Thursday 30 April 2009

Improved Search on the homepage

Have you tried the new and improved search on our homepage? Google has just made the search facility very powerful. That means we can search much more than our website using the search box. Try it out yourself here.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Muslims in South Africa Happy with ANC win

AS jubilant African National Congress (ANC) supporters danced in the streets after their success in last Wednesday’s general election, South Africa’s battered opposition parties pondered their future with a degree of misgiving.

The ANC’s victory was never in doubt, but most pundits expected widespread voter disgruntlement to result in a sharply reduced majority.

In the event, the share of the vote was down - from 69.7% in 2004 to 65.9%, just short of a two-thirds majority - but the lead was decisive.

“The analysts are eating humble pie tonight,” crowed a trade union leader as champagne corks popped at the ruling party’s victory bash. Jacob Zuma, the president elect, was equally ebullient, saying opposition attempts to “belittle” the ANC had failed dismally.

Many of South Africa's Muslim voters head to the polling stations on Wednesday, April 22, determined to vote for the ruling African National Congress Party (ANC), saying it has long worked to secure their rights and freedoms.

"I will vote for the party that fought for this country’s liberation," Zahid Asmal, head of news, research and development at Channel Islam International radio, told

Asmal says the ANC, which has been ruling post-apartheid South Africa for the past 15 years, is a favorite for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

"Millions of people have benefited from [its] reconstruction and development program."

Mohammed Shahid Abdul, an International relations student at Witwaters Rand University in Johannesburg, agrees.

He believes that his favored ANC will win an overwhelming majority.

"The ANC is the only party with a relevant manifesto

Ebrahim Moosa, a Muslim, is still undecided on which party to pick.

"I’m caught in a dilemma of choosing between smaller parties who boast some wonderful credentials on paper but who have little chance of wining and the ruling party," the independent political analyst, told IOL.

Nonetheless, Moosa recognizes that the ANC is credited for reaching out Muslims, who make up some 1.5 percent of South Africa's 49 million population.

He says the ANC was keen to address Muslims’ concerns regarding foreign affairs issues, such as the Middle East conflict.

"The ANC has been leaning favorably towards justice for the Palestinians while the opposition has been known to support the Israeli occupation of Palestine."

Azar Vadi, who lives in the predominately-Muslim suburb of Lenasia south of
Johannesburg, agrees that the ANC has been aligning with Muslims and addressing major issues affecting them.

"Yes, I believe the ANC is in the best position to address the needs of the Muslim community," he told IOL.

"They have enshrined freedom of religion and allow religious practices that are sometimes even lacking in Muslim countries."

Asmal, of Channel Islam International radio, contends that the fundamental rights of Muslim citizens did not come under any threat under the ANC.

Prominent Muslims were notably represented in all forms of government over the past years.

In addition to two cabinet ministers, there are a number of Muslim MPs and councilors in the various provinces.

"The ruling ANC has proved that it protects the minority rights," says Asmal.

"It is the only party that can protect the interests of Muslims."

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Hindus trying to create 'Muslim-Free' zones in India

The sunny apartment had everything Palvisha Aslam, 22, a Bollywood producer, wanted: a spacious bedroom and a kitchen that overlooked a garden in a middle-class neighborhood that was a short commute to Film City, where many of India's Hindi movies are shot.

She was about to sign the lease when the real estate broker noticed her surname. He didn't realize that she was Muslim, he said. Then he rejected her. It was just six weeks after the November Mumbai terrorist attacks and Indian Muslims were being viewed with suspicion across the country. He then showed her a grimy one-room tenement in a Muslim-dominated ghetto. She felt sick to her stomach as she watched the residents fight over water at a leaky tap in a dark alley.

"That night I cried a lot. I was still an outcast in my own country -- even as a secular Muslim with a well-paid job in Bollywood," said Aslam, who had similar experiences with five other brokers and three months later is still sleeping on friends' sofas. "I'm an Indian. I love my country. Is it a crime now to be a Muslim in Mumbai?"

In the months after the brazen three-day Mumbai terrorist attacks, stories like Aslam's are common, even among some of the country's most beloved Bollywood actors, screenwriters and producers in India's most cosmopolitan city. The accusations of discrimination highlight the often simmering religious tensions in the world's biggest democracy, where Muslim celebrities can be feted on the red carpet one minute and locked out of quality housing the next.

The phenomenon has become known here as "renting while Muslim." It raises questions that go to the heart of India's identity as a secular democracy that is home to nearly every major religion on the planet. Although India has a Hindu majority, it also has 150 million Muslims, one of the largest Muslim communities in the world.

"The new generation wants a better India that isn't bogged down in religious strife," said Junaid Memon, 34, a Muslim Bollywood director who is trying to promote religious harmony through his films and his Facebook site. "We shouldn't be an India that ghettoizes all Muslims to apartments near a mosque. This is a real test for modern India."

Many Muslims here feared the attacks would unleash cycles of revenge killing of the sort that have recurred throughout India's modern history, from the violence of partition between India and Pakistan in 1947 to the 1992 riots in Mumbai. In the days after November's Mumbai attacks, Muslims from all corners of society united, holding candlelight vigils with a message to protest terrorism and pledge loyalty to India. In the end, there was no communal violence.

But across the country, reports of housing discrimination have increased.

Afroz Alam Sahil, 21, a student activist at Jamia Millia Islamia College in New Delhi, said that more than a dozen students from states such as Uttar Pradesh and Bihar -- which have large Muslim populations -- have been unable to find housing since the Mumbai attacks.

"Some Muslim friends have dropped out of college because they have nowhere to stay," Sahil said. "There is intense suspicion. Sometimes I ask myself why I was born Muslim."

Rana Afroz, a Muslim editor with the newspaper the Hindu, is investigating the issue after spending three months unable to find a landlord willing to rent to her and her husband.

"It is ridiculous that I have to prove to non-Muslims that I am not making bombs in my kitchen," she said. "Is this really the modern India I live in?"

In India, Muslims are often segregated, and they experience high poverty rates and low literacy. Although they make up nearly 14 percent of India's population, they hold fewer than 5 percent of government posts and are just 4 percent of the student body in India's elite universities, according to a 2006 government report.

Muslims, who have seen housing discrimination and the number of vegetarian buildings spike after every terrorist attack, see the issue as blatant discrimination.

"Everyone knows the vegetarian-only restriction is code language for 'No Muslims,' " said Naved Khan, a Muslim real estate broker who is trying to help Bollywood's Muslims find housing.

On a recent afternoon, Aslam, the producer, hung out at a cafe, as she sometimes does so she doesn't get on the nerves of those she is staying with. She wore jeans and a hooded sweat shirt.

Until January, she was living with a Hindu roommate. Then their lease ended. Her roommate was getting married.

"So I thought I would get my own place as a successful adult," said Aslam, who had come to Mumbai from Kolkata with dreams of landing a Bollywood job. "My mom was really proud of me. Now she's really upset."

A broker recently showed her a house in a working-class neighborhood. "It looked haunted. But I was denied even that," she said.

Another broker gave her advice: "Madam, live with a Hindu roommate. Only then will you get a flat."

Back in August last year, film star Saif Ali Khan thought of buying a new house, he made a conscious decision that he would not approach a Hindu housing society for fear of being rejected. That's a superstar of the country talking.

