Head of Arab Broadcaster Al Jazeera Resigns

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

DUBAI (Reuters) – The head of Arab TV channel Al Jazeera said on Tuesday he was leaving the network, but gave no reason for his departure at a time when the station’s coverage has played an important role in unprecedented protest movements rocking the Arab world.

“I have decided to move on,” the network’s director-general Waddah Khanfar said in a resignation note emailed to Al Jazeera staff and also publicized on social media site Twitter.

“For some time I have been discussing my desire to step down with the chairman of the board. He has kindly expressed understanding and has accepted my decision.”

Since it was launched in 1996, Al Jazeera has become the highest-profile satellite news broadcaster in the Middle East. It has frequently had difficulties with Western and Arab governments in a region where governments have traditionally kept tight control over state media.

Al Jazeera, owned by the Qatari government, aired round-the-clock coverage of uprisings that brought down veteran rulers in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya this year, and the station promotes itself as a democratic voice in the region.

Critics say it is more timid in covering events closer to its Gulf home, and the cameras of its main Arabic channel were notably absent during a month of similar protests in the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain which the government crushed in mid-March.

Al Jazeera’s bureau chief in Lebanon, Ghassan Bin Jiddo, resigned in April, apparently in disagreement over its coverage of the revolts, which have also engulfed Syria and Yemen.

Leaked US diplomatic cables described the channel as a tool in Qatari diplomacy. The channel has played an important role in raising the prestige of the small, wealthy Gulf Arab state.

(Reporting by Nour Merza, Editing by Andrew Hammond)

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Two Hands, One Meal, One Smile

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Hajra Khatri

 

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Ten thousand meals, ten thousand smiles. The Muslim Youth of Greater Detroit (MYGD) gathered good-hearted volunteers and their two hands to participate in a food packaging day. Kids Against Hunger is a national organization on a mission to feed starving children in the US and around the world. MYGD teamed up with Kids Against Hunger for the first time on April 23rd. Around 110 volunteers of different faiths partook in this event. The day started with a feeling of excitement and ended with a sense of pride.  Volunteers from all over the area were given the chance to suit up and package food. Plastic gloves pulled on and hair covered up, volunteers were placed at stations. Each station had a specific task, vital for the formation of the bag. The first station volunteer rationed vitamin-fortified crushed soy into the food bags. The next three volunteers scooped dehydrated vegetables, chicken-flavored vegetarian powder, and white rice respectively into the bags. The bags were then passed onto volunteers who ensured the mass of the bags were 350 grams each. The bags were tightly sealed to guarantee a shelf life of three to five years. Bags were then packaged into boxes, ready to be sent out to local cities, and even countries like Japan and Pakistan. Ten thousand meals were packaged on that day by adults, teenagers, and even young children!  Feeha Hasan, an active teen in the Muslim community, praised Kids Against Hunger and MYGD for teaming up for this event. After participating in this event, she said, “Kids Against Hunger was a really fun and memorable experience. It was my first year and I plan on volunteering next year. Not only did this day teach me that many people die from hunger, but also that it is our duty to help the people who are in need. It was a great idea to have interfaith groups along with the Muslim community. I enjoyed working with others!”  Many youngsters like Hasan participated in this event for the very first time. By the grace of Allah (SWT), the event was a success! MYGD would like to thank those from the IAGD community who sponsored this event! This event would not have been made possible without the generous contributions. InshAllah, MYGD hopes to team up with Kids Against Hunger next year for another successful event. Our two hands can make a difference in the world. Our two hands can make meals which lead to smiles from children all around the world. It takes our two hands and our hearts to make a difference. MYGD thanks those who made a difference.

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The Day I Met Abdul Sattar Edhi, a Living Saint

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Peter Oborne

220px-Abdul_Sattar_EdhiIn the course of my duties as a reporter, I have met presidents, prime ministers and reigning monarchs.

