Monday 31 August 2009

Dont Be Sad: O' Allah!

"Whosoever is in the heavens and on earth begs of Him. Every day He has a matter to bring forth [such as giving honour to some, disgrace to some, life to some, death to some, etc.]!"
[Surah ar-Rahman; Ayah 29].

When there is a violent storm and the seas are turbulent, the occupants of the boat call out, 'O' Allah!"

When the camel-driver and the caravan are lost in the desert, they call out, O Allah!

When disaster and calamity occur, the afflicted call out, "O' Allah!"

When doors are shut before those who seek to enter through them and barriers are placed before those who are in need - they all cry out, "O' Allah!"

When all plans end in failure, all hope is lost, and the path becomes constricted, O Allah is called out.

When the earth, vast and wide though it is, is straitened for you, causing your soul to feel constricted, call out, "O' Allah!"

To Allah ascend all good words, the sincere supplication, the tears of the innocent, and the invocations of the afflicted. Hands and eyes are extended to Him in times of hardship and misfortune. The tongue chants, cries out, and mentions His name. The heart finds peace, the soul finds rest, the nerves are relaxed, and the intellect is awakened - these are all achieved when we remember Allah, Subhanahu wa Ta'alaa - "How Perfect He is, the Exalted."

*Allah is very Gracious and Kind to His slaves.* (Qur'an 42: 19)

Allah: the most beautiful of names, the truest combination of letters, and the most precious of words.

*Do you know of any that is similar to Him?* [There is nothing like unto Him and He is the All-Hearer, the All-Seer] (Qur'an 19: 65)

Allah: He is thought of when absolute richness, strength, glory and wisdom come to mind.

*Whose is the kingdom this Day?* [Allah Himself will reply to His question]: *It is Allah's - the One, the Irresistible.* (Qur'an 40: 16)

Allah: He is thought of when kindness, care, relief, affection and mercy come to mind.

*And whatever of blessings and good things you have, it is from Allah* (Qur'an 16: 53)

O' Allah, Possessor of Majesty, Magnificence, and Might, let comfort take the place of sorrow, make happiness come after sadness, and let safety take the place of fear.

O Allah, Soothe burning hearts with coolness of faith.

O' our Lord: Give peaceful slumber to the restless and serenity to disturbed souls.

O our Lord, Guide the confused ones to Your light and those that are astray to Your guidance

O Allah, Remove evil whispers from our hearts and replace them with light, destroy falsehood with truth, and crush the evil plots of the Devil with Your army of angels.

O Allah, Remove from us misery, affliction and anxiety.

We seek refuge in You from fearing anything except You, from depending upon anyone except You, and from invoking anyone other than You. You are the Supreme Patron and an excellent Protector.

Source: Don't Be Sad - By Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni

Has Afghanistan War achieved anything?

Elections have concluded but what has been achieved? Very few people bothered to vote. There were widespread fraud and whoever wins, though democratically, nothing much will change.

Lal Mohammed was determined to exercise his right to have a say in his country's future and vote in the election. It was a decision for which he paid a horrific price. On his way to the polling station he was held by Taliban fighters, beaten brutally, and then had his nose and ears slashed off.

What happened to the 40-year-old farmer is the savage and hidden side of the election in a country experiencing a bloody war. This chilling account is the first from a victim of retribution

taken by insurgents on someone who had defied their order to boycott the polls. And it helps to explain why so many people throughout the country were simply too afraid to vote.

Mr Mohammed has now been promised surgery by the hospital. His main concern, he says, is his family. "There are 11 people and I am the only breadwinner. My youngest child is two years old, I do not know what is going to happen to them, who will look after them..." his voice broke into sobs.

The Taliban had vowed to disrupt the election and had repeatedly warned people against participating. On polling day they carried out a series of attacks across the country killing 26 people and injuring about 80. There were subsequent reports, uncorroborated, that they cut off the ink-stained fingertips, which showed they had voted, of a number of people.

