Live with the Confidence of ALLAH’S Grace

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, TMO

ALLAH, ta, created all of us from a single soul and endowed all of us with special gifts and qualities that are unique to us individually.  Each human being has the opportunity to make whatever we do the best.

But sometimes we forget about the special place ALLAH has placed us on.  We sometimes look at the gifts of others and put them on a pedestal higher than the one ALLAH has placed us on.  We will think someone is handsomer or prettier than we are.  Or we might think they are smarter or have a more perfectly built body.

But ALLAH, Almighty   has endowed each and every one of us with special gifts that are cause to celebrate.   

This is why it is ludicrous to put other people on a pedestal higher than yours. Carry yourself in a confident manner.  Hold your head high and look people in the eye as you talk to them.  You are royalty.  Don’t hold yourself back.   Go forward and celebrate yourself with no fear.  After all, no one you come in contact with is is better than you in the sight of Almighty ALLAH.    You are the special creation of Almighty ALLAH.  You come from the Ultimate Family…The family of ALLAH.

We should go through life with the feeling that every person and everything we come in contact with is there to serve us…because it is.  I was recently in a clothing store returning some merchandise to be exchanged.  The saleslady said there was no way that was going to happen because of some glitch.  I told her that it certainly could happen because in this age of technology anything is possible.  At this time, the manager came forward and entered a special code and the problem was solved. 

Now if I had let the first lady’s pronouncement go, I would not have accomplished my goal.  But with the attitude that everything and everyone was there to serve me, I was going to succeed.  I was reminded of the truth of the saying, “the difference between success and failure is one more try.  If you quit, you have surely failed.  But if you continue, some way, somehow, you will succeed.

I am also reminded of the tenacity of the early band of Muslims who were fleeing persecution from the Meccan’s.  With the enemy in pursuit of them, The Muslims sought refuge with an African Christian King on the advance instructions of the Prophet Muhammad, (as).   The King Negus was about to give the Muslims up to their enemies, but being steadfast and full of faith, they quoted some Qur’an and softened the king’s heart and the Meccans’ were sent back empty handed. 

Knowing your special place it should behoove you to take care of yourself.  Take care of your body and mind.  It is ALLAH’S gift to you. Eat sensibly and exercise regularly.   ALLAH made a gift to you and it would be like a slap in the face to Him and a detriment to you if you just let it rot.

Live with confidence like the royalty you are.

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

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Tunisia’s Transition to Democracy

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Washington–The first post-“Revolution” election over this modern Punic realm on the twenty-third of this month is essential to the direction of the future of the Arab “Spring,” and whether a truly Islamic democratic form can be fulfilled over the region.

Your narrator takes his report from a panel, “The Jasmine Revolution and Tunisia’s Transition to Democracy” which was the first segment of the Center for Democracy and Islam (CISD), headquartered here in the District of Columbia (D.C.), Twelfth Annual Conference, “Tunisia and Egypt’s Revolution and Transitions to Democracy.”    

Radwan Masmoudi, president and founder of The CSID, began the proceedings by stating that the recent rebellions in Tunisia and Egypt “…have been [something we were] dreaming of for a long time.” The revolutions have changed the perceptions of Arabs in the West.  What outsiders conceived to be stability was rotten to its core of corruption and repression.  NATO’s allied Arab elite grew out of touch domestically, failing to address chronic social and economic problems.  Now, it is important that these nations of the Middle East succeed!  Whereas, “The whole region is going through…changes…a lot of work has to be done…,” too.  Regarding the United States in particular, Dr. Masmoudi warned that now “…the United States must realize that change is coming, and they should not be afraid of change!” He  suggests that this meeting recommend how the United States (and other international actors) can best support the spread of democracy in  the Islamic world.

The panel of the middle of this April last consisted of Radwan Ziadeh, founder and director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies (Syria) as moderator; with opening comments by Mohamed Salah Tekaya, the current Ambassador of Tunisia to the United States; Jaloul Ayed, Minister of Finance in Tunis; and, finally, Mondher Ben Ayed, a Tunisian businessman and a board member of the CSID chapter in the Tunisian capital.

Jaloul Ayed, Minister of Finance for Tunisia, asserted that, “We have a real opportunity…We can create a democratic political system free of corruption that truly respects human rights.” Minister Ayed said Tunisia’s Revolution was the first of the so-called Arab “Spring” because due to our previous history (and traditions).

Minister Ayed paid tribute to the “spontaneous, leaderless and party-less” Revolution.  At the present, among the primary challenges facing the current transitional government preparing for elections are maintaining security and managing the expectations of the people.  Although the security situation is improving, “the reality is, the government cannot meet the people’s demands immediately.”
The transitional government is focusing on four main priorities: reducing unemployment, restoring economic growth, reducing regional disparities, and assisting Tunisians in need.  With a population of 10 million, 600,000 are unemployed, with large numbers of recent graduates unable to find work, also.

Curiously, the country’s tourism and export sectors employ about one million workers and support 50 percent of the population, but both have been severely impacted by the Revolution. 

The new government intends to create twenty thousand additional jobs in the public sector and to recruit an additional twenty thousand more into the military.  We, further, anticipate a growing economy to absorb another twenty thousand workers in the private sector, yet it is “a drop in the bucket,” but, moreover, “a good start.”  Their Program Hope, an expanding new project, will provide small cash stipends to recent graduates to help them enter the labor market.

To restore economic growth the Ministry of Finance is commencing major initiatives on infrastructure and finance reformation.  “We need a serious reform of our entire financial system…. These problems developed over a long time and will require a long-term solution.”    

Efforts have begun to reduce regional disparities in microfinance projects and advice to small and medium-sized enterprises.  Simultaneously, on the social front, the government is providing subsidies to families that have suffered financially since the Revolution.

The government is attempting to obtain the wealth with which the former President Ben Ali absconded.  The Finance Minister attested that the process has been “complicated and technical,” so as not to disrupt viable companies or to destroy the banks.  Real estate rightfully belonging to the State will go back to the government while stolen financial assets will go back to the banks.

The transitional government acknowledges it does not have a mandate to engage in major structural changes; therefore, it simultaneously wishes to prepare for the next (elected) government while meeting the current pressing demands of the people. “We believe that the spark that began in Tunisia will give us a tremendous responsibility to make sure that this transition becomes a successful one!  Failure is totally unacceptable!”

Your reporting author summarizes that Minister Jaloul Ayed acknowledges the necessity of stemming the institutional corruption of the past; there is a requirement for a wide-ranging political debate; also, to commit the Republic to development; and, thereby, the establishment of stability for foreign investment capital to thrive.

Mondher Ben Ayed, a Tunisian businessman and a board member of CSID-Tunis, opened his remarks with a review of the security situation.  The army and the police are smaller than both internal and external threats demand.  In actuality, “The army is…only 35,000 troops that are not even trained well or equipped.”  Succinctly, external and internal securities are issues.

