citizens leaving with plight to ponder their fate and fathom.  Something is happening there, and I’m getting a little worried. To organize my discussion, I suggest that we take one step back in the causal chain and protect our peace, privacy, and wellbeing.

All the deals that The Taliban’s make or desire are strictly one-way.  They get all the rights, and the other party gets all the debit and obligation to the society.  This seems to be their ultimate demand. Their cock-and-bull legends are becoming increasingly parochial. They have already begun to goad muddle-headed grizzlers into hurling phantoms. Now fast-forward a few years to a time in which the society might have enabled the Talibans of Pakistan to create a world without history, without philosophy, without science, without reason—a world without beauty of any kind, without art, without literature, without culture, without freedom of even religion but theirs. If you don’t want such a time to come then we all must subject the so called Taliban’s belief systems to the rigorous scrutiny they warrant. Help me focus on the major economic, social, and political forces that provide the setting for the expression of a corrupt agenda. 

Though many people agree that we must work together against anti- pluralism, resistentialism, etc. The Talban’s really struck a nerve when they claim to be the guardians of shariah.  That’s why the so called “Taliban’s” are trying so hard to prevent themselves from full exposure that they think we want them to paint people of different races and cultures as inarticulate alien forces undermining the coherent national will.

Do we not, as rational men and women, owe it to both our heritage and our posterity to present another paradigm in opposition to their boisterous posture? I think we do. Should we sit back and let them exert more and more control over innocent individuals, or should we unmask their true faces and intentions in regard to Stalinism? That choice sure sounds like a no-brainer. The “Talibanism” has lost what little credibility they once had by helping to unravel normal citizens from their own towns and cities by fear and plight. And that’s why I say to every one of us with a little wit and will: Have courage. Be honest. Be a true follower of the true fundamentals of our noble religion and refrain from supporting or adopting stern and extreme views that lead the whole of society to a path of mischief and misfortune.  And reinforce the contentions of all reasonable people and confute those of irascible, wicked fence-sitters. The implementation of Shariah law does not have to take a start from Swat or NWFP, it must start from within-and by first adhering to its own demands of treating everyone equally and with respect.  Woe to those who indulge themselves in shameful acts of hurting the children of all ages, women and the sick and the flaky wise elderly in the name of religion. 

However, the quandary that remains a cancer of our society is that billions of dollars in foreign aid has disappeared or consumed by few (or perhaps evil-one) which no-one dares to question and not single penny has seen towards helping the deprived homeless.  At least international media has no reporting on that.  Perhaps the entire society and media has become immune to treachery, infidelity and corruption.  Haven’t we really become a nation of vindictive scumbags with no conscience or dignity for our own apathy?  Look around the misery and sufferings of those living in make-shift tents; those who once lived with grace and dignity in their own moderately built pithy sanctuaries, have been left out under the scorching sun in misery and plight; and a majority of them feel humiliated to seek public aid.  What is their fault?  What have they done wrong?  Isn’t it the government’s full responsibility to provide maximum protection and comfort from elderly to the infant!  Instead, hundreds of private organizations and NGOs are playing the key role of taking care of their needs and desires.  Those who once lived with grace and pride are being humiliated in the open-air with no guards to protect their modesty, security or creed.  Where are those who are hiding their faces cowardly behind the black scarves pretending to be the lieutenants of the lords?  If they are true to their cause, they must face the reality like Spartans and create an environment of trust in order to advocate and defend their scrutiny with poise.

Once Talibans realize that they have in fact inflicted atrocious wounds to the naive citizens, maybe then they will see, and I deeply believe that it will be within our grasp to honor our nation’s glorious mosaic of cultures and ethnicities. Be grateful for this first and last tidbit of comforting news. The Talibans like to disguise the complexity of issues, the brutality of class, and the importance of religion and culture in the construction and practice of conformism. Such activity can flourish only in the dark, however. If you drag them into the open, Talibans and their cronies will run for cover, like cockroaches in a dirty kitchen when the light is turned on suddenly during the night. That’s why we must push the envelope on our knowledge of the world around us. As this letter draws to a close, I want to challenge you, the reader, to recognize and respect the opinions, practices, and behavior of those with wisdom, will and resort. That’s what is left to do.