However, Afghan and Western officials accept, and The Independent can confirm, that election monitors failed to turn up in vast swaths of the south because it was deemed too dangerous and little or no record was kept of the intimidation which took place there.

And its not been any better for the occupiers.

The tally of dead British soldiers currently stands at 208, but some senior officers believe this could rise sharply. The numbers of those wounded and maimed have soared by 300 per cent in the past three years as the increasingly bloody struggle to maintain order has intensified. New figures obtained by The Independent on Sunday also show that the numbers claiming compensation for injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan are more than 12 times higher than the total in 2005.

Unpublished figures from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) reveal in disturbing detail the "hidden costs" of the military action, with soaring numbers being forced out by wounds. The number of soldiers applying to the AFCS for financial assistance after being medically discharged rose from 200 in 2005-06, when the scheme opened, to 845 last year. Troops claiming for injuries suffered in service rose from 240 to 3,255 during the same period.

The disclosures follow revelations last week that service chiefs expect the number wounded in Afghanistan to have doubled by the end of the year. The total to the end of July was 299 – compared to 245 in the whole of 2008.

The figures also show that the numbers of "post-service" claims has risen by a factor of almost 100, from 15 to 1,455 since 2005. A Ministry of Defence spokesman admitted the heavy toll is due to the number of people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after leaving the services.

PTSD sufferers tell of how traumatic memories come back regularly and involuntarily, resulting in chronic anxiety and hyper-alertness. The numbers affected are contentious, but conservative estimates say that tens of thousands of British troops who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering.

The MoD's latest assessment of psychiatric health problems within UK forces, completed late last month, showed there were 3,181 new cases of "mental disorder" in 2008 – 16 cases for every 1,000 personnel. Troops who had been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq showed high rates of "neurotic disorders", including PTSD, with the Royal Marines affected more than all the other services.

So can anyone tell us what has been achieved?

Hadith: Abandon Lying and Disputing

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Anyone who abandons lying, having been false, will have a castle built for them just within Paradise. Anyone who abandons disputing, having been speaking the truth, will have one built for them in the middle of Paradise. Anyone whose character is good will have one built for them in the highest part of [Paradise]."

Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 1239

Sunday 30 August 2009

Do not be sad - Always remember Allah

Concerning His remembrance, Allah, the All-Glorious, says:

Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest. (Qur'an 13: 28)

Therefore remember me [by praying, glorifying etc.] and I will remember you…
(Qur'an 2: 152)

And the men and the women who remember Allah much with their hearts and tongues, Allah has prepared for them. Forgiveness and a Great reward [i.e. Paradise]. (Qur'an 33: 35)

You who believe! Remember Allah with much remembrance. And glorify His Praises morning and afternoon [the early morning (fajr) and ASR prayers. (Qur 'an 33: 41-42)

You who believe! Let not your properties or your children divert you from the remembrance of Allah. (Qur 'an 63: 9)

Aild remember your Lord when you fbrget... (Qur'an 18: 24)

And glory’s' the Praises of your Lord when you get up from sleep. And in the night-time also, glorify His Praises, -and at the setting of the stars. (Qur 'an 52: 48-49)

You who believe! When you meet [an enemy] force, take a firm stand against them and remember the Name of Allah much [both with tongue and mind], so that you may be successful. (Qur'an 8: 45)

In an authentic hadith, the Prophet (bpuh) said:

"The example of one who remembers his Lord in relation to one who does not remember his Lord is that of the living and the dead."

The Prophet (Blessings and Peace be upon him) also said:

"The mufarridoon outstrip others." His Companions asked. "Who are the mufarridoon, O' Messenger of Allah." He said, "The men who remember Allah often and the women who remember Allah often."