Mr. Ben Ayed gave the exact figures to which Jaloul Ayed only intimated in his assessment of the economic challenges ahead.   The latter predicted that unemployed might rise to 700,000 before it starts to fall.  To be exact, 350,000 persons are employed in the tourism industry.  This will be a bad year for that sector!  “Right now, foreign debt is up, foreign investment is down, and the budget deficit is exploding because of food and energy subsidies to the people…We have lost our trade with Libya…and the banking system is weak with lots of bad debts.”

“We are facing major economic challenges,” but despite this gloom, Mr. Ben Ayed still remains optimistic. “Before the revolution, Tunisia had strong economic fundamentals,” a high literacy rate, equal status for women, and a strong middle class.  Even with the massive corruption, the country experienced four years of 5-percent annual growth. “If we can take out corruption, we should be able to achieve 7 or 8 percent of growth per annum,” but “We need financial aid for a two-year transitional period, after which we will be fine.” The United States and Europe are essential to our “Revolution’s success.

“We have had more political change in the past…months than in the previous fifty years… all these changes have been made under existing civil law in an ad-hoc environment.”  A new Election Commission and Code has been produced. The upcoming elections scheduled (for this month) will engender a new 200-member parliament that will, likewise, draft a new constitution.

We have experienced momentous political changes.  After a new Constitution we shall proceed towards a Presidential election, and, thus, hopefully, will be “…solving our problems…”

Finally, the convener of the Conference, Radwan Masoudi, noted that, while religion will continue to be a major force in the country (Tunisia is 98 percent Muslim with a long tradition of moderation), “…no one wants a theocratic state—everybody wants a democratic civil state that fully respects human rights and Islamic values and culture.”

The challenge will be “to find a good balance between Islamic religious values and democratic values….I think Tunisia is well placed to develop…a moderate Islamic state.”

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Amin Hashmi Runs for Troy City Council

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

amin_dscn0089One of the many community members running for local, state and federal positions in this cycle of elections is Mr. Amin Hashmi, who is running for Troy City Council.

Hashmi has lived around the world, east and west, and further has travelled the world in his capacity as a merchant marine engineer. 

“I have drunk all seven oceans,” Hashmi says with some satisfaction, further explaining that while living ship-board he had drunk desalinated water from literally around the world.

Hashmi is unaffiliated as a candidate, offering to bridge the divide between Republicans and Democrats that has paralyzed all levels of American government in the polarized climate of the past few years–from the federal level all the way down to the Troy City Council, which has been immobilized by a vicious debate over raising taxes.

Hashmi explains that he does not want to raise taxes until the last minute, but if it is necessary to avoid cutting necessary fire and security services then raising taxes would be a valid if unappetizing alternative.

Hashmi is one of two unaffiliated candidates, running against three Democrats and three Republicans.  The eight candidates are running for three spots on the city council; no incumbents are in the election.

The candidate is realistic about his chances but explains the difficulty of making estimates in an election where there are no polls.  Certainly Mr. Hashmi is familiar with the demographics of Troy.  He explains that Troy has about 85,000 residents, from whom about 12,000 votes will likely be cast in the November 8th election.  Realistically he hopes that with 4,000 to 6,000 votes a candidate would be able to secure one of the available seats.

This is not Hashmi’s first brush with public service.  He explained in an interview with TMO that over the past ten years he has worked to cross ethnic hurdles in Troy by facilitating events designed to celebrate the ethnic heritages represented there, from Greek to Indian, to Pakistani and others.

Troy, he explains, is a relatively very powerful city.  The city is among Michigan’s top three cities, and nationally is one of the top 20 or 30 cities, according to him.

Having been educated literally around the world, Hashmi ascribes deep importance to education and has fought very hard on behalf recently of a millage to fund the Troy city library.

Visit aminhasmi.com for more information about his campaign.

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Washing for a Son

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

four-baby-boy_1024x768_1278A bouncing baby boy, for many, is much more than merely a happy addition to the family. In some parts of the world, many couples deem sons to be more of a gift than girls. The reason being is that some perceive that boys possess more strength than girls and have more freedom of movement in societies where males are mostly the breadwinners. It’s regrettable that girls, in this day and age, are not always as cherished as they should be. In the Middle East and Southeast Asia, for example, male sons often carry their parents into old age whereas girls often care for their husband’s family.

It’s unfortunate that the success of some marriages also depends almost exclusively on the wife’s ability to produce a male heir. Little thought is given to the fact that the male sperm actually is the deciding factor in the sex of a child. Many men will even take second wives to increase their chances of having a son. For these reasons, many women go to drastic measures to try to produce a son in an attempt to save their marriages.

Some of the methods many wives engage in range from the strange to the absolutely ridiculous. From eating special food combinations to scheduling intimacy with their husbands to specific times that supposedly will result in a male birth, it seems most women in the region are game for just about anything. However, one of the most startling methods is a new product that promises to increase a woman’s chances of producing a son by almost half. It is called “Intimate Wash” and it is popping up in pharmacies all over the Middle East. According to the product label, the soap promises a 50% increased chance of producing either a boy or a girl. The insert contains directions of use specific to the gender desired.

The price of the soap, which promises to “deliver” so much, is less than $5.00. There are other types of soaps and washes also appearing on pharmacy shelves that are a bit more expensive. One such soap hails from Greece and guarantees that not only is it naturally organic but it also works with a similar percentage of success as the other soaps on the market.

Unfortunately the soaps have not been approved by any sort of governmental committee or organization, similar to the Food and Drug Administration in the USA, which protects the American population from harmful pharmaceuticals. However, the promises on the sleek package designs are often enough to bring a women’s hopes up despite the unforeseen dangers that the soap could pose to both her mental and physical health.

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Dealing with Hypocrites

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

In this world, there are many people who do not speak the truth. Even more alarming, there are people who speak in half-truths, using linguistic details to mislead, while not technically lying. Just as the Disbelievers read the Quran looking for corruption within it, certain people make agreements in bad faith, seeking loopholes. Like the Quranic description of Satan, this person makes a promise, but then when you ask him about it, he claims he never promised that thing! Such people can make us want to beat our heads against the wall.

The Prophet (s) said: “Most of man’s mistakes and sins are committed by his tongue, and the worst sin is to lie!”

How can we navigate ourselves safely in a world where things are often not as they are explained? One thing we must do is give less space in our minds to the hypocrites. “Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head,” as the saying goes. It is important to let go of the fantasy that we can control others. All we can do is control how we react to them, and make sure we don’t fall into their trap.

“Because hypocrisy stinks in the nostrils one is likely to rate it as a more powerful agent for destruction than it is.” wrote Rebecca West in 1928.