Unless there is one single Central Islamic Authority, the dream of implementing Islam as a System, or as an alternative to secular democracy, can never be realized. Without a stable government and an honest leader, Islam may exist, as it is today, like a downgraded ritualistic religion, in which every individual or faction may keep on living on the inane desire of pleasing Allah or rendering Him worship in its own way and in its own right but it can never become a truly Islamic way of life to bring forth its pledged remunerations. And that means the transfer of power from individual provinces, as they exist today; to the Central Authority which itself would work under the Ultimate Sovereignty of Allah, i.e. The Shreah Law. Moreover, this also means the end of the authority of the Ullema and the Muftis of today. The interpretation of the Laws and the formulation of by-laws will be done by the “Central Authority” alone, within the bounds of the Quran. There will be no party or cult, no religious or political parties, not even an opposition party within the Islamic System of governance. That’s the patriotic thing to do, and that’s the right thing to do, to defeat fundamentalism and to adopt the ways of those who render themselves for the sake of tranquility, sovereignty and contentment.   

May Allah SWT guide us in the right direction and help us understand true lessons of religion Islam; and may peace be upon those leading a positive change intended to cultivate an environment of peace and tranquility and justice for all.

11-37

Industrialization

August 6, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

tufail 1133

The process by which manufacturing industries develop from within a predominantly agrarian society. Characteristic features of industrialization include the application of scientific methods to solving problems, mechanization and a factory system, the division of labor, the growth of the money economy, and the increased mobility of the labor force—both geographically and socially. One problem is that these are features of capitalism, and capitalism is not the same thing as industrialization, although it was the first instrument of industrialization. Industrialization is generally accompanied by social and economic changes, such as a fall in the birth rate and a rise in per capita GNP. Urbanization is encouraged and groups of manufacturing towns may form. Within the developed world, the growth of the factory system led to the separation of home and workplace with major repercussions for urban social geography. Initially there is an emphasis on primary and secondary industry, but as industrialization continues, there is a shift to tertiary industry.

Some writers argue that the term may also be used to describe the methods used to increase productivity in areas other than manufacturing, such as agriculture or administration. Although industrialization is often seen as a solution to problems of poverty in the Third World, its effects may well not benefit any but a small sector of society. Furthermore, the pollution associated with industrial activity may cause serious difficulties.

11-33

Two Murdered Women

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Walid El Hourican

* Neda and Marwa: One becomes an icon, the other is unmentioned

2009-07-17T180457Z_01_BER104_RTRMDNP_3_GERMANY

A girl holds a picture of murdered Marwa El-Sherbiny during a memorial in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin July 17, 2009.

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

On June 20th 2009, Neda Agha Soltan was shot dead during the post-election protests in Iran. The protests occupied the largest news segments around the world, with analysts and commentators predicting the fall of the Iranian regime and the dawn of freedom breaking in “the axis of evil.”

Neda’s death became an icon of the Iranian opposition and a symbol for millions of people of the injustice of the Iranian regime and the defiance of the protesters. Neda’s death was put in context. It was taken from the personal realm of the death of an individual to the public realm of the just cause of a whole society.

On July 1st Marwa El Sherbini, an Egyptian researcher living in Germany, was stabbed to death 18 times inside a courtroom in the city of Dresden, in front of her 3-year-old son. She had won a verdict against a German man of Russian descent who had verbally assaulted her because of her veil. Her husband, who rushed in to save her when she was attacked in the courtroom, was shot by the police. Marwa’s death was not reported by any Western news media until protests in Egypt erupted after her burial. The reporting that followed focused on the protests; the murder was presented as the act of a “lone wolf,” thus depriving it of its context and its social meaning.

The fact that media are biased and choose what to report according to their own agenda is not the issue in this case. What the comparison of the two murders shows, is that European and Western societies have failed to grasp the significance and the importance of the second murder in its social, political, and historical context.

The “lone wolf” who stabbed Marwa 18 times inside the courtroom is the product of the society he lives in. If anything, the murder of Marwa should raise the discussion about the latent (perhaps not so latent anymore) racism against Muslims that has been growing in European societies in the last few decades, and noticeably so since the mid-90s.

It would be difficult to avoid relating the crime to the discussions about the banning of the Niqab, or the previous discussions about the wearing of the veil. These issues and others pertaining to the Muslim immigration in Europe have been occupying large parts of the public debates in several European countries. It would also be difficult not to notice the rapid rise of right wing populist parties to power in several European countries in the last decade, all of which have built their discourse on the fear of Islam and the “immigration problem.”

The absence of reporting, or adequate reporting of the murder, and the alarm bells that did not ring after this murder, reflect the denial in which European societies and public discourse are immersed.

While Europe preaches freedom of expression and the need to accept otherness, and while Europe preaches about the dangers of racism and sectarianism in third world countries, and while Europe warns about hate speech and anti-Semitism, we see race-driven crime, prejudice, and hate speech gaining both legitimacy and power in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Denmark and other democracies in the old continent. Race-driven crimes are constantly presented as exceptions within a tolerant society. However, the recurrence of exceptions puts in question their exceptional nature.

