Friday, March 31, 2006
LU said it will not show the posters from a £1m advertising campaign for new TV series Sleeper Cell until creators remove the word Muslim from the text.
It claims it will offend people and it is trying to be sensationalist.
A spokesman for the digital channel FX series said it had consulted with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
He said the poster was meant to sum up the show's plot and would still appear in newspapers.
If London Underground wants to do this, it is entirely at its discretion Advertising Standards Authority spokesman
"It is in no way intended to cause offence or upset to Muslims," the FX spokesman said.
"We ran the creative by the ASA who advised us we were not in breach of the British Code of Advertising so it has come as a real surprise that the London underground have refused to run it."
The channel described the show, starring Michael Ealy as FBI agent Darwyn Al Sayeed, as the first American drama to feature a Muslim as the lead heroic character.
The character poses as a prisoner in order to infiltrate a fundamentalist group.
An LU spokeswoman said: "Following consultation with Viacom, who manage advertising on the Tube, it was decided to ask for the words 'is a Muslim' to be removed.
"This decision was taken in line with our standard policies, which seek to avoid gratuitously insulting large groups of Londoners."
An ASA spokesman said: "If London Underground wants to do this, it is entirely at its discretion."
Story from BBC NEWS:http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/4860754.stmPublished: 2006/03/30 11:14:50 GMT© BBC MMVI
Muslim group sues over cartoons
Thursday, March 30, 2006 Posted: 0954 GMT (1754 HKT)
Protests took place around the world last month over cartoons depicting Prophet Mohammed.
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) -- A group of 27 Danish Muslim organizations have filed a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper that first published the contentious Prophet Muhammed cartoons, their lawyer said Thursday.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday, two weeks after Denmark's top prosecutor declined to press criminal charges, saying the drawings that sparked a firestorm in the Muslim world did not violate laws against racism or blasphemy.
Michael Christiani Havemann, a lawyer representing the Muslim groups, said lawsuit sought 100,000 kroner ($16,100) in damages from Jyllands-Posten Editor in Chief Carsten Juste and Culture Editor Flemming Rose, who supervised the cartoon project.
"We're seeking judgment for both the text and the drawings which were gratuitously defamatory and injurious," Havemann said.
The lawsuit was filed in the western city of Aarhus, where Jyllands-Posten is based.
The newspaper published the 12 cartoons on September 30 with an accompanying tests saying it was challenging a perceived self-censorship among artists afraid to offend Islam.
The newspaper apologized for offending Muslims after violent protests against Denmark erupted in the Middle East, but stood by its decision to print the drawings, citing the freedom of speech.
Hart House gave first public prayer space for Muslims Naylor condemns isolated incidents of campus racism
Mar. 30, 2006. 01:00 AM
As the sun passed its high point over the University of Toronto, Muslim student Mobashsher Khan had to find somewhere to pray.
It was 1969, back when Toronto had no downtown mosque and only a few thousand Muslims, and this new PhD student from India had to figure out where he could perform the Friday midday prayer required of faithful Muslims.
To his surprise, he didn't have to go far.
The U of T's Hart House — then a male bastion of culture and Ivy League tradition — offered Toronto Muslims their first public prayer space, as the initial wave of Muslim newcomers began to arrive in the late 1960s.
In an unlikely third-floor Hart House sitting room at the top of a narrow set of stairs, Khan and about 15 Muslims came for years each Friday to pray.
That was then. What a difference almost 40 years make.
Last Friday, Khan — now a retired professor of plant science who made a career at the U of T — walked past those same Hart House stairs to the sweeping Debates Room where 700 Muslim students now pray every Friday.
"We were a small group back then, only about 15 to 20 of us came for prayers, including 10 workers from the nearby Ontario Hydro building and a few more from the government offices — but Hart House staff was always great," recalled the botanist, whose three children have all graduated from the U of T.
Those early days seem a world away from today, where the U of T Muslim Students' Association boasts more than 1,500 members and has several prayer spaces on campus, a Muslim student newspaper and a number of campus cafeterias with Halal items on the menu.
The growth of the campus Muslim community mirrors the growth of this city's Muslim community, where more than 400,000 Muslims from countries around the globe have established more than 50 mosques and form more than half of Canada's Muslim population.
"But now that I think of it, there was one small problem back then," Khan confides with a grin.
"The water we used for our ablutions started to leak through the floor of the prayer room. But even then, the people at Hart House were wonderful," Khan said.
"They set up a special sink and chair in the basement where we could wash exactly the way we should without any leaking — and it's still there."
Both Khan and Adeel Siddiqi, a lifelong friend he met at Friday prayers at Hart House, have donated to a new scholarship fund being created by the U of T Muslim Students' Association to celebrate its 40th anniversary. They say they want to give something back to the university they feel was such a pioneer in cultural diversity and religious accommodation.
"The U of T supported us in so many ways. When we came in each week for prayers, we used to have to cover up the photographs on the wall with cloth or newspapers to comply with our religious practice — and then take it all down when we were through," said Siddiqi, who came from Pakistan and is now a supervisor at the university's zoology teaching labs.
"One day we arrived to find that Hart House staff had custom-made special coverings for the pictures, that slipped on and off very easily.
"I have spent 38 years here at the U of T since I arrived in 1967 as a Master's student, and I have never felt unwelcome."
Lately that has not always been the case.
A Muslim student was shoved and harassed with racist insults recently at Hart House. Anti-Muslim flyers were dropped on-campus. Two female Muslim students were pelted with eggs on International Women's Day March 8. A student newspaper printed cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus Christ kissing.
President David Naylor condemned racism in a statement last week to the university's Governing Council and said the U of T "remains opposed to Islamophobia, anti-semitism, and every conceivable form of discrimination based on race, religion or faith, or ethnocultural identity."
While the university will uphold the right to free speech, Naylor said it will not condone racial discrimination anywhere on campus.
Muslim PhD student Safiyya Ally says she believes the recent incidents were isolated, but given global tensions, she said it is comforting for Muslim students to have an organization that feels like a spiritual home base.
"Sept. 11, 2001 was my very first day of classes at the U of T and it was devastating to sit in class watching the professor replay the tape over and over of the planes crashing into the towers and know that, like it or not, the people who did this are probably Muslim," said Ally, communications director for the Muslim Students' Association. "When people feel threatened, it's easy to close ranks and look for comfort among people who understand."
Ally said while some campus eateries adjust their hours to accommodate students who must fast during the Muslim festival of Ramadan, the student group is still lobbying for more Halal foods on campus — many students leave campus to eat Halal food at nearby Popeye's restaurant and the Kebab House.
The club also wants the engineering faculty, with its relatively high number of Muslim students, to block off an hour each Friday for prayers, something the school is considering.
But while the Muslim Students' Association offers a busy range of social and religious activities — from an upcoming "Sisters' Formal and Talent Night" to Muslim poetry readings and film screenings — there is a growing focus on outreach with the non-Muslim community.
"We're not segregationists. We're working with other groups in April to make sandwiches for homeless shelters," says second-year student Asim Ashraf. "We provide services to our community but we also care about the larger world."
Different groups working together reflects the spirit of a university, says astronomy student Mubdi Rahman, who has spearheaded the club's 40th anniversary and new scholarship fund.
"That's what makes a university great — you can walk across the street on campus and see people from seven different religious backgrounds.
"It's the nature of how we treat diversity; we allow ourselves to be comfortable being different."
FBI: International scam targeting Islamic mosques broken
By GARRY MITCHELLAssociated Press Writer
An international wire fraud scheme targeting Islamic institutions with a phony stranded-traveler plea, netting only small sums but hitting multiple victims over many years, has been disrupted by the arrest of its mastermind, the FBI says.Islamic advocates say Mohammed Mustafa Agbareia, who was arrested in Canada and pleaded guilty March 1 in Alabama to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, may have scammed more than $1 million from mosques and Islamic groups over nearly two decades.He will be sentenced July 10 by U.S. District Judge Charles Butler in Mobile, where he is in the custody of federal marshals.Agbareia is accused of claiming to be with a Saudi development bank investing in local Islamic society projects. Eventually he would contact Islamic leaders asking for money, saying he was stranded at an airport in Canada or another distant location and needed money wired.Agbareia manipulated the Islamic tenet of lending aid to a stranded traveler, the FBI says.He would always ask for $1,000 to $1,500 - amounts small enough to "pass under the radar" of local authorities, said Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington, D.C."This guy was really unique," Hooper said in an interview Wednesday.Agbareia, whose guilty plea was first reported by the Mobile Register, faces a possible 5-year prison sentence, a $250,000 fine and 3 years of federal supervision after his prison release. But penalties could vary because a religious institution was a victim and the court's sentencing guidelines are only advisory in this case, according to the plea agreement.The scheme dates to the 1990s and had at least 45 victims in the United States before being halted. It involved over 10,000 solicitations for money, according to the FBI.Agbareia was indicted in Mobile and Vermont on the fraud charges about a year ago. A second man, Zouhair Youssei Hissy, also was indicted in Mobile for an alleged role in the scheme and awaits extradition to the United States from Canada.Agbareia, 40, was arrested in Canada pending his unrelated deportation to Israel. Records show he's from Nazareth in Israel.The FBI probe of Agbareia began in Vermont where two victims were defrauded, an FBI spokesman said in a March 22 statement about the case. Another complaint came in Alabama in 2004 from the Islamic Society of Mobile Mosque.Collecting victims' phone numbers on the Internet, Islamic institutions or mosques were contacted by Agbareia and Hissy, who claimed to represent the Saudi Arabia-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB).Agbareia usually kept 60-80 percent of the money, with Hissy getting the remainder, the FBI said.In Mobile, FBI spokesman Special Agent Craig Dahle said it's unknown how much money the scheme collected. He said there could be victims worldwide.In the plea agreement, Agbareia, represented by the public defender's office, agreed to forfeit any proceeds of his criminal activity and cooperate with the government's investigation under threat of additional charges.