Promise-breakers generally have a pattern of behavior. At a certain point, nobody believes what they say. The Quran states in Surat al-Nur:

And of mankind, there are some who say: “We believe in Allah and the Last Day’’ while in fact they do not believe. They try to deceive Allah and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves, and perceive (it) not!

There are some people who are outwardly religious, but you still cannot trust them because they have developed an internal dialogue that justifies their transgressions against other people. A terrible example I can give is an outwardly devout Muslim man who married three wives without clearly explaining his marital status to his brides. When I asked him why he did not inform his third wife of his other two wives, his reply was, “She did not ask!”

In light of this admission I feel obliged to advise those seeking to enter into a marriage with anyone to do three things:

1.    Ask questions! Never trust someone blindly or withhold questions in fear of offending.

2.    Talk to people who know this person and ask very specific questions about their past.

3.    Ask for the person’s credit report

In this day and age where we arrange marriages with near strangers from other parts of the world, it important to check out anyone we plan to marry. A credit report will tell you a lot about a person, in particular: does this person honor his or her agreements? If a bank would not loan money to this person, it would be wise for you not to invest too much trust in this person.

On the authority of Abdullah ibn ‘Amr, the Prophet (s) said: “There are four traits which, whoever possesses them is a hypocrite and whoever possesses some of them has an element of hypocrisy until he leaves it: the one who when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks his promise, when he disputes he transgresses and when he makes an agreement he violates it.”

Nobody is perfect. Some innocent people break promises just because they have personal weaknesses, not because they were intending to deceive. A friend of mine who was going to Germany asked me what I wanted as a gift so I asked her to bring me some marzipan. She faithfully bought the marzipan, but during the journey could not control her sweet tooth and ate it all! I was disappointed of course but I did not hate her for this because she did the honorable thing: She admitted she had made the promise, admitted she broke the promise, and felt genuinely sorry.

There is a huge difference between this and those who purposely trick people, who backbite, cheat, or bluff their way through life, and when you confront them they become hostile to avoid further discussion. One woman found out shortly after marriage that her fiance had lied about his ethnic background, his financial status, and even his source of livelihood! When she asked him why, he said, “If I had told you the truth, you would not have married me.”

A true liar lies in order to seek personal gain. It is not just a reflexive action like that of a teenager whose father asked her, “Have you been smoking?” Real hypocrites actually enjoy torturing truthful people with confusion, considering themselves above others.

Imam Ali stated about the hypocrites: “They are jealous of other people’s prosperity, interested in other people’s misery and are a source of hopelessness and stress.”

I have learned as I have grown older to trust others less and myself more. I have learned that my body never lies. If a certain person causes me to have headaches and stomachaches, or causes my heart rate to increase, that person is probably unhealthy for me as company. I should even refrain from arguing with such a person because they only respond with lies to my attempts to appeal to their higher self.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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Yalla Change Event

October 6, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

AAI and NNAAC coordinate leadership conference in Dearborn

By Adil James, TMO

PA010135Dearborn–October 1–The aftermath of 9/11 has been a trial for Arabs and for Muslims, but Arabs and Muslims have responded by stepping vigorously into the public arena and a reflection of that trend is this weekend’s “Yalla Change” leadership conference in Dearborn.

The event was co-sponsored by the Arab American Institute and the National Network for Arab American Communities and was attended by about 200 guests and speakers.  The event was held at the Doubletree Hotel in Dearborn.  Those in attendance appeared to be mostly professionals who had experience working as leaders in the Muslim and especially Arab communities, and it seemed as though the focus of the leadership conference was in building the capacity of the Arab community for involvement in the arena of public service.

Discussions that contributed to this capacity were a discussion by the “Center for Arab American Philanthropy,” “Maximizing Earned-Income Endeavors,” “Tapping Employee and Volunteer Motivation to Minimize Burnout,” “Telling Your Financial Story to Funders,” and “Innovative Practices for Nonprofits,” among others.  Each of these sessions was a full multi-hour discussion designed to increase the effectiveness of Arab organizations–the majority of the seminars at the event focused on this area.

A few of the sessions focused on broader issues, namely the red herring issue of anti-Shariah legislation and a presentation by Wajahat Ali on the coterie of anti-Islam zealots such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who appeared recently on the national scene but who have garnered disproportionate influence in the wake of September 11th and have, amazingly, by the strength of only a few shrill voices, polarized the American climate in relation to Islam to attempt to deny Muslims even the peaceful enjoyment of good relations with their neighbors.

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Ahmar Contests for Ann Arbor School Board

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO

CIMG3827_2Farmington–September 28–Ahmar Iqbal is contesting for a school board seat in Ann Arbor.  There are six contestants for two seats that are up for reelection, including the two incumbents.

Mr. Iqbal seemed to exude some confidence and certainly a lot of knowledge of the Ann Arbor School District in an interview Wednesday with TMO.

Unfortunately there is no polling in School Board elections, and so it is difficult to estimate one’s impact.

“It’s hard to say,” he explains, “there is no polling, a lot of candidates, it’s hard to establish name recognition–but I’ve been going to school board meetings, knocking on doors, meeting community leaders.”

Iqbal’s knowledge of the school district is the most impressive feature of his campaign, showing his seriousness in seeking one of the available seats.

He rattles off the relevant facts, for instance that there are 3 high schools, 16,000 students in all grades, with a budget of $185 million. 

He speaks about his plans for the future, emphasizing plans to build on the Jewish community’s Hebrew instruction program that is available to Ann Arbor students-similar programs for other languages should exist, he argues.

He trades on his strength in finance–his main focus, he says, is to more responsibly manage the district budget.  “We have to get all the resources that are our due.  We have to be more prudent in other budget areas so we can hire more teachers, reduce class sizes. 

He speaks of his own children’s experiences at the public schools, explaining that their class sizes are from 30 to 39 students.

Following are some of the key points from Mr. Iqbal’s promotional brochure:

Why I am running for the school board?

My finance experience involving over $2 billion of projects, gives me a chance to address the biggest challenge facing Ann Arbor schools — how to fund a great education.  I want to use my finance expertise in exploring how we can more responsibly manage our school system to provide a great education for all our kids.

My goals if elected to the school board?

I want to move the discussion from the current “survival” and “community reactionary” mode to how can we provide a great education to all our students.  How can the “Educated in Ann Arbor” brand be recognized as a world leader in providing a robust, diverse and challenging education?

I would like us to find the money to (1) hire more teachers and reduce class size; (2) explore a longer school calendar; (3) commence foreign language from grade one.

At the same time, we must maintain equity for all students and approach education as a holistic development including character and confidence.  School busing should be available for all students including 7th hour. 

Summer online education programs should be encouraged.  In collaboration with parents and mentors, an actual education plan should be developed for each student and visited regularly.  This plan should not only include student expectations, but also input from parents and teachers as well as mentors.