The absence of Marwa’s story from the mainstream media and the failure to start a debate about the immediate dangers of present European anti-Muslim racism shows the depth of the problem and draws us to expect a gl oomy future for Muslims in Europe. Muslims like Neda only get to the news if their story serves the dominant narrative that presents Islam as the primary threat to freedom, while Muslims like Marwa who expose the pervasive racism of the West and challenge the existing stereotypes fail to get their story told.

What is significant to note is that in Neda’s case the media accused the Iranian regime as the authority responsible for the context in which the crime was committed rather than looking for the person who actually shot her. The accused is the establishment or the institution rather than the individual shooter. However, in the case of Marwa’s murder the media were persistent in stressing on the individuality of the murderer, calling him a “lone wolf”, implying that he is a social outcast who holds no ties to the society he lives in. The murderer was given a name “Alex W.” and the institution, the society, and the establishment he lives in were taken away from the picture.

While Neda’s death enjoyed wide arrays of interpretations and readings in context, Marwa’s death was deprived of its context and was presented as a personal tragedy, featuring a madman and his victim. Meanwhile Europe keeps shifting to the right at an accelerating pace, and cultural stereotypes, failure to integrate (read: social and political alienation), miscommunication, and a growing financial crisis only nourish this trajectory and support the populist and chauvinistic discourse of various newborn and resurrected right wing parties.

In the 1930s, following the big economical crisis of the 1920s, a young populist right wing party suddenly rose to power in Germany and few predicted what was to follow. There is no realistic proof to say that Europe is a more tolerant society than any other, or to say that people necessarily learn from their history, or even that some societies are exempt from racist behavior. All the evidence points to the end of the European myth of post-war tolerance; and the media have yet to connect the dots before history repeats itself.

– Walid El Hourican be reached at: walid@menassat.com. This article appeared in CounterPunch.org.

Convincing the Soul of the Muslim world: A New Drive for ‘Common Sense’

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ruby Amatulla

It has taken a long bloody history to convince many parts of humanity that it is only through constructive engagements and integrated efforts– and not through wars, conflicts and exploiting others – that a win-win situation is possible in human affairs.

After hundreds of years of incessant bloodshed and violence, Europe finally came to grips with this truth. Seeing the enormous effects of the integration and cooperation of the diverse community of the 50 states across the Atlantic – Europe, after World War II and its massive death and destruction — started to pursue constructive engagement and integration in its own affairs.

Today, another vital part of humanity – containing 1.5 billion Muslims — appears not to take heed of this truth. A mosaic of different tribes, sects, ethnicities and groups of Muslims remain deeply divided, unstable and conflict-prone.

Despite controlling 76% of the world’s oil reserves, this huge community has failed to assert itself as a legitimate power-broker or a significant partner in the affairs of the world. The state of affairs of many key areas of the Muslim world remains degrading and disturbing.

The cause of the grim reality in the Muslim world is its failure to unite, integrate and engage constructively, both among its own populace and with others. And this failure is largely, if not entirely, due to the absence or lack of an ‘impartial’ and balanced rule of law.

We often talk about equality and freedom as being essential factors of democratic rule, but we fail to recognize its paramount influence in stabilizing and integrating a nation. With the existence of an ‘impartial’ rule of law that prohibits destructive ways of resolving issues in society and that does not allow any group to take undue advantage over others by virtue of race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc., the people ultimately accept and build a culture of coexistence and constructive engagement.

This is the key to integrating a nation on the fundamental ideas of equality and liberty.

I am convinced that America, by providing the most forceful and impartial system of due process, has become the superpower in our time. By providing the most progressive program of integration to the most diverse community in the world it has tapped a treasure that is unparalleled in its importance and impact in leading a nation towards prosperity.

This is the secret of America’s enormous success.

Good governance is the solution for a dysfunctional state. An accountable, transparent and representative government stabilizes a society. Serious grievances and the possibility of turmoil are less likely, as the citizens hold the ultimate power. The legitimacy of that governance increasingly builds up trust and confidence among its people and institutions to participate and help sustain a stable and consistent pattern of rule. The broad decision making process and the balance of power in a democratically managed society work as shields against tendencies of tyranny and/or domination of one group by another.  Self-rule offers important incentives for a society to become stable and progressive.