And in another authentic hadith, the Prophet (bpuh) said:

"Shall I not inform you of the best of deeds, and the purest of them with your Lord? The deed which is better for you than spending gold and silver (for a good cause). And which is better for you than to meet your enemy. And you cut their throats and they cut yours?" They said, "Yes_ O' Messenger of Allah." He said, "The remembrance of Allah."

The following is an authentic hadith:

"A man came to the Prophet and said, Messenger of Allah, the commandments of Islam have become too much for me, and I am old in age; so inform of something that I can adhere to.' He said, `That your tongue (continually) remains moist with the remembrance of Allah."

Source: Don't Be Sad - By Aaidh ibn Abdullah al-Qarni

Sahabah and Leading Imams in Ramadan

The month of Ramadan has a sublime rank in the hearts of all Muslims because of its abundant merits and diffuse attributes that were illustrated by Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him). Therefore, the Companions (may Allah be pleased with them), as well as the Tabi`in (first generation after the Prophet), were keen on making the best of every moment in that sacred month to increase their good deeds and elevate their degrees.

Hence, it is beneficial to pursue and survey how the righteous Salaf (the predecessors) would act in such a venerable month, in order to follow their example and to seek inspiration through them.

Indeed, we should do so since they are the best of all generations and the followers of the first teacher; Prophet Muhammad. Hence, we notice that in Ramadan they would be preoccupied with frequent recitation of the whole Qur'an, performance of Prayer (obligatory and supererogatory Prayers in congregation, as well as lengthy night Prayers), remembrance of Allah, supplication and seeking forgiveness from Allah, giving out charities, and i`tikaf (spiritual retreat in the mosque). Then, besides their diligent performance of the acts of worship, they would anxiously invoke Almighty Allah to accept their deeds in Ramadan.

Below are, thus, some practices of some of them in the month of determination and good deeds:

The Companions Were Examples

Abu Bakr. It was reported from Malik that `Abdullah ibn Abu Bakr said, "I heard my father saying, "Upon finishing our night Prayers in Ramadan, the servants would hasten to serve food for fear that the Fajr Prayer would be due" i.e. so he could have the suhur (predawn meal) before Fajr Prayer as he would finish the night Prayer a short while before the Fajr.

`Umar ibn Al-Khattab. Abu `Uthman Al-Nahdi said, "`Umar ordered three reciters of the Qur'an to be brought along in Ramadan. Then, he ordered the quickest in recitation among them to recite 30 ayahs (in each rak`ah in Prayer), the one with average speed in recitation to recite 25 ayahs, and the slowest to recite 20."

Besides, Al-Sa'ib ibn Yazid said, "They (Muslims) would perform the night Prayers twenty rak`ahs during the reign of `Umar ibn Al-Khattab."

`Uthman ibn `Affan. `Uthman ibn `Affan would complete the recitation of the whole Qur'an on a daily basis (he would recite it all in one rak`ah every night throughout the year).

In addition, It was reported from Al-Sa'ib ibn Yazid that he said, "They (Muslims) would recite two hundred ayahs (in each rak`ah on the night Prayers) and they would lean on their sticks (while standing up in prayer) during the reign of `Uthman ibn `Affan due to the lengthy standing during night Prayers."

`Abdullah ibn `Umar. Ibn `Umar would not break the fast in Ramadan except in the company of the orphans and the needy and perhaps he would not break his fast at any night whenever he knew that his household turned them away from him.

Moreover, `Abdullah ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) was among the people of large income, and yet he never kept it for himself. Rather, he would send it to the poor, the needy, and the mendicants. Once Ayyub ibn Wa'il Al-Rasibi saw `Abdullah receiving four thousand dirams and a velvet, though the next day he saw him in the market buying fodder for his riding animal on credit.

Then, Ayyub ibn Wa'il went to the house of `Abdullah and asked his family (about it). They told him, "He did not sleep yesterday but after he had distributed it (the money) all, and then he carried the velvet on his back and went out. Later, he returned without it and when we asked him, he said that he had given it out to a poor person."