My 100 day plan if elected to the school board?

1.    Create advisory committees on issues concerning the parents and the community.

2.    Competitive bids on all school contracts.  In the most recent school board meeting on Sept. 14, two contracts worth over $400,000 were approved without multiple bidding.  We must be prudent with all of the district’s money.
 
3.    Regular “coffee hours” by the administration, board members and principals to engage the community and explore collaboration opportunities.

4.    Actively advocate Lansing lawmakers on keeping the school aid fund for K-12 only as well as reforming local funding options for school districts.

5.    Celebrate our successes and positive attributes.  Not only student achievements, but faculty and community recognition as well.

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Take Time for Internal Reflection

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, TMO

It is not the quantity, but the quality of time spent attempting to follow the guidance of ALLAH that ensures success.  ALLAH says in Qur’an that “everything is a sign – for those who reflect.”  Each day, if we just take 10 minutes of quiet, quality time in carefully selected thought procedures, we can improve our life by achieving a greater measure of happiness, increased efficiency, and a feeling of spiritual, mental, and physical well-being.

So many things whiz by us each day that it is virtually impossible to reflect while you are on the go.  You will possibly see these “signs of ALLAH”, but not will reflect on them to get the full benefit.  So many miraculous things occur during the course of our going about our daily activities.  They are happening whether you realize it or not.  The key is to first know that ALLAH is in the blessing business and then key in on your blessings by being one of those who “reflect” on the signs of ALLAH.

This 10 minute formula I am sharing with you has been proven scientifically over time and it is right in sync with the ALLAH’S word to “reflect.”  The plan is to spend the 10 minutes every day in quiet submission.  It must be regular.  To do it for a day or two and then skip a day or two will lessen the impact on the results.

ALLAH is real, and He will guide you as you submit your mind to His.  Don’t go into this process with the idea “I want to do this—or do that.  Instead, wait on an answer to enter your mind.  You have now made your mind susceptible to Divine wisdom.

This is in the same vein as the Istikara prayer Muslims say in the early reaches of the night.  The difference is, in the istakara prayer, we ask ALLAH to examine our particular situation.  It may be a particular relationship or maybe a career move or something similar.  We make two rakah and ask ALLAH to make it easy and possible to attain— if it is right for us.  If it is not right for us, we ask Him to remove it from us.  Istakara is a powerful tool of connection and help from ALLAH.

This time of reflection is also special because we stop what we are doing, go to a quiet place with no distractions and wait for thoughts to enter your mind.  They might not be what you expect or even what you want.  They may be far from what we are accustomed to thinking.  But if you are a believer and have submitted yourself to be an instrument of ALLAH, you will be on a higher wavelength of righteousness in which there is no error. The time can vary.  It may be before salat or after salat—or an hour or so after salat. It doesn’t matter.  The main thing is quietness, relaxation, and submission of your mind to ALLAH.

There are many tools and avenues to connect spiritually to our Creator.  This is only one.  Sometimes while offering salat, solutions and answers come to our minds.  I take it as ALLAH choosing a time to communicate with me.  Some people think they are sinning if your mind wanders during salat.  But it is not necessarily so.  It depends on what your mind is wandering to.

This human mind we have is special and it has a special way of communicating with its Maker.  Reflect on the “Signs” of ALLAH.  You will be richer for it.

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

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Ten Lashes

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

cane

“Corporal punishment is as humiliating for him who gives it as for him who receives it; it is ineffective besides. Neither shame nor physical pain have any other effect than a hardening one.” 

~ Ellen Key

You hop in the car, fumble with the keys, start the engine and prepare to take that first sip of coffee as you back out of the driveway. This is the way that many Americans start their morning as they set out to work for the day. For most people, getting on the road safely and reaching your destination on time are the primary concerns. However, for the women of Saudi Arabia, there is a new concern to be considered before getting behind the wheel.

This past week Saudi Arabian national Shaima Ghassaniya was found guilty of driving without the permission of her government. Her punishment, which would be a mere slap on the wrist in America for the same “crime,” is flogging. By definition the word flogging means, “To beat severely with a whip or rod.” Ghassaniya is to be flogged a total of ten times with her punishment to undoubtedly serve as an example for other women in the kingdom that dare to drive.

There is no law on the books in Saudi Arabia that says women are legally barred from driving. However, there is a law that states anyone driving on the roads of Saudi Arabia must have license. The catch is that women are not issued drivers license. Denying a woman the right to drive means that she must rely on a male relative, or sometimes even a male chauffer, in order to travel. For women who are single, getting around without a car is often a nightmare.

The driving laws seem archaic compared to the full driving rights that women enjoy in neighboring Arab countries, like Kuwait and Oman. “I would be lost without my car,” laments Raina Ahmed who is a schoolteacher in Kuwait, “I have to drive myself to and from work every day. I also use my car to take my children for all of their doctor’s appointments.” Female drivers in other Arab countries share the roadways with their male counterparts and are often safer drivers.

The news of the Ghassaniya’s flogging punishment comes on the heels of another announcement that could have been promising for the women in the region. King Abdullah recently announced on state-run television that Saudi Arabian women have been granted the right to vote and run in local elections. However, they will have to wait until the year 2015 to exercise these newly given rights. Perhaps, by then, they will be able to drive themselves to the ballot box.

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New Initiatives: “The Muslim Element”

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Aqeela Naqvi, TMO

BLACK_AND_WHITE_Aqeela_NaqviAs the times progress and technology develops, different and new ways are being found to accomplish age-old goals. From teaching children their A-B-C’s, to distance education, to social interaction—the amount of new and innovative means to accomplish these ends are innumerable. Everyone is looking for less traditional, and more creative ways to cater to society’s interests, in particular, those of the youth.

A group of youth from New Jersey has identified with and understood this phenomenon, and has undertaken the task of using newer, more creative technology to develop a positive sense of brotherhood between Muslim youth, as well as youth of other religious and cultural backgrounds. “The Muslim Element” (The Mu for short), as they call themselves, is an initiative founded in 2010 to provide products that express their religious as well as universal humanitarian beliefs. They are currently focused on providing clothing that embodies various messages, the goal being to positively affect the lives of youth by allowing them to connect to their religion through the use of a more creative and modern medium. The Mu garners no profit from their sales: every penny generated by the organization is used either for the creation of new products and t-shirts, or is given back to the community in the form of charitable donations or sponsorship of events at local Islamic centers.

Muslim_ElementThe Muslim Element has developed three products thus far, one of which being a “Freedom” t-shirt, sold in early 2011, when revolutions were sparking across the Islamic world. This shirt helped to get youth involved in promoting the idea of freedom and justice in a more innovative and creative manner than before. Even if they could not physically attend rallies to demand freedom for those innocents being oppressed in countries across the world, they could display their support of justice and truth to everyone they met through the clothing they wore.