PRINCETON, N.J., March 30 (UPI) -- The majority of respondents in all but one of eight mostly Islamic countries surveyed in a Gallup Poll agree women should have leadership roles.
The majority range was wide, from 54 percent in Egypt to 92 percent in Lebanon. Only Saudi Arabia, with 40-percent approval, fell below the 50-percent mark.
Other countries included Turkey at 86 percent; Iran 78; Morocco 74; Pakistan 58; and Jordon 55. Overall, about nine out of 10 of those asked in Lebanon and Turkey agreed that women should be allowed in leadership positions.
Gallup World Poll surveys were conducted in eight countries between August and October last year asked respondents to agree or disagree on the supposition that "Women should be allowed to hold leadership positions in the Cabinet and national council."
© Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Fighting Islamophobia should be a top priority
Date published: 3/30/2006
WASHINGTON--The recent hyste- ria surrounding the approval of a Dubai firm to manage parts of several American ports demonstrates how fear of Islam, or "Islamophobia," can overpower rational discourse and harm our nation's true interests.
What would normally have been a routine business deal with a stable ally turned into a political fiasco that sent a "no Arabs or Muslims need apply" message to our partners in the Middle East and beyond.
Indications of how politicians were able to exploit the Dubai ports deal appear in two new polls on attitudes toward Islam. These troubling poll results should serve as a wake-up call for all Americans who value our nation's tradition of religious tolerance and who seek to improve our sagging image in the Muslim world.
The polls, one by the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the other by The Washington Post and ABC News, indicate that almost half of Americans have a negative perception of Islam and that one in four of those surveyed consistently believe stereotypes such as: "Muslims value life less than other people" and "The Muslim religion teaches violence and hatred."
The Post-ABC poll found that one-fourth of Americans "admitted to harboring prejudice toward Muslims," which experts said is "fueled in part by political statements and media reports that focus almost solely on the actions of Muslim extremists."
CAIR's survey also showed that the majority of Americans have little or no knowledge about Islam.
A majority of the respondents in CAIR's survey said they would change their views about Islam and Muslims if they perceived that Muslims condemned terrorism more strongly, showed more concern for issues important to ordinary Americans, worked to improve the status of women, and worked to improve the image of America in the Muslim world.
The results of both polls suggest that education is the key to decreasing anti-Muslim prejudice and that Muslims must do a better job of letting fellow Americans know what is being done to address their concerns.
CAIR and other American Muslim groups have repeatedly condemned terrorism of any kind. The "Not in the Name of Islam" public service announcement campaign, a fatwa against terrorism, and an online petition drive rejecting violence in the name of Islam are but a few examples.
Efforts are under way to increase the participation of Muslim women in American mosques. CAIR helped distribute a brochure called "Women Friendly Mosques and Community Centers: Working Together to Reclaim Our Heritage" to mosques throughout the United States.
American Muslims also have worked to help build bridges of understanding between the United States and the Islamic world.
American Muslim leaders recently took part in diplomatic initiatives during recent controversies such as the rioting in suburbs of Paris and the worldwide reaction to publications of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. A CAIR initiative called "Explore the Life of Muhammad" offers free DVDs or books about Islam's prophet to Americans of all faiths.
In the past, educational and cultural exchanges were viewed as a kind of frill--a nice undertaking if the resources were available. Today, such efforts ought to be viewed as long-term investments vital to the national security interests of the United States.
Islamophobia, like anti-Semitism or other forms of bigotry, should be of concern to all Americans.
It was Islamophobia that prompted 44 percent of Americans surveyed in a 2004 Cornell University study to believe that some curtailment of American Muslim civil liberties might be necessary.
There is a silver lining to all this bad news. Those Americans who had a chance to meet or interact with Muslims often tended to have more enlightened attitudes.
Surveys repeatedly show that people who feel they do understand Islam are much more likely to view it positively.
Our nation's experiences since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, coupled with recent research, should spur American religious and political leaders to make fighting Islamophobia a top priority.
PARVEZ AHMED is board chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Date published: 3/30/2006
March 30th, 2006
Angela Kim, News Assistant
"What would Muhammed do?" investiages second-largest religion in the world
Islam stands to be the second-most practiced religion globally, but how much does the inclusive environment at Virginia Tech really know about the Muslim culture? Within any religion, there are misconceptions, generalizations, and stereotypes, but the Muslim Student Association wants to set aside any misunderstandings during Islam Awareness Week.Shaykh Safi Khan, a professional speaker and student of Islam, spoke with students last night in his lecture titled, “What Would Muhammad Do?” to address topics concerning the reality of the Islam and the adverse stereotypes of terrorism, women's rights, oppression, and discrimination.Through historical accounts and stories of Muhammad's humbling actions, the audience grasped an understanding of Islam and its values. Khan shared with the audience the humbling actions and teachings of Muhammad in order to educate about Muhammad's dedication to morality and values of peace.“It was in prophet Muhammad's nature to be very caring and kind … Prophet Muhammad was a man who valued knowledge,” Khan said.Khan said that Muhammad altered the women's positions within Islam, giving women an identity in a society where women were treated as property. “Prophet Muhammad brought rights for the women to own property - 1,200 years before women in the west were given that right. Muslim women were voting in the time of Muhammad, 1,200 years before the women's suffrage act.”Khan said that Muhammad was tolerant of other religions and those prejudiced against Islam. In a world where Muslims were discriminated, Muhammad taught Muslims to be mindful of Allah's peaceful acclamations. “He said to use the troubles of the world and enrich the world hereafter,” he said.Khan addressed various topics affecting the Muslim community by taking on the leadership of Muhammad.“I think it's important for a professional speaker to come and be able to answer questions and clear misconceptions in the best manner. He can speak in the best manner more effective than we can as students,” said Nassiba Adjerid, graduate student in biological studies and secretary of MSA.Students attending the lecture believed the lecture provided insight into Islam and the life of Muhammad. Lily Tam, senior animal and poultry science major, said she felt Khan's lecture addressed the ideals of Muhammad and the values of Islam.“Khan described Muhammad as a knowledgeable man who was concerned with Islam values within society. I learned that he was concerned with women's rights, oppression of Muslims in society and the importance of Islam morality within different cultures,” Tam said.Nina Alanes, freshman accounting major, said, “Muhammad was a normal person, but the lecture showed me who he really was. Muhammad was not described as holy or perfect, but a man of good faith no matter what religion.” Adjerid said that MSA hopes to clear misconceptions through open dialogues among students and faculty within a general population in the community.“The goal for Islam Awareness Week is to increase awareness, not just about the religion but also about Muslims on campus who follow the religion,” Adjerid said.The MSA also hopes to battle the stereotypes presented in the media.“I think there has been great response on the campus community. There has been excitement on campus and from students,” Adjerid said. “The purpose is to enlighten students and have them engage more, ask questions and feel more comfortable with us on campus. Our point is to increase awareness.”Tam said she felt that Khan's lecture educated the audience and addressed the concerns within Islam. “I was unaware of the Islamic religion, and I'm glad that I attended Khan's lecture because I have expanded my knowledge of religious views, especially the Muslim culture,” Tam said.Mark McNamee, university provost, said “It's important we take time to step back from our daily lives, to learn about different cultures and religions … I think more people and the more time we do this, we can make progress for peace in this world. I'm especially proud that Virginia Tech is home to so many students and cultures who are willing to share their cultures and values.”
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
By H.D.S. Greenway March 28, 2006
DURING A discussion about Muslims in Europe at the American Academy in Berlin, where I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks this winter, a young man rose to ask a disturbing question.
''In Germany we have the most liberal constitution . . . and freedom of religion," he said. ''There is perhaps more freedom than is available in any other country of the world. But on the other hand there is a paradox which I have experienced personally as a German of Pakistani descent." For even though he had been born in Germany, spoke fluent German, and had even served in the German Army, he found Germany ''one of the most psychologically hostile countries towards Muslims."
''This is not concerning the state and the government, but concerning the hearts and minds of the German people," he said. ''There is an extremely negative attitude -- a hostile attitude towards Muslims. What can be done to overcome that and to achieve a certain kind of peaceful coexistence?"
Germany is not alone in having difficulties absorbing immigrants, especially Muslims, who make up the fastest-growing minority in Europe. Originally recruited as ''guest workers" who were supposed to go home eventually, these mostly Muslim immigrants stayed on, sent for their families, and now are in their second and third generations. And more are coming every day.