Our sources in the construction industry say that Saif did approach a few Hindu housing societies and was rejected –- despite being a superstar. Saif, however, says that he went straight to a Muslim builder to buy his dream house. "I know there are localities and building societies that won't sell real estate to anyone who's a Muslim. I went to a Muslim builder to avoid complications."

Saif insists that the problem of communal segregation is very real. "And it's not restricted to building societies in Mumbai, it's there in society in general. It's common knowledge that in certain areas of Juhu and Bandra land and houses are not sold to Muslims. I'm constantly surprised by how much religion matters to some people here. Perceptions of religion are always based on experience or fanaticism. Some elements have spoilt things for the entire community. That's the sad truth about Islam,” says the star who has bought a 4-BHK apartment in La Beau in Bandra.

Saif's dad is a Muslim, and mom a Hindu. "I've been brought up to believe in the oneness of God. In some places He is known as Jesus. In other places He is known as Bhagwan or Allah. And in some places He is known as Shah Rukh Khan."

Reacting to the extremist diktat that none of the Khans must act in Hindi films, Saif says, "I'd rather get shot than not do a shot! I'd have a tough time finding another job. There's nothing I can do apart from acting."

Muslim stars have always had problems while buying houses in certain areas between Andheri and Bandra. Emraan Hashmi, Arbaaz Ali Khan, Zeenat Aman, Sophie Chowdhury and Aamir Ali have been through this grind too.

Sophie Chowdhury house-hunted for over two years.There were times that she almost finalised the deal, but when she revealed her identity, the deal was cancelled.

Arbaaz Ali Khan was refused a house on Perry Cross Road in Bandra. Similarly, Zeenat Aman had to look for a flat for over three months before she could buy a house in Juhu. Ditto Emraan Hashmi. Aamir Ali's hunt for a house took over a year. He even filed a court case over this issue.

Monday 27 April 2009

US congresswomen, an agent of Israeli Lobby

A US congresswoman has denied she sought to intervene in a spy case involving two pro-Israel lobbyists.

Jane Harman, a Democrat, was reported to have been recorded in a 2005 wiretap aimed at Israeli espionage as saying she would seek to have charges against the two men reduced.

"If there are tapes out there, bring it on!" Harman said on Tuesday, calling on the US justice department to release transcripts of the tapes to prove her innocence.

The US government is considering dropping the case against Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman, US media said on Tuesday, citing anonymous sources.

US media reports have said it appeared Harman agreed to intervene in the case in return for help in getting Democrats to appoint her to lead the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which she sat on.

Harman did not get the post after Democrats won control of congress in 2006 and left the committee shortly afterwards.

The reports said Harman was not the target of the wiretap.

Alberto Gonzales, the attorney-general under George Bush, the former US president, intervened to stop the investigation involving Harman in order to gain her support for the administration's policy of wiretapping without warrants, the Associated Press reported.

Hillary Mann-Leverett, a former US National Security Council official, told Al Jazeera the case "showed the power and influence of the pro-Israel lobby so much so that the pro-Israel lobby thought it owned the chairmanship of the committee on intelligence in the US congress and could sell it to Representative Harman".

Rosen and Weissman were charged in 2005 with conspiring to pass on US defence information to unauthorised personnel.

The material included information about al-Qaeda, the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers dormitory in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 US military personnel, and US policy towards Iran.

The two had worked until 2005 for the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the leading pro-Israel lobby group in the US.

Their trial is scheduled to take place in early June at a Virginia federal court but is likely to be delayed further because the judge has a scheduling conflict.

An interesting blog points out the fact that Jane Harman's Jewish. Alan Dershowitz said that supporting Israel is the "secular religion" of American Jews. And because Walt and Mearsheimer point out that Jewish-Americans play a prominent part in the Israel lobby.

There are plenty of American Jews who don't support Israel. Some anyway. But they don't get into Congress for some reason. And they very rarely get published in the Forward. I can't think of a time, actually. The orthodoxy within the Jewish community is just as Dershowitz reported. We [heart] Israel.

Can you imagine if a leading evangelical politician was allegedly mixed up in a shady deal involving pressuring the White House on gay rights, and the papers didn't mention his religion? I can't. Do you think it's possible to talk about the power of the Israel lobby, which is what the Harman leak is about, at bottom, without talking about religion in American life? And without Jewish reporters talking about the religious orthodoxy they're familiar with? No. Heck, Wolf Blitzer, who did this story on CNN yesterday (and I bet left out the religious angle), used to work at AIPAC. Does Judaism/Israel matter to him? Oh and how many Jews are in Congress and the media? Just because you talk about this doesn't make you Ahmadinejad.

Sunday 26 April 2009

British Police convinced that 'most Pakis are Terrorists'

Lol. British police arrested 12 men on suspicion of plotting a large al-Qaida atrocity but have now released them without charge. Not wanting to lose their face, they are now going to deport them back to Pakistan.

This is to be investigated by Lord Carlile, the country's terror watchdog. Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, said he would carry out a review into the raids, that took place in the north-west of England on the Wednesday before Easter, after all 12 suspects were released without charge.

"I do not believe a mistake was made," said Peter Fahy. "We were faced with a very difficult decision."

The last two suspects were released into the custody of the UK Border Agency by the police yesterday, 24 hours after nine others had been transferred to the border agency for deportation without being charged.

A 12th suspect was released earlier in the operation. Eleven of the men are Pakistani nationals who entered the country on student visas. They now face deportation on the grounds of national security. The 12th is a British national.

A top Pakistani diplomat in London has said that Gordon Brown's statements after the arrests a fortnight ago were shocking and had helped extremists.

In an interview with the Guardian, Asif Durrani, Pakistan's deputy high commissioner to London, said Britain appeared vindictive against Pakistani nationals and said claims that Islamabad was soft on terror were slurs.

Brown's statements were taken by Pakistan as a public accusation that it was not doing enough to help the UK's fight against terrorism. Ten of those accused were Pakistani nationals who entered Britain on student visas, one is believed to be Afghani, and another is a British national granted sanctuary here after claiming persecution by the Taliban.

Durrani, a diplomat for 23 years with previous postings in Kabul and the United Nations, said: "Pointing a finger towards Pakistan was shocking for us ... it was uncalled for and shocking."

Sarfraz Manzoor has an article in the Guardian about 'How to tell I'm not a terrorist'.

It used to be simple to spot the fundamentalist: they would have tell-tale signs such as metal hooks and carry a charred copy of The Satanic Verses or a "Death to Israel" placard. It isn't so easy now. What does a moderate Muslim look like? How to tell if a bearded neighbour is a pious believer or plotting to blow up the local shopping centre? How to distinguish between the student who is taking photographs to send to relatives and the jihadist on reconnaissance?

If only these were theoretical dilemmas. Last week I was detained at JFK airport in New York. At the end of a lengthy grilling the officer turned to his colleague and said: "We have a 37-year-old male who has been to Pakistan in the past three years – shall I deport him?" The fact that the Pakistan trip was for a Radio 4 documentary, or that I had written a book which devoted a chapter to my fascination with the US was irrelevant. I was Pakistan-born and had a funny name so I was suspicious. It isn't that I don't understand the concern, or that some of it isn't legitimate; I wish I knew what I should say next time to prove I don't want to blow anyone up, and just want to spend a few days visiting galleries.