Initiatives such as these are necessary for reaching out to new generations of youth. The Muslim Element supports the enlightenment of Muslims—especially the younger generation living in the West—and aims to show them through messages embodied in clothing that they should take pride in who they are and the beautiful messages of truth and justice, propagated by the religion they believe in. In this way, says their mission statement, they hope to help the youth to “remain vigilant in understanding their faith and their humanity, develop an awareness of relatable and current topics in the world, and actively propagate truths and dispel misconceptions about the beautiful religion of Islam.”

More information about this initiative, as well as vending information for your local center, can be found online at: www.facebook.com/TheMuslimElement

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Decadent Desserts Delight Kuwait

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

“Life is uncertain.  Eat dessert first.”  ~Ernestine Ulmer

cupcakeDozens of cupcakes topped with miles of whipped frosting and dusted with colorful sprinkles, rich cheesecakes drenched with luscious berry sauce and towering parfaits topped with plenty of fruit and whipped cream. These are just a few of the decadent desserts available in bakery shops and restaurant menus all over Kuwait.

It used to be that traditional Arab desserts like Roz Bil Hilab, which is rice pudding topped with pistachios, or Kunafa, which is crunchy vermicelli noodles filled with sweet cream, were the perfect sweet ending to a meal. However, things have changed drastically in Kuwait and the dessert menu could not be sweeter.

Many blame it on the cupcake craze that took over America and soon the UK nearly a decade ago. The same fanatical food fad also invaded Kuwait and dug in its heels, thus never leaving. Today, cupcakes are sold just about anywhere people congregate such as food kiosks strategically stationed near recreational facilities and even school cafeterias. The love affair with cupcakes in Kuwait is so fervent that a handful of young Kuwaiti fashion designers recently designed an entire clothing line around the miniscule calorie-laden treats.

Once the cupcake craze grew to the gargantuan proportions that is today, businessmen in the Kuwaiti food industry became more proactive in providing other delectable western sweets to tempt the palates, and wallets, of the unsuspecting populous of the country. The result has been nothing short of miraculous, albeit a bit scary. Some of the most popular desserts that are currently challenging the cupcake in Kuwait today include pastel-hued French macarons and designer chocolate chip cookies larger than a human head.

Restaurants and businesses aren’t the only ones capitalizing on the dessert boom in Kuwait.  Hostesses all over the country are making a name for themselves based on the desserts they serve at their gatherings and dinner parties. Some simply pick up parcels of desserts at local bakeries, however others are whipping up their own concoctions right in the kitchen. A slew of dessert-themed recipe books and cooking shows have inundated Kuwait over the past few years giving momentum to a dessert obsession that simply will not die.

The downside to the decadent dessert initiative in Kuwait is, obviously, the sugar and calories. According to a 2010 report released by the World Health Organization (WHO), at least 74% of the Kuwaiti population is overweight and 14% have already developed diabetes. The WHO predicts that those figures will rise unless individuals make more healthful food choices.

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An Eyewitness Account of the Stay Human Flotilla

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

Readers of The Muslim Observer will be familiar with the dedicated work of human rights activist, Mary Hughes -Thompson. Beginning with her travels a decade ago under the auspices of the Christian Peacemaker Teams and including her work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), we come now to her most recent attempt to be part of the second flotilla to Gaza. Mary has been a tireless fighter for the rights of Palestinians.

Ms Hughes-Thompson was part of the original Free Gaza Movement and sailed aboard one of the two ships that broke the decades long Israeli siege of Gaza along its Mediterranean coast in August 2008. She has made numerous trips since then and was part of a three woman communications operation on Cyprus during the first flotilla attempt in 2010. She was one of the first people to receive the news of Israeli piracy aboard the MAVI MARMARA.

Ms Hughes has made public appearances since her return from Greece where the ship she was on was interdicted by the Greek Navy. She has agreed to speak to The Muslim Observer in depth about her experiences.

TMO: You have done so much and travelled so many miles for Palestine, you must at some point have wanted to skip this trip with its attendant risks. Could you share your feelings and what, in the end, compelled you to go?

MHT:  Traveling to and inside Palestine is something I have always found to be physically and emotionally exhausting.   Also as a senior on a fixed income I have to make a lot of sacrifices in order to cover the extensive travel costs involved, as of course do all of us who make Palestine a priority.  For all these reasons I felt I couldn’t afford to participate in another flotilla.   As the time for departure neared, and so many of my friends and colleagues prepared to join the flotilla, I realized I needed after all to find a way to be a part of it.

Ms Thompson contacted organizers of the Turkish campaign and was told there was a strong possibility the MAVI MARMARA might not sail. 

Israel had announced, following the deaths on the MAVI MARMARA in 2010, that it regarded only that ship as hostile. The other members of the flotilla were acknowledged by Israel to have non threatening humanitarian aims. It was felt that the presence of the MAVI MARMARA might give Israel the excuse to stop the flotilla. In the end, the ship stayed in port in Turkey.

TMO: Could you tell us, please, what your next step was.

MHT: I then contacted the organizers of Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign and asked to be considered as a passenger on its boat TAHRIR.   I was delighted to be accepted for  passage, and ten days later I left for Greece and the island of Crete where the boat was berthed.

At this time Greece was in turmoil due to severe domestic and financial problems.  For weeks, thousands of Greek citizens held huge demonstrations against their government.  While I felt that the people of Greece supported the Palestinian cause, it became apparent that the government could probably not withstand pressure from the governments of Israel and the US.
Nonetheless, a member of the Greek parliament went to the boat to express his best wishes.

TMO: What did he say, and did he bring the wishes of other people and/or groups?

MHT:  After the Coast Guard delayed our departure repeatedly over nearly two weeks, the Greek minister came on board TAHRIR to show support for our efforts to be allowed to leave Greece and sail for Gaza.  He promised to do his best to intercede on our behalf, assuring us that most Greek citizens supported the flotilla.

In the weeks before passengers on all the boats gathered at various Greek ports,  Israel sent its ambassadors to all of the countries whose citizens were sending boats to join the flotilla, attempting to persuade the governments to stop them from doing so. Israel also pressured maritime Insurance groups and companies which supplied satellite equipment to the ships of the flotilla, threatening  legal action if they provided their services.

Israeli journalist, freedom advocate, and TAHRIR passenger, Amira Haas wrote: “The flotilla’s organizers added a term from the world of business and globalization to their description of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians. Israel, they said, was outsourcing the industry of the blockade on Gaza.”

TMO: Can you describe the feeling aboard the TAHRIR – optimistic, pessimistic, wait and see?