Furthermore, Nafi` reported about Ibn `Umar that he would sleep for a short while in the night and then rise to perform Tahajjud (optional late night Prayer) throughout the rest of the night. Then, he would ask Nafi`, "Is it early dawn yet?", and if the latter said yes, he would perform the Witr Prayer, then sit down, and keep asking `Allah for forgiveness (until Fajr Prayer).

The Leading Imams Were Examples

Imam As-Shafi`i. Ibn Rajab and Abu Bakr ibn Abu Taher (may Allah have mercy on them) mentioned that As-Shafi`i would recite the Qur'an (i.e. in Ramadan) 60 times apart from the recitation of Prayers (meaning that he would recite the whole Qur'an one time by day and one time by night).

Imam Abu Hanifah. Ibn Rajab said, "It was reported that Abu Hanifah would do the same (i.e. recite the whole Qur'an 60 times in Ramadan other than recitation in Prayers)."

Imam Malik. When Ramadan approached, Malik ibn Anas would escape preaching and discussions with scholars, and would engage in recitation of the Qur'an. Hence, he would not issue fatwas or teach in Ramadan. He would rather say, "This is the month of the Qur'an."

Imam Ahmad. Imam Ahmad would close all books in Ramadan and say, "This is the month of the Qur'an."

Imam Al-Bukhari. Musabbih ibn Sa`id said, "Muhammad ibn Isma`il Al-Bukhari would complete recitation of the whole Qur'an once every day in Ramadan, and would complete recitation of it during the night Prayers once every three nights."

In addition, upon the first night of Ramadan, the companions of Imam Al-Bukhari (may Allah shower him with mercy) would gather with him and he would lead them in Prayer, reciting twenty ayahs in each rak`ah, and continues to do so until he would recite the whole Qur'an.

Besides, he would recite either one third or half of the Qur'an in the middle of the night so that they would (be able to) complete recitation of the whole Qur'an by breakfast (at Sunset) every night. Then, he would say, "Upon the conclusion of each time recitation, an invocation is answered."

The above-mentioned aspects were some acts of worship performed by leading Muslim figures in Ramadan. These figures were keen to do as many good deeds as they could. With greater reason, we should offer more good deeds to get a lofty reward and high degrees in the hereafter. Almighty Allah says,

[If any do deeds of righteousness, be they male or female, and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them.] (An-Nisaa' 4:124)

By Mostafa Al-Khateeb in Islam Online.

Hadith: Murder

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “A time will come when the murderer will not know why he has committed murder and the victim will not know why he has been killed.”

Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1356

Saturday 29 August 2009

Brazil Muslims: Keeping Ramadan Traditions

Every Ramadan, Zubaida Jomaa, 44, struggles to bring her family together at least once a week for breaking their fast together.

“I like to see my family sitting together during the holy month,” Zubaida, of Lebanese origin, told on Saturday, August 29.

“It gives me the sensation that Islam is constantly inside my home.”

The mother of two feels a special joy when she invites relatives and neighbours to iftar during the dawn-to-dusk fasting month.

“Relatives are used to come to break fast with us and even some Brazilian relatives from my mother’s Brazilian’s side, who even without fasting are happy to share with me this so special moment of our lives.”

Despite living in a western society, the Muslim woman is keen to teach her kids the meaning of fasting during Ramadan.

“My children are fasting since they were nine-year-old and despite people around me condemning my attitude for letting children fast, I know that what I have done is seen with good eyes by any Muslim family,” said Zubaida, who was raised in Brazil.

In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

Muslims dedicate their time during the holy fasting month to become closer to Allah through prayer, self-restraint and good deeds.

It is customary for Muslims to spend part of the days during Ramadan studying the Noble Qur'an.

“Ramadan is a blessed moment in the life of any Muslim worldwide,” said Zubaida.

