Friday, April 28, 2006

Prayer time an issue for Muslim astronaut
(UPI Quirks in the News Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)Malaysian scientists are working on computer software to help future Muslim astronauts know when to pray, and how to face Mecca at 17,000 mph.With plans to send a Muslim astronaut to the International Space Station next year, about 150 scientists and scholars met at a conference outside Kuala Lumpur to establish proper behavior for an orbiting Muslim, The Telegraph reported.Among other issues is how to maintain the kneeling prayer posture in weightlessness, eating halal -- Islamically permissible -- food and proper washing.A computer program called Muslims in Space is being developed to factor in the station's 17,000 mph velocity, which constantly changes the station's orientation in relation to Mecca. With 16 Earth orbits a day, and the timing of five daily prayers determined in relation to sunrise and sunset, devout Muslim astronauts could find themselves praying 80 times in 24 hours.
Muslim woman pleads guilty to battery charge

ROLLING MEADOWS, Ill. A 24-year-old Muslim woman who says police pulled off her religious headscarf during an arrest last year has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery.Rehana Khan was arrested by Arlington Heights police at an immigration rights demonstration last October.
She says three officers tore off her hijab (hih-JAHB') -- or religious headscarf.
But Arlington Heights police say Khan attacked the officers, hitting one in the face and two in the shoulders.
Khan and three other protesters pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor battery charges.
A Rolling Meadows judge sentenced them to 240 hours of community service each and a year of court supervision. They also had to pay court fees.
They had faced a maximum sentence of a year in jail.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Gym agrees to changes after complaints by Muslims about privacy
4/26/2006, 6:27 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

LINCOLN PARK, Mich. (AP) — A chain of fitness centers has put up partitions in response to complaints by Muslim women about a lack of privacy while they work out.
Fitness USA said Wednesday that it agreed to the changes at its Lincoln Park gym after meeting with a concerned Muslim member of the gym and Dawud Walid, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Some Muslim members of the gym said they need to work out in single-sex rooms to meet Islam's standards of modesty. They said they joined Fitness USA because it accommodated this need.
But the gym recently opened a new area open to both sexes, and from there, men were able to see into the women's section, Walid said.
Jodi Berry, administrative director for the chain, based in Oakland County's West Bloomfield Township, said the company had been unaware of the problem. After the meeting last week, Fitness USA installed some panels and frosted glass that completely block off the women's area from the coed room, she said.
CAIR praised the company's decision.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved.© 2006 Michigan Live. All Rights Reserved.

Islamic financiers sell Koran-compliant American dream
Wed Apr 26, 2006 8:00 AM ET
By Jui Chakravorty

DEARBORN, Mich., April 26 (Reuters) - For 30 years, Khalil Madun has been packing pastries at his bakery in Michigan, waiting for the day he could buy a home without committing sin.
"I'm so happy I can have my own place now and still be on the right side of God," 54-year-old Madun said, smiling widely as he shuttled trays of Middle Eastern confections from the kitchen of his bakery in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit.
Madun is one of an estimated 7 million Muslims living in the United States, many of whom observe a Koranic law that forbids paying or receiving interest, or "riba."
That has left many observant Muslims in the United States shut out of the American dream of home ownership and facing a difficult choice: Either save hundreds of thousands of dollars, borrow from family or resort to a conventional mortgage that contravenes their faith.
But Madun, like thousands of others, recently turned to a mortgage compliant with Koranic law, a fast-growing niche for entrepreneurial bankers in which American financial engineering is reshaping a centuries-old Islamic tradition. These banks have developed ways of avoiding traditional interest-carrying mortgages, for example by buying the home then having the buyer pay the bank for it over time.
"The banking market is becoming saturated and firms have to figure ways to grow," said analyst Alois Pirker of consulting firm Celent, who has tracked the growth of Islamic finance. "The Islamic community is growing and if a bank can capture that community, there is big potential there."
Almost half a million Arab residents live in Dearborn and the surrounding area, one of the largest and fastest-growing Arab populations outside the Middle East. Streets in the middle-class neighborhood are peppered with Arabic store signs and restaurants redolent with the smell of kebabs and hummus.
But homeownership for the state's Arab residents remain 7 percent lower than average, even though Arab households tend to have higher income, census figures show.
Seeing a growing opportunity, several U.S. banks have developed "interest-free" financial structures -- such as mortgages -- compliant with Islamic law, or Shariah.
The trend is part of a global boom in Islamic finance, estimated to represent between $200 billion and $560 billion in assets with growth of over 15 percent per year.
In the United States, a few banks are readying plans for a range of financial products compliant with Islamic law, including checking accounts and mutual funds.
The Dow Jones Islamic Market Index, which tracks investments compliant with Islamic law, gained more than 5 percent in 2005, compared to a 3-percent rise in the S&P 500.
In Michigan, University Bancorp has rolled out a financing model called "murabaha" -- in which the bank buys the house and gradually sells it to the home buyer, after tacking on an additional margin.
The model has been a hit: The bank recorded a $1 million gain in 2005 after forming an Islamic finance unit. Freddie Mac , the second-largest U.S. mortgage buyer, bought $100 million of the alternative loans, a step toward creating a secondary market to free up capital for more potential buyers.
The success has sparked talks with "one of the top four U.S. banks" for a possible partnership, said the bank's president Stephen Ranzini. "We're hoping to get to a model in which we develop the product and manage it for clients," he said.
Borrowers do not have to be Muslim or religious to qualify for the loans, but banks market them almost exclusively to Islamic communities, printing Arabic brochures and distributing fliers outside mosques after Friday afternoon prayers.
The Shariah-compliant loans are required to be blessed by three internationally acknowledged imams, Ranzini said.
California-based lender Lariba -- which means "no-interest" in Arabic -- issues a differently structured Islamic mortgage.
Lariba's model creates a shared-equity partnership between bank and buyer to acquire the house. It then gradually transfers shares of its ownership, but also has the tenant paying a market-based rent split between the two owners.
"As we expand our business, I think you'll see our growth in the coming years will be quite impressive," said Yahia Abdul-Rahman, chairman of Lariba.
Rashid Abrar, a 40-year-old immigrant from Pakistan, bought a home through Lariba in 2002.
"We rented a place for 15 years, because we didn't want to pay interest," said Abrar, who now owns a home in Canton, Michigan. "But when they started offering riba-free financing, we were so excited. We would not have to wait another 15 years to buy a home."

© Reuters 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Malaysia considers Islam in space
By Jonathan Kent BBC News, Kuala Lumpur
A two-day conference on Islam and life in space is under way in Malaysia, in a bid to answer questions faced by would-be Muslim astronauts.
Malaysia is due to send an astronaut into space with the Russians next year.
The country's first spaceman is almost certain to be a Muslim, which raises a number of practical issues.
For instance, Muslims wash before they pray but not only is water a precious commodity in space, but it is also impractical in weightlessness.
Likewise, the faithful face Mecca. However, that will mean pin-pointing a moving location while in zero gravity.
And Muslim prayer times are linked to those of the sunrise and sunset, but in orbit the sun appears to rise and set more than a dozen times a day.
Serious discussion
Malaysia's science ministry has called together a group of experts to thrash out these and other questions.
It is being billed as the first-ever serious discussion of the issues.
It is in keeping with the Malaysian government's mission to promote what it calls Islam Hadhari, or civilisational Islam, which encourages Muslims to embrace education, science and technology.
It will doubtless be hoping that a conference of Muslim scientists and scholars debating such cutting edge issues will not go unnoticed in the rest of the Islamic world.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2006/04/25 10:05:35 GMT© BBC MMVI

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Newark woman gives voice to Muslims
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks spurred once-quiet activist into battling stereotypes
By Angela Woodall,
STAFF WRITER Inside Bay Area