MHT: We stayed optimistic throughout, even when we began to see it was just a game being played by Greece at the behest of Israel and the U.S.  We hoped Greece would eventually run out of excuses and let us leave.  We all wanted more than anything to sail to Gaza, but we felt that no matter what happened we were winning because of the publicity and of the shameless way Israel and the U.S. were behaving.  We felt everything just proved how scary we were to Israel.  Also, once we decided to break out and set sail, even though we didn’t expect to get far, we were euphoric and were almost as excited as if we truly were on our way to Gaza. 

TMO: Can you tell us something about your fellow passengers aboard the TAHRIR? Were the passengers an eclectic mix? Were various peace groups represented?

MHT: The participants called theirs the A-B-C-D group;  while most passengers were from Canada, there were contingents from Australia, Belgium and Denmark which had helped raise the money to buy TAHRIR.  All of the training was conducted in French and English, and we became close friends. Though not well known in the U.S. we had several participants who are well known leaders in their own countries.  Also Kevin Neish who was on board the MAVI MARMARA last year.  He and Amira were to be on the MAVI this year but transferred to TAHRIR when MAVI dropped out)
{ Note from TMO that a list of passengers and their specifics can be found on their web site: www.tahir.ca.}

Spokespersons for each boat told of the same unrelenting demands by the Greek Navy and the same tedious excuses – the need to see papers, papers, and more papers; finding fault with the size of the berths, and inadequate temperature control. In the end, no one was allowed to leave Greek coastal waters.

TMO: When you were boarded by the Greek Navy after you began to sail absent permission, were you frightened? Did you think you would be arrested?

MHT:  I wouldn’t say any of us were frightened because we hadn’t found any of the Greeks to be hostile to us.  When they boarded with guns drawn they certainly were serious about stopping us, but they didn’t attack any of the passengers.  I personally found it somewhat intimidating because I realized how helpless we would have been if it had been Israelis who would be very brutal and would have no consideration for our safety, no matter how old we were.

TMO: Tell us about the medicines aboard the TAHRIR. Had you reached Gaza what would have been the next step in their distribution?

MHT: Our two doctors (one Belgian, one French-Canadian) told us we had $30,000. in much needed medicine.  They said it was chosen  very carefully because it was important medicine that was completely unavailable in Gaza and which would save lives.  We saw it ourselves, and saw the earliest expiry date was 2014.

Amira Haas has noted that the primary problem in Gaza is not starvation. Food is brought in via tunnels albeit at an inflated price. And the Palestinians in Gaza take care of one another. The real problem is freedom. By separating the West Bank from Gaza the public can easily forget that Gaza is Palestine. Prisoners released from incarceration in the West Bank are often sent to Gaza where they cannot leave. This is a life sentence for them.

TMO: Can you tell us your hopes for true freedom for the people of Gaza?

MHT: My hope is that as the world community becomes increasingly aware that Israel is the primary cause of all the violence in Palestine, Israel will find itself even more isolated and unable to continue getting away with masquerading as the victim.   Facebook and social networking have been very important in educating more and more people to what is happening, and I believe these people are increasingly on the side of Palestinian rights.

TMO: Despite the failure of the flotilla to reach Gaza so many passengers have seen good come out of the attempt. Can you comment on that?

MHT: We were disappointed, of course, because we hadn’t anticipated that Israel’s talons could reach so far from its own shores.  We knew our friends in Gaza were enthusiastically planning for our arrival, and that they too were disappointed once again. But I don’t see it as a failure.  I see it as just another nail in the coffin of zionist Israel.  Starting with the attack on Lebanon, then Gaza, followed by last year’s massacre on the MAVI MARMARA and attack on all the flotilla boats, and finally what happened to Flotilla 2 – Stay Human, Israel finally realizes its glory days are over, and that if it doesn’t made some serious changes it will soon be completely friendless.  More important, we continue to be energized by the strength and endurance of the people of Gaza and all of Palestine who have found hope from our boats.  I am so proud to have been instrumental, along with some wonderful Free Gaza colleagues, in reaching the shores Gaza three years ago, and humbled to realize all that has happened as a result of our crazy idea.

TMO: We know you do not give up. Can you tell us your plans for the next trip to break the siege of Gaza?

MHT:  The U.S. boat is still being held in Greece, clearly under orders from the U.S.  Most of the other boats have been moved to other ports, including TAHRIR. While I can’t give details of future plans, I am confident there will be another flotilla.  And I will be there.  Today’s announcement from Turkey that warships will accompany future flotillas is very welcome, because we know each time we set sail we risk death or serious injury in the international waters of the Mediterranean.  We find it remarkable that Israel seems to underestimate our commitment to peace for the people of Palestine.  Each time they stop our boats, attack our boats, ram our boats, murder our passengers… thousands more around the world ask to join our next flotilla.  We will not be intimidated and we will not stop sailing our boats until Gaza and all of Palestine are free.

The Muslim Observer extends its thanks to Ms Hughes-Thompson for her time and for the great work she has done as a human rights activist.

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Palestine/Gaza & the “Arab Spring”

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Tri-City Area (California)–San Francisco Bay Area–This is a continuation of my coverage of Lauren Booth and the AMP (American Muslims for Palestine’s) dinner.  Your journalist sees this as a part of his examination of the geo-political situation as Ramallah prepares herself for self-agency by marching forward to the UN in New York this month demanding statehood.

I have already presented a short report on Libya printed here on these pages with a good deal of my own research.  Except for Paul Laudree (below), your reporter has refrained from using names to protect any relations who may still be left behind in their native lands, but because Paul is well known for his opposition to Israeli policy against Palestine – and especially toward Gaza – and the Israelis have already threatened him with dire consequences if he is ever caught in the Occupied Territories again, I have decided to name him.

Your reporter has written on Paul twice before.  Definitely, he is one of your writer’s heroes, and, he is a brave man, too, and we suffer through the same maladies of aging!  Paul is one of the co-founders of the Free Gaza Movement, the American contingent of the greater international humanitarian movement to relieve Gaza by sea.
Dr. Laudree is the son of American and Iranian parents.  He was born in Iran during the first year of the “baby boomers”.  His career was spent at the American University in Beirut.  Therefore, he is wll aquainted with the Middle East and speaks Arabic fluently and probably Farsi, too.

Paul came close to losing his life after his capture during the last running through Tel Aviv’ Navy’s blockade into the Gaza Strip.   Fortunately, he did survive a severe beating, and was deported to Turkey with a warning never to enter the (Occupied) Territories again — or else!

In the most recent attempt to relieve Gaza, most of the boats were from the Mediterranean littoral, but yet your scribe does not fully subscribe to Paul’s analyst that it was Israel’s big brother, the United States, who held the majority of their ships in Athens’s harbor.  Boat and land convoys have pierced the isolated Palestinian nation on the coastal Strip in the past.  Your correspondent suspects it had more to do with the recent European Union (EU’s) financial bailout of the Hellenes.