Importantly for the deeply-religious Muslim world, a democratic system does not need to be ‘secular,’ if secularism is defined as a system discouraging religion. A good governing system should not be averse to religion — as religions and religious institutions play a vital and profoundly important role in society — but it must be impartial as to a specific religion and/or a specific interpretation of a religion. ‘Impartial’ rule of law and avoiding endorsing a religion is how the conflict-prone Thirteen Colonies were saved from disintegration.

Democracy provides a secure environment for all its citizens to practice their respective faiths. If a government maintains neutrality in its rule of law and enforces the resolution of conflicts only through constructive engagements among its citizens, it builds a stable society with a mindset of coexistence, integration and collective welfare.

The Quran is unequivocal in commanding that: ‘There is no compulsion or imposition in religion.’ [2:256]. A faith or conviction must be the outcome of the exercise of free will, for which an individual is responsible only to God and to no one else in the society.  

Therefore a state that enforces a religious injunction, or an interpretation [denominations or sects] thereof, violates this fundamental tenet of Islam by enforcing on those who do not believe or accept that interpretation of faith.

A democratic spirit was exemplified in the very first Muslim community under the leadership of the Prophet Muhammad (s) in Medina fourteen centuries ago. The Charter of Medina has amazing similarities with the constitution drafted more than eleven hundred years later among the Thirteen Colonies who united to form the United States of America.

The similarities among these documents are to be found in their establishment of federalism, impartiality, consultative decision-making processes and the use of constructive engagement to resolve disputes. 

These structures allowed the society to maintain security and functionality, as well as to provide freedom of religion. They also allowed diverse groups of people – in the case of Medina then, the Muslims, Jews, and Pagans – to manage their own community affairs and maintain their own lifestyles within the greater legal framework of society . This paramount example of the Prophet (s) has largely gone unnoticed by the Muslim world.

More than two hundred years ago a small pamphlet called “Common Sense” made a huge impact among the people of the Thirteen Colonies and their leaders.  It allowed them to come together and fight against the British, the most formidable power then, to establish self-rule. How powerful and constructive this self-rule has been to integrate the most diverse community in the world and to create a superpower!

More than two hundred years later, a Muslim citizen of the nation that ‘Common Sense’ helped to establish is wondering what degree of human welfare could flow out of a new drive for common sense in one of the most vital parts of humanity: the Muslim world with which the interest and welfare of the world is intricately and profoundly connected! Facing the enormous challenges of our time, how badly needed is that drive!

11-31

Niqabi, Interrupted

July 13, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Wearing my niqab is a choice freely made, for spiritual reasons

By Naima B.Robert

Niqab3 I put on my niqab, my face veil, each day before I leave the house, without a second thought. I drape it over my face, tie the ribbons at the back and adjust the opening over my eyes to make sure my peripheral vision is not affected.

Had I a full-length mirror next to the front door, I would be able to see what others see: a woman of average height and build, covered in several layers of fabric, a niqab, a jilbab, sometimes an abayah, sometimes all black, other times blue or brown. A Muslim woman in ‘full veil’. A niqabi.

But is that truly how people see me? When I walk through the park with my little ones in tow, when I reverse my car into a parking space, when I browse the shelves in the frozen section, when I ask how to best cook asparagus at a market stall, what do people see? An oppressed woman? A nameless, voiceless individual? A criminal?

Well, if Mr Sarkozy and others like him have their way, I suppose I will be a criminal, won’t I? Never mind that “it’s a free country”; never mind that I made this choice from my own free will, as did the vast majority of covered women of my generation; never mind that I am, in every other respect, an upstanding citizen who works hard as a mother, author and magazine publisher, spends responsibly, recycles and tries to eat seasonally and buy local produce!

Yes, I cover my face, but I am still of this society. And, as crazy as it might sound, I am human, a human being with my own thoughts, feelings and opinions. I refuse to allow those who cannot know my reality to paint me as a cardboard cut-out, an oppressed, submissive, silenced relic of the Dark Ages. I am not a stereotype and, God willing, I never will be.

But where are those who will listen? At the end of the day, Muslim women have been saying for years that the hijab et al are not oppressive, that we cover as an act of faith, that this is a bonafide spiritual lifestyle choice. But the debate rages on, ironically, largely to the exclusion of the women who actually do cover their faces.

The focus on the niqab is, in my opinion, utterly misplaced. Don’t the French have anything better to do than tell Muslim women how to dress? Don’t our societies have bigger problems than a relative handful of women choosing to cover their faces out of religious conviction? The “burka issue” has become a red herring: there are issues that Muslim women face that are more pressing, more wide-reaching and, essentially, more relevant than whether or not they should be covering with a niqab, burqa or hijab.