NEWARK — When Samina Faheem Sundas first set foot in the United States nearly 30 years ago, she never imagined that one day she would be a voice for fellow Muslims.
When she arrived in 1979, the then soft-spoken 23-year-old had a bad taste in her mouth from U.S. immigration policies and no greater desire than to return to her native Lahore, Pakistan.
For that reason, she made up her mind to wall herself off from others and wait out the years she would have to stay until her husband finished his studies.
Today, however, Sundas is the national chairwoman of American Muslim Voice, with an office tucked away in the second story of a plain Newark office building near Newark Memorial High School.
The goal of the 3-year-old organization, and of Sundas, is to build bridges between followers of Islam and non-Muslims.
It has not been easy.
Sundas was a quiet activist for Muslims. Then on Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers affiliated with al-Qaida, a terrorist organization that follows a rigid interpretation of Islam, crashed planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, sending shock waves through the United States.
Because of 9/11, Muslims were labeled as terrorists, Sundas said. But what happened on that day goes against everything Islam stands for, she added.
Sundas became involved with American Muslim Voice because, she said, prejudices against Muslims still were strong two years later.
"Fellow Americans needed to know the truth about Muslims," she said. "We all pay the price for the many misconceptions about Muslims."
She said fear made it difficult to convince some Muslims to speak out against the stereotypes.
According to Sundas, Muslims were alarmed by rounds of detentions and deportations of men from the Middle East, Central and Southeast Asia and other largely Islamic areas.
Then came legislation such as the Patriot Act and the Clear Act — a 2003 congressional bill that would have given local and state law enforcement officers the authority to enforce federal immigration laws.
The organization is making progress, according to Sundas, by teaming up with religious organizations, colleges, churches and other groups active in protecting civil and constitutional rights.
According to Sundas, the partnership has helped.
"We could speak until we were blue in the face before and wouldn't be heard," she said.
Sundas said she personally has felt the bite of prejudice.
In recent years, she started losing clients at the day care center she runs in Palo Alto. She did not realize the decline was personal until someone told Sundas that a few families were afraid to put their children in her care because she is Muslim.
Sundas also said her life has been threatened because of the work she is doing. She dismissed the idea of quitting, though.
Her dangling gold earrings began to bounce as she spoke, a look of determination spreading across the delicate features of her face.
"I will die trying to make the American dream happen, the dream of feeling safe, secure, respected and loved at home."
And by home, she meant the United States.

Staff writer Angela Woodall covers Newark and Ohlone College. She can be reached at (510) 353-7004 or at

Finally, loans acceptable to Muslims become more common
Cultural challenge: How to buy a house and observe ban on interest-bearing loans.

Sunday, April 23, 2006
By Chinki Sinha
Contributing writer

It took A. Ali at least six years to get the right kind of loan to buy a house. It wasn't because his credit score was bad. It was his faith.

Islam prohibits Muslims from dealing in conventional credit and taking or giving Riba, or interest, in any form. So, Ali kept paying rent until HSBC introduced Shariat-based loans in New York in 2002.

"We were renting. Our rent was much more 25 (percent) to 30 percent more than the regular mortgage, if we had taken it. But we waited for many years," said Ali. "It was like throwing money down the drain."

Ali moved to Syracuse in 1994. At the time, there were no institutions in New York that provided Islamic finance products based on co-ownership of property.

The Quran explicitly says that one who takes interest income is at war with Allah. It is as important as Zakat, or charity, which is mandatory, said Imam Taqiuddin Ahmed, the director of the Islamic Society of Central New York, 925 Comstock Ave.

"It is a sin. It is very, very serious," he said.

Ahmed provides counseling to Muslims who are planning to buy a house and directs them to go to institutions that have Islamic financing options. If there are none available, he directs them to keep paying rent.

"There is no ground for you to buy on interest. When it is the matter of life and death, then we allow," he said, giving an example of how he would allow a Muslim to eat pork, which is considered Haram, or sin, if there is nothing else available. "But eat little, only to keep yourself alive, and then search for other options," he said.

The same, he said, applies in the case of a loan.

The Quran made Riba unacceptable to provide for fairness in transactions and to avoid loan-sharking. But in the modern world, it means rejecting anything that promises a guaranteed return, including mortgages, credit cards and stocks.

HSBC introduced Islamic home finance products in the state in 2002.

American Finance House provides only finance products based on the Islamic religious law. It has branches in 33 states, but none in New York.

Guidance Financial Group started in Virginia in April 2002 and has now has a presence in 19 states, including New York, where it launched its products in 2003. The group was not the first to introduce Shariat-based financing, but it is the leader in home financing, said Hussam Qutub, director of communications for the organization.

"Many people are renting. They are not owning. Home-ownership is the most important purchase. These people are deferring," he said.

Here's how it works: The bank and the home buyer establish a joint-ownership of the property. In time, the individual buys out the bank's share through incremental monthly payments over a long period.

Akbar Muhammad, who lives in Syracuse, is in the process of buying a house and has approached Guidance Financial Group.

"Guidance is Islamic. We chose them. I had been waiting for years. I don't want to continue in these small places and pay rent," he said.

Some think Islamic banking is ideal for consumers because it protects them from the uncertainties of the market and lays emphasis on risk-sharing.

"The lower the interest, the better it is for the economy. The people will benefit," said Ahmed, who said that United States is waking up to the concept of religious banking. "I see it is growing. Twenty years ago, nobody would talk about it. Ten years ago, there were no special organizations doing this. The situation has changed now."

"There is a huge Muslim population. It is important to attract customers," said Yildray Yildirim, assistant professor in the finance department at Syracuse University's Martin J. Whitman School of Management.

"We know the demand is there. The Muslim population is the fastest-growing. It is around 6 to 8 million now," said Qutub.

Preserving one's religious beliefs, while surviving in a competitive capitalistic economy, can be difficult. It is also difficult because of limited availability of Islamic products. So, many Muslims are divided on the issue of Islamic banking.

Samina Masood, who lives in Syracuse, said it is not a practical approach.

"Unfortunately, living as a minority we become rigid. It becomes a thing to show that we are unique," she said. "You have to be open, otherwise it becomes difficult."

But Islamic products are available in most states. Many banks such as Citibank and HSBC and other smaller organizations, such as MSI Financial Services, an Islamic financial institution in Houston, American Finance House, headquartered in Pasadena, Calif., and Guidance Financial Group that is based in Virginia are venturing into Islamic financing and have developed products that are approved by scholars and regulators and appeal to the Muslim community.

The Shariat also limits the kinds of investments that these banks can make. The law prohibits putting money in the liquor industry or pornography, for example.

"It is not a walk in the park. It is challenging. It is a young industry," said Qutub.

What works for these banks and organizations is religion. People who take religion seriously do not go to regular banks or buy regular products. That's the market these institutions target, Qutub said.

Copyright 2006 All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Becoming Muslim Video- Pretty Interesting

A great documentary by the BBC, showing us the rapid growth and interest in Islam in the fiercely Christian Bible belt of the United States.

A great video profiling various reverts to Islam in the UK, giving a close insight into the challenges and rewards of living Islamically in Britain.

Al Azhar and Islamic universities in Gaza temporarily halt studies
date: 22 04, 2006
Gaza, April 22, (BNA) Al Azhar and the Islamic Universities in Gaza decided to halt studies for three days, following the clashes which broke out between Hamas and Fatah supporters in which ten were injured, with some of them in critical conditions. President of the Islamic University, Jawad Wadi, expressed his utter discontent over the violent clashes, stressing that the perilous engagement of such renowned universities in politics doesn't serve the interest of the Palestinians. For his part, Al Azhar University's Secretary, Imed Sha'ath, expressed on behalf of the University, condemnation of the events which caused substantial material losses to the university. Sha'ath said the university undertook certain measures to reduce the degree of confrontation between students and protect the properties of the Palestinian people from damage, stressing the need for maintaining universities independence and keep them away from political strife.

Muslim Women Want Single-Sex Workouts
© 2006 The Associated Press

LINCOLN PARK, Mich. — About 200 Muslim women who have memberships to the Fitness USA chain of athletic clubs have signed a petition asking the gyms to honor what they say was a promise to provide separate exercise times for women and men.
Arrwa Mogalli, 28, of Dearborn, said she bought a $1,465 lifetime membership after being promised that a Lincoln Park facility would be open only to women on certain days.