The Muslim woman is also keen on passing on the Arabic gastronomy to her children.

“During common days I don’t dedicate to the Arabic culinary as I do during Ramadan,” Zubaida said.

“I feel that we should keep as close as possible to everything around our culture and religion.”

Her iftar banquet often includes the famous Lebanese dishes such as Fatushe, tabule, dolma, rumus, kibbe, baba khanuj, caftan, bariane and yogurt.

In Brazil, families can easily find Arabic condiments with variety and at affordable prices.

“Even being born in Brazil, I have my heart close to any Arabic culture,” said Zubaida.

“Islam moves my life and Ramadan is the moment I get blessed for all that.”

There are a growing number of Muslim families in Brazil who are keen on observing the Ramadan traditions.

“We have observed that although living in a western and modern country, Muslim families in Brazil are struggling to keep their traditions and religion at full practice, special during Ramadan,” said Muhssen Jalil, president of Islamic Brazilian Organisation.

“The surprise is that a large number of the responsible for keeping Ramadan among their families are women who were born in Brazil but have Arabic origin but sometimes such decision could bring headache to them.”

According to a 2001 census, there are 27,239 Muslims in Brazil.

However, the Islamic Brazilian Federation puts the number at around one and a half million.

The majority of Muslims are descendants of Syrian, Palestinians and Lebanese immigrants who settled in Brazil in the nineteenth century during the World War I and in the 1970s.

Many Iraqis have arrived in the country after the 2003 US-led invasion.

Most Muslims live in the states of Parana, Goias, Riod de Janiero and Sao Paulo, but there are also significant communities in Mato Grosso do Sul and Rio Grande do Sul.

But many Brazilian Muslims encounter troubles while trying to teach their children to fast during the holy month.

“Two days ago I had to go with a friend at his son’s school to convince the director that even fating the young boy could act like any other kid at school and he was doing that since he was eight,” said Jalil.

“Some people feel worried when they see a children fasting but we know that it won’t affect their lives but instead bring more hope and benefits.”

Ghassan Ali Abdullah, 39, agrees.

“The first time I fasted in my life I was seven and don’t regret for one second,” he told IOL.

“I remember my father’s friends criticising him but he stood against any accusations and today I have a family, a good job and expect to follow his steps towards my children.

“Ramadan is a moment of reflection, a moment that we feel pure from the impurities present outside home and fasting doesn’t change our way of behaving or towards our friends.

“I love Ramadan and I’m happy to see that my children are sharing the same thoughts too.”


Thanks to its tolerance, Brazil is becoming a magnet for Muslim tourists from around the globe, where they enjoy holidays while keeping their religious traditions.

"We have a chance to be ourselves in Brazil," Egyptian tourist Abdel-Rahman Yehia, 51, told

"For three consecutive times we have chosen this country for holiday and are happy with our achievements and freedom."

Yehia said Brazilians show a great interest in knowing more about Islam whenever they meet a Muslim tourist.

"They come over with hundreds of questions that make us satisfied to answer," he said.

"Once my food got cold because the waiter didn't stop asking me about my country and religion," he recalled.

Sajida Obeid, 58, was fascinated with the tolerant atmosphere in cosmopolitan Brazil.

"I came with my sons after hearing so many good information from Brazil and would chose this country to live if I had to move out from Lebanon," Obeid told IOL.

Obeid recalls when she first went to Santos coast.

"I was worried that when I go to the beach wearing clothiers, people were going to stop me or ask me to leave but they walk across like if I wasn't there," she said.

"You feel all the time like if you were one of them.

"I keep my tradition, despite not wearing a scarf but would never let someone see my body and in Brazil it makes no difference."

Brazil comes second after Britain as the most favorite tourist destination for Muslim tourists.

"We are happy to open our doors to any nationality, religion and ethnicity, this is the face of Brazil," said Roberto Almeida, media officer for the Ministry of Tourism and Information.