British Muslims are constantly called upon to denounce the extremists, to distance themselves from their ideas and actions. This leaves them forever on the defensive, having to react to the actions of the militant minority. So perhaps it's time to get proactive. That in itself is controversial: the standard response from British Muslims is to say that they shouldn't have to apologise for the actions of the extremists, that those Islamists are as Muslim as the KKK are Christian. But that theory doesn't help much in practice.

So here are a few suggestions for how to help the police, airport immigration and anyone else who finds it hard to differentiate between liberal and extremist Muslims. All Muslims who consider themselves liberal and tolerant could apply for a special card which when presented would show the holder was a "pre-approved Muslim", thus saving time at airports. Sure, some may say that such a card would represent a gross violation of human rights but I think it could be marketed like a credit card: membership has its privileges – in this case not being indiscriminately arrested or held up when travelling. Those who feel uncomfortable carrying a card could be offered an alternative – a white girlfriend perhaps, someone to vouch for the fact that they have successfully ­integrated into society and have no immediate plans for a holy war.

Perhaps I could carry a sandwichboard with the slogan "I love John Stuart Mill". That may prove too subtle, maybe something more permanent is needed to convince the sceptics. How about all moderate Muslims having "Don't panic – I'm Islamic" inked on their forearms by a government-approved tattoo artist. That way, the next time extremists march in Luton against returning British soldiers, the moderate Muslims would only have to walk around in a T-shirt and everyone could breathe easy ­knowing they were not the bad guys.

There is one other possibility: that Muslims are presumed innocent, unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Saturday 25 April 2009

Guide Dog or Guide Pony

Mona Ramouni, a Michigan woman who became blind shortly after birth, wanted to have more independence. But for Ramouni, who is a practicing Sunni Muslim, a leader dog was not an option. Many Muslims view dogs as unclean, and Ramouni, who lives with her family in the suburbs of Detroit, respected her parents' wishes that she not bring one into the home.

However, according to Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter, many Muslims see horses as "regal animals."

Enter Cali (short for Mexicali Rose), a miniature horse who stands 2 1/2 feet tall and weighs about 125 pounds. Cali is one of a small number of miniature horses that's been trained as a guide animal in the U.S. "I want a horse that will be a partner for the next 30 or so years. ... What I really want is to be able to take her places and go places with her that neither of us ever would have been able to do without each other," Ramouni told the Associated Press.

Miniature horses often live into their 30s, making them superior to leader dogs in at least one way: longevity.

"It's made [Ramouni] so much more empowered," said Kelli Finger, a coworker at Ramouni's workplace, where she proofreads textbooks in Braille. Cali has also gotten along well with other, more conventional, guide animals at the office, Finger added.

Ramouni says having Cali as a guide opens up new opportunities, but the U.S. government may soon tighten the definition of a guide animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act to exclude farm creatures such as horses.

The new ADA regulations are under review and final language will be issued later this year, according to Justice Department spokesman Alejandro Miyar.

In the meantime, Ramouni said she hopes to pursue a doctorate in child psychology at the [University of Michigan's] main campus in Ann Arbor.

The benefits go beyond the practical, she says.

Before Cali, "I had basically given up. I mean, I had been to the point where I thought, 'I'm going to get nothing out of my life,'" Ramouni said. "And having Cali ... showed me that I had forgotten about all the optimism I had as a kid. When I was a kid, I thought I could do anything. I thought everything was possible."

Islam does not forbid having guide dogs. There is a very minority of scholars who consider all dogs as completely impure.

Sheikh `Abdul-Majeed Subh, a prominent Al-Azhar scholar, states the following:

First of all, in rural areas blind people find human aid, although in modern day cities it is very difficult for a blind person to find someone to aid him in carrying out his activities. Thus, guide-dogs serve as a very practical solution for the blind.

Secondly, the dogs used to enter the mosque of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) because it did not have any fences. According to this, Imam Malik said that the dog is clean. However, we have to keep in mind that the other schools of thought hold a different view. Therefore, keeping it outside the prayer hall in a kennel fulfills the objective of aiding the blind and also does not violate the opinion of the majority of schools, who find the dog to be unclean.

Sheikh `Abdel Khaliq Hassan Ash-Shareef, an Egypt-based renowned scholar and da`iyah, says:

Imam Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani said in explaining the hadith narrated by Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) in which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: "Whoever keeps a dog, except a dog that is trained for hunting or a dog for herding livestock, his reward will decrease each day by one carat" (Al-Bukhari): "Ibn `Abdul-Barr says: 'Based upon this hadith it is permissible to have a dog for hunting, guarding, and also in farming, and it is reprehensible for other than these purposes except other similar tasks by analogy. Thus, it is reprehensible to own a dog without a need because they frighten people and prohibit the entrance of angels to the house.'

Additionally, this hadith has been used as a proof on the permissibility of rearing a young dog because of its benefits when it grows up, and in such case, the intention of attaining the benefits of owning this dog in the future acts as a present necessity, just like buying something that will not benefit at present for its benefit in the future.

It has been also used as a proof on the cleanness of the dog that is permissible to own, because owning a dog while staying away from it is very difficult. Therefore, the permission of its ownership is a permission of the complements of its intended objective; and this is a strong proof. Although it is opposed by the generality of the hadith obligating the cleansing of whatever a dog has licked, specifying [exceptions] from the generality is valid, if it has evidence backing it up.

This hadith also shows the kindness of Allah Almighty in permitting to His servants what has benefits to them, illustrates the role of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in informing the Ummah of rulings concerning daily activities, and proves the rule of: giving preponderance to a preferred benefit over the harm because of the exceptionality of benefiting from what has been forbidden to own." See: Fath al-Bari fi Sharh Sahihal-Bukhari by Ibn Hajar al-`Asqalani.

Based on the above, it is permissible to have a guide-dog for the blind, and it is permissible to keep it inside a kennel outside the prayer hall in the mosque. Owning a dog to aid the blind is a benefit that, by analogy, is given the same rulings of owning it for herding or guarding purposes.

Read more about this here and here.

Friday 24 April 2009

1500 farmers commit mass suicide

Over 1,500 farmers in an Indian state committed suicide after being driven to debt by crop failure, it was reported today.

The agricultural state of Chattisgarh was hit by falling water levels.

"The water level has gone down below 250 feet here. It used to be at 40 feet a few years ago," Shatrughan Sahu, a villager in one of the districts, told Down To Earth magazine

"Most of the farmers here are indebted and only God can save the ones who do not have a bore well."

Mr Sahu lives in a district that recorded 206 farmer suicides last year. Police records for the district add that many deaths occur due to debt and economic distress.

In another village nearby, Beturam Sahu, who owned two acres of land was among those who committed suicide. His crop is yet to be harvested, but his son Lakhnu left to take up a job as a manual labourer.

His family must repay a debt of £400 and the crop this year is poor.

"The crop is so bad this year that we will not even be able to save any seeds," said Lakhnu's friend Santosh. "There were no rains at all."

Allah says "No weariness nor illness nor sorrow nor sadness nor hurt nor distress befalls a Muslim, even to the pricking of a thorn, without Allah's expiating some of his sins by it."

Thabit Ibn Ad-Dahhaak quoted the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, as saying:

“Whoever intentionally swears falsely by a religion other than Islam, then he is what he has said (e.g. if he says, 'If such thing is not true then I am a Jew,' he is really a Jew). And whoever commits suicide with piece of iron will be punished with the same piece of iron in the Hell-Fire.” (Reported by Al-Bukhari)

The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, is also reported to have said: "A man was inflicted with wounds and he committed suicide, and so Allah said: My slave has caused death on himself hurriedly, so I forbid Paradise for him.”