At the end of the day, all a ban will do is force Muslim women who choose to cover to retreat even further – it is not going to result in a mass “liberation” of Muslim women from the veil. All women, covered or not, deserve the opportunity to dress as they see fit, to be educated, to work where they deem appropriate and run their lives in accordance with their principles, as long as these choices do not impinge on others’ freedoms. And last time I looked, being able to see a woman’s hair, legs or face were not rights granted alongside “liberté, egalité et fraternité”.

As a Muslim woman living in the UK, I am so grateful for the fact that my society does not force me to choose between being a practising Muslim and an active member of society. I have been able to study, to work, to establish a writing career and run a magazine business, all while wearing a niqaab. I think that that is a credit to British society, no matter what the anti-multiculturalists may say, and I think the French coul d learn some very valuable lessons from the British approach.

So, three cheers for those women who make the choice to cover, in whatever way and still go out there every day. Go out to brave the scorn and ridicule of those who think they understand the burka better than those who actually wear it. Go out to face the humiliating headlines. Go out to face the taunts of schoolchildren. Go out to fight another day. Go out to do their bit for society and the common good. Because you never know, if Mr Sarkozy and his supporters have their way, there could come a day when these women think twice about going out there into a society that cannot bear the way they look. And, who knows, I could be one of them.

And, while some would disagree, I think that would be a sad day.

Na’ima B. Robert is the founding editor of SISTERS , a magazine for Muslim women and author of ‘From My Sisters’ Lips ‘, a look at the lives of British Muslim women who cover.

11-29

Six Reasons Why Iran

July 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Cannot Be Explained in a Twitter Feed

New America Media, News Analysis, Jalal Ghazi

2009-07-05T113323Z_01_TEH02_RTRMDNP_3_IRAN

A policeman stands guard in front of the British embassy during an anti-Britain protest gathering in Tehran, April 1, 2007. Picture taken April 1, 2007. 

REUTERS/Morteza Nikoubazl/Files

The world’s attention is on Iran. But the rhetoric of reformists vs. conservatives and students vs. mullahs cannot capture the complexity of what is happening on the streets of Tehran. Here are six reasons why the situation in Iran cannot be reduced to simplistic headlines or Twitter feeds.

First, the post-election crisis in Iran is not only a reflection of divisions between conservatives and reformers. Perhaps more importantly, it has brought divisions within the conservatives to the forefront.

“It is true that most of the armed forces, especially the Revolutionary Guards and the Basij, support the Supreme Leader and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the decision making in Iran is not exclusive to these two men,” said human rights activist Ghanim Jawad on the London-based (ANB-TV) Arab News Broadcast. He pointed to a “vertical division,” not only within the government but also within the society.

Ghanim added, “This vertical division is more dangerous to the Islamic revolution than the eight years of war between Iran and Iraq.” That war, he said, united Iranian society. Now Iranian society is split and there are divisions within the Expediency Council, the Guardian Council, the parliament and the Assembly of Experts -– all important decision-making institutions.

Most significantly, he added, the religious authority in the holy city of Qom is also divided.

Second, the disputed election results provided the spark that ignited the street demonstrations, but there were many other important reasons that pushed hundreds of thousands of Iranians into the streets.

The widely read journalist Fahmi Huwaidi wrote on Al Jazeera.net that “one must acknowledge that this is the first time since the Islamic revolution that people held such large demonstrations to express their anger toward the regime and the supreme leader.”

Huwaidi added, “It is hard to categorize all protesters under one title, but all have anger as a common denominator.” There is anger over the election results, lack of individual freedoms, tense relations with the West, high unemployment and inflation, government support of Hezbollah and Hamas, and lack of rights for Arab, Kurdish and Sunni minorities.

Third, presidential candidate Mir Hussein Mousavi has become the symbolic leader of the reformist movement, but that does not mean that he is the one who created this movement.

During his election campaign he was accompanied by former President Muhammad Khatami everywhere he went because Mousavi was not a good public speaker, wrote Huwaidi.

Many Iranians also question his alliance with pragmatic conservatives who are suspected of corruption, such as the head of the Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Arab author Azmi Bishara wrote on Al Jazeera.net that “corrupt conservatives within the regime such as Rafsanjani rely on reformists such as Mousavi and Khatami as a way to renew their appeal, weaken the Supreme Leader, promote a more pragmatic policy and create better relations with the West.” Bishara, however, warned that the pragmatic conservatives may temporarily agree to reforms, but reverse their position once they are in power.

Fourth, the street demonstrations are not necessarily an indication that Iran is an oppressive government or less democratic than neighboring Arab states.