The gym in this Detroit suburb opened a new part of the center this month to both sexes every day.
"I felt like all the money I just spent ... has gone to waste," Mogalli said.
The women are asking the chain to restore single-sex exercise days for the entire gym or to put up a divider so men and women cannot see each other while exercising.
"In Islam, there are codes of modesty for both genders," said Ammerah Saidi, 23, of Dearborn. "When you're working out, you're not dressed modestly, and you're bending in provocative ways, so you can't be working out with the opposite gender."
The company is reviewing the women's concerns, said Jodi Berry, administrative director for Fitness USA. But the company said that the women's written contracts say nothing about gender.

On the Net:
Fitness USA:
Council on American-Islamic Relations:

Methodists and Muslims make historic USA mid-west pact
United Methodists and Muslims in Northern Illinois, part of the mid-west of the USA, have officially created a covenant relationship between the two faith groups – as witness towards ‘peace among the religions’, especially in the midst of difference.More than 100 leaders of the greater Chicago Islamic community and the United Methodist Northern Illinois Conference celebrated that covenant at an interfaith banquet at the Islamic Foundation in Villa Park earlier this month.The idea is not to ignore religious disagreements within and between the two faiths, but to stress common ground and to seek better community and public understanding.United Methodist Bishop Hee-Soo Jung and Abdul Malik Mujahid, chair of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, signed a Declaration of Relationship committing the two groups to “a relationship grounded in our mutual love for God and dedication to the ethical core of our faiths.”The covenant includes an agreement that the two groups will continue in dialogue with each other and expand the dialogue to include other local faith communities; to work together on issues of social justice; to inform one another of situations that may affect each other’s faith community; and to gather annually to celebrate, reflect on the relationship and reaffirm the commitment.“We had talked about the idea of bringing together Bishop Jung and Malik just to meet,” explained the Rev Charles Emery, chairperson of the Northern Illinois programme council. “Out of that conversation, Bishop Jung said, ‘Why don’t we work on a covenant together?’ So we spent the last year working on this declaration of relationship.”In Europe, cooperation among Christian and Muslim faith communities has been growing over the years, though not without opposition from hardliners in each. In the USA, links between Jewish and Christian groups are widespread, but in the wake of 9/11 there has been hostility and suspicion towards Islam – thus the significance of the Illinois initiative.The banquet provided an opportunity for leaders or imams of Muslim institutions and United Methodist clergy in local churches in the same geographic areas to meet and begin to establish relationships, according to the Rev Ed Hiestand, the UMC conference’s ecumenical and interreligious officer.As he prepared to address those attending the banquet, the bishop removed his shoes and walked to the podium. “I took off my shoes,” Jung said,” to honour all of you and to honour God in this moment. I believe I am standing on holy ground.”Jung said his personal journey as a Christian leader has convinced him that he needs to build bridges by affirming the dignity and “belovedness” of people in other parts of the globe and in “different traditions in the universe.”“There are many people excluded by human narrowness and prejudice toward each other,” the bishop said. “This exclusion is, of course, a gross violation of the principles that govern us.”Jung noted that the theological charcter of God’s love is that it is unconditional. This transcendent love changes people's lives and encourages them to learn about and love one another.“In our declaration of relationship, it is imperative that people of faith commit together to a spirit of peace and cooperation,” Jung said. “We are in a spirit of humility and truth tonight. We are here to respect each other in an atmosphere of reconciliation, unconcerned about winning a victory over one another or bringing the other over to our own position.”Jung said failure to connect with each other would be failure to honour God. And he said he believes the covenant between the two groups will make him a better Christian. “God is seeing us together tonight,” Jung said, “and is pleased.”Saleem Sheikh, board member of the Islamic Foundation and the council, called the declaration “an historic agreement between two faith communities.”“We are honoured and we are grateful,” Sheikh said. “We are delighted to share with you our commitment to justice and fairness for all God’s creation.”Mujahid called the signing of the covenant “an extraordinary event.” He added: “In a world of fear and warfare, people of faith must continue to work together for a peaceful and just world.”He invited the United Methodists to apply their “methodical practices to the only racism still considered acceptable in America, ‘Islamaphobia,’ the new racism of our time.”Mohammed Kaiseruddin, past chair of the Islamic council, said it was his “hope and our prayer” that the new relationship “will flourish and grow and bring results.”Kaiseruddin saluted the diversity of the United Methodists at the banquet. “We as Muslims take pride in the diversity we have among us,” he said. “We have all colours and ethnicities among us. I was so pleasantly surprised to see the same diversity among the United Methodists here tonight. That is one of the reasons that I have hope that the association established tonight will flourish.”

A colorful look at Islamic culture
Visiting artist’s inspiration comes from Quran and from interactions with people in Western society
By Hina Rehman

Artist Huda Totonji looks at one of her paintings before Wednesday’s Islamic art exhibition and lecture, which was held in MU 109. Totonji was born and raised in Saudi Arabia but has spent most of her adult life in the U.S.Tzu-Ying Chen / The Daily Barometer
From step-by-step geometric designs to pictures of a metal chandelier formed in the shape of Arabic words, a Wednesday night presentation captivated its small audience.
In hopes of getting more interest in the Islamic culture on campus, the Muslim Student Association invited artist Huda Totonji to speak on campus about Islamic art.
Riwa Kabbani, a senior in English and an active member of the MSA, contacted Totonji in Portland and asked her to present about Islamic art as a way of adding more diversity and informing the community about different cultures.
“Islam’s a culture that’s not very well represented,” Kabbani said. “We need to express our cultural voices through such events.”
The art exhibit “Splendors of Arabic Calligraphy and Ornamentation,” included Totonji’s Arabic calligraphy and pictorial artwork Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
Totonji was born and raised in Saudi Arabia but has lived most of her adult life in the U.S. She says her inspiration for her work comes from verses from the Quran, the holy book of Islam, as well as the interaction with the people in Western society.
Most of her artwork is mainly based on the female figure wearing the headscarf and verses from the Quran that are about women.
“I deal with the theme of women,” Totonji said.
She started off her lecture by explaining that there are 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet, which is written from right to left. She talked about the history of Arabic calligraphy and how it has changed throughout the years. She told the audience about her favorite Muslim artists, one of whom, Mohammad Zakaria, designed the Eid Greetings U.S. postage stamp.
Totonji said that there are two parts of Islamic art — the ornamentation and the calligraphy. She discussed the five different types of Arabic calligraphy and the main tool used for it — the bamboo stick.
Totonji described how the West relies more on images and how Islam relies on words.
“Mostly we (the West) understand image and figure,” she said. “The power of Islam is through the word.”
It usually takes anywhere from one week to one month to finish her artwork depending on the materials she’s using — she also sells her artwork in auctions with a starting price of $500, which can go up to more than $5,000.
“They (the auctioneers) base the price on the dimension, material used, idea and concept, time spent on the piece, experience of the artist, and how famous you are,” Totonji said.
The money is usually donated to a mosque, but last year it was donated to the Muslim Educational Trust, an organization in Portland which educates Muslims and non-Muslims about Islam.
Wearing a specially made Arabic abaya (loose robe) with green calligraphic designs — and a green headscarf to match — Totonji was constantly asked where she got her outfit. Many people commented on how perfectly fitting it was for an art exhibit.
Totonji also offered a little advice for aspiring artists — you’ve got to have money to be one.
“It’s very, very expensive to be an artist,” she siad.
Her artwork can be viewed at

Thursday, April 20, 2006

New Muslim paper popular - but scarce

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Local Muslim leaders gave nods of approval yesterday to a new national newspaper written from their perspective - but many have yet to see the debut issue.
Shabir Mohammad, 40, of the Mohi-Ul-Islam Mosque on Jean Talon St. W., said everyone he has spoken to has nothing but positive things to say about the paper.
"This is Canada. We must respect every religion," he said. "So this newspaper is very good for all communities to read. I hope all communities - Jewish, Christian and Muslim - will read this paper."
Getting one's hands on the paper might be easier said than done, however.
Phone calls to more than 12 Montreal-area mosques revealed most imams had not received a copy of the paper, let alone heard of it.
"No, I have not seen it. I do not know about it. But if the newspaper is about Muslims and has good information, then that is very nice and I am happy," said Said Jaziri, imam of Al Qods Mosque on Belanger St. E.
Syed Muktar Hassan, the man in charge of distributing the publication in Montreal, acknowledged only three mosques have received copies.
"We only had 500 copies of the paper, so I delivered 50 copies each to mosques in Laval and the West Island, 150 copies to two Marche Adonis shops, and another 150 to a synagogue on the West Island," he said.
The bi-monthly Muslim Free Press was launched Saturday in Toronto and hit the streets in other Canadian cities on Tuesday. It showcases writers from all walks of life and religions.
Circulation is expected to double in Montreal after Hassan receives 1,000 more copies today.