We Muslims believe that all our suffering, failures and adversities are nothing but a test from Allah, who has said, “And surely We shall try you with something of fear and hunger, and loss of wealth and lives and crops; but give glad tidings to the steadfast, who say, when a misfortune striketh them: Lo! To Allah we belong and unto Him we are returning.” (Al-Baqarah: 155-56)”

Thursday 23 April 2009

Rape in the news

I came across this very interesting article about rape victims in UK:

This is Britain in the spring of 2009. An estimated 47,000 women are raped in this country every year. Between 75% and 95% of them will never report their attack. Of those who do, only a quarter make it to court, and there face an abject conviction rate of 6.5%. By my most conservative calculations, this results in 764 of those 11,750 ever seeing justice done.

This is Britain in the spring of 2009. We are not some UN-designated failed state. We have a criminal justice system that operates reasonably effectively for pretty much everybody else. But 191 women this year will see justice done. And 46,809 will not. I refuse to believe that all of them are lying.

In Islam we see rape as a serious crime. Rape includes marital rape which is not considered serious crime in some Islamic socities. In Afghanistan recently Marital rape was decriminalised by the government and there have been protests to reverse this law:

The legislation restricts a woman's right to leave her home and demands she submit to her husband's sexual desires. Sima Ghani, one of the women's organisers, said: "This law is against Islam and it's against women. It's against the people of Afghanistan."

Women marching against new legislation which effectively legalises rape met violent opposition from an opposing mob in Kabul yesterday.

Dozens of riot police, backed by more than 50 elite counter-terrorism officers, struggled to keep the groups apart as hordes of men charged at the protesters, who had taken to the streets near Afghanistan's parliament.

At one point the women , who were marching to parliament to deliver a petition, were pelted with stones. Men chanted "long live Islam" and spat at the women who had assembled outside a mosque built by Ayatollah Mohseni, the Shia cleric who helped draft the law. At a separate demonstration, police fired into the air to disperse a mob surrounding a school accused of organising the protests.

Most of those protesting against the law were young Shia women who took to the streets despite the threat of violence. Earlier this week, one of Afghanistan's leading women's rights activists was murdered at her home.

The UN has warned that a number of women have already received death threats for speaking out against the Shia Family Law, which President Hamid Karzai signed last month.

Most of the men were part of a counter-demonstration. Hundreds of them charged at riot police while a cordon of female police officers held hands in a ring around the women, to try to protect them.

"Women have God-given rights," said Ms Ghani. "But these men are claiming those rights in the name of culture. It is against everything God has ever given us."

Both groups chanted "Allah Akbar," or God is great. The men called the women "un-Islamic dogs" in a series of abusive chants. Others screamed "death to America". In reply, the women cried: "Afghanistan is a country of lionesses. We want our rights."

Regarding Marital rape, Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, says:

“The relations between the spouses should be based on tranquility, love and mercy. Allah says, "And among His Signs is this, that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect." (al-Rum 30:21)

Tranquility (sukun), love (mawaddah) and mercy (rahmah): these are very important concepts in Islam. These three summarize the ideals of Islamic marriage. It is the duty of the husband and wife to see that they are a source of comfort and tranquility for each other. They should do everything physically, emotionally and spiritually to make each other feel happy and comfortable. They must care for each other. They should not inflict any harm or injury, neither physically nor verbally, to each other. In order to increase the tranquility and comfort in their relations and in their home, they should love each other and should have mercy and kindness for each other.
Loving and merciful relationship is an important ingredient of a good marriage and good family life.

In Islamic marriage, neither the husband is allowed to demand his wife what is forbidden by Allah and what is harsh and unseemly, nor the wife is allowed to demand her husband to do anything that Allah has forbidden and what would put undue burden upon her husband. Sex is a natural urge and desire. Islam allows sexual intercourse only among the married couples. Fornication and adultery are forbidden in Islam. Since according to Islam there is no other permissible way for this desire to be fulfilled except between the spouses, they must be considerate to each other.

The Shari`ah has given us two important principles in this matter. (1) The first principle is that the husband should not deny himself to his wife and the wife also should not deny herself to her husband. They should do their best to satisfy their marriage partner. Even during the menses or post childbirth bleeding, when intercourse is forbidden, husband and wife can be together and can enjoy affection and intimacy in other ways.

(2) The second principle is that in their conjugal relations the couples should be kind and considerate. There are some Ahadith that report that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, disapproved when he heard that some husbands approached coitus abruptly and make a crude departure at the end of the act. It is reported, for example, that the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, "It is a rude manner of a man to proceed to have intercourse with his wife without first playing with her." Or "It is a vice in a man to assault his unprepared wife, seeking to satisfy his own lust and leaving her before she could achieve her own fulfillment…" Imam al-Ghazali in his Ihya' (vol. 2: 49-50) has mentioned these Ahadith. Most of the scholars of Hadith consider these Ahadith weak (da`if) and we cannot say with surety that they are the statements of the Prophet -peace be upon him, they do, however, contain some wisdom and etiquette that are natural and Islamic.”

People on the net also talk about Islam killing of women who are raped but is it allowed?

The prominent Saudi Islamic lecturer and author Sheikh Muhammad Saleh Al-Munajjid states the following:

The Arabic word ightisab (rape) refers to taking something wrongfully by force. It is now used exclusively to refer to transgression against the honor of women by force.

This is an abhorrent crime that is forbidden in all religions and in the minds of all wise people and those who possess sound human nature. All earthly systems and laws regard this action as abhorrent and impose the strictest penalties on it.

Islam has a clear stance which states that this repugnant action is haram (forbidden) and imposes a deterrent punishment on the one who commits it.

Islam closes the door to the criminal who wants to commit this crime. Western studies have shown that most rapists are already criminals who commit their crimes under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and they take advantage of the fact that their victims are walking alone in isolated places or staying in the house alone. These studies also show that what the criminals watch on the media and the semi-naked styles of dress in which women go out also lead to the commission of this reprehensible crime.

The laws of Islam came to protect women’s honor and modesty. Islam forbids women to wear clothes that are not modest. In addition, Islam encourages young men and women to marry early, and many other rulings that close the door before rape and other crimes. Hence it comes as no surprise when we hear or read that most of these crimes occur in permissive societies, which are looked up to by some Muslims as examples of civilization and refinement! It is worth mentioning here that in America , for example, Amnesty International stated in a 2004 report entitled “Stop Violence Against Women” that every 90 seconds a woman was raped during that year.

The punishment for rape in Islam is the same as the punishment for zina (adultery or fornication), which is stoning if the perpetrator is married, and one hundred lashes and banishment for one year if he is not married.

Moreover, Ibn `Abdul-Barr (may Allah bless his soul) said

The scholars are unanimously agreed that the rapist is to be subjected to the hadd punishment if there is clear evidence against him that he deserves the hadd punishment, or if he admits to that. Otherwise, he is to be punished (that is, if there is no proof that the hadd punishment for zina may be carried out against him because he does not confess and there are not four witnesses, then the judge may punish him and stipulate a punishment that will deter him and others like him). There is no punishment for the woman if it is true that he forced her and overpowered her. (Al-Istidhkaar, 7/146).