“The position taken by the Iranian society toward claims of discrepancies in the elections is much better than the position of Arab societies toward similar claims,” wrote Huwaidi. Iranians at least protested on the streets and clashed with police and security forces for 10 days. Arab populations have now accepted election fraud as a fact of life and given up on trying to change it, wrote Huwaidi.

Political writer Ahmad Asfahani told ANB that he was impressed by the “vigorous Iranian society” that gave birth to three populist revolutions in less than 60 years: the uprising that followed the overthrow of Iranian Premier Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953, the Islamic revolution in 1979, and now, the 2009 street demonstrations.

Fifth, not all of the 20 people who were killed during the demonstrations were protesters. According to Ghanim, at least eight security force members were also killed. This shows that the security forces were not the only side that used violence.

Ghanim told ANB that in this situation it is hard to control either side. He added that this raised questions about who really killed the young Iranian woman Neda Agha-Soltan who became a symbol for the street demonstrations. Ghanem said that it is possible that she was killed by “some groups who wanted to escalate the situation.”

Sixth, the strong divisions within the major governing institutions in Iran show that the Iranian system is more similar to the American system than Arab regimes, whether they are ruled by presidents or monarchs. For example, the strong criticism that the Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani has made against the interior ministry as well as the criticism by Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri in Qom of the Guardian Council shows that Iran has its own system of checks and balances which does not exist in most Arab countries. This also was evident in the televised debates in which Ahmadinejad made strong accusations against senior Iranian officials, including Rafsanjani.

The Iranian system has many discrepancies but the same can be said about the American system. Bishara wrote that the differences between the Republicans and Democrats in the United States are not much bigger than the differences between the conservatives and reformists in Iran. There seems to be no fundamental change in many respects. Iranian mullahs have used their positions to become very wealthy, much as American corporations have used lobbyists to pass laws in Congress that benefit them.

The real question is how Iran will emerge from all of this. If it comes out more powerful, it will be a vindication of the political process in Iran and proof that its system works better than those of its Arab neighbors. That is what really makes Arab countries nervous.

11-29

An Open Letter–From Pakistan–To President Obama

February 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imran Khan

The U.S. and NATO should withdraw from Afghanistan.

2009-02-07T173733Z_01_ISL05_RTRMDNP_3_PAKISTAN-NUCLEAR

Picture:  Imran Khan (right) Greets AQ Khan upon the latter’s release from house arrest.  Reuters

 

Dear President Obama,

Your extraordinary ascent to the U.S. Presidency is, to a large part, a reflection of your remarkable ability to mobilize society, particularly the youth, with the message of “change.” Indeed, change is what the world is yearning for after eight long and almost endless years of carnage let loose by a group of neo-cons that occupied the White House.

Understandably, your overarching policy focus would be the security and welfare of all U.S. citizens and so it should be. Similarly, our first and foremost concern is the protection of Pakistani lives and the prosperity of our society. We may have different social and cultural values, but we share the fundamental values of peace, harmony, justice and equality before law.

No people desire change more than the people of Pakistan, as we have suffered the most since 9/11, despite the fact that none of the perpetrators of the acts of terrorism unleashed on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001, were Pakistani. Our entire social, political and economic fabric is in a state of meltdown. Our sovereignty, dignity and self-respect have been trampled upon. The previous U.S. administration invested in dictators and corrupt politicians by providing them power crutches in return for total compliance to pursue its misconceived war on terror.

There are many threats confronting our society today, including the threat of extremism. In a society where the majority is without fundamental rights, without education, without economic opportunities, without health care, the use of sheer force and loss of innocent lives continues to expand the extremist fringe and contract the space for the moderate majority.

Without peace and internal security, the notion of investing in development in the war zones is a pipe dream, as the anticipated benefits would never reach the people. So the first and foremost policy objective should be to restore the peace. This can only be achieved through a serious and sustained dialogue with the militants and mitigation of their genuine grievances under the ambit of our constitution and law. Since Pakistan’s founding leader signed a treaty in 1948 with the people of the country’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas and withdrew Pakistani troops, they had remained the most peaceful and trouble-free part of Pakistan up until the post-9/11 situation, when we were asked to deploy our troops in FATA.

Even a cursory knowledge of Pushtun history shows that for reasons of religious, cultural and social affinity, the Pushtuns on both sides of the Durand Line (which marks the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan) cannot remain indifferent to the suffering of their brethren on either side. The Pushtuns are proud of their history of resisting every invader from Alexander onwards, to the Persians, Moghuls, British and the Russians (all superpowers of their times) who were all bogged down in the Pushtun quagmire. So, no government, Pakistani or foreign, will ever be able to stop Pushtuns crossing over the 1,500-kilometer border to support their brethren in distress on either side, even if it means fighting the modern-day superpower in Afghanistan. Recent history shows how the mighty Soviet Union had to retreat from Afghanistan with its army defeated even though it had killed over a million Afghans.