Until meeting the Pakistani social worker Abdul Sattar Edhi, I had never met a saint. Within a few moments of shaking hands, I knew I was in the presence of moral and spiritual greatness.
Mr Edhi’s life story is awesome, as I learnt when I spent two weeks working at one of his ambulance centres in Karachi.

The 82-year-old lives in the austerity that has been his hallmark all his life. He wears blue overalls and sports a Jinnah cap, so named because it was the head gear of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

No Pakistani since Jinnah has commanded the same reverence, and our conversations were constantly interrupted as people came to pay their respects.

Mr Edhi told me that, 60 years ago, he stood on a street corner in Karachi and begged for money for an ambulance, raising enough to buy a battered old van. In it, he set out on countless life-saving missions.

Gradually, Mr Edhi set up centres all over Pakistan. He diversified into orphanages, homes for the mentally ill, drug rehabilitation centres and hostels for abandoned women. He fed the poor and buried the dead. His compassion was boundless.

He was born in 1928, when the British Empire was at its height, in Gujarat in what is now western India. But he and his family were forced to flee for their lives in 1947 when the division of India and creation of Pakistan inspired terrible communal tensions: millions were killed in mob violence and ethnic cleansing.

This was the moment Mr Edhi, finding himself penniless on the streets of Karachi, set out on his life’s mission.

Just 20 years old, he volunteered to join a charity run by the Memons, the Islamic religious community to which his family belonged.

At first, Mr Edhi welcomed his duties; then he was appalled to discover that the charity’s compassion was confined to Memons.

He confronted his employers, telling them that “humanitarian work loses its significance when you discriminate between the needy”.

So he set up a small medical centre of his own, sleeping on the cement bench outside his shop so that even those who came late at night could be served.

But he also had to face the enmity of the Memons, and became convinced they were capable of having him killed. For safety, and in search of knowledge, he set out on an overland journey to Europe, begging all the way.

One morning, he awoke on a bench at Rome railway station to discover his shoes had been stolen. He was not bothered, considering them inessential.

Nevertheless, the next day an elderly lady gave him a pair of gumboots, two sizes too large, and Mr Edhi wobbled about in them for the remainder of his journey.

In London, he was a great admirer of the British welfare state, though he presciently noted its potential to encourage a culture of dependency. He was offered a job but refused, telling his benefactor:
“I have to do something for the people in Pakistan.”

On return from Europe, his destiny was set. There was no welfare state in Fifties Pakistan: he would fill the gap. This was a difficult period in his life. Shabby, bearded and with no obvious prospects, seven women in rapid succession turned down his offers of marriage. He resigned himself to chastity and threw all of his energy into work.

He would hurtle round the province of Sindh in his poor man’s ambulance, collecting dead bodies, taking them to the police station, waiting for the death certificate and, if the bodies were not claimed, burying them himself.

Mr Edhi’s autobiography, published in 1996, records that he recovered these stinking cadavers “from rivers, from inside wells, from road sides, accident sites and hospitals When families forsook them, and authorities threw them away, I picked them up Then I bathed and cared for each and every victim of circumstance.”

There is a photograph of Mr Edhi from this formative time. It could be the face of a young revolutionary or poet: dark beard, piercing, passionate eyes. And it is indeed the case that parts of his profound and moving autobiography carry the same weight and integrity as great poetry or even scripture.

Mr Edhi discovered that many Pakistani women were killing their babies at birth, often because they were born outside marriage.

One newborn child was stoned to death outside a mosque on the orders of religious leaders. A furious Mr Edhi responded: “Who can declare an infant guilty when there is no concept of punishing the innocent?”

So Mr Edhi placed a little cradle outside every Edhi centre, beneath a placard imploring: “Do not commit another sin: leave your baby in our care.” Mr Edhi has so far saved 35,000 babies and, in approximately half of these cases, found families to cherish them.

Once again, this practice brought him into conflict with religious leaders. They claimed that adopted children could not inherit their parents’ wealth. Mr Edhi told them their objections contradicted the supreme idea of religion, declaring: “Beware of those who attribute petty instructions to God.”