When Paul Laudree had stopped by Greece’s capital, Athens, two years ago, her current Prime Minister, then out of power, and while Israel then was anathema over the Hellenic landscape and the same George Papandreou of the Panhellenic Socialist Party wished, at that time, to have photo ops with our orator.  The Prime Minister still rules-over a basically anti-Israeli/America populace; thus, your author believes that it may have been more the EU who influenced their domestically unpopular foreign policy behavior.  

(Emeritus) Professor Paul Laudree muses, for the present we have been forced to desist, but we still have plenty of vessels to deploy. 

The planning for the million-person march to Jerusalem has commenced!  He is involved in a global movement of over a thousand souls trek to the Abrahamic Holy City.  There will, also, even be a contingent from the U.S. 

“Look at the bordering republics, yet none will help her.”  Ultimately, from “Where is the defenders of our [their] rights,” coming?

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Palestine Children’s Relief Fund Event

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) has announced the attendance of two very special guests at this years  banquet/fundraiser. The two sisters, Fatema and Hala, ages 10 and 11,  were seriously burned in a house fire in Gaza, Palestine. They are but two of the many children that the PCRF has helped in the long  journey from illness and disability along the long road to health with the  concurrent ability to lead a normal life. Ahmad Saloul who is 9 years old and is  also from Gaza will join them. He is awaiting surgery at Shriners Hospital in  Los Angeles.

The event will be held September 24th at the Anaheim  Hilton in Anaheim, Ca. Tickets are $100 each with table sponsorships available.  To purchase a ticket(s), please call: 562-432-0005 or fax at:  562-684-0828.

The girls will travel to Texas to be treated for  their injuries, but only after a trip to Disneyland. They will incur no expenses  nor will their families as these expenses will be covered by the PCRF. The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund is also proud  to announce the featured speaker for the evening, Diana Buttu, a  Canadian-Palestinian attorney who has gained international acclaim and respect  for her legal work.

Ms Buttu’s accomplishments are many: herewith a few. She is a  fellow of the Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government. She  currently resides in Palestine and served as a legal advisor to the Palestinian  negotiating team. She was the only woman at the Palestine-Israeli negotiations.  In 2004 she was part of a team that successfully challenged Israel’s Wall before  the International Court of Justice. Ms Bhutto later served as the communications  Director to President Abbas and frequently comments on Israeli-Palestinian  political matters for media outlets including MSNBC,CNN, Al Jazeera, and the  BBC. Ms Buttu holds degrees from the University of Toronto, Queens University,  Stanford University and Northwestern.

She will address the PCRF on the subject of Palestinian  statehood. The issue is currently at the top of the news, and her  address will coincide with the issue of statehood to be brought up before the  United Nations this month.

The PCRF is an  internationally acclaimed and honored children’s charity, specializing in the  Middle East. To find out more, access their web site at: _www.pcrf.net_ (http://www.pcrf.net/)

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Tri-City Area (California)

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Between Oakland & San Jose–Your commentator has been in the habit of putting this concrete political science phenomenon over the Arabic-sphere( above) surrounded by parenthesis, for it is more of a poetic than a political description of the sea-change that has(more than likely)impacted the region.

This is a continuation of yours-truly coverage of Lauren Booth and the AMP (American Muslims for Palestine’s) dinner.  Further, your journalist sees this as a part of his examination of the geo-political situation as Ramallah prepares herself for self-agency by marching forward to the U.N. (United Nations) in New York City (N.Y.C.) this month and demanding full Statehood.

I have already presented a short report on Libya based on the comments of a female graduate student  in Northern California previously printed here on these pages with a good deal of my own research.  Except for Paul Laudree (below), your reporter has refrained from using names to protect any relations who may still be left behind in their native lands, but because Paul is well known for his opposition to Israeli policy against Palestine – and especially toward Gaza – and the Hebrews have already threatened him with dire consequences if he is ever caught in the Occupied Territories again, I have decided to name him.

Your reporter has written on Paul twice before.  Definitely, he is one of your writer’s heroes, and, he is a brave man, too, and we suffer through the same maladies of aging!  Paul is one of the co-founders of the Free Gaza Movement, the American contingent of the greater international humanitarian movement to relieve Gaza by sea.

Dr. Laudree is the son of American and Iranian parents.  He was born in Iran during the first year of the “baby boomers” as your journalist was (but in North America).  Paul’s career was spent at the American University in Beirut.  Therefore, he is well aquainted with the Middle East and speaks Arabic fluently and probably Farsi, too.

Paul came close to losing his life after his capture during the last running through Tel Aviv’ Navy’s blockade into the Gaza Strip.   Fortunately, he did survive a severe beating, and was deported to Turkey with a warning never to enter the (Occupied) Territories again — or else!

In the most recent attempt to relieve Gaza, most of the boats were from the Mediterranean littoral, but yet your scribe does not fully subscribe to Paul’s analyst that it was Israel’s big brother, the United States, who held the majority of their ships in Athens’s harbor.  Boat and land convoys have pierced the isolated Palestinian nation on the coastal Strip in the past.  Your correspondent suspects it had more to do with the recent European Union (EU’s) financial bailout of the Hellenes.

When Paul Laudree had stopped by Greece’s capital, Athens, two years ago, her current Prime Minister, then out of power, and while Israel then was anathema over the Hellenic landscape and the same George Papandreou of the Panhellenic Socialist Party wished, at that time, to have photo ops with our orator.  The Prime Minister still rules-over a basically anti-Israeli/America populace; thus, your author believes that it may have been more the EU who influenced their domestically unpopular foreign policy behavior.  

(Emeritus) Professor Paul Laudree muses, for the present we have been forced to desist, but we still have plenty of vessels to deploy. 

The planning for the million-person march to Jerusalem has commenced!  He is involved in a global movement of over a thousand souls trek to the Abrahamic Holy City.  There will, also, even be a contingent from the U.S. 

“Look at the bordering republics, yet none will help her.”  Ultimately, from “Where is the defenders of our [their] rights,” coming?

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‘Eid in America!

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By TMO Staff

Eid_017

Most of the mosques in the US celebrated ‘Eidul Fitr on Tuesday August 30th, 2011, finalizing the festival of worship and celebration that was Ramadan of AH 1432.

In this issue is a series of reports from around the USA, where TMO reporters describe their own ‘Eid experiences.

The Bloomfield Hills’ Muslim Unity Center celebrated ‘Eid on Tuesday, filled to overflowing and forced to have three separate celebrations (at 8AM, 10AM, and 11AM).  These ‘Eid khutbas focused on keeping Allah in mind “whatever you do,” the imam arguing that if you keep Allah in your mind, that will prevent you from doing wrong.  The khutbah also focused on Tawhid. 

Children at the center had a very good time, as there were rides and slides, and plenty of good food, and a festive atmosphere permeated the atmosphere of this suburban mosque.