"The vast numbers of Arabs in this country, who have made good achievements and just sent good news to their relatives, have made it suitable for Arabic people to come and visit."

Hadith: A Clean Heart

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "No companion of mine should tell me anything bad about another person. For when I meet you, I would like my heart to be clean (unbiased.)"

Riyadh-us-Salaheen, Hadith 1539

Friday 28 August 2009

Israel angered over Swedish 'body parts' story

A diplomatic argument between Sweden and Israel is growing after a Swedish newspaper published an article detailing allegations that Israeli soldiers stole the organs of dead Palestinians in 1992.

In the report, published in Sweden's leading tabloid, a freelance journalist accused the Israeli army of stealing body organs from Palestinian men after killing them.

The Swedish government has failed to condemn the article and Israel is seeking to lodge an official complaint.

Al Jazeera's Jonah Hull visited the newspaper's offices in Stockholm

Hadith: Be Truthful even when Angry

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prayed: “O God…I ask You…to make my speech truthful while angry or pleased.”

Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 1, Number 161

Thursday 27 August 2009

Israel still biting off chunks of Palestine

Despite claims of scaling back settlement activities, Israel plans to build housing units, a swimming pool, mini country club, community library, parking spaces, a synagogue and kindergartens in Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem).

"We are talking about a massive expansion of an existing settlement in the Ras al-Amud neighborhood into a settlement of more than 1,000 in the heart of a crowded Palestinian neighborhood in the eastern part of the city," Yehudit Oppenheimer, director of the Ir Amim group, told Yediot Aharonot on Sunday, 23 August.

"This is a very sensitive place, and this settlement is a continuation of the 'Hebronization' process in Jerusalem, which damages the chances for a future agreement."

The plans, submitted for the Jerusalem municipality for approval, include the construction of 104 housing units in Ras Al-Mud neighborhood, home to some 14,000 Palestinians.

They also involve high-end housing and a swimming pool, mini country club, community library and parking spaces.

A synagogue, kindergartens and a Jewish ritual purification bath are also planned for construction there.

The new units would also be connected to another settlement called Ma'aleh Zeitim to form the largest Israeli settlement in Al-Quds.

"This is a blatant provocation against Israel's relations with the Palestinians, and has a very dangerous potential," warned Oppenheimer.

Israel occupied Al-Quds in the 1967 Middle East war and then annexed the city in a move not recognized by the world community or UN resolutions.

The holy city is home to Al-Haram Al-Sharif, which includes Islam's third holiest shrine Al-Aqsa Mosque, and represents the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Palestinians insist the holy city will be the capital of their future independent.

The Peace Now group said Sunday that settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories were continuing unabated.

"In the last six months settlers had no reason to complain," Peace Now Secretary-General Yariv Oppenheimer told Yediot Aharonot.

In its bi-annual report, the advocacy group said almost 600 units have been constructed in the West Bank since the start of the year.

It also cited an 8-percent increase in the number of permanent structures currently under construction.

"The construction continues with government support in the large settlement blocs and in a roundabout manner in isolated colonies."

The advocacy group said that in some cases construction is done based on old plans that have not been approved or even without any plans at all.

"By using old blueprints they continue to expand settlements throughout the West Bank without the government's intervention, even when this is done illegally," he added.

"The number of new structures and caravans speaks for itself."

Peace Now accused the Israeli government of turning a blind eye to all these activities.

"It is in the power of the government to prevent construction that has been green-lighted in the past, but politically it finds it easier to allow the construction by turning a blind eye and providing direct or indirect incentives, while at the same time continuing to maintain that it is pushing for a 'settlement freeze'."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected American calls for a total freeze.

About half a million Jewish settlers currently live in settlements in both the occupied West Bank and Al-Quds.

There are more than 164 Jewish settlements in the West Bank, eating up more than 40 percent of the occupied territory.

The international community considers all Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land illegal.