Europe simply cannot get used to the fact that it has become an immigrant target. From about 1800 to 1920, Europe exported some 85 million people to the New World. Now this trend has reversed itself, and Europe has become a net importer. Immigrants from Africa and Asia are pouring in to find the same difficulties that dark-skinned immigrants have found elsewhere in Europe, North America, and Australia.
This is not unique to Germany, but Germany did refuse to admit that it had become a country of immigrants longer than most of its neighbors. Germany said citizenship comes through German blood, not the fact that you were born in Germany. Thus a descendant of Germans from Kazakhstan, whose family may have lived in Russia since Catherine the Great, gets a warmer welcome in Germany than descendants of Turks, Moroccans, or Pakistanis, even though the latter may have been born in Germany.
This changed in 1999 when laws were passed to free up citizenship to those not of German blood. But the laws can be changed faster than minds.
The gulf between Muslims and non-Muslim Europeans is growing, especially after 9/11, the Madrid and London bombings, and the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh at the hands of a Dutch-speaking Moroccan who thought van Gogh had insulted Muslims. The flap over the Danish cartoons has exacerbated this hostility, even though European Muslims did not join their co-religionists elsewhere in rioting.
Later, after the discussion at the academy, I turned on the TV news from the BBC. Two of the news presenters were South Asian women. Thinking of the young man's question, I recalled a conversation with Turkish-German politician Cem Ozdemir, now a member of the European Parliament, who had said how impressed he was with the number of dark faces he saw on British television compared with German television. And while Britain and France had plenty of immigrants playing on their national soccer teams, Germany, which will play host to the World Cup this summer, has no Germans of Turkish origin on the Germany national team -- even though Germans of Turkish origin make up the largest immigrant group in Germany. A German Turk might happily play for Berlin, for example, but when it comes to the national team he plays for Turkey. ''The best players for Turkey are from Germany," Ozdemir said.
France, too, is beginning to recognize that simply having more immigrant faces in the public eye can make a huge difference in changing anti-immigrant attitudes. Azouz Begag, a novelist and native of Lyon of Algerian descent, who now serves as minister for equal opportunity in the French government, told me how, after the November riots that shook France, public and private televisions companies were brought together to discuss how French TV might show more immigrant faces. He said that French President Jacques Chirac wanted ''to see more diversity on the screen." He conceded that the British had been more successful in this endeavor than the French.
Certainly seeing black and Hispanic faces on television has helped to break down prejudices in the United States -- a small step, perhaps, but one that can have surprisingly beneficial results.
H.D.S. Greenway's column appears regularly in the Globe.
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.
By Scott E. WilliamsThe Daily News
Published March 27, 2006GALVESTON — A woman in court March 15 for a child support hearing said she wound up battling religious oppression from the presiding judge and a court bailiff.Karwana Boyd said she was wearing a hajib, a headscarf worn as a sign of humility by Muslim women.“It’s not a fashion statement,” she said.Boyd was at the Sam Popovich annex, waiting for child support Judge Doretha Henderson, when bailiff Clint Wayne Brown asked her to remove her head covering.Brown told The Daily News the woman was not wearing a hajib, but a tight headscarf.Brown asked her to remove the covering, and when she refused, he waited for the judge to arrive.Judge Henderson, a traveling judge who presides over child support courts in six counties, said Boyd was one of two women in court that day claiming Muslim religious reasons for their headwear.“I know what a hajib is,” Henderson said, “and this was not a hajib. She said she was Muslim, but was not wearing a traditional Muslim headscarf.”Henderson and Brown both also denied Boyd’s claim that the woman was threatened with jail over her refusal to remove the headwear.Boyd said, “He said if I didn’t take it off, I was risking going to jail for violating the courtroom’s rules.”Boyd ultimately addressed the judge directly, and Henderson said she instructed Boyd to wait in the hall until her case was ready.“That was the extent of our conversation,” Henderson said.Boyd said she was filing a complaint with the civil rights division of the state attorney general’s office.“I see this as nothing short of discrimination,” she said. Henderson said she would never infringe on someone’s civil liberties, religious or otherwise.“That’s what I’m here for,” the judge said, “to protect the rights of the people who appear before me.”
Muslim students kick off Islam Awareness Week
Annual event aims to provide forum, dispel misperceptions
by Tara Brite
published on Tuesday, March 28, 2006
-Deanna Dent / THE STATE PRESS
Deedra Abboud speaks to students and faculty about misunderstandings of Islam in the Memorial Union Monday afternoon.
The Muslim Student Association kicked off its annual Islam Awareness Week Monday with a lecture in the Memorial Union aimed at dispelling Muslim stereotypes.More than 20 students attended the lecture that featured Deedra Abboud, executive director of Arizona's chapter of the Muslim American Society. Abboud asked students to list stereotypes they had heard about Muslims.The MSA is sponsoring a week of activities, including a lecture in the MU each night, a falafel-and-gyro sale on Hayden Lawn today and a tour of the Islamic Community Center on Sixth Street and Forest Avenue Thursday. Hazim Nasaredden, an MSA member and biochemistry senior, said Islam Awareness Week not only unites the community's Muslims, but also gets more people interested in learning about the religion. "It provides a forum for students to learn about things they don't know," Nasaredden said. The most common misconception about Muslims is that they, and all Arabs, are terrorists, Abboud said. There are more than 2 billion Muslims in the world, she said. "If all Muslims were terrorists, and they all killed one person, there would be 2 billion people wiped off the earth immediately," she added. "So this can't be true."Many people believe Muslims worship a different God than the Christian God and that they don't believe in Jesus or the other prophets, Abboud said. "We have the belief in one God," she said. "Allah means God."Another misconception is that all Muslim women are oppressed, Abboud said. Islamic women were given the rights to vote, get a divorce, work and get an education 1,400 years ago, she said. "But women took these rights for granted," she added. "Women tend to get busy, so their rights were slowly taken away and they didn't notice."People generally think these women are oppressed because they wear scarves, Abboud said. But the majority of women who wear scarves choose to wear them to remain modest and express their identities, she said. "Anywhere I go I'm seen as a Muslim," she added. "Or a nun, but I'm OK with that because I get treated with respect."Abboud said a person is Muslim once he or she takes a declaration of faith. This declaration requires a person to pray five times a day, fast for 30 days each year, make a pilgrimage to Mecca -- the most holy city in Islam -- and provide 2.5 percent of his or her net earnings to the community when it is affordable, she said. Molecular biology sophomore Moe Abdalla said the lecture was informative, and it changed his perspective of why Muslim women wear scarves."It was the opposite of what I thought," he said. "It was very educational."English literature major Diana Coleman said she attended the lecture because she is earning her Islamic studies certificate. The discussion with Abboud was very informative, she said. "It gave a chance for people to confront their beliefs and get feedback to rethink what they believed," she added. Reach the reporter at email@example.com.
Posted by Mollie
An Afghan court dismissed the case against a man facing possible execution for converting from Islam to Christianity, according to various reports. His release date has not been announced but could be very soon.
It is worth noting that Abdul Rahman’s case was not dismissed because of any sudden stated change of heart on whether the penalty for apostasy is death — at least among those who were in a place or position to do him in. It was dismissed on a technicality. An Afghan Supreme Court spokesman said there were problems with the prosecutor’s evidence. With some of Rahman’s next of kin testifying that he was mentally ill, he was deemed unfit for trial.
We began the conversation about media coverage of Rahman’s fate last week. One issue I highlighted was the need for reporters to understand that Rahman was facing death not for being a Christian but for being a Christian who once had been Muslim. In that previous discussion, Muslim reader Maryam, a.k.a. Umm (mother to) Yasmin, commented:
Actually (and I have memories of pointing this out before here) “sharia, or Islamic law” does not stipulate death for apostasy, and it would be nice if GR journos could take their peers to task for mindlessly repeating this mistake. Various scholars, jurists and thinkers (medieval and modern alike) vigourously disagree on the topic.
Radio Free Europe — which is funded by the United States government — made Maryam’s point. In an article about Rahman, it compared penalties for converting from Islam to penalties for committing treason against the United States:
The key issue for Muslim thinkers grappling with Islamic law and modernity revolves not around whether apostasy is a heinous crime, but how to deal with it. Islam Online, a Qatar-based site that attempts to explain Islamic issues, quoted the well-known Islamic scholar Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi as acknowledging that there is a difference of opinion on the issue even if most support the death penalty.
“All Muslim jurists agree that the apostate is to be punished,” al-Qaradawi said. “However, they differ regarding the punishment itself. The majority of them go for killing; meaning that an apostate is to be sentenced to death.”
The Christian Science Monitor’s Rachel Morarjee and Dan Murphy provided more context. They highlight religious tension between Muslims and Christians in Egypt and Pakistan, the killing of Muslims who convert to Christianity by their own family members, attacks against Christian churches for alleged sympathy for America, etc. They point out that Afghanistan is 99 percent Muslim and that the 10,000 Christians who practice there do so in secret:
The issue of religious freedoms is one in which, as in Afghanistan, modern laws are clashing with ancient traditions. Rahman’s case illustrates a glaring contradiction between Afghanistan’s constitution, which upholds the right to freedom of religion on one hand but enshrines the supremacy of sharia law on the other.