© The Gazette (Montreal) 2006

Muslim students battle prejudice
‘I’ve never done anything to anybody’
By Sophia Maines
Thursday, April 20, 2006

It was just two days ago that Kansas University student Bazigha Tufail was taunted for being Muslim.
Tufail, 20, stopped at a food court on campus for a bite when she casually made eye contact with a young man. Tufail wore a headscarf as she does wherever she goes.
As the man walked by, he muttered in her direction, “Bombs away.”
The words stung. They gave her pause and left a lingering sadness.
“I’ve never done anything to anybody,” she said. “I’m like, ‘why?’ ... There’s no way to counter that ignorance.”
KU’s Muslim Student Assn. is hosting Islam Awareness Week through Friday to better students’ understanding of Muslims and Islam. The aim is to correct stereotypes and encourage tolerance.
“We want to present ourselves as who we are, to educate people,” said Fadlullah Firman, a KU student who helped organize the events.
A lecture on women in Islam is planned for tonight. On Friday, students can participate in “A Day in the Life of a Muslim,” spending a day with a Muslim student and observing the religion firsthand.
Those who spend the day with a Muslim student may not see too many differences from the lives of those outside the religion, some said.
Tufail, an architectural engineering student, reads novels in English, loves the book “Pride and Prejudice” and spends a lot of time studying. She’s planning for a trip to Japan this summer through the Kansas/Asia Scholars program.
“There’s nothing I do that’s different, really, except for prayers,” Tufail said, of the five times per day she prays.
Tufail grew up in Kansas City, the youngest child to parents from Pakistan. Her parents weren’t very religious, Tufail said, until they had children and learned it was up to them to pass their religion on to their children.
Tufail attended the Islamic School of Greater Kansas City for middle school and began wearing hijabs, or head scarves, at 14.
There is no doubt that her religion affects her life and how some perceive her.
Tufail recalled attending Lee’s Summit High School in the days and weeks following the 9-11 attacks. Tufail’s family feared how students would react to her at school, as Muslims were targeted in many places.
A friend walked Tufail to and from classes. But some still got to her with their hateful words, she said. They called her names and used racial slurs.
Tufail kept her routine as normal as possible. She didn’t skip school. She faced the ridicule.
“I have to live my life,” she said.
She wrote an article for the student newspaper. She told the students how it felt to be in her shoes and she explained how the terrorists’ actions weren’t condoned by Islam.
“It was my way of setting the record straight,” she said.
The issues at school wouldn’t be her last. Tufail said some people automatically think she can’t speak English. They talk loudly and slowly to her.
Tufail wears the hijab because it is part of her religion. She is faithful to Islam because it brings a sense of purpose to her life, she said.
“I know I stand out,” she said. “I get looks ... I’m just practicing my faith. I’m just like any other person.”

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

3rd Annual Muslim Youth Olympics in TampaOrganization Encourages the Media to Cover Positive Muslim Activities
By Muslim American Society (MAS)
9 March, 2006

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - The upcoming third annual Muslim American Society (MAS) Youth Olympics, being held by MAS Tampa at the University of South Florida, are scheduled for March 11 and 12. The event, which is designed for males and females, will attract youth not only from the Tampa Bay area, but also from throughout the Southeast to participate in four sports: football, basketball, volleyball and soccer. Boys will have the opportunity to play basketball or football, while girls can choose from basketball, volleyball or soccer. In 2004, the MAS Olympics featured more than 700 participants; in 2005, that number increased to more than 750 youngsters. The primary goals of MAS Olympics 2006 are to foster within young people the enduring values of good sportsmanship, morally sound conduct and a sense of community service.
MAS Tampa President Mohammed Moharram encouraged the media to cover positive Muslim activities. He added, "This year we are expecting a tremendous turnout. It is really wonderful to see the young men and women compete. The media is awash in coverage of Muslims ranting and raving, burning flags and being angry. It would be great if they would cover Muslims challenging each other athletically, cheering and encouraging one another to do their absolute best."
The MAS Tampa Youth Olympics are part of MAS's ongoing campaign to provide structured, meaningful and rewarding activities for Muslim youth. As America's largest grassroots Muslim organization with 50 chapters nationwide, MAS has indicated its commitment to the development of the country's Muslim youth and has pledged to intensify its work with youth. MAS intends to fulfill this objective by expanding upon its campaign of building youth centers across the nation. The primary purpose of these youth centers is to inculcate in young people strong moral values based on a proper understanding of Islam, which will protect them against falling prey to those who seek to lure them into moral vices and religious extremism. The organization currently operates fifteen youth centers across America and that number will soon expand.
MAS's broader strategy, both in Tampa Bay and throughout its 50 chapters, is to ensure that American Muslim youth are constantly engaged in constructive activities that promote community and civic engagement. The organization believes that these structured programs will shield youngsters from the dangerous effects of peer pressure, racism, gang affiliation and other negative elements that contribute to delinquency amongst all American youth.
MAS will continue to promote and provide recreational and educational opportunities for young people. The organization has committed its resources not only to providing recreational and educational opportunities for youth, but also to mentoring programs that prepare young Muslims for future leadership in their communities.

Another of MAS's prime objectives is to counter the efforts of those who seek to drive a permanent and irrevocable wedge between American Muslims and the rest of the nation. MAS Freedom Foundation Executive Director Mahdi Bray adds, "These youngsters are no different from other American kids. They love their country and are willing to stand up to defend American rights and freedoms. Many of these youth know from their parents' experiences that these rights and freedoms cannot be taken for granted. Just like other kids, Muslim young people also need a safe healthy outlet to release their physical energy in a positive way. The MAS Olympics is a perfect way for them to achieve this result."
For more information please contact: MAS Tampa at (813) 541-3371 or MAS Freedom at (202) 496-1288

Some Cubans are converting to Islam
Islam is attracting a small number of Cubans -- anywhere from 300 to 3,000 -- but some have doubted their sincerity.
El Nuevo Herald