On 2 August 2009, after cordoning off part of the Arab neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in east Jerusalem, Israeli police evicted two Palestinian families (more than 50 people) from their homes; Jewish settlers immediately moved into the emptied houses. Although Israeli police cited a ruling by the country's supreme court, the evicted Arab families had been living there for more than 50 years. The event – which, rather exceptionally, did attract the attention of the world media – is part of a much larger and mostly ignored ongoing process.

Five months earlier, on 1 March, it had been reported that the Israeli government had drafted plans to build more than 70,000 new homes in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank; if implemented, the plans could increase the number of settlers in the Palestinian territories by about 300,000 Such a move would not only severely undermine the chances of a viable Palestinian state, but also hamper the everyday life of Palestinians.

A government spokesman dismissed the report, arguing that the plans were of limited relevance – the construction of homes in the settlements required the approval of the defence minister and the prime minister. However, 15,000 have already been fully approved, and 20,000 of the proposed housing units lie in settlements that Israel cannot expect to retain in any future peace deal with the Palestinians.

The conclusion is obvious: while paying lip-service to the two-state solution, Israel is busy creating a situation on the ground that will render such a solution impossible. The dream underlying Israel's plans is encapsulated by a wall that separates a settler's town from the Palestinian town on a nearby West Bank hill. The Israeli side of the wall is painted with the image of the countryside beyond the wall – but without the Palestinian town, depicting just nature, grass and trees. Is this not ethnic cleansing at its purest, imagining the outside beyond the wall as empty, virginal and waiting to be settled?

On the very day that reports of the government's 70,000-home plan emerged, Hillary Clinton criticised the rocket fire from Gaza as "cynical", claiming: "There is no doubt that any nation, including Israel, cannot stand idly by while its territory and people are subjected to rocket attacks." But should the Palestinians stand idly while the West Bank land is taken from them day by day?

When peace-loving Israeli liberals present their conflict with Palestinians in neutral, symmetrical terms – admitting that there are extremists on both sides who reject peace – one should ask a simple question: what goes on in the Middle East when nothing is happening there at the direct politico-military level (ie, when there are no tensions, attacks or negotiations)? What goes on is the slow work of taking the land from the Palestinians on the West Bank: the gradual strangling of the Palestinian economy, the parcelling up of their land, the building of new settlements, the pressure on Palestinian farmers to make them abandon their land (which goes from crop-burning and religious desecration to targeted killings) – all this supported by a Kafkaesque network of legal regulations.

Saree Makdisi, in Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, describes how, although the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is ultimately enforced by the armed forces, it is an "occupation by bureaucracy": it works primarily through application forms, title deeds, residency papers and other permits. It is this micro-management of the daily life that does the job of securing slow but steady Israeli expansion: one has to ask for a permit in order to leave with one's family, to farm one's own land, to dig a well, or to go to work, to school, or to hospital. One by one, Palestinians born in Jerusalem are thus stripped of the right to live there, prevented from earning a living, denied housing permits, etc.

Palestinians often use the problematic cliche of the Gaza strip as "the greatest concentration camp in the world". However, in the past year, this designation has come dangerously close to truth. This is the fundamental reality that makes all abstract "prayers for peace" obscene and hypocritical. The state of Israel is clearly engaged in a slow, invisible process, ignored by the media; one day, the world will awake and discover that there is no more Palestinian West Bank, that the land is Palestinian-free, and that we must accept the fact. The map of the Palestinian West Bank already looks like a fragmented archipelago.

In the last months of 2008, when the attacks of illegal West Bank settlers on Palestinian farmers became a regular daily occurrence, the state of Israel tried to contain these excesses (the supreme court ordered the evacuation of some settlements) but, as many observers have noted, such measures are half-hearted, countered by the long-term politics of Israel, which violates the international treaties it has signed. The response of the illegal settlers to the Israeli authorities is "We are doing the same thing as you, just more