Most mainstream schools of Islamic jurisprudence call for converts to be executed. Though the Koran promises only hellfire for apostates and also says “there should be no compunction in religion,” Islamic jurists have typically argued that execution is mandated, citing stories of comments made by the prophet Muhammad.
“The prophet Muhammad said that anyone who rejects Islam for another religion should be executed,” said Mr. Mawlavezada, the judge.
Though some liberal Islamic scholars disagree, pointing out that no such rule exists in the Koran, they have been largely silenced in Afghanistan. Last year, Afghan writer Ali Mohaqeq Nasab spent almost three months in jail last autumn for an article questioning the traditional call for execution.
So Rahman’s case has been dropped. But with so many Muslims viewing conversion from Islam to be a crime punishable by death, his future might be interesting. The issue of how Muslims deal with apostasy is not going away. Let’s hope reporters don’t forget the larger story.
Posted at 12:41 AM
What constitutes Muslim dress?
Recently a dubious case for religious freedom made news in Great Britain. It involved a Muslim schoolgirl who had sued her school for not allowing her to wear the body-length dress called jilbab. The case ended up in the House of Lords, and the judiciary committee of the House, equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court, upheld the school's dress policy.
Three cheers for the Lords for their bold decision.
At the heart of the controversy, which, on occasion reaches the outer limits of absurdity, is the oft-asked question: What constitutes Muslim dress? Is it a one-design-fit-all solution as some contend, or is there some flexibility in the matter?
There are two pertinent references in the Qur'an on the subject (24:31 and 33:59) that ask Muslim women to cover themselves when they are outside the home. Both of these verses have the underlying theme that women (and that should also be applicable to Muslim men) should dress modestly and should not draw attention of strangers as walking sex symbols. Interpretations abound.
To some it means total shrouding of women, from head to toes, in an all-covering tent-like garment called a burqa. This was strictly enforced by the Taliban in Afghanistan and is still practiced in some parts of the Muslim world. To others, like the schoolgirl, Shabina Begum, it means the long robe that covers the body but not the face. To still others it means covering the hair with a scarf. To a great majority of Muslim women, however, it is the modesty in dress that is important whether it is a western dress, African dress, or a dress worn on the Indian subcontinent. The only criterion is that the dress should be non-provocative.
Shabina Begum was a student at the public school in Luton, England, where Muslim students are a 4 to 1 majority. In deference to the religious sensitivities of the majority the school, in consultation with parents and area imams, had allowed girl students to wear shalwar-kamees dress, which constitutes baggy pants, a knee length tunic, and a scarf. The dress is worn by tens of millions of Muslim women around the world, particularly in India and Pakistan and also in Bangladesh. She wore the dress until she reached the age of 17 when she insisted on wearing the jilbab. When she came to school wearing a jilbab she was sent home.
She sued the school and won the first round in a lower court where she was represented by Cherie Booth, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and an ardent supporter of dubious cultural causes. The school appealed to the House of Lords and the Lords in their wisdom struck down the lower court's verdict.
In an interview after the verdict, Shabina Begum was defiant and strident. She said that shalwar-kamees is the dress of disbelieving women and that for a real Muslim woman the only option is to wear jilbab. She may be forgiven for the self-righteous exuberance of her youth, but in one stroke she has insulted tens of millions of pious and believing Muslim women who wear the time-honored, elegant, and very practical shalwar-kamees.
Most religious revival movements end up trampling over the cultural traditions of non-Arab Muslims in order to reach the pristine and pure source of the faith. In many non-Arab Muslim countries the process of Islamization is in many ways the process of Arabization. What the prophet and his companions wore in the 7th century has become the only acceptable model. Islam has been practiced by non-Arabs (who incidentally outnumber Arabs 4 to 1) for the past 1,400 years in their own cultural milieu. So for a Pakistani schoolgirl to pejoratively dismiss everything but an Arab dress is the height of arrogance and ignorance.
Such pseudo-religious issues add credence to the widely held notion that Muslims on the whole are averse to change and that many of them still cling to the traditions that are archaic and out of step with the world around them.
A civil society has the obligation to be sensitive to the religious practices of its minorities. But a line has to be drawn where the overall good of the society outweighs the whims of certain individuals. In deciding the school dress issue in Great Britain the House of Lords has sent a clear message.
Dr. S. Amjad Hussain is a Toledo surgeon whose column appears every other week in The Blade.
» E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
» Read more Dr. Hussain columns at www.toledoblade.com/hussain
Muslims flock to see 'miracle' fish
Mar 27 2006
HUNDREDS of Muslims are descending on a Liverpool house to witness what many are calling a miracle.
Two fish are causing huge excitement among the faithful, who say they are each inscribed with holy names.
Worshippers are convinced two Oscar fish bear the names of Allah and Mohammed in their scales.
Long queues have been building up outside the terraced house in Mulgrave Street, Toxteth, where the fish are being kept.
Leaders at the nearby Al-Rahma mosque in Hatherley Street, are in no doubt about the authenticity.
Sheikh Sadek Kassem, the mosque's Imam, said: "This is a proof and a sign not just to Liverpool's Muslims, but for everyone."
The fish were bought last week from a pet store in Speke by Ali AlWaqedi, 23.
He spotted a squiggle on the side of one fish that mirrored the Arabic word for God - Allah.
Then he noticed another fish, in a different tank, that seemed to bear the Arabic spelling of Mohammed, known by Muslims as Islam's last Messenger.
Ali said: "This is a message from Allah to me, a reminder, and now my faith is stronger. Everyone is so excited by the discovery."
Andrew Chambers, a religious education teacher at Shorefields comprehensive school, said: "It's clear that the markings match the Arabic script."
The Merseyside marvel is a carbon copy of a discovery made earlier this year in Bury.
Locals flocked to village pet shop Water Aquatic after it was noticed that the markings on the scales of the two-year-old albino Oscar fish mimicked the Arabic script for Allah.
Muslims Calling for Death of Rahman
March 27, 2006 03:08 PM EST
By Sher Zieve – Islamic clerics and Muslims have called for the death of Abdur Rahman, the Christian convert from Islam who was on trial for his religious conversion. The Afghan judicial system said that it will soon release Rahman from custody.
However, Muslims who have been incited by Islamic clerics, including the leading Afghan cleric Abdul Raoulf, have told their followers to execute Rahman as soon as he is released.Rahman’s defense attorneys are said to be seeking asylum in another country for their client.
-27/03/06 Around a thousand Muslims in northern Afghanistan have protested publicly against a decision to dismiss the death penalty case against a man who converted to Christianity 16 years ago in another country. . Abdul Rahman's case has been handed back to the country’s attorney-general because of gaps in the evidence, an official said. The judge also raised questions as to whether he was mentally fit to stand trial – based on pleas from his family.President Hamid Karzai had personally intervened in the case, aware of international pressure and the image of his country. Afghanistan's legal system is built around a strict interpretation of Sharia law, and Mr Rahman could have faced execution if he had been found guilty of apostasy (the conscious denial of Islam) and had refused to renounce Christianity. The protestors took to the streets in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday morning, 27 Match 2006. They demanded that Mr Rahman be tried and executed for converting to Christianity in Germany in 1990. Chanting “Death to Bush!”, they warned the international community to keep off the case. Condoleezza Rice and other US government representatives had condemned the trial, in a move which some church and human rights activists privately felt was foolish – since it reinforced the idea that Christianity is a western religion and a front for America.President Karzai, who has addressed the Labour Party conference in the UK at the invitation of PM Tony Blair, faces considerable opposition from religious hardliners both within and without his administration. He hopes that the case can be disposed of and the damage limited before it gets out of hand, says the BBC’s correspondent in Kabul. Some reports say Mr Rahman has been taken into a mental institution for tests. Supreme Court Judge Ansarullah Mawlavizada told the BBC there was considerable doubt that Mr Rahman was fit to stand trial. The case has caused outrage among those committed to religious freedom.
Denmark Invites Muslim Leaders to Talk
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller is expected to receive the Muslim delegation.
By Nidal Abu Arif, IOL Correspondent
Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moller is expected to receive the Muslim delegation.
March 26, 2006 (IslamOnline.net) – The Danish foreign ministry has invited leading Muslim figures for a meeting in Copenhagen within weeks to address the cartoons crisis for the first time since the September publication of the drawings that lampooned Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him), a leading Danish daily revealed Sunday, March 26.
The invitation was sent to Secretary General of the Muslim World League Abdullah bin Abdulmohsen Alturki before the Manama conference, Politiken quoted as saying Thomas Christensen, head of the Middle East Section at the Danish Foreign Ministry.
He was referring to the two-day International Conference for Defending the Prophet, which wrapped up in the Bahraini capital Thursday, March 23.
Brining together up to 300 Muslim scholars worldwide, the gathering announced the establishment of an international organization and a fund for defending the Prophet.