Other reports in this issue of TMO!

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Chelsea Reportedly Seeking Franck Ribery

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

franck-ribery9English Premier League powerhouse Chelsea Football Club has been trying to pry midfielder Luka Modric from rivals Tottenham all summer. But it looks as if they are close to giving up on their efforts as the transfer window approaches its close. The London club has now reportedly turned its attention towards French Muslim midfielder Franck Ribery. Ribery currently displays his play-making abilities for German Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.

Chelsea has already offered a reported 30 million pounds for Ribery, but Bayern Munich will reportedly not even consider any offers of less than 36 million pounds. The Blues are reportedly ready to pay Ribery a yearly wage of 10 million pounds per year.

Previousl Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelloti reportedly tried to sign Ribery, two years ago but was quoted a price of 88 million pounds by Bayern president Uli Hoeness. Ribery, despite his on and off the pitch struggles over the past two years, is still considered one of the most dynamic midfielders in the world. And Bayern paid a pretty penny, a record 22 million pounds, to sign him from Marseille in 2007. Ribery remains the highest paid player in the Bundesliga, at 180,000 pounds per week. He still has four years remaining on his current contract with Bayern Munich.

But the British transfer window is close to slamming shut. So Chelsea will have to make up their minds as to whether to go all out in their pursuit of the 28 year-old Frenchman.

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Egypt Wins World Team Squash Title

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, TMO, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

Untitled-1Egypt continued its dominance of the world of squash, as they defeated England two matches to one to win the 2011 World Team Championship title in Paderborn, Germany this week. England were the top seeds in the tournament, which takes place every two years. Egypt, meanwhile, were the defending champions from 2009, and they were able to successfully defend their title.

In the opening match, world number two, Egypt’s Ramy Ashour, defeated world number one Nick Matthew 11-7, 11-9, 13-11 for his first straight game victory against Matthew in the history of their four year rivalry. But the match was not without controversy, especially in the third game, which Matthew thought that he had one at a couple of junctures. Matthew told The Star, “I had to fight. The crowd knows but the only people who didn’t were the four [referees] who counted.” However, Matthew then went on to add: “He played a lot better than me; he deserved it. I wasn’t playing my best. But if I’d won that third game I think I could have gone on to win the match.” Ashour, for his part, enjoyed the battle, telling The Star, “It was like being in a UFC bout but I am so proud.”

In the second match, Ashour’s older brother, Hisham, fell to England’s Peter Barker, eighth-ranked in the world, 11-6, 11-9, 11-7. That result left Egypt’s Karim Darwish to face England’s James Wilstrop for all the marbles. And Darwish indeed came out the victor, with a thrilling four game victory, 11-5, 13-11, 9-11, 11-4, to bring squash’s top team title back once again to Cairo.

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Going Gaga for ‘Ghabqas’

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

buffet2It sounds like some trendy new product to hit the market or the latest fad that will improve all aspects of life. However, a ‘ghabqa’ is nothing of the sort although it does unite people. By definition, a ‘ghabqa’ is a social and gastronomical event that brings people together to celebrate during the Holy Month of Ramadan. It is a cultural tradition of the minuscule Gulf nation of Kuwait. Kuwaitis have been putting on their own ghabqas for centuries.

The timeframe for most ghabqas is during the second half of Ramadan. However, the last ten days of Ramadan is when most people hold their ghabqas as the race to the end of the holy month has already begun. By all appearances, the ghabqa is an elaborate feast that features a buffet-style menu with all of the traditional trappings of local cuisine. A ghabqa is only as good as the entertainment, food and beverages served.

It use to be that families would host ghabqas either at home or in a large rented hall much to the delight of their friends and relatives. These days’ large Kuwaiti companies and corporations are also getting in on the act. Managers throw elaborate ghabqas at five-star hotels for their employees and their families.  Special invitations are also given out to preferred clients and their families as well. Reporters, and even local bloggers, are often invited to ensure that the event is covered in the press as well as social-media.

Unfortunately, corporate ghabqas are nothing more than marketing ventures used to entice brand loyalty within the country. Large placards, marketing materials and anything else emblazoned with the company logo is splattered all over the tables and amongst the buffet platters. The bright side of a corporate ghabqa is that guests are often treated to lavish gift bags that might contain an expensive watch, perfume or even pricey jewelry. The entertainment at a corporate ghabqa is second to none. Many corporations hire regional celebrities to perform on stage for the benefit of ghabqa guests.

The best place, however, to enjoy a ghabqa is with a private family. The event is much more relaxed and guests don’t have to compete with one another or spend the night networking. The best part of a private ghabqa held by a family is, of course, the children. Kids have the chance to spend time with their cousins or make new friends with the children of other guests. Special treats and tiny toys offered expressly for the smallest guests is what make a family-held ghabqa truly an event to remember. 

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Get a “K-Lue”

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

It’s the new gaming ritual that is bearing down on Kuwait like a hungry dog chomping down on a juicy bone. By all appearances, K-Lue is a heart-pounding and fast-paced treasure hunt that takes place in commercial complexes, malls, beaches and parks all over the country.  It bears a very close resemblance to reality television shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race. However, it is growing much larger than anyone expected and is certainly set to change the face of adventure gaming in the region.

The mastermind behind the new gaming venture is a 22- year old Kuwaiti Entrepreneur named Dhari Al-Moawad. Through his website, www.K-Lue.com , Al-Moawad unites people from all walks of life to participate in a mind-jarring game of K-Lue. Clients, who choose the preference “Welcome Stranger,” will be pitted against perfect strangers and will be a part of teams comprised of total strangers. The other option, and most popular, is for clients to be teamed up with their close friends or relatives.

The object of the game is the same as it is with a traditional treasure hunt. Each team is given a set of clues and a fixed period of time in which to find them. The team that finds all of the clues, or at least the bulk of them, wins. The prize is a shiny gold-toned medal and the satisfaction of being the winner. Teams must utilize their own transportation, know-how and bravado to get from one point to another when searching for each clue.

Al-Moawad is very active in his gaming venture and even hides some of the clues himself in various places around Kuwait. “I am so involved that I’m always unconsciously thinking of riddles and every place to me looks like a big maze. Once as I was driving, I spotted sign language for the disabled and I immediately wanted to incorporate that into my next game. This way I get to constantly innovate as well as learn about various communities and cultures.”

The best part about K-Lue is that clients determine the level of game play and even the timings. Reservations can be booked online according the number of players or teams and even according to gender. The future looks very bright for K-Lue as Al-Moawad plans to expand his gaming venture to other countries in the Middle East. “I’m trying to launch a treasure hunt between regional countries. For instance, it would start in Kuwait and end in a neighboring country. We’re still working on the logistics of that one though I’m also eyeing a concept right now which is more individualistic and complex than K-Lue,” he shares.

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