To an average Pushtun, notwithstanding the U.N. Security Council sanction, the U.S. is an occupying power in Afghanistan that must be resisted. It is as simple as that. Therefore, the greatest challenge confronting U.S. policy in Afghanistan is how to change its status from an occupier to a partner. The new U.S. administration should have no doubt that there is no military solution in Afghanistan. As more innocent Pushtuns are killed, more space is created for new Taliban and even Al-Qaida recruits–revenge being an integral part of the Pushtun character. So, as with Iraq, the U.S. should give a time table for withdrawal from Afghanistan and replace NATO and U.S. forces with U.N. troops during the interim period.

The Pushtuns then should be involved in a dialogue process where they should be given a stake in the peace. As the majority’s stake in peace grows, proportionately the breeding ground for extremists shrinks.

The crucial lesson the U.S. needs to learn–and learn quickly–is that you can only win against terrorists if the majority in a community considers them terrorists. Once they become freedom fighters and heroes amongst their people, history tells us that the battle is lost.

Terrorism worldwide is an age-old phenomenon and cannot be eliminated by rampaging armies, no matter how powerful. It can only be contained by a strategy of building democratic societies and addressing the root causes of political conflicts. The democratization part of this strategy demands a strategic partnership between the West and the people of the Islamic world, who are basically demanding dignity, self-respect and the same fundamental rights as the ordinary citizen in the West enjoys. However, this partnership can only be forged if the U.S. and its close Western allies are prepared to accept and coexist with credible democratic governments in the Islamic world that may not support all U.S. policies as wholeheartedly as dictators and discredited politicians do in order to remain in power.

The roots of terror and violence lie in politics–and so does the solution. We urge the new administration to conduct a major strategic review of the U.S.-led war on terror, including the nature and kind of support that should realistically be expected of Pakistan keeping in mind its internal security interests. Linking economic assistance to sealing of its western frontier will only force the hand of a shaky and unstable government in Pakistan to use more indiscriminate force in FATA, a perfect recipe for disaster.

The stability of the region hinges on a stable Pakistan. Any assistance to improve governance and social indicators must not be conditional. For the simple reason that any improvement in the overall quality of life of ordinary citizens and more effective writ of the state would only make mainstream society less susceptible to extremism. However, if the new U.S. administration continues the Bush administration’s mantra of “do more,” to which our inept leadership is likely to respond to by using more force, Pakistan could become even more accessible to forces of extremism leading to further instability that would spread across the region, especially into India, which already faces problems of extremism and secessionist movements. Such a scenario would benefit no one–certainly not Pakistan and certainly not the U.S. That is why your message of meaningful change, Mr. President, must guide your policies in this region also.

Imran Khan is chairman and founder of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice), and served as an elected member of Pakistan’s parliament from 2002-08. The captain of the Pakistan team that won the cricket World Cup in 1992, he founded the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Center, the biggest charitable institution in Pakistan. He is chancellor of the University of Bradford, in the U.K.

11-8

Homosexuality in the Middle East

November 8, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

And (remember) Loot (Lot), when he said to his people: ‘Do you commit the worst sin such as none preceding you has committed in the ‘Aalameen (mankind and jinn)?

Al-A’raf:80

The last place one would expect to find homosexuals is in the Middle East. The majority of the countries in this region are Islamic States and, irrespective of whether they are Sunni or Shiite nations, homosexuality is universally condemned as being contrary to the Creation of Allah. The punishment for the offense of homosexuality in many nations in the Middle East, regardless of whether the Sharia Law is implemented in the country or not, is often the death penalty.

Despite the risk of death, homosexuals are flooding out of the ‘closet’ and into the streets. In Kuwait specifically, you can often see gangs of homosexuals walking together. They are easy to spot. The dress code for male homosexuals in Kuwait is tight clothing, shaped eyebrows, white foundation with powder and a little lipstick. For females, they dress up like males with short spiky hair, studs and chains. Islamic MPs in Kuwait have been calling for the formation of a special religious police unit to uphold morals in the country. But so far this request has fallen on deaf ears. Homosexuality is just one of the problems the MPs want to be tackled in Kuwait. Other problems include public lewdness and indecent behavior by young heterosexuals.