A similar invitation has been further extended to the Washington-based International Committee for the Support of the Final Prophet (ICSFP).
ICSFP Spokesman Ali Jumaa confirmed that his committee received an invitation from the Danish Foreign Ministry to attend the Copenhagen meeting.
He told Politiken that the committee delegation will group a host of prominent Muslims figures from all over the world.
The Committee was one of the Muslim bodies, which co-championed the Manama conference.
Twelve cartoons, including one showing the Prophet with a bomb-shaped turban, were first published by the Danish daily Jyllands-Posten in September and reprinted by European newspapers on claims of freedom of expression.
The drawings, considered blasphemous under Islam, have triggered massive and sometimes violent demonstrations across the Muslim world.
Christensen said the Danish government has opted for a constructive dialogue with the Muslim world.
"We wanted to express our keenness on entering into a dialogue with the Muslim world," he was quoted by the daily as saying.
"There are many misconceptions about Denmark in Muslim countries, so it is useful to put our heads together," added the Danish diplomat.
Asked on the issues high on the agenda, Christensen said the economic boycott will be possibly tackled.
The drawings have triggered a massive Muslim economic boycott of Danish products, costing the strong economy of the Scandinavian country hundreds of millions of dollars in less than one month.
Muslim scholars, however, hailed the positive stance taken by Danish dairy company Arla Foods, which strongly condemned the publication of the cartoons.
The paper said the meeting is expected to raise the Danish State Prosecutor's decision not to drop a case filed by Muslims against the Posten.
State Prosecutor Henning Fode argued that the mass-circulation daily did not violate the Danish freedom of expression laws by commissioning and printing the cartoons.
Danish Muslims are planning now to take the publication of cartoons to the United Nations after Fode's snub.
It is the first time that Denmark sends an official invitation to Muslim figures for a dialogue since the spark of the cartoons crisis.
At the very outset of the standoff, Prime Minister Fogh Rasmussen refused to meet a delegation of ambassadors of Muslim countries in Denmark.
Rasmussen has said he regretted the hurt caused to Muslims but refuses to apologize on behalf of the paper.
The editor of Jyllands-Posten has apologized for offending Muslims but defended the paper's right to publish the cartoons.
The Muslim world insists on a clear-cut apology for the "publication" of the odious cartoons and is pressing for a UN resolution criminalizing blasphemy.
DADAAB, Kenya, March 25 (UPI) -- Muslim girls at a refugee camp in Kenya are learning to play volleyball, wearing uniforms specially designed by Nike to meet Islamic standards.
Oliver Delarue of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees told the BBC the uniforms have been "very liberating." He described them as long pants with a top resembling a traditional jilbab, or long tunic, on top -- and said the girls chose the most traditional of the four possibilities Nike designers presented.
"It still allows them to move more freely, as they are made of a very modern type of fabric," he said.
Nike, the U.S. sportswear and shoe giant, has been working for the past four years on educational projects in the camps, which house 127,000 refugees from Somalia.
Adar Osman Horar, a female community leader in the Dadaab camp, said sports gives the girls "a break from their daily life" and encourages them to get an education.
© Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Muslim Scouts do their duty
Home News Tribune Online 03/26/06By DEBORAH LYNN BLUMBERG
SOUTH BRUNSWICK — The boys of Troop 114 hike, canoe and help fix trails at Scout camp in northwestern New Jersey. They earn patches, sing songs and hoist tents in the woods.
Basith Fahumy leads Troop 114 in the Boy Scout Oath at the beginning of a meeting at the Noor-Ul-Iman School in South Brunswick.
"The coolest thing is the camping and all the activities we do," said Scout Atif Salahudeen, 12, of Lawrenceville. "We're independent for a while."
But unlike most other Boy Scouts, Atif and his fellow 35 troop members take time out during camp to pray five times a day. In the mess hall they dine on halal food, and during weekly troop meetings at the Noor-Ul-Iman School off Route 1 they recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Boy Scout Oath after a prayer to Allah.
"In the context of the troop we're able to have our own culture," said Saffet Catovic, chair of the troop committee at the Noor-Ul-Iman School.
As members of the first, official all-Muslim Boy Scout troop in New Jersey, the boys mesh their religious beliefs with the values of the Boy Scouts of America, learning first aid, outdoor survival techniques, citizenship skills and earning patches on Islam.
Aly Aziz, 70, a Noor-Ul-Iman board member who was once a Boy Scout in Alexandria, Egypt, founded the troop four years ago. Since then, the school also has chartered a Daisy and Junior Girl Scout troop.
"Being a part of an all-Muslim unit gives a certain level of comfort," said Catovic, adding that pupils are at ease performing daily prayers at Scouting events because they're part of a larger group.
That experience, along with the understanding of the Boy Scouts' regional governing body, the Central New Jersey Council, has helped boys to feel more accepted as Muslim Americans, Catovic said, and more open about their religion.
"The council gave us a lot of support," said Catovic. "They said belief in God is central to Scouting, and if some parts of Scouting are against your religious beliefs you don't have to honor that."
As of 2004, 112 Islamic Boy Scout, Cub Scout, and Venturing Crew groups were chartered in the United States. In 2002, 94 troops were registered; in 2003, 107.
Since Troop 114's inception in 2002, members have held a food drive at the end of Ramadan and organized a mosque prayer service to commemorate the Boy Scouts' 95th anniversary. Catovic led the sermon dressed in a Scout uniform. During Christmas, troop members collected 150 toys from the Noor-Ul-Iman School and distributed the gifts to needy children in Newark.
Alan Rowe, a Boy Scouts of America district director who helped organizers establish the troop, said the boys' presence at Scouting events has inspired cultural dialogue and questions about Islam.
"I think it's wonderful the way they run their Scout meetings," Rowe said about troop leaders. "The 12th point of the Scout law is to be reverent, and they follow that very well."
At a recent troop meeting, Atif and other young Scouts learned rescue breathing and how to approach an unconscious victim with Scoutmaster Ahmadesmael El-Moslimany. The boys, many still in after-school activity clothes — karate and other sports uniforms — bounced in their seats and shouted out answers: "Check for breathing!" and "Do the Heimlich!"
Across the school building, senior Scouts learned about the Religious Emblem, a patch on Islam earned after passing a written test and an oral exam administered by the Islamic Society of Central New Jersey's imam.
"The most important part is to continue to live as Muslims have ordained," Catovic said as he flipped through a copy of the Quran and the Boy Scout Handbook. "And these days, we also have to be able to explain our religion very clearly."
Scouts also must complete religious activities and hours of community service to earn the emblem. Boy Scout troops affiliated with other religions have similar patches: Presbyterians have the "God and Me" emblem and Jews the Maccabee emblem.
Catovic's son, Ibraheem, 15, earned the religious patch last year after writing essays about how he would describe God and what he thought were the effects of prayer.
"I was a little nervous, but I got it," Ibraheem said. "I felt good because it tells you you're on the right track in terms of religion."
Atif, a first-year Boy Scout who said he loves to canoe, recently earned the Do a Good Turn Daily patch through volunteer work both in the community and in the mosque.
"I helped with a turkey drive to give turkeys to poor families and helped clean the mosque," Atif said.
Aziz, who once attended international jamborees in Lebanon and Syria and sailed with fellow Scouts in the Mediterranean, said Scouting helped him become more disciplined and build confidence. He wanted Noor-Ul-Iman pupils to have that same experience.
"Scouting really prepares the youngsters to face any situation," Aziz said. "It makes them independent, more tolerant and more appreciative."
Aziz now teaches troop members how to swim and gives lectures on leadership and drug awareness. The troop participates in all activities required by the Boy Scouts of America in addition to religious events.
"The people at Boy Scouts of America respect our religion," Aziz said. "They're quite understanding."
To close each meeting, the boys of Troop 114 gather in a circle, shake hands and wish each other "salam," peace in Arabic. At a recent meeting, members displayed posters depicting the symbols of the troop's five patrols. Each symbol — a falcon, bronco, panther, bear and lion — is mentioned in the Quran or Hadith, sayings and practices of the Prophet Muhammad, Catovic said.
Looking on, Catovic spoke about the benefits of Scouting, which he says helps boys to grow into responsible, confident men. Scouting also gives members the chance to commune with nature.
"You're not mesmerized by the lights and can actually see the stars," Catovic said. "You're getting back to your origins. You're closer to God."
Deborah Lynn Blumberg:
Sunday, March 26, 2006
By Zaidi Isham Ismailbt@nstp.com.my
March 25 2006
MALAYSIA, which aspires to become an Islamic finance, banking, takaful (insurance) and halal hub, has added another sector under the list - Islamic finance education.