In addition, the rapist is subject to the hadd punishment for zina, even if the rape was not carried out at knifepoint or gunpoint. If the use of a weapon was threatened, then he is a muharib, and is to be subjected to the hadd punishment described in the verse in which Allah says (The recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified or their hands and their feet be cut off from opposite sides, or be exiled from the land. That is their disgrace in this world, and a great torment is theirs in the Hereafter) (Al-Ma’idah 5:33).

So the judge has the choice of the four punishments mentioned in this verse and may choose whichever he thinks is most suitable to attain the objective, which is to spread peace and security in society, and ward off evildoers and aggressors.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Female mosque designer to design Istanbul's mosque

Among the dozens of mosques in Istanbul stands a radical exception.

It is not only different in design but is also the first to be designed by a woman.

Known for designing hotels and bars, Zeynep Fadillioglu said she wanted to create something contemporary.

She spoke to the BBC's Sarah Rainsford as they walked through the building.

Monday 20 April 2009

Spanish people dont mind marrying foreigners

A new study by the IPF, the Institute for Family Policies, has revealed that one in every six marriages which take in place in Spain is with a spouse with foreign nationality. The total percentage is 17%, and it’s a continuance of the trend which Spain has been experiencing in recent years, up by 186% over 2000 to 2007.

The IPF forecasts numbers to be one in five in 2010 when, if the trend continues, a fifth of all the couples who marry that year will see a foreign spouse.

The figures for 2007 put Baleares at the top of the list, when 31.2% of all marriages on the islands were with a foreigner. 15,395 Spanish men married a foreign woman that year, and 2,193 of them chose a Brazilian bride. Colombian women, 1,593, were the second most popular choice as a foreign bride.

The favoured nationality for the 10,659 Spanish women who married a non-Spaniard in 2007 was Moroccan, with 1,364 such weddings taking place that year. Argentina took the second place, with 779 seƱoritas choosing a husband from that country.

The IPF President, Eduardo Hertfelder, says the figures are proof of the hospitable Spanish character and also show that Spaniards are open to integration.

A lot of Moroccans are Muslims and hopefully they are following Shariah procedures before these marriages. You can find what Islam says about marrying non-Muslims here.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Khutbah for Deaf Muslims

We often goto mosque on Friday for the prayers but how often do we pay attention to our brothers and sisters who dont understand the sermon. Here in UK, we have Muslims from all over the world but the Khutbah is sometimes held in Gujarati, Urdu, Bengali. Mosques dont pay attention to the people who cannot understand them.

In a situation like this, Al Isharah has taken a brave initiative in partnership with the East London Mosque in Whitechapel to host a Friday prayer sermon which will be translated into British Sign Language. The group hopes it will become a regular event.

Al Isharah has been working with deaf Muslims for a while now, offering Qur'anic and religious classes for deaf children for the past 18 months.

It will be the first time that the Khutbah will be translated into sign language for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Mosques are often told that they need to do more to be inclusive - particularly when it comes to providing services and facilities for female worshippers. It's nice to see East London Mosque going a step further.

May Allah grant them success.

Saturday 18 April 2009

Near Death experiences and Islam

When doctors returned to check on the patient who had almost died and been in a deep coma before being resuscitated, he thanked them for all the work they had done. He had, he told the surprised team of medics, been very impressed and had watched everything they had done. He had heard all that had been said, too, and, at one point, had been concerned when resuscitation was about to be abandoned. He then went on to describe in detail the room where he had been treated – although he had never been conscious in there.

That near-death experience is one of a number recorded by Dutch doctors and one of thousands of similar cases that have now been documented in a major worldwide study.

New research shows that many critically ill kidney dialysis patients have similar experiences, and that almost one in 10 heart-arrest survivors also report near-death experiences whose features include out of body sensations, bright lights, dark tunnels, and images of life events and spiritual entities.

But there's no consensus on what lies behind near-death experiences, even though they are being increasingly reported. Are they, as some people are convinced, signs of the soul leaving the body? Or are they, as others suggest, the last, dreamlike act put on by a dying brain?

Near-death experiences are surprisingly common. In the latest study, researchers quizzed 710 kidney dialysis patients and found that, out of 70 patients who had suffered a life-threatening event, 45 had gone though a near-death experience. And research by Virginia University shows that 10 per cent of heart-arrest patients, and 1 per cent of other cardiac patients, had reported having a near-death experience.

Near-death experiences occur in both sexes, in every culture, and at all ages. Researchers at the University Hospital of Geneva recently reported what they describe as the first case in a child of 12 who had undergone elective, uncomplicated surgery that had run into difficulties. But, in spite of considerable differences in ages, cultures and diseases, many features of near-death experiences are remarkably similar.

The spiritual theorists have it that this is the immediate prelude to death itself, and that it establishes that there is life after death. These theories take what the individual sees, hears and feels as being a report of exactly what happened. One suggestion is that, at the time of death, the body and soul separate and near-death experiences are a glimpse of the first part of that process.

A range of psychological theories have been put forward to explain the phenomenon. One suggests that it is a defence mechanism in the face of impending death. Another floats the idea that the working of the brain is somehow altered by changes in chemicals that occur shortly before death. Other explanations include false memories, a reaction to acute stress, and anoxia, or lack of oxygen, resulting in sensory disturbances.

A newer theory suggests the arousal system is implicated, and that the near-death experience is triggered by the crisis. The idea is that rapid eye movement (or REM sleep, where most dreaming occurs, and where the sleeper is paralysed, with only the heart, diaphragm, eye muscles and the smooth muscles active) is involved. At the root of the theory is the notion that some people are more prone to a condition called REM intrusion, where sleep paralysis occurs when they are awake. It is found in people with narcolepsy, or excessive sleepiness, and it can be accompanied by hallucinations or delusional experiences that are unusually vivid and often frightening.

Research led by Dr Kevin Nelson, clinical neurophysiologist and Professor of Neurology at the University of Kentucky shows that, out of 55 people who have had near-death experiences, 60 per cent had at least one prior occasion where REM sleep state intruded into wakefulness, compared to only 24 per cent in a control group. "Instead of passing directly between the REM state and wakefulness, the brain switch in those with a near-death experience is more likely to blend the REM state and wakefulness into one another," he says.

Brain regions involved in the REM state are part of the arousal system that regulates different states of consciousness, and are also part of the brain's fight-or-flight survival instinct. The theory, which is gaining support, is that people who have experienced a previous REM-intrusion are more likely to have a near-death experience under circumstances of peril. It has also been shown that stimulating the heart and lung nerve, as occurs during resuscitation, can trigger REM-intrusion.

The theory also has explanations for the common characteristics of near-death experience. The impression of being dead, for example, could be a reaction to the paralysis of REM, while the tunnel of light may be linked to changes in blood flow in the retina and visual activation by the REM system.

The paranormal and spiritual images may result from the fact that the limbic system, which is older than other parts of the brain and which is involved in behaviour, emotion and long-term memory, is strongly active during REM sleep. Out of body experiences – often reported by people under extreme stress – have also been linked to the arousal system.

While it offers explanations for many features of near-death experience, the researchers behind the arousal theory say that it is still work in progress. The problem for them and other researchers looking for more down-to-earth explanations is that they have to find a rationale for their theories, unlike the spiritual theorists who accept everything as reported as evidence of paranormal activity.