Over time, Mr Edhi came to exercise such a vast moral authority that Pakistan’s corrupt politicians had to pay court. In 1982, General Zia announced the establishment of a shura (advisory council) to determine matters of state according to Islamic principles.

Mr Edhi was suspicious: “I represented the millions of downtrodden, and was aware that my presence gave the required credibility to an illegal rule.”

Travelling to Rawalpindi to speak at the national assembly, he delivered a passionate denunciation of political corruption, telling an audience of MPs, including Zia himself: “The people have been neglected long enough.

“One day they shall rise like mad men and pull down these walls that keep their future captive. Mark my words and heed them before you find yourselves the prey instead of the predator.”

Mr Edhi did not distinguish between politicians and criminals, asking:

“Why should I condemn a declared dacoit [bandit] and not condemn the respectable villain who enjoys his spoils as if he achieved them by some noble means?”

This impartiality had its advantages. It meant that a truce would be declared when Mr Edhi and his ambulance arrived at the scene of gun battles between police and gangsters.

“They would cease fire,” notes Mr Edhi in his autobiography, “until bodies were carried to the ambulance, the engine would start and shooting would resume.”

Mr Edhi eventually found a wife, Bilquis, but his personal austerity was all but incompatible with married life. When the family went on Hajj, a vast overland journey in the ambulance, he forbade Bilquis to bring extra clothes, because he was determined to fill the vehicle with medical supplies.

Reaching Quetta in northern Baluchistan, with the temperature plunging, he relented enough to allow her to buy a Russian soldier’s overcoat.

Later on, when their children grew up, Mr Edhi would not find time to attend his daughter’s marriage.

But Mr Edhi’s epic achievement would not have been possible but for this inhuman single-mindedness. Today, the influence of the Edhi Foundation stretches far outside Pakistan and Mr Edhi has led relief missions across the Muslim world, providing aid at every international emergency from the Lebanon civil war in 1983 to the Bangladesh cyclone in 2007.

There are no horrors that Mr Edhi and his incredibly brave army of ambulance men have not witnessed, and the numerous lives they have saved.

The story of Mr Edhi coincides with the history of the Pakistan state.

More than any other living figure, he articulates Jinnah’s vision of a country which, while based on Islam, nevertheless offers a welcome for people of all faiths and sects. Indeed, the life of Mr Edhi provides a sad commentary on the betrayal of Jinnah’s Pakistan by a self-interested political class.

One evening, as the sun set over Karachi, I asked Mr Edhi what future he foresaw. “Unless things change,” he said, “I predict a revolution.”

Peter Oborne’s film on the Edhi Foundation can be seen in ‘Unreported World: Defenders of Karachi’.

The Telegraph (UK)

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Imams Condemn the Killing of UN workers in Afghanistan

April 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

(WARREN, MI, 4/2/11) – The Imams committee of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan condemns in the strongest terms the killing of innocent people and the UN workers at Mazar-i-Sharif UN station in Afghanistan.

Such violence is against the Islamic teachings and the spirit of the Holy Qur’an.

We are saddened by the unjust killing by a violent mob in Afghanistan, reacting to the Qur’an burning by Mr. Jones. Neither his provocative act nor any offense against the Islamic faith or Muslims would justify the killing of innocent.

We urge Mr. Jones to cancel plans to bring his hateful message to Michigan at the Islamic Center of America on April 22, to avoid potential irrational reaction by some equally ignorant among Muslims.
We urge all Muslims to ignore such provocative or aggressively symbolic acts against their faith.

The Qur’an teaches, “The good deed and the evil deed are not alike. Repel the evil deed with one which is better, then lo! he, between whom and thee there was enmity (will become) as though he was a bosom friend.” (41:34), the Qur’an further teaches, “…if anyone slays a human being unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth-it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind…” (5:32)

On behalf of the Imams and the Muslim community we offer our condolences and deepest sympathy to the family of the victims as we pray for peace and a world free of hate and bigotry.
The Imams Committee of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan represents a coalition of Muslim religious leaders (imams) in the Metro-Detroit area.

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