Kuwait is not the only country dealing with unprecedented homosexuality within its borders. Lebanon also reportedly is grappling with homosexuals exercising their perceived rights. However, in Lebanon homosexuals enjoy more freedom than anywhere else in the Middle East. Lebanon has gay bars and nightclubs as well as the first association for gay people in the Middle East, which is called the ‘Helem Foundation’. It was founded in 2004 and it’s mission, according to the director Georges Azzi, is to promote gay rights in Lebanon and to help the Ministry of Health support AIDS awareness in the country.

Perhaps the country where homosexuals are really most prominent is in Saudi Arabia, a country where homosexuality is punishable by flogging, life imprisonment or even beheading. Homosexuals in the region are continuously becoming bolder in promoting their lifestyle choices in public. While there are not specific venues for homosexuals to congregate in, there are specific places where homosexuals meet up. There are certain malls and grocery stores that gays utilize for meeting each other. And there is supposedly a street in Jeddah where prospective ‘customers’ can cruise and pick-up homosexual prostitutes. In ever-emboldened fearlessness, there have even been attempts at gay marriages. In 2004, the Saudi police raided a gay wedding party in which two Chadian men were about to marry in the city of Medina. And in 2005, 110 men were arrested at another gay wedding party in which 30 were later convicted.

Homosexuality is set to rise in the Middle East in the coming years and there seems to be nothing governments can do about it with homosexuals continuously exerting their presence in the community. The effect on society is sure to be felt with the family unit consisting of a mother, father and their offspring being challenged. The risk of homosexuality in society includes increased spread of sexually transmitted diseases and decreased growth of populations in that same-sexed couples cannot naturally bear children.

9-46

Muslim Society of Paraná Celebrates 50th Anniversary

August 16, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

Established to provide support to the Muslims arriving at the city of Curitiba, the organisation currently promotes various cultural, educational and religious activities, acting as a reference point to those who want to learn about Arab and Islamic culture.

Courtesy Omar Nasser, ANBA News Agency

Curitiba – A solemnity to be held on Friday evening (10th) will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Muslim Beneficent Society of the State of Paraná (SBMPR), in southern Brazil. The event will bring together, at the seat of the organisation in Curitiba (capital of Paraná), immigrants, descendents, and relatives, as well as municipal and state-level officials. The members of the Islamic society who have rendered relevant services to the SBMPR throughout these 50 years will be awarded diplomas of Highest Honour.

The minutes of the organisation’s foundation date from July 28th, 1957. “The objective, at that time, was for the Beneficent Society to provide support to the Arab immigrants who started arriving here, in greater number, after the end of World War Two,” explains Jamil Ibrahim Iskandar, the current president. Being a Lebanese immigrant himself, Iskandar recalls that the pioneers had no relatives to help them and, in many cases, did not even know the Portuguese language.

Presently, SBMPR carries out a series of activities of cultural, educational, and religious nature, such as lectures, conferences, and exhibitions. Operating in the premises is an elementary school– the Brazilian-Arab School of Curitiba – and a nursery school. In the evening, Arabic language classes are held. “One can safely say that the Society is now a reference point, not only to the Muslim community in Curitiba and Paraná, but also to the Brazilians who want to learn about Arab and Islamic culture,” says Iskandar.

Currently living in Curitiba are approximately 1,500 Muslims, including immigrants, descendents, and converted Brazilians. The majority of Arab Muslims living in the city is of Lebanese descent, followed by Palestinians and Syrians. Among the Lebanese, there is s significant presence of people originally from the cities of Hermel and Baalbek, in the Bekaa Valley, as well as from the cities of Khirbat Roha and Jezzini, among others. In a recent trip to Curitiba, the then-resigning Lebanese minister of Labour, Trad Hammadeh, was puzzled by the fact that he found, in the city, the preserved accent of the Hermel region, which no longer exists even in Lebanon.

Early on, SBMPR operated from a leased building, in downtown Curitiba, next to the Tiradentes Square. As immigrants would achieve economic stability, they started having financial conditions to afford a property of their own in which to base the organisation. By 1964, the seat of the SBMPR was already established in a solidly built masonry building, where it remains to date. The building has an ample auditorium, rooms for the teaching of the Quran, offices, and an apartment to accommodate travellers.

In addition to the seat of the SBMPR, the Muslim community in Curitiba counts on a Mosque, which bears the name of Imam Ali ibn Abi Tálib, an homage to the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad. In 2007, it will be 35 years since the temple was inaugurated. Another important milestone of Muslim Arab immigration to Curitiba is Cemitério Jardim de Allah (“Garden of Allah Cemetery”). Located in the industrial city of Curitiba, the cemetery occupies a spacious area and has a wake room with bathrooms and a kitchen.

9-34

« Previous Page