Little fieldwork has been carried out to prove or disprove the spiritual theory as a whole, although out-of-body experiences have been examined. These experiences often involve the individual looking down from ceiling height at themselves on the operating table, or in a bed. To test whether these are real, some experimenters have placed labels and objects on the top of equipment that could only been seen from the ceiling. So far, no one has been able to spot them.

All these sound very convincing but we cant believe in them according to Islam. There is a detailed section on Death on our homepage and in that there is a small section on Barzakh. Once the person is buried and the people leave, the Angels come and ask some questions. After that the person goes in an intermediate stage where he is not aware of anything. The people will be raised on the day of judgement when the trumphet will be blown. Till then there are no souls floating around. The only exception being if the person has comitted suicide then their soul will wander till the appointed time of their death.

Friday 17 April 2009

Thursday 16 April 2009

Black Imam of Makkah reminding Muslims of Equality

Allah says in the Qur'an:



Holy Qur'an 30:22



Allah also says

Verily, the Believers are but brothers (to one another). (Qur'an, 49:10)

A proof of this is selection of Sheikh Adil Kalbani as imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah.

With a deep baritone voice while reciting the Qur'an, Sheikh Adil Kalbani, the black imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Islam's holiest shrine, gives an example of equality in the Islamic faith.

"Any qualified individual, no matter what his color, no matter where from, will have a chance to be a leader, for his good and his country's good," Kalbani told The New York Times on Saturday, April 11.

Credited for his angelic recitation of the Noble Quran, Kalbani, 49, was chosen by Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz to lead millions of Muslim worshippers in the Grand Mosque.

"The king is trying to tell everybody that he wants to rule this land as one nation, with no racism and no segregation."

Born in Riyadh in 1940, Kabani is the son of a poor immigrant from the United Arab Emirates.

Kalbani said that Islam treats all people on equal footing, regardless of their color or race.

"Our Islamic history has so many famous black people," he said.

The Muslim imam said that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) had many black companions.

"It is not like the West."

Islam preaches equality among all people and teaches followers that every member of human race has been accorded honor and dignity by Allah Almighty.

In practice, Prophet Muhammad had among his closest Companions Salman the Persian, Suhaib the Roman, and Bilal the Ethiopian.

Two of the three Companions, Salman and Bilal, were ex-slaves who were liberated after embracing Islam.

Bilal was chosen by the Prophet as the first muezzin to prayer, a position coveted by many.

Kalbani is also credited for his open-minded views, reflecting the general evolution of Saudi thinking over the last two decades.

You can see a Video of the Imam reciting prayers in London below:

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Iraqi Children for Sale

Corruption, weak law enforcement and porous borders are compounding a growing child trafficking crisis in Iraq, according to officials and aid agencies, with scores of children abducted each year and sold internally or abroad.

Criminal gangs are profiting from the cheap cost of buying infants and the bureaucratic muddle that makes it relatively easy to move them overseas. Accurate figures are difficult to obtain because there is no centralised counting procedure, but aid agencies and police say they believe numbers have increased by a third since 2005 to at least 150 children a year.

One senior police officer said at least 15 Iraqi children were sold every month, some overseas, some internally, some for adoption, some for sexual abuse. Officials believe at least 12 gangs are operating in Iraq, offering between £200 and £4,000 per child, depending on its background and health. The main countries in which they are sold are Jordan, Turkey, Syria and some European countries including Switzerland, Ireland, the UK, Portugal and Sweden.

According to Colonel Firaz Abdallah, part of the investigation department of the Iraqi police, gangs use intermediaries who pretend to be working for non-governmental organisations. During negotiations with the families, members of the trafficking gangs prepare the paperwork: birth certificates, change of names and the addition of the child to the passport of the intermediary or any other person who is paid to take the child outside, usually to Syria and Jordan and from there, to Europe or other Middle East countries.

Read complete article here.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Understanding the Somali Pirates

The Pirates consider themselves heroes as opposed to the villains we are made to think of them. Yes they do go and capture the ships, demand ransom and money to let the hostages go. Sometimes they have to fight the navy personnel from different countries and sometimes they lose their lives as well as lives of their hostages. But you decide whether they are heroes or villians

In 1991, the government of Somalia collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury – you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Mr Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish stocks by overexploitation – and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m-worth of tuna, shrimp, and lobster are being stolen every year by illegal trawlers. The local fishermen are now starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."

This is the context in which the "pirates" have emerged. Somalian fishermen took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least levy a "tax" on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia – and ordinary Somalis agree. The independent Somalian news site WardheerNews found 70 per cent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence".

No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters – especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But in a telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali: "We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas." William Scott would understand.

Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our toxic waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We won't act on those crimes – the only sane solution to this problem – but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 per cent of the world's oil supply, we swiftly send in the gunboats.

The epicentre of this piracy is the port town of Eyl, in the Nugal region. It is off limits to the outside world, a safe haven for the pirates and a base for their attacks. It now functions, according to residents, almost completely on the proceeds from piracy.

Much of the rest of Somalia has been destroyed by the seemingly endless wars that have washed across the country in the two decades since it last had a functioning government. The capital, Mogadishu, lies mostly in ruins.

In Eyl, the streets are lined with new buildings and awash with Landcruisers, laptops, satellite phones and global positioning systems.

Almost everyone in Eyl has a relative or husband among the pirates. Fatima Yusuf, who has lived her whole life in Eyl, describes the intense involvement of the whole community in the fortunes of the young men who set out in crews of seven or eight armed with AK-47s and rocket launchers to take on the tankers on the high seas.

The planning is rigorous, Bile insists: "When we want to kidnap a ship, we go with not more than six or seven men because we don't want to be a mob, this is a military tactic."

Fatima says the people will gather to pray for the pirates and that when they set sail sacrifices are made in traditional ceremonies where a goat will be slaughtered, its throat cut."

An industry has grown up around the pirates, with restaurants to feed the kidnapped crews who as potentially tradable assets must be looked after. The pirates have become glamorous figures. Like most of the girls in Eyl, Sadiya Samatar Haji wants to marry a pirate. "I'm not taking no for an answer," she says. "I'll tie the knot with a pirate man because I'll get to live in a good house with good money."

Twelve-year-old Mohamed Bishar Adle, in nearby Garowe, the regional capital of Puntland, knows what he wants to do with his education. "When I finish high school, I will be a pirate man, I will work for my family and will get more money."

Beyond the bravado, Bile acknowledges that the danger is increasing. He will not say how many attacks he has participated in but he does claim to have been one of the pirates who clashed with French forces in April this year after the capture and ransom of a luxury yacht. French commandoes pursued a band of Somali pirates en route to Eyl after a ransom had been paid. Bile says nine of his compatriots were taken and that only he and one other friend were able to escape. Six of those caught face prosecution in Paris after being transferred to France.

He also remembers the terror of his first mission. "You don't know if it's a warship. You have to open fire and if it doesn't respond you know."

Bile did not grow up dreaming of being a pirate. He comes from a family of fishermen whose livelihood was destroyed, he says, by the arrival of industrial trawlers from Europe.

At some 3,300 kilometres, Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa. With a fertile upswelling where the ocean reaches Africa's Horn, the seas are rich in tuna, swordfish and shark, as well as coastal beds of lobster and valuable shrimp.