A small number of Cubans have embraced Islam, gathering for prayers and attending religious events mostly sponsored by Iranian diplomats in Havana, one of the converts says.
Some Havana residents place the total number of converts at 300; others, at 3,000. What's certain is that about 70 usually attend the gatherings hosted by the Iranian diplomats.
''We are a small community that struggles on. . . . Many people associate Muslims with a not-very moderate Islam, but we are very moderate,'' said Alí Nicolás Cossío, a former foreign ministry official who now reports for the Voice of Islam, the official Iranian radio station.
'The community owes much to the embassies' moral and human support, and the Iranian Embassy -- the only Shiite mission -- stands out in that regard,'' Cossío told El Nuevo Herald in a telephone interview from his home in Havana.
There are about 16 Arab diplomatic missions in Havana, Cossío said, but the Iranian embassy plays the leading role in contacts with the local Muslims.
The mission created a writing contest about Iranian history, hopes to set up a ''reflection group'' on Islamic subjects and earlier this month hosted a reception to mark the anniversary of the birth of the prophet Mohammed.
The Communist Party's Department of Religious Activities has appointed an official to work as liaison with the converts, even though the Cuban government has long been leery of outside religious groups as potentially undermining its control over the island and its people.
''An interesting dilemma,'' said Daniel Alvarez, an expert on Islam at Florida International University. ``If these Cubans are looking for support and [the Cuban government] acts against them, the Iranians might see that as an anti-Muslim gesture.''
''The other aspect is the issue of human solidarity,'' Alvarez said.
``The Koran says that if someone asks a Muslim for help, there is an obligation to go to the aid of the needy. And if the needy is a Muslim, the obligation is even greater.''
Religious practices have risen sharply in Cuba since the early 1990s, when an economic crisis buffeted its people and after the government abandoned its official atheism.
Foreign religious groups regularly send humanitarian aid, which attracts more local followers.
Cossío said the new Muslim converts ``are in favor of a community with values that are more cultural than material. We are not interested in growth in numbers but in growth in human quality.''
Cuban leader Fidel Castro's government has long maintained good relations with most Muslim countries. It strongly supported Yasser Arafat, the late leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, and had close contacts with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Cuba also has close political and trade links to Iran, which is predominantly Shiite.
Back in the late 1970s, Havana hosted so many embassies from Arab countries that the diplomatic missions, with the Cuban government's permission, created a group, the Arab Union of Cuba, and obtained a meeting place.
The new Muslim converts have tried to establish links to the Arab Union, according to knowledgeable Cubans in Havana. But the union considers itself a lay organization and has not provided them with space for religious services.
There's an ''official'' mosque -- within the Arab House -- a restaurant-meeting hall in Old Havana sponsored by the Office of the Havana Historian Eusebio Leal.
But Cossío said that's only for diplomats and foreigners.
So the converts are now asking for permission to build a mosque in Havana.
''Cuba is the only Latin American country without a mosque, and where there's no mosque it is very difficult to establish social exchanges,'' Cossío said.
For now, though, that would seem unlikely. For years, the Islamic diplomatic community asked for one but had to resort to makeshift prayer halls in diplomatic compounds. And Cuba has been all but barring other religions from building new temples.

Monday, April 17, 2006

'Hip' hijab takes on Dutch prejudices
By Leela Jacinto, Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
Mon Apr 17, 4:00 AM ET

SON EN BREUGEL, THE NETHERLANDS - In 1999, while seeking a graduate project idea at the Design Academy of Eindhoven, Cindy van den Bremen found a problem-solving opportunity.
The Dutch Commission of Equal Treatment had recently ruled that high schools could prohibit Muslim girls from wearing head coverings in gym class. Girls were advised to wear turtlenecks teamed with swim caps. But some were ignoring the sartorial advice, preferring instead to skip gym all together.
At about that time, the Dutch were beginning to become disillusioned with multiculturalism - a trend that was to intensify in the next few years with the death of maverick anti-immigrant politician Pim Fortuyn and the murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh by a radical Dutch Islamist.
For Ms. van den Bremen, the phys-ed class controversy offered a means to marry her political sense of injustice with her professional expertise. "I realized that if the hijabs did not look traditional, but hip and trendy, they could possibly change prejudice into some sort of admiration," says the young Dutch designer.
Within months, the "capster" was born, and quickly blossomed into a business. In four styles designed for tennis, skating, aerobics, and outdoor sports, van den Bremen's head coverings were sleek, safe, and - in the words of a local Islamic cleric - "Islamically correct."
Even an elderly man at her graduation show who told her he didn't like the hijab at all, said he did like her designs. "This made me realize even more that the social problem with the acceptance of the hijab was not about the girls being covered, but the way they are covered," says van den Bremen.
Initially, she expected that she'd be done with the capsters after graduation. But the capsters' popularity has grown steadily, and grateful feedback she receives and the clamor for more such products has encouraged her to expand her small business operation.
For Farah Azwai, an athletic undergraduate at the American Intercontinental University in London, who started wearing the hijab at age 16, the capster was a relief.
"Before I had the capsters, I tried a number of things - I used to wear a bandanna and tried fixing my hijab in different ways but it wasn't very practical and I always had problems," says Ms. Azwai, who bought the "skate" and "outdoors" models online. "The fabric and style is very modern, it totally suits my style - it goes well with my sports clothes, with brands like Nike, Adidas and Pineapple."
Van den Bremen's business expansion plans include increasing production of the four current lines to keep up with demand as well as new lines of "breathable" capsters for tropical climates.
She also has designs on promoting intercultural dialogue. She recently teamed with Dutch Iranian photographer Giti Entezami to produce Sharing Motives, a book featuring 25 Dutch women in a variety of hijabs. The duo has since expanded their project to an exhibition - currently on display at the University of Utrecht - accompanied by a series of lectures and debates.
More than a year after Van Gogh's killing sparked a violent anti-Muslim backlash, experts say a pressing need for intercultural dialogue remains in the Netherlands. A recent Pew Global Attitudes study found the Netherlands to be the only Western country where a majority of the population - 51 percent - views Muslims unfavorably.
Amid a recent slew of immigration tightening measures, beefed-up citizenship tests and controversial antiterrorism programs inviting citizens to report "suspect people," Muslim community leaders say a proposed ban on the burqa - an all-enveloping Islamic covering for women - is yet another shot in the Netherlands' rising Islamophobia.
"There are two sets of standards in this country," says Famille Arslan, a prominent Dutch Muslim lawyer. "One is for Muslims and another for non-Muslims. This law not only discriminates against religion and gender, it also threatens to further polarize the people."
In December, the Dutch parliament approved a ban on the burqa and other Islamic veils that cover the face in all public places. The measure - which was introduced by conservative politician Geert Wilders - is currently awaiting approval from a commission examining the legality of such a ban under European human rights laws.
If passed, it would be one of the most restrictive responses to Islamic clothing in Europe. Defenders of the ban note that the measure does not apply to the head scarf (or capster), merely to Islamic garments that cover the face such as the burqa and the niqab, a facial veil with an opening for the eyes. Experts estimate that only about 50 to 100 women among Holland's 1 million Muslims currently don such extensive veiling.
Despite widespread criticism, Mr. Wilders is determined to push his initiative through the legal process. "I hope to succeed with my motion because I believe I have broad popular support," he says in a phone interview. "Parliament has followed public opinion, but the government can act differently for political reasons."
Van den Bremen bemoans the lack of intercultural dialogue. "It seems like no one is discussing things with the girls. They always talk about the girls," she says. "I was struck by how emancipated they were. They were demanding to be judged by their capacity, not their looks."
Her Honor Judge Shelia Abdus Salaam

First Muslim judges - male and female - were African Americans
To the editor:

Your statement/article that Charlene Mekled Elder is "the first Muslim woman judge in the country" is incorrect. She may be the first Arab American judge, but she is not the first Muslim woman judge as stated. Nevertheless, we congratulate her on this great accomplishment.
The first Muslim woman judge in the United States is Sheila Abdus-Salaam, an African American who still sits on the New York State Supreme Court. She was appointed more than 15 years ago. In Baltimore, Maryland we have the first Master of Chancery appointed approximately 10 years ago, Zakia Mahasa, an African American Muslim woman. The African American Muslim community also has the distinction of having the first Muslim male judges, Judge Adam Shakoor (retired) of Detroit and Judge David Shaheed of Indianapolis.
I am taking the time to share this history with you (prior to its release in a forthcoming book) because there appears to be a consistent effort to disregard and/or eclipse the historical achievements the African American Muslim community has made. Had you properly investigated, your article - in addition to celebrating Mrs. Elder's accomplishment - would have been enriched by including these significant historical achievements by African American Muslims. This would have suggested that as an Ummah in America, we are a collective moving forward respecting what came before and continuing to build our future. However, this tendency to separate recent immigrant Muslim achievements from what African American Muslims achieved decades ago is disturbing.
I suggest you bear in mind that African American Muslims laid the foundation for Al-Islam in America. To be ignorant of or to resist that history and that reality, particularly from those in leadership/media, is to establish a dangerous precedent that can only result in conflict. May we all be blessed with the light of understanding.

Dr. Zakiyyah Muhammad
Anaheim, California

Editor's response:
We received a lot of email on this one! We stand corrected. In no way do we wish to trivialize or overlook the impact of the African American community on the growth and development of Islam in America. How could we? African Americans, as you point out, laid the foundation for Islam here. As a group they constitute the largest segment of the community and their achievements and contributions must be not just acknowledged, but celebrated. Obviously we goofed this time. We pledge to do our best not to let it happen again.