Bank Negara has launched the country's first International Centre for Education in Islamic Finance (Inceif) aimed at attracting the world's best minds to beef up their knowledge in Islamic finance.For now, the temporary campus will be at Menara Tun Razak Kuala Lumpur until a new site is identified by the central bank.Bank Negara Malaysia has also set up a RM500 million endowment fund to ensure Inceif's operations and services are benchmarked against the world's best standards.Bank Negara assistant governor Datuk Mohd Razif Abdul Kadir said Inceif is Malaysia's way of offering to the world Islamic finance education."We want to start competing with other hubs in Islamic finance education such as Hong Kong, New York and several West Asian countries," Mohd Razif told the press in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.To date 500 students, of which half are foreigners, have made plans to enrol in Inceif for the certified Islamic finance professional certificates.Successful graduates can expect to become exemplary professionals and will be much sought after in the global employment market in Islamic financial services industry.Duration of its education programmes and courses range between one and nine years and are mostly aimed at working professionals with emphasis on electronic or e-learning.Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz is also Inceif chairman and council members include Royal Professor Ungku A. Aziz, Islamic Financial Services Board secretary general Professor Dr Rifaat Ahmed Abdel Karim and Ambank Group chairman Tan Sri Azman Hashim.
Muslim comics use laughter to tackle discrimination, fear
Azhar Usman says when he walks down the street, he gets dirty looks.
"People are looking like I was responsible for 9/11," the comedian told the crowd recently in the Chicago suburb of Tinley Park, Ill. "Me 9/11? 7-Eleven, maybe.
The 30-year-old Usman, who calls himself "a very patriotic American Muslim" in his act, is one of several emerging Muslim comics who are touring in an attempt to break down stereotypes, encourage critical thinking, create an identity and, most importantly, get people to laugh.
"The standup is quintessentially an American art form and is a form of political protest," said Usman, who grew up in suburban Skokie, Ill. "There's a history of the underdog using standup comedy to speak truth to power. People take notice and are transformed by the experience."
Humor is a good way to deal with issues, said Daniel Capper, associate professor of religion at the University of Southern Mississippi.
"I think it's a very healthy approach for Muslims to take," Capper said. "It's not easy to be a Muslim in America today. Religions everywhere teach the value of being joyful and laughter is a way of being joyful."
Mikal Uqdah of Hattiesburg said the Prophet Mohammed had a humorous side.
"I don't see any problem with it," Uqdah said, adding that it should not be sacriligious. "I am sensitive to the feelings of other people."
Not many subjects are off limits for Usman - a former lawyer who became a full-time comic about two years ago. He jokes about terrorism, the war in Iraq, President Bush, airport security and the Patriot Act. His own religion and fellow Muslims are not exempt.
"Just about anything is fair game, just as long as it's done tastefully and artfully," he said. "I have some boundaries, based on religion. I won't do any sacrilegious material, make fun of God or the prophet."
Usman seeks the advice of Muslim scholars when he has doubts over material.
Though most of the response is positive, Usman knows some Muslims disapprove of his mixture of comedy and religion. He tackles not just how Americans see Muslims but how Muslims in America see themselves.
"It's equally my obligation as a comedian to point out what is wrong with us and get us talking about our problems as it is pointing out what's wrong (with) the way, for example, the government is treating us," Usman said.
Although he performs solo, Usman also travels as part of the Allah Made Me Funny tour with two fellow Muslim comedians.
They began touring in 2004, thinking they'd be a success if they played 30 cities in three years. Instead, they toured 50 cities in one year, performing not just at Muslim community centers but comedy clubs across the United States and internationally.
Tour creator Preacher Moss, a longtime comic who has written for popular comedians including George Lopez and Damon Wayans, says the tour has a twofold message.
"On the outside our goal is trying to build bridges with non-Muslims, but on the inside it's to build bridges between ourselves," said Moss, 39. "When you get people to smile about what they're fearful about, it's powerful. And when you finish laughing, you think about what you're laughing about."
Using laughter to tackle discrimination and fear is not new. Minorities in America have often used standup to open people's eyes.
"Humor is a good way, as it always has been, of drawing people in, exploiting the stereotype and finding a common ground," said John Lowe, a Louisiana State University English professor who's working on a book about humor in American ethnic communities.
Maysoon Zayid, a New York-based standup, helped create the Arab American Comedy Festival hoping to break down stereotypes and showcase Arab talent.
The show has played the last three years in New York.
"This is an effort to really change the image of Arabs in America, which are often considered religious zealot-terrorists," said Zayid, 30.
Along with comedy clubs and Muslim community events, these comics also are using technology as a platform to bring their messages to a bigger audience.
Usman is developing a podcast about a fictional character named Tinku Patel - an Indian Muslim who comes to America to make a movie. Patel interviews celebrities and average Americans, asking them their thoughts on race and politics.
Matt Suneulli, the podcast's co-creator who also works as a producer for MTV, said he's hoping the podcast becomes popular enough to parlay into a television show.
But for Usman and his colleagues, being a comic isn't just a way to make money or gain fame. They've become role models for other U.S. Muslims who are looking for ways to merge their Muslim and American identities.
"To me this is not just about standing on stage telling jokes," Usman said. "There's a lot riding on this."
Originally published March 25, 2006
Mar. 25, 2006. 01:00 AM
During the height of the Danish cartoon controversy, Canadian media interviewed male Muslim leaders exclusively, without bothering to seek out leaders among Muslim women. It's a given that Muslim leaders are men, preferably with beards.
Haideh Moghissi, a sociology professor at York University, says that rigid, unforgiving and sexist voices are considered valid voices by Western media. When a Muslim woman speaks out or assumes a leadership role, she's called militant.
Yet the struggle for sexual equality and leadership among Muslim women is gaining strength around the world.
Harvard University recently held a seminar titled "Emerging Forms of Muslim Women's Leadership."
Among the panellists was Sarah Eltantawi, a young Muslim doctoral candidate at the university and a media commentator on American-Muslim Affairs and Middle East policy who writes on counterterrorism for Upfront and The New York Times.
She spoke about the importance of a dialogue of civilizations as someone who has been part of U.S.-Islam dialogue in Qatar.
The dialogue continued at The Union Theological Seminary at Columbia University in New York where a diverse panel of Muslim women to spoke about leadership.
Among them were Aisha al-Adawiya, an African American Muslim who founded the advocacy organization Women in Islam Inc., and Shqipe Malushi, a Sufi poet and writer from Kosovo and Nureen Qureshi, a young TV anchor and head hunter for IT from Mississauga. These women are movers and shakers working at the grassroots level, creating dialogue and safe spaces for other Muslim women.
They believe that if men won't allow Muslim women their rights, then Islam will; all they have to do is reclaim what was originally given to them by the Prophet Muhammad.
This populist women's movement in Islam also has traction in Europe. At an early celebration of International Women's Day, the International Federation of Women Against Fundamentalism and for Equality (WAFE ) held a conference in Paris.
Formed after 9/11, WAFE asserts that fundamentalism in all faiths has emerged as the biggest challenge for humanity. The battle for sexual equality and emancipation can't be separated from the fight against extremism, its members say.
The conference, titled "Women's leadership: Indispensable to the struggle against fundamentalism," was supported by 15 European organizations.
Discussions ranged from fundamentalism as it exists in many faiths today to the challenges of female leadership, but the main focus was rise of fundamentalism in the Muslim world.
The international solidarity network Women Living Under Muslim Laws has identified anti-female policies as one of the warning signs of rising fundamentalism.
Whether it's abortion bans in U.S., opposition head scarves in Europe or forced veiling by the Taliban, whether its limiting women's freedom of movement or their rights to education and work under dictatorial regimes, the leaders of these movements are always men, and the victims are always women.
The women, however, are insistent on making their voices heard.
The speakers at the Paris gathering were from a variety of religions and countries — United States, Canada, Australia, France, Britain, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, Greece, India and Iraq as well as representatives of the National Council of the Resistance of Iran — and included members of parliament from several European countries. They were all of the view that religious fanatics exist in every faith and that women have been exploited by religious leaders for centuries.
In her opening remarks, Dame Elizabeth Sydney, chair of the International Federation Against Fundamentalism and for Equality, said, "Gender equality brings great many benefits ... it introduces an enormous amount of talent and energy into society. Under the fundamentalist regime, women are violently prevented from using their abilities. But the release of 50 per cent of human talent will raise standards for all of us."
In a video message, Maryam Rajavi of the Iranian Resistance said that Islamic fundamentalism is the biggest threat to the equality movement and therefore finding a way to confront the imminent danger of religious fascism ruling Iran is an urgent imperative.
Asked how to defeat Islamic fundamentalism and misogyny, Rajavi responded: "You have to eliminate the male-dominated culture as an inhumane culture, through women leadership. Accordingly, the establishment of democracy without the active role of women in society's leadership is impossible or at best retractable."
Adding their insights were Prof. Carole Fontaine of Boston's Andover Newton Theological School who called "fundamentalist patriarchy" a disease; Sushma Dilip-Pankule, representative of the International League of Women For Peace and Freedom in India, who pointed out the major role fundamentalism plays in female infanticide, dowry deaths, child marriage and sati, all of which continue despite government restrictions; Anissa Boumedienne, a lawyer, writer, and wife of the late Algerian President Houari Boumedienne strongly promoted education for women; Swiss Parliamentary Deputy Salika Wenger, who said that it's popular for politicians to discuss fundamentalism without doing anything to fight it; and Hoda Shaker Maarouf Al-Naimi, a professor of political science in Iraq, who elaborated on "the suffering of Iraqi women in an atmosphere of fundamentalist domination and in the absence of tolerance for diverse viewpoints."