With the overthrow of Siad Barre's government in 1991, the territorial waters off Somalia became a free-for-all. Trawlers from more than 16 different nations were recorded within its waters – many of them armed. EU vessels flying flags of convenience cut deals with the illegitimate authorities in Somalia, according to UN investigators.

Clashes between large, foreign fishing interests and Somali fishermen in the late 1990s were the prelude to the upsurge in piracy.

Bile, like many of the pirates, calls himself a "coastguard" and insists he has more right to these contested seas than the foreign forces now patrolling them. He says many of his friends' boats were destroyed in these battles and stocks of a fish known locally as "yumbi" have all but disappeared.

Like many in Somalia, Bile is angry that outside powers are seeking a military solution to a more complex problem. He rejects the tag of "terrorist" and denies links to Islamic militias, like the Al-Shabab, which are in control of large areas of Somalia. He insists that the pirates would not give "one AK-47" to the Islamists.

While admitting that the influx of foreign navies is making his life more dangerous, he remains defiant: "We will keep carrying out attacks. We are ready for long distance attacks as far as the coast of Yemen."

The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail – but who is the robber?

Monday 13 April 2009

Our thoughts are with Italian Quake victims

Italy's worst earthquake in 30 years has killed 289 people and left 28,000 homeless. Our thoughts are with them.

The fourth Caliph, Ali (raa) said, A person is either your brother in faith or in humanity. We do feel for our brothers and sisters in Italy.

These disasters are reminder from Allah about the coming of the day of Judgement. There is a chapter in Quran that is called Al-Zalzala (the Earthquake). This is the 99th chapter and it paints a scary image of the day of Judgement. The verses are as follows:

When the earth is shaken to her (utmost) convulsion,

And the earth throws up her burdens (from within),

And man cries (distressed): 'What is the matter with her?'-

On that Day will she declare her tidings:

For that thy Lord will have given her inspiration.

On that Day will men proceed in companies sorted out, to be shown the deeds that they (had done).

Then shall anyone who has done an atom's weight of good, see it!

And anyone who has done an atom's weight of evil, shall see it.

Sunday 12 April 2009

Good Friday, Canadian Muslim Style

It's not just Christians who flock to houses of worship at Easter.

Muslims do it, too.

"In Canada, Easter has become the third Muslim holiday, after the two Eids," says Nadir Shirazi, a Toronto multi-faith co-ordinator at the University of Toronto.

Friday is the traditional big day for Muslims to attend afternoon prayers, but the North American work week can make that difficult. Most observant Muslims end up at a mosque near their place of work each Friday, rarely able to be at their family mosque on Islam's primary day of worship.

But that changes every spring with Good Friday, a statutory holiday steeped in Christian tradition to mark the day the Bible says Jesus was nailed to the cross.

The day off gives Muslims a rare chance to pray at their neighbourhood mosques, alongside family and friends.

"For many Muslims, this is the only time they get to pray with their families, instead of a place near their work," says Shirazi, who also helps companies make their workplaces more accommodating to people of faith.

Across Toronto, mosques are bracing for their biggest prayer day of the year with added events such as lectures, discussions, games for the children and dinners.

Farhad Khadim, vice-president of the Islamic Centre of Toronto in Scarborough, says his mosque expects to see about twice as many worshippers today, estimating that there will be between 1,000 and 1,500 coming through the doors around lunch time.

"Normally, we get about 600," says Khadim, whose mosque includes families from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.

As a result, there will be a special lunch prepared today, with foods from many different countries, and pizza for the children.

There will be added lectures for the adults, and a forum to seek input from youths on how to engage them more in the life of the mosque.

"This is a traditional thing we do every Good Friday," he says.

Khadim, an active member of the Muslim community, says other holiday weekends such as Christmas and Thanksgiving have also gained importance in the Muslim calendar by providing an ideal time to hold conferences, such as the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference held in Toronto every Christmas.

"It's a matter of convenience," Khadim says, adding that with Christians busy with their holidays, finding meeting space for thousands of Muslims gets easier.

"You often find that large venues are much more available."

Atheist and Humanist groups also tend to hold conferences during religious holiday weekends – not out of a sense of irony, but because long weekends make travel easier.

For Muslims, though, Good Friday has evolved into a community and family day, with the emphasis on local events and needs.

Theologically, Good Friday is no different from any other day of worship in the mosques. But its status as a day off work has made it a big day to spend with friends and family – much as the church picnic has long been in many Christian churches – and a day many Muslins look forward to all year.

Many imams also take Good Friday as a chance to talk about Jesus and his place in Islam, says Shirazi.

"He's part of our religion, he's a prophet," says Shirazi, who'll be at the Pickering Islamic Centre today.

Khadim says he has also heard imams use Good Friday to talk about the role of women in society, drawing on the stories of the Virgin Mary and Khadijah, the wife of the prophet Muhammad.

"All the prophets were surrounded by strong women," says Khadim.

By coincidence, this weekend is also Passover, when Jews mark the Exodus of Jewish slaves from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. As well, it's the start of the Buddhist New Year.

"Thousands of people across Canada will be taking part in religious or spiritual events over these few days," says Shirazi.

"It's a wonderful convergence of our multiculturalism."

You may also find Ahmed Deedat's research on Good Friday an interesting read. The article is available here.

Saturday 11 April 2009

Israel eating chunks of Palestine

A confidential EU report accuses the Israeli government of using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and the West Bank barrier as a way of "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem.

The document says Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority's credibility and weakening support for peace talks. "Israel's actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making," says the document, EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem.

The report, obtained by the Guardian, is dated 15 December 2008. It acknowledges Israel's legitimate security concerns in Jerusalem, but adds: "Many of its current illegal actions in and around the city have limited security justifications."

"Israeli 'facts on the ground' - including new settlements, construction of the barrier, discriminatory housing policies, house demolitions, restrictive permit regime and continued closure of Palestinian institutions - increase Jewish Israeli presence in East Jerusalem, weaken the Palestinian community in the city, impede Palestinian urban development and separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank," the report says.

The document has emerged at a time of mounting concern over Israeli policies in East Jerusalem. Two houses were demolished on Monday just before the arrival of the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and a further 88 are scheduled for demolition, all for lack of permits. Clinton described the demolitions as "unhelpful", noting that they violated Israel's obligations under the US "road map" for peace.

The EU report goes further, saying that the demolitions are "illegal under international law, serve no obvious purpose, have severe humanitarian effects, and fuel bitterness and extremism." The EU raised its concern in a formal diplomatic representation on December 1, it says.

It notes that although Palestinians in the east represent 34% of the city's residents, only 5%-10% of the municipal budget is spent in their areas, leaving them with poor services and infrastructure.

Israel issues fewer than 200 permits a year for Palestinian homes and leaves only 12% of East Jerusalem available for Palestinian residential use. As a result many homes are built without Israeli permits. About 400 houses have been demolished since 2004 and a further 1,000 demolition orders have yet to be carried out, it said.

City officials dismissed criticisms of its housing policy as "a disinformation campaign". "Mayor Nir Barkat continues to promote investments in infrastructure, construction and education in East Jerusalem, while at the same time upholding the law throughout West and East Jerusalem equally without bias," the mayor's office said after Clinton's visit.

However, the EU says the fourth Geneva convention prevents an occupying power extending its jurisdiction to occupied territory. Israel occupied the east of the city in the 1967 six day war and later annexed it. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The EU says settlement are being built in the east of the city at a "rapid pace". Since the Annapolis peace talks began in late 2007, nearly 5,500 new settlement housing units have been submitted for public review, with 3,000 so far approved, the report says. There are now about 470,000 settlers in the occupied territories, including 190,000 in East Jerusalem.