'South Park' creators banned from showing image of Islamic prophet
DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer
April 13, 2006 12:08 PM

NEW YORK (AP) - Banned by Comedy Central from showing an image of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, the creators of ''South Park'' skewered their own network for hypocrisy in the cartoon's most recent episode.
The comedy - in an episode aired during Holy Week for Christians - instead featured an image of Jesus Christ defecating on President Bush and the American flag.
In an elaborately constructed two-part episode of their Peabody Award-winning cartoon, ''South Park'' creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker intended to comment on the controversy created by a Danish newspaper's publishing of caricatures of Muhammad. Muslims consider any physical representation of their prophet to be blasphemous.
When the cartoons were reprinted in newspapers worldwide in January and February, it sparked a wave of protests primarily in Islamic countries.
Parker and Stone were angered when told by Comedy Central several weeks ago that they could not run an image of Muhammad, according to a person close to the show who didn't want to be identified because of the issue's sensitivity.
The network's decision was made over concerns for public safety, the person said.
Comedy Central said in a statement issued Thursday: ''In light of recent world events, we feel we made the right decision.'' Its executives would not comment further.
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As is often the case with Parker and Stone, they built ''South Park'' around the incident. In Wednesday's episode, the character Kyle is shown trying to persuade a Fox network executive to air an uncensored ''Family Guy'' even though it had an image of Muhammad.
''Either it's all OK, or none of it is,'' Kyle said. ''Do the right thing.''
The executive decides to strike a blow for free speech and agrees to show it. But at the point where Muhammad is to be seen, the screen is filled with the message: ''Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Muhammad on their network.''
It is followed shortly by the images of Christ, Bush and the flag.
A frequent ''South Park'' critic, William Donohue of the anti-defamation group Catholic League, called on Parker and Stone to resign out of principle for being censored.
''The ultimate hypocrite is not Comedy Central - that's their decision not to show the image of Muhammad or not - it's Parker and Stone,'' he said. ''Like little whores, they'll sit there and grab the bucks. They'll sit there and they'll whine and they'll take their shot at Jesus. That's their stock in trade.''
Parker and Stone did not immediately respond to a request through a spokesman for comment.
It's the second run-in over religion in a few months for the satirists. Comedy Central pulled a March rerun of a ''South Park'' episode that mocked Scientologists. Isaac Hayes, a Scientologist who voiced the Chef character on the show, resigned in protest over the episode.
''South Park'' again got the last word last month with an episode where Chef was seemingly killed and mourned as a jolly guy whose brains were scrambled by the ''Super Adventure Club,'' which turns its members into pedophiles.
Only last week, ''South Park'' won broadcasting's prestigious Peabody. Awards director Horace Newcomb said at the time that by its offensiveness, the show ''reminds us of the need for being tolerant.''
AP-WS-04-13-06 1506EDT

Thursday 13 April 2006Islamic biweekly newspaper to be launched in Canada
From Hour Magazine:

Syed B. Soharwardy is the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada

Syed Soharwardy, founder of the Calgary-based Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, was one of the most vocal critics in Canada of the recent controversy over the September 2005 publication in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten of 12 editorial cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Now, beginning April 15, Soharwardy will get to express his views as editor-in-chief of Canada’s first national Muslim biweekly newspaper, the English-language Muslim Free Press.
"I’ve been thinking about publishing a paper for a long time, but the cartoon controversy exposed how the mainstream media need to understand the values of Islam and Muslim culture," Soharwardy told Hour this week. "Those cartoons do not refer to freedom of speech. They defame Islam. They defame the entire Muslim community."
The Muslim Free Press launches officially on April 15 in Toronto, and will also be distributed in Vancouver, Calgary and Montreal, where it will be available for free at the Mohiyul Islam Mosque on Jean-Talon.

Towers Dining Hall as begun Halal, a Muslim Food Station, that offers a meat, vegetable and starch at each meal.
Towers Adds Muslim Offerings
Brittany Dorn
Posted: 4/13/06

A new food station was opened at Towers Dining Hall April 3 to meet the dietary needs of Muslim students. According to Towers Chef Blair Davis, the station provides a meat, vegetable and starch at each meal. He said the station was set to be a permanent fixture at the dining hall. The station serves food Monday through Friday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch and then from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. for dinner, according to an announcement from the Department of Dining Services. The Muslim Food Station is called Halal, which translates to "permissible" according to Faleh Ibrahim, a graduate student majoring in computer engineering. According to Ibrahim, the dietary rules for Muslims are very easy. First, alcohol is prohibited and cannot used be used in the cooking of any dish. "Besides things that contain alcohol, every other thing is permissible except meat," Ibrahim said. He generalized the meat restrictions into three basic rules.First, the animal must be fed properly while it is alive, Ibrahim said. Secondly, at the time of slaughter, the animal must be killed humanely."It should be as easy as possible for the animal itself," Ibrahim said. The animal should be comfortable, and a sharp knife should be used. The animal should not see any other animals killed. Lastly, "the name of God must be remembered at the time of slaughtering," according to Ibrahim. A special prayer must be said. Some meat is prohibited no matter how the animal is killed; this includes pork as well as the meat from carnivorous animals. According to Ibrahim, dietary rules for Muslims are very similar to kosher rules for people of the Jewish faith. He said many Muslim students ate food prepared at the kosher section at Towers Dining Hall before Halal was started.Ali Langston, a 2nd-semester biomedical engineering major, and secretary of the UConn Muslim Students Association, said that before Halal opened, he often brought food prepared at his home to campus. He also ate fish served at the dining hall. "I think the food is really good," Langston said of the meals served at the Halal station. Dennis Pierce, director of Dining Services, said that the initiative to start Halal came in the form of an e-mail sent early this summer. An incoming freshman student who was Muslim asked for alternatives for meals. Dining Services began to look into purchasing Halal food.According to Regis Synnott, associate director of Dining Services, finding a distributor was somewhat difficult. Dole & Bailey, a Massachusetts based distributor, was chosen because they were able to quickly begin supplying meat, enabling UConn to start up Halal this semester. Dole & Bailey is a family-owned business that started in 1868, according to their web site. Next year, Halal meat may be ordered from HPC Foodservice, a business which currently provides UConn with fresh meat products and cheese, Synnott said. The business does not offer certified Halal meat at this time. According to Synnott, the prices for Halal meat are more expensive than for normal meat but "not hugely more expensive." On its second day of operation, Halal food was served to 70 students, according to Towers Dining Hall Employee Jacob Laprad, a senior at E.O. Smith High School who was working the dinner shift.
© Copyright 2006 The Daily Campus

Oracle donates database to UK Muslim charity
System helps charity support helpline better

James Brown, Computing 13 Apr 2006

The Muslim Youth Helpline (MYH) is using database software to improve its record keeping.
The charity provides culturally sensitive support services to young UK Muslims.
MYH director Shareefa Fulat says that before the Oracle database system was installed, the organisation used a paper filing system that was cumbersome and difficult to search.
‘A lot of our clients are long term, so it is important for us to record why they are calling, so if they call back and speak to a different person, there is a full history,’ said Fulat.
‘We also collect information such as the age and gender of the caller, and their ethnicity, so we have a sense of the profile of people using the service. We can then report that to our funders and make sure we are meeting the needs of our users.’
Oracle donated the database software as part of a training project for a team of three graduate trainees.
The graduates tailored the database to help analyse the nature of calls to the charity, and make it quicker for information to be recorded into the system.
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Bridges TV Hosts Debate Between Muslims And FBI
Thursday, April 13, 2006 01:24 PM - WBEN Newsroom

Orchard Park, NY (WBEN) - A bit of history was made as a locally-based Muslim TV network hosted a debate between the Council on American-Islamic Relations, and the FBI, which has been criticized often by the group.
Bridges TV CEO Mo Hassan tells Newsradio 930 WBEN the two sides have been on opposite ends on issues, so to have the two sides sit down is significant.
The FBI's Paul Moskal says there is a lack of understanding. "Often times there are misconceptions not just among Arab-Americans, but the American public. The FBI is responsible for the enforcement of 250 different types of crimes, and the only way to get over that is to tell people what we're doing and how we go about doing it."