Canadian Muslim women's voices were also heard this past weekend at a conference at Michigan State University titled "Islam and Gender: Social Change and Cultural Diversity in Muslim Communities."
Among the presenters was Jasmin Zine, an assistant professor of sociology at Wilfred Laurier University. She spoke about identity issues and the education of Muslim girls in Canada, both in Islamic and public schools
Western media would do well to keep these women's names on file for the next time they need a Muslim spokesperson to comment on current events.
HAYWARD — A Muslim father and son from Hayward, California filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation last week, accusing airline attendants of booting them off a flight because of their appearance.
Fazal Khan, 59, and his son, Mohammed Khan, 28, boarded a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Oakland on Jan. 31 wearing traditional South Asian tunics, white skullcaps and loose trousers. Both men also have long beards.
Before takeoff, attendants asked the Khans to vacate their seats and escorted them back to the terminal, said their lawyer, Shirin Sinnar of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco.
"They were essentially told, "You can't take this flight because the flight attendant is uncomfortable," Sinnar said.
The plane was operated by SkyWest Airlines, a regional feeder airline that serves as a carrier for some flights booked with the United Express service of United Airlines.
United Airlines spokesman Jeff Green said his company was "fully investigating" the allegations this week. Utah-based SkyWest is responsible for staff on the aircraft, he said.
SkyWest spokeswoman Sabrena Suite said that the regional airline also is looking into the complaint, adding "there is no room or excuse for discrimination" at SkyWest.
Sinnar said the Khans do not know of anything, other than their attire, that could have agitated the female flight attendant, who apparently expressed concern to the terminal crew about their presence.
An airline customer service representative walked onto the plane and asked the Khans to bring their carry-on handbags with them and return to the airport terminal, Sinnar said.
After escorting them out, the representative was "sympathetic" but said they could not return because the flight attendant was not comfortable with them on board, Sinnar said. With their check-in luggage still in the aircraft's cargo hold, the Khans were booked on a separate flight going to San Francisco International Airport a few hours later.
"The strange thing is no one took the bags off the first flight," Sinnar said. "If there was any thought they were a security risk, certainly their bags should have been removed."
By Reuel S. Amdur -- The Arab American News:
Currently, four Muslim immigrants are being held in Canadian jails pending deportation, and a fifth is subject to strict bail conditions. The five were arrested under provisions of the Immigration and Refugee Act, providing for issuance of security certificates.
Under provisions of the Act, non-citizens may be held in detention without bail or charge on the basis of secret evidence available neither to the accused nor his lawyer. All five of the men are alleged to have terrorist connections and all claim innocence. They all express fear of torture or worse if returned to their home countries.
One judge, James Hugessen, stated the distaste that he and other judges have for the law: "I can tell you because we talked about it. We hate it. We do not like this process of having only one party and looking at the materials produced by only one party and having to try to figure out for ourselves what is wrong with the case. . . and having to try for ourselves to see how the witnesses . . . . ought to be cross-examined."
Hassan Almrei, a Syrian, has been in custody since 2001, accused of being an al Qaeda agent involved in forgery. Pictures of Osama bin Laden were found on his computer, but he says that he downloaded the pictures with articles from Al Jazeera and the BBC. He went on a hunger strike to get improved conditions in jail, and the prison guards supported his complaints. Almrei fought with the muhajadeen against the Russians in Afghanistan.
Mohammad Mahjoub, held since 2000, is accused of membership in Vanguards of Conquest, affiliated with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. He admits working for bin Laden on a farm in Sudan. Another Egyptian, Mahmoud Jaballah, principal of a Toronto Islamic school, is accused of being a senior operative of the Al-Jihad organization as well. He claims to have been imprisoned and tortured in Egypt but never convicted of anything.
Mohamed Harkat, an Algerian refugee, in jail since 2002, stands accused of memership in the Groupe Islamique Armé, described as a violent organization bent on setting up an Islamic state. It is also alleged that he was in Afghanistan, took part in the resistance in 1991, and was involved with al Qaeda lieutenant Abu Zubayda. He denied these allegations, saying that he was never in Afghanistan, being in Pakistan at the time. Federal Court Judge Eleanor Dawson, who examined the secret evidence, did not believe his denials.
The only one of the five out on bail is Adil Charkaoui. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) accused him of being an acquaintance of al Qaeda members and of connections to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, blamed for attacks in Spain and Morocco. His bail conditions include a curfew and an electronic monitoring bracelet. He is also restricted as to his contacts and as to computer usage.
Amnesty International charges that "individuals detained purusant to a security certificate are effectively denied their right to prepare a defense and mount a meaningful challenge to the lawfulness of their detention." AI further calls attendtion to the fact that "international law provides absolute protection against being returned to torture."
Some critics have argued that, if secret evidence is necessary, then the court should be aided by an advocate for the person detained to examine the evidence and question witnesses, a kind of second lawyer for the accused who does not share the information with the actual lawyer or the client. There is no provision in the law to provide such protection.
In other Canada news, The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) this week called on law enforcement authorities to treat an attack on Muslim students at the University of Toronto (UT) as a hate crime and to bring the strongest possible criminal charges. CAIR-CAN is also calling on the university to take concrete steps to address racial hate and Islamophobia on campus.
Several witnesses told CAIR-CAN that a man attempted to run down four Muslim students with his car on the university campus on Sunday after yelling racial slurs at them. One of the students was reportedly hit by the car and taken to a nearby hospital by paramedics. The alleged attacker sped away.
"The University of Toronto has been known for its tolerance and accommodation of religious needs. Now the university must take a strong stand to show that all forms of hate and racism, including Islamophobia, will not be tolerated on its campus," said Riad Saloojee, CAIR-CAN's executive director. He added that the university must take action to ensure the safety of its Muslim students.
In a prior complaint, a female Muslim student at the university told CAIR-CAN she was pushed and called a terrorist on March 7. Earlier complaints received by CAIR-CAN concerned at least two different flyers promoting Islamophobia that were distributed at both York University and the University of Toronto.
The victim of the March 7 incident told CAIR-CAN that she believed a "Know Radical Islam" weeklong event organized by a student group at the university in February may have also contributed to the recent rise of Islamophobia on campus.
Last week, CAIR-CAN sent a letter to David Naylor, president of the University of Toronto, asking that the university take a strong stand against hate. CAIR-CAN reiterated that request this weekend.
CAIR, America's largest Muslim civil liberties group, has 32 offices and chapters nationwide and in Canada. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Mar. 23, 2006. 01:00 AM
MONTREAL—The Quebec Human Rights Commission says a university-affiliated institution should try to find reasonable accommodation where its Muslim students can pray.
Some students at the Ecole de technologie supérieure, affiliated with the Université du Québec, complained they had to pray in the stairwell.
The students want the school to build a separate prayer room because they are tired of kneeling on prayer mats.
A commission spokesman says the college has a responsibility to offer reasonable prayer accommodation to the Muslim students but is not obliged to offer space that is exclusive to them.
Marc-André Dowd, the commission's interim president, said a multi-faith chapel or classrooms are possibilities.
The school's "secular format doesn't exempt it from its obligation to reasonably accommodate its Muslim students," he told a news conference.
The complaint was launched on behalf of 113 students.
The commission also ruled that pictograph signs prohibiting the washing of feet in the school's sinks wasn't discriminatory against Muslims, who must perform the ritual. Witnesses testified that it's acceptable for a person to simply pass his wet hands over his feet.
March 23, 2006 12:55 PM
By Umi Hani Sharani
KUALA LUMPUR, March 23 (Bernama) -- Muslims do not seem to have faith in their ability or qualifications, as they are almost totally dependent upon others for almost all their needs in life, says former premier Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.Currently, the chairman of the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) 1440H Vision Commission, Mahathir said that even in the extraction of the wealth and resources that Allah has blessed the Muslims with, they were still dependent on others."We hire other people to do everything for us," he said in his address prior to the launch of the report containing details of the vision, here Thursday."The whole Muslim Ummah of 1.5 billion is one huge consumer society, procuring all our needs from outside our community, including our defense and security requirements."We produce practically nothing on our own, we can do almost nothing for ourselves, we cannot even manage our wealth," he added.Mahathir said the Islamic world today was full of paradoxes and contradictions. In spite of a number of Muslim nations being extremely wealthy, there is not a single one of them that can be classified as developed by any criteria."Certainly there is no Muslim world power as there was for much of the past 1,300 years....lagging behind in modern knowledge, financial and technological skills and in many instances, effective governments," he lamented.In addition to poverty, ignorance and instability have become such common features in the Muslim world that the detractors assume that these are the natural consequences of following the teachings of Islam, Mahathir said.He said that it is a historical fact that Muslims were at one time the most advanced people in all fields of human endeavours.At the time when the European Christians were wallowing in the Dark Ages and the Jews were wondering rootless all over the world, the Muslims were the biggest traders, the producers of goods, the strategists, navigators and defenders of their faith, he said.Christians and Jews lived freely under the success of the Muslims, while many people embraced the religion so that much of the world became Muslim, he said.Muslims were respected and no one dared to to desecrate the Quran or insult the prophet and his teachings, he said.However, the great Islamic civilization went into decline when the learned Muslims interpreted knowledge acquisition as enjoined by the Quran, to mean acquiring only the knowledge of the religion, rejecting other knowledge as un-Islamic.Followng this, the Muslims gave up the study of science, mathematics, medicine and other so-called worldly disciplines.Instead, they spent much time debating on Islamic teachings and interpretations, on Islamic jurisprudence and Islamic practices, which led to a break-up of the Ummah and the founding of the numerous sects, cults and schools, Mahathir said.Such have been the differences between them that they often kill and war against each other."To this day, they are blowing up each other's mosques to the delight of their detractors," Mahathir added.While the Muslims rejected their worldly knowledge, the Europeans gained from the early studies and researches of the Muslim scholars, achieved their Renaissance and went on to develop their countries and gain wealth, knowledge and military power, he said."We cannot be proud of the decline of the (Muslim) civilization and the sad state of the Muslims today. Nor can we believe that this is what Islam would lead us to when we follow its teachings," said Mahathir.He said Islam promises "hassanah" or good life in this world and in the next for those who accept the faith and the teachings and practice them.If Muslims do not enjoy hassanah in the world of today, it cannot be because of Islamic teachings, he pointed out."It must be because we are not practicing the injunctions of our religion or that we have misinterpreted them. The fault lies with us and it is incumbent upon us to identify what that we do is wrong and to correct them," he advised.