The EU is particularly concerned about settlements inside the Old City, where there were plans to build a Jewish settlement of 35 housing units in the Muslim quarter, as well as expansion plans for Silwan, just outside the Old City walls.

The goal, it says, is to "create territorial contiguity" between East Jerusalem settlements and the Old City and to "sever" East Jerusalem and its settlement blocks from the West Bank.

There are plans for 3,500 housing units, an industrial park, two police stations and other infrastructure in a controversial area known as E1, between East Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, home to 31,000 settlers. Israeli measures in E1 were "one of the most significant challenges to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process", the report says.

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said conditions for Palestinians living in East Jerusalem were better than in the West Bank. "East Jerusalem residents are under Israeli law and they were offered full Israeli citizenship after that law was passed in 1967," he said. "We are committed to the continued development of the city for the benefit of all its population."

More than 1,500 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem could be made homeless after Israel told them their homes are illegal and are to be demolished.

"The owners of 80 houses in the al-Bustan neighbourhood have received eviction notices saying that the structures will be destroyed because they are illegal," Hatem Abdel Kader, an official responsible for Jerusalem affairs in the Palestinian government, said.

Kader said that several of the houses served with demolition orders had been built before the 1967 war, when Israel captured east Jerusalem from Jordan, but that numerous extensions have been built since.

"The [Jerusalem] municipality used this as a pretext to issue the demolition orders despite appeals by the residents," he said.

No comment was immediately available from the city authorities.

You can also read "Secret Israeli database reveals full extent of illegal settlement"

Remember Allah and always praise him

A man once complained to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that he had a hard time following the laws of Islam. He asked the Prophet for one thing that he should do. The Prophet told him: "Let your tongue be always busy with the remembrance of God." - Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 4, Number 99

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "The first to be summoned to Paradise on the Day of Resurrection will be those who praise God in (both) prosperity and adversity." - Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 730

Thursday 9 April 2009

Never ending discussions on Hijab

It is not uncommon for a women in western world to be harassed by people for wearing a Hijab. Recently in UK a women wearing Hijab was hit by an egg thrown by a passing car.

The big problem occurs when a government completely bans the headscarf and creates disparity between people. In France for example recently two girls refused to remove the headscarf and were expelled from the school. The European Human rights court ruled in favour of the French government. This as wel all well know will create resentment in the Muslims against the French government.

In Norwary on the other hand, some far right people are upset because the government made an allowance that women in police forces can wear headscarf officially. With pressure from the far right groups, the law has been repealed but bravo to the government for taking an initiative.

In Iraq, during Saddam's reign, women had a choice to dress the way they wanted. But now they are finding ot much more difficult due to the so called 'liberation' by the western world. The following is an extract from ABC:

People in the Ghazaliyah neighborhood in western Baghdad witnessed many assaults on women in 2007. "I saw a group of armed men. [Tthey] grabbed a girl and beat her before a crowd of more than 50 people along with her father for not wearing hijab, and afterward they cut her hair with knives," a man who identified himself as Eman told ABC News. "I was frightened and never left home for nearly a week."

A woman named Ibtisam, a 56-year-old housewife living in Baghdad, said that fear of the militiamen "drove my 23-year-old daughter to wear the head scarf. ... We did it for security."

The Hijab phenomenon, in the eyes of many Iraqis, can be linked to the influence of neighboring Islamic-ruled countries.

You can read this article on whether Hijab deprives women or it restricts their rights and causes inconvinience.

Monday 6 April 2009

How the killers have escaped their crimes in Iraq

A very good article from the Independent in UK:

I watched a report on Fallujah last week on Sky News by Lisa Holland for which she deserves our gratitude and a top television award. It featured a quietly spoken Iraqi neo-natal specialist, Dr Muntaha Hashim, who is finding that in that town, bombed and collectively punished by the allies, there has been a massive increase in the number of deformed babies. Dr Hashim sees children with two heads – one, a young girl with bountiful hair was curled up on a bed – and others limbless, or born without vital organs. The number has doubled since the days of Saddam.

Some unidentified chemical weaponry is responsible. Pro-war politicians, dodgy spooks, spin doctors and unrepentant media warriors such as Christopher Hitchens still claim triumphantly the war was a victory of good over evil. Their own offspring will not be born with two heads and, they must believe, Iraqis are paying but a small price for 'freedom'.

We will never know what was done in Fallujah in our name. We will not be told the full truth on the victimisation of civilians in Basra either, nor on the global "renditions" industry, which provides us with information obtained under torture from alleged terrorists, and certainly not on our productive links with some of the world's most diabolical regimes.

In our supposedly free and open democracy we are not even entitled to know the truth about why we went to war in Iraq – a war which made terrorism respectable and convinced millions of Muslims that the West had embarked on a new crusade.

As a good citizen, I make it my business to question MPs and peers who supported the false case made for the Iraq war. I meet with practiced insouciance or unwarranted fury, or that most base of excuses: "I believed what I was told". Contrition hardly makes an appearance. Most do not want to be dragged back to those difficult days. Even Chris Mullin, whose published diaries are delightful, was against the war but succumbed to Blair's charm offensive and voted to prevent an inquiry – a stand I find inexplicable and unforgivable.

The issue of Iraq is the cut on the body politic that seeps and will not heal, as a constant reminder of the wounded country our soldiers leave behind. In a recent BBC poll over 70 per cent of Britons want an open and credible inquiry on it. Millions more want another on the use of torture allegedly sanctioned by the Government.

The attorney general has, to her credit, decided the latter needs to be investigated through the criminal justice system, and we are now given a vague promise of some kind of investigation on Iraq, probably deep indoors, some years hence. David Miliband has said: "I am obsessed with the next five years in Iraq, not the last five". We seem to have institutionalised duplicity in the executive, judiciary, intelligence services, Parliament and the Privy Council (the 'privy' is, of course, a water closet where nasty stuff is dumped and washed out). And those in power will, after feigned concern, simply flush the burning issues away.

You cannot trust our masters not to cover their tracks and it is now impossible to trust those they choose to lead investigations into improper conduct. Remember Hutton. Remember Butler.

It is a very British response, that is so clearly illustrated by the interminable Saville Inquiry into Bloody Sunday. In 1972 Lord Widgery decided the army did no wrong. Another inquiry was set up 10 years ago under Lord Saville. It still has to deliver a judgement. By the time it does – after spending millions of pounds – few will care.

Meanwhile, all the key players who lied grievously and sexed-up evidence have got away with it. More sickening still, the once conjoined twins Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell are today endowed with respect. Blair struts around the world stage believing himself to be a Mandela figure, a peace prophet. Campbell gets plaudits for his panache, a novel, his wit, intelligence and cockiness.

Carne Ross, a former Foreign Office advisor on Iraq, says we were duped. Brian Jones, former head of arms intelligence at the MOD believes the "dossier" was manipulated by Downing Street. According to Lord Bingham, Britain broke international law. Nick Clegg wants a full public inquiry, so too the families of soldiers killed in action. And Iraqis want to know who is responsible for the cries of grieving mothers as they deliver malformed foetuses. They will all wait in vain, I fear. There is no atonement, only glory for the sinners. Perhaps God really is on their side.