EU Removes 'Islamic Terrorism' from its Dictionary By Selcuk Gultasli, Brussels Published: Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The European Union (EU) also admitted that the concept of “Islamic terrorism” is misused by racist groups in Europe and terror networks such as al-Qaeda.
The Union, taking action to rid such expressions, which are offensive to Muslims, from its dictionary, searches for new concepts behind closed doors. The European bloc is expected to release its new dictionary in June.
Works are underway to eliminate the expression “Islamic terrorism” from the EU’s current dictionary.
Both the EU and Europol have been seeking a new concept for some time for the expression, “Islamic terrorism”.
Many experts believe that the words “Islam” and “terrorism” must not be used together, and concluded that the use of such expressions “alienates” Muslims in Europe.
As a result of long consultations with academic experts, the EU will review expressions such as “Islamic terrorism,” “Islamist terrorism,” “fundamentalist,” and “jihadi.”
EU counter-terrorism chief Gijs de Vries, told Reuters, terrorism does not exist in the essence of any religion and praised Muslims struggling against those conducting terrorism in the name of religion.
Professor Rik Coolsaet, one of several authorities serving as an adviser to the EU, in the statement he made to Zaman, emphasized that Brussels realized such words can be used as “political weapons.”
Instead of expressions like “Islamic terrorism” and “Islamofascist,” a phrase the United States insistently uses, Brussels is trying to develop new concepts that will not cause offense to Muslims.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has often objected to the expression “Islamic terrorism.” The incidents arising after the European press’ publication of the cartoons insulting Prophet Mohammed accelerated the activities of EU officials on this issue.
The activities currently being undertaken at the Council of Europe serve two purposes:
• Firstly, to determine and eradicate the basic sources of the radicalism producing terror,
• Secondly to produce a new communication strategy in the fight against religious-based terrorism that will not offend Muslims and will not be abused by the extreme right or terrorist organizations.
For nearly two years, the EU and member countries authorities have been conducting secret talks about how to solve the religion origin terror problem. Contrary to the US, the authorities think the issue is Europe’s and therefore it must be handled as a domestic issue.
The new concurrence is intended to ease European Muslim involvement in the struggle.
European officials are of the opinion that changes to the expression of “Islamic terror” are of paramount importance.
Directly hit by terrorist attacks on March 11 and July 7, Europe regards Islam as being enslaved by some fanatics, since Islam does not have anything to rely on to legitimize terror.
The European Union is working to develop a new and more appropriate terminology for use by bureaucrats and politicians. The new terminology will be introduced to public opinion in a new dictionary set for release in June.
Terrorist advocates of Islam kill Muslims in largest numbers; that is to say, Muslims comprise the largest group of victims of terror in the world, according to the draft document, sources told Zaman.
Europeans have to formulate a particular method, dissimilar to that of the United States, for dealing with religion-based terrorism, said Rik Coolsaet, a professor of political sciences at Gent, and head officer of the Royal Institute of Belgium.
The term “Islamic terrorism” has for years provoked objections from Coolsaet, whom the European Union conferred with over the upcoming edition of the dictionary.
“We have to care for the kind of people living here together with us, most of who have already worked very hard for citizenship from a European country. We should, therefore, desist from helping the right-wing extremists.”
The European outlook on Islamic terrorism, unlike the United States, does not view it as a problem brought in from overseas, said Coolsaet, who also spoke out against a reference from George W. Bush, President of States, to Islamofascism.
“That is a silly expression. Fascism is ironically a gift from Western Europe to the rest of the world. Islam, on the other hand, is a religion like any other religion, and cannot by any means be associated with fascism. The expression in question is invented with the intent of bolstering their assumptions and for use by neo-conservatives in the United States. This term is also in danger of being abused by such terrorist organizations as al-Qaeda.

$2.3b Islamic real estate fund launched
Bahrain Tribune - 12/04/2006

KM Properties, a member of the UAE-based Al Rostamani Enterprise family conglomerate, has announced the launch of a $2.3 billion Shari'ah-compliant,
real estate development fund. The fund has been established to develop and own an international chain of hotels that will abide by the Islamic Shari'ah principles. It will also spread investment across various complementary commercial real estate assets worldwide. Phase one of the hospitality and real estate development fund is closed to subscribers, but it is anticipated that international corporations will enter the fund in its upcoming stages, with great interest already shown for phase two. The new-concept hotel chain, which is in the advanced stages of development, will encompass significant elements that have not been addressed or targeted by existing hotel flags. It is a Shari'ah-compliant business model and product proposition created as a result of extensive studies by KM Properties and supported by retained industry veterans. KM Properties has already committed an investment of $290m to develop a 700-room hotel and serviced apartment project in Dubai, scheduled to open for business in the summer of 2008. This flagship property will form the blueprint for a multi-market roll-out of a ground-up development, as well as standing as a showcase for attracting investors, owners and operators to the chain's complete product proposition.In what is thought to be another industry first, KM Properties has also established a Shari'ah-compliant Hospitality Operator Company. A pool of industry professionals - each with more than 25 years' experience in the hospitality and leisure sectors - will be responsible for running the operating arm, which is expected to have a broad portfolio of properties before year end. In the first instance, the company will operate Shari'ah-compliant properties throughout the Middle East and Asia. Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Turkey, Malaysia, and India are all earmarked as prime entry markets during the first 12 months.To kick-start this portfolio, KM Properties has already signed three management agreements in addition to the Dubai property, with another seven in advanced stages of negotiation.The hotels are likely to come under the banner of a new hotel brand, which is in the final stages of development.

Muslims target Playboy office
12/04/2006 11:37 - (SA)

Jakarta - Hundreds of Muslim hardliners on Wednesday attacked the offices of the newly-published Indonesian edition of Playboy magazine.
About 300 protesters from the radical Islamic Defenders' Front (FPI) rallied outside the building to demand that the local version of the magazine, which carries no nude photos, cease publication.
They tore up copies of the magazine and threw stones at the building, shattering windows.
One of some 90 policemen guarding the building was injured but most of the magazine's employees had left the offices when the attack happened.
There were no immediate reports of arrests but witnesses said some police chased stone-throwers.
"We will carry out more attacks if Playboy refuses to stop publishing," Salim Ali Hamid, one of the leaders of the group, told Elshinta radio.
The group had earlier on Wednesday protested the publication of the magazine at national police headquarters in South Jakarta.
Playboy Indonesian edition hit the newsstands last Friday for the first time and was quickly snapped out. Copies later changed hands at more than three times the cover price of 39 000 rupiah ($4.3).
It features pictures of underwear-clad women and is no racier than local editions of British men's magazines FHM and Maxim already on sale here.
It also carried an interview with Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Indonesia's most famous author.
But FPI activists, notorious for attacking nightspots during anti-vice raids, believe that Playboy is synonymous with pornography and is not fit for publication in the world's most populous Muslim country.
Islamic leaders said earlier this year when plans for Playboy's debut were announced that the magazine would corrupt a culture already inundated by Western influences.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono weighed into the debate in February to question the magazine's benefit to Indonesia.
Most of Indonesia's Muslims, who make up around 85% of the population of 220 million, practise a moderate and tolerant form of the religion.
Witnesses reported seeing the family SUV moving near a sedan that had been damaged. Three days later, Officer Ly came to the family's home at 9:30 p.m. on a school night and arrested Halema in her pajamas, charging her with misdemeanor hit-and-run. More than a hundred people crowded into the city council meeting to express their outrage
Protestors Support Arrested Muslim Teen
Contentious City Council Meeting
By Dan Noyes
Apr. 12 - KGO - Protesters came out in force at the Davis city council meeting Tuesday night. They're outraged by the arrest of a Muslim teenager over a minor fender bender. The girl's family is accusing the Davis police of racial discrimination. The ABC7 I-Team first broke this story last month.