Three-year dispute; Engineering school must accommodate those who wish to pray
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Muslim leaders were cautiously optimistic yesterday after the Quebec Human Rights Commission told a Montreal engineering school it must allow Muslim students to pray in dignity, though it is not obliged to provide them their own special prayer space.
In 2003, 113 Muslim students filed a human rights complaint against the Ecole de technologie superieure after it blocked Muslim students, who must pray five times daily, from doing so in school hallways and stairwells.
"These students have a right to pray and the school has the responsibility, the duty, to accommodate them," commission president Marc-Andre Dowd told reporters. Students should not have to decide between school and their religion, he added.
After controversy erupted, ETS relented, letting students pray in stairwells and hallways, but more needs to be done to accommodate them, Dowd said.
Citing the Quebec charter of rights, the commission ruled ETS must ensure students can "pray, on a regular basis, in conditions that respect their right to the safeguard of their dignity." ETS could, for example, let them use an empty classroom or a gymnasium, Dowd said.
The school argued that as a secular institution it is not obliged to give students prayer space. But the commission said ETS's secular status does not relieve it of its duty to accommodate the Muslim students.
Dowd said ETS is not obliged to set aside a special room for them, a request of some but not all ETS Muslim students. Compelling ETS to have such a room would cause "undue hardship, as it could lead to similar demands from students of other denominations," he said.
The commission gave the school, part of the Universite du Quebec network, 60 days to solve the problem. If the commission is not satisfied with ETS's response, it may take the case to the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, a judicial body with the power to order the school to act.
The commission said ETS did not discriminate when it refused to fund a Muslim student group and posted a pictogram near sinks barring foot-washing, a pre-prayer practice of some Muslims.
The panel also said it did not have enough evidence to rule on a complaint about an ETS administrator quoted in a newspaper saying students who didn't like ETS policy could go elsewhere.
The complaint was filed by the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations and the Muslim Council of Montreal. Council president Salam Elmenyawi said the groups are studying the decision and will comment today.
Elmenyawi said the decision appears to answer the key demand - that students' "religious beliefs be reasonably accommodated in a dignified way." In the long run, that may mean a space shared with other groups, he added, noting Muslim students never said they wanted their own space.
He said he is disappointed the decision took three years and that the commission didn't deal with a demand for compensation for ETS's "disrespectful" treatment of Muslim students.
ETS spokesperson Denis Morin said empty classrooms are already available for Muslims who want to pray. "When they aren't being used, any student can use them - they're not locked," he said.
Morin said ETS will study the decision and will comment on Monday.
A group of Muslim students filed a similar human-rights complaint against McGill University in December after the school took away its prayer space. That case is pending.
Nafay Choudhury, president of McGill's Muslim Students' Association, said he hopes the ETS decision persuades McGill to offer students a quiet, clean prayer space.
McGill spokesperson Jennifer Robinson said the school is reviewing the ETS decision.
© The Gazette (Montreal) 2006
Thursday, March 23, 2006
March 22, 2006Posted to the web March 22, 2006
The Uganda Muslim supreme Council (UMSC) is to support the education of Muslim girls destabilised by the insurgency in northern Uganda and insecurity in Karamoja.
The Mufti, Sheikh Shaban Ramathan Mubajje, said on Saturday that the UMSC executive had asked its education department to identify Muslim girls and support their education.
He said some had dropped out due to lack of school fees.
Mubajje said UMSC would liaise with the district khadis to identify and recommend the girls for sponsorship.
He said Islam supported the education of girls and that the first verse in the Koran (read in the name of the Lord) was the first revelation that prophet Mohammed received, which made it obligatory for all Muslims to seek knowledge even if it was somewhere in China.
"Any nation that cannot educate its people cannot claim to be an advanced nation. Contrary to the myth and colonial legacy that Islam did not support the education of girls, in Islam seeking knowledge is obligatory," he said.
Mubaje was on Saturday addressing students, staff and parents of Hamdan Girls High School, Mbale, during a thanksgiving ceremony to celebrate the school's performance during the 2005 O'level and A'level examinations.
He said the success of the school was one of the fruits of his leadership that united all the Muslims in the country and enabled them to identify and focus on education as the cornerstone for development.
He said the unity of the Muslims in the country had also enabled the Islamic University in Uganda (IUIU) to advance to higher levels.
They're high around the waist, wide around the leg and have lots of pockets for holding watches, bracelets, glasses and other knick-knacks.
A new line of jeans designed by a small company in northern Italy caters to Muslims seeking to stay comfortable while they pray.
"As far as we know we're the first, at least in Italy," said Luca Corradi, who designed Al Quds jeans.
The bagginess is to ensure the wearer avoids stiffness while bending down repeatedly during prayers. The pockets are for holding all the accessories Muslims have to take off while they worship. And the jeans have green seams -- because green is the sacred colour of Islam.
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Al Quds representatives said a year of research and testing went into the product, with models being asked to try different versions of the jeans while they prayed.
Abdel Hamid Shaari, president of the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, said low-priced jeans specifically designed to keep Muslims comfortable could open up a big market in countries with large Muslim populations.
"This could be a good idea, thinking of the comfort," said Mr. Shaari, who used to be a production manager for Italy's Carrera jeans.
Mr. Shaari, who is originally from Libya, said Muslims in Tunisia and other North African countries generally wear established brands of jeans or imitations. He said "normal jeans indeed can be slightly stiff to pray and kneel in."
Al Quds -- the Arabic name for Jerusalem -- has produced an initial 9,500 pairs that it sold to the French retailer Carrefour SA. The retailer has sold an initial batch of about 50 pairs of jeans at a low promotional price of $22.53 (U.S.) in Italy, company officials said. Mr. Corradi said the regular price would be $30.44. AP
By Chad GroeningMarch 22, 2006
(AgapePress) - A pro-family organization dedicated to ending the overpopulation myth says falling birth rates in Australia could dramatically change the long-term future of that country.
Recently an Australian-based Muslim imam bragged that with that nation's low birth rates, the continent could become Muslim-dominated with the next 50 years. Muslims currently make up between 1.5 and 3 percent of the Australian population, and average a birth rate of 2.7 children per woman -- considerably higher than the nationwide average of 1.7. While those statistics somewhat mirror the increasing Muslim population in Europe, Joseph D'Agostino of the Population Research Institute says Australia is not yet Europe.
"The danger that Europe is facing is all these unassimilated Muslims who could easily be in the majority in some of these countries in 50 years or so," says D'Agostino. "Australia's situation is the immigrants could be in the majority in 50 years or so, but most of those people will not be Muslim."
But PRI's vice president for communications says while most Australian immigrants come from non-Islamic countries like China, the immigration patterns could change. He sees that as the only way the imam's prediction could come to pass.
"[Nearby] countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, which are [predominantly] Muslim, still have relatively high birth rates -- and those countries could, in the future, become greater sources of immigrants for Australia, which is going to need laborers," he observes. According to D'Agostino, countries from which Australia receives many of its immigrants now have very low birth rates, resulting in a labor shortage in those countries over the next couple of decades.
"So the immigration from those countries may really drop," he says. "And therefore, if the immigration patterns change, it is possible for Australia to become a Muslim nation much faster."
In a recent column for Human Events Online, D'Agostino says that regardless how "Islamic" Australia should become, the character of the country will change due to factors such as high rates of immigration and low birth rates among the native population. "Those who value Australia's Western, English, ordered, and Christian-influenced culture should be concerned," he writes. "Unfortunately, Australians aren't concerned enough to produce their future generations."
Chad Groening, a regular contributor to AgapePress, is a reporter for American Family Radio News, which can be heard online.