The Davis city council got an earful over the arrest of a Muslim teenager in a minor fender bender.
Mansur Zahir, UC Davis student: "When I'm out late at night, I think about how afraid I am of the police, not how afraid I am of my fellow citizens."
Davis police officer Pheng Ly arrested Halema Buzayan for misdemeanor hit and run, even though her mother insisted she was driving in a parking lot last June.
Najat Buzayan, mother: "Yes, I was driving -- not Halema. Halema was with me in the car."
Witnesses reported seeing the family SUV moving near a sedan that had been damaged. No one in the SUV recalled a collision, but the Buzayans cut a check for $870 for repairs to settle the issue.
Three days later, Officer Ly came to the family's home at 9:30 p.m. on a school night and arrested Halema in her pajamas, charging her with misdemeanor hit-and-run.
Steven Baissa, UC Davis Cross Cultural Center: "It's truly a sad testament to a city that we allow a 16-year-old to suffer like this."
More than a hundred people crowded into the city council meeting to express their outrage.
Jann Murray-Garcia, Davis resident: "The city council and the Davis police should have apologized to this young woman and her family a long time ago. They should apologize today."
Davis police chief Jim Hyde left the room before the public comments, but he defended the arrest of Halema Buzayan and the actions of his officer.
Dan Noyes, ABC7 I-Team: "Do you have confidence in Officer Ly, his capabilities, his judgment?"
Jim Hyde, Davis police chief: "I have confidence in Officer Ly, and the D.A. has confidence in Office Ly, and the city has confidence in Officer Ly -- yes, we do."
Still, Halema Buzayan and her parents were moved by the show of support.
Halema Buzayan, accused of hit-and-run: "It's such a wonderful feeling to know that you have so many people behind you and supporting you."
The criminal case could be dismissed at a hearing next week. But the matter's not over. Attorneys for the family are preparing a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Davis and Yolo County.
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Federal appeals court tosses suit against former congressman by Muslim rights group
Holly Manges Jones at 2:09 PM ET

[JURIST] The US DC Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday
upheld the dismissal [PDF opinion] of a defamation lawsuit against former US Rep. Cass Ballenger [Wikipedia profile] which was brought by an American Muslim civil rights group. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) [advocacy website] sued Ballenger [JURIST report] for comments he made in a 2003 interview to the Charlotte Observer when he said the group gave money to the Shi'a Islamist group Hezbollah [Wikipedia backgrounder] and said he worried about the location of the CAIR's headquarters because they could "blow-up" the Capitol.The civil rights group has denied any links to terrorism and sought $2 million in the lawsuit against Ballenger, but last year a federal judge threw out the case saying the suit should instead be against the US government because Ballenger was a federal employee. The judge then threw out the case entirely under the doctrine of sovereign immunity [LII backgrounder], which bars most cases against the US government. AP has more.

City's churches open way for Islam

The plight of St. Hedwig's Catholic School in Wilmington is a picture of a neighborhood school facing the financial chopping block. St. Hedwig's was the pride of the Polish immigrant community of the past, but attendance has declined over the years.
Although black Americans are not known to embrace Catholicism, they may pay a significant upward-mobility penalty if Catholic schools fade. Inner-city Catholic schools have succeeded in working with the children that public schools abandoned as uneducable.
Today some inner-city parishes may find themselves in the untenable position of having more funerals than baptisms. When churches were filled with families, their schools also expected to be filled. However, the diocese must now face the modern Catholic exodus to the suburbs. It leaves emptying city churches as parishioners age, suggesting that the churches may not be offering what communities want.


Some religious purists might cringe at the thought that the Catholic Church must learn marketing strategies to survive in inner-city America. Churches are competing with a host of activities on Sundays. The parish school may no longer have the emotional appeal of yesteryear for students not related to parishioners. The question becomes: Why should a parent pay tuition for a child to go to a Catholic school?
I asked Bishop Michael Saltarelli of the Diocese of Wilmington why people might want to send children to Catholic schools. He said they offer children discipline (not corporal punishment but learning to adhere to societal rules) and moral values. The bishop acknowledged that many secular institutions offer good education. However, Catholic schools offer students the ability to function in life.
Still, the extinction of inner-city Christian education accompanying the suburban exodus sends a message that inner-city souls are less valuable. This opens a beachhead for Islam to gain converts. Inner-city black neighborhoods appear to be prime candidates where Muslims can gain mainstream legitimacy by becoming the religion of native-born Americans.
In an August 2000 article posted on, "Islam challenges black churches," a Christian minister projected what might become of inner-city black folks left behind by Christianity. The Rev. Carl Ellis, president of Project Joseph, a Christian ministry trying to stem the tide of black converts to Islam, says Islam's growth in the inner city has more to do with the weaknesses of the traditional black church than Islam's strengths. Traditional churches, he says, are perceived as abandoning the strict moral and cultural leadership they once championed.
I asked one of my Muslim friends for his take on Islam's growth in black America. Rudolph Ali argued that Islam fills the void that black Christian churches are missing. He echoed Saltarelli by highlighting Muslims' moral and family values and discipline.
Ali then said he is involved with interfaith activities with elite Christians and Jews, but not black churches. He thought that black ministers may be avoiding interfaith activities with them. Ali said he was once a Christian, but he did not study religion then as he has studied Islam.
In 30 years, huge suburban black churches could find themselves trying to find sufficient membership for their churches to survive if the Muslim conversion rate continues.
Perhaps the Catholic Church might reconsider closing city schools and seek solutions to the enrollment problem.
The Rev. Joseph Cocucci. rector of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington, offered hope for city Catholic schools. St. Peter's has two aggressive nuns who know how to meet the needs of their community. One nun focused on outreach to find students. The other nun selects excellent lay teachers.
Closing inner-city Christian schools today might turn out to be tomorrow's nightmare for American Christianity.
Sherman N. Miller, of Wilmington, was a former Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Scots Muslims offered bank service tailored to their needs
April 11 2006

Plans for the first banking service for Muslims offered by a major High Street bank in Scotland were unveiled yesterday.Lloyds TSB is launching a series of products compliant with Islamic Shariah law, which forbids followers of the religion from receiving or paying interest.They are now on offer at 30 Lloyds TSB branches in England, but the bank's first in Scotland will begin in Glasgow at the end of this month.The Islamic current account offers no credit interest and has no overdraft facility, but it does provide a debit card.Funds held on behalf of customers are also invested solely in ethical companies, a condition of Shariah law.In order to comply with the religion, worshippers would have to remove any interest earned from the account and give it away.Lloyds TSB is also looking at devising a personal loan product which conforms to Islamic requirements, but a house finance service is already available.This entails the bank buying the house selected by the customer, who then rents it over a period during which the loan is being repaid."The repayment and rental payments are structured so as to be comparable with conventional mortgages," said Paul Sherrin, head of the bank's Islamic financial services division.The service will begin at the bank's Shawlands branch in Kilmarnock Road, close to the city's Asian community.There, at the moment, Muslims who follow their faith tend to borrow money from within their families or among friends.Amir Ali, 31, a retail manager, was checking out the new service yesterday and said he saw other advantages to the product besides religious compliance."I currently have a tracker mortgage and the payments go up and down with the interest rate," he said. "I think I might prefer a loan where the amount you repay is fixed over the term."A lot of Asians get cheap loans because they borrow from each other, but it means they have to keep a lot of money about the house. "My existing current account, with a debit card, pays interest but my wife makes me give it away to charity."

CIOG urges Muslims to oppose racism, corruption

Tuesday, April 11th 2006
The Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG) has extended Youman Nabi greetings to the nation.
According to a press release from the organisation Youman Nabi comes at a time when, more than ever, the country needs to hear the Prophet Muhammad's message of morality. It entails bringing into focus the life, station and character of the prophet in order to become enlightened and encouraged to live with integrity. The CIOG urged Muslims to learn, understand, practice and uphold this message and apply it to their daily lives and business dealings. Muslims must be people of morality who maintain honesty in their conduct and guard against worldly lusts like greed and gluttony. They must also be people of justice who live and judge by the standards of Allah and his messenger in order to shield themselves from influences that would lead them to wrongdoing. Also, they must oppose prejudicial practices and corruption whether it occurs at home, in communities or in the nation. These values, the CIOG says, will allow Muslims to live in the path shown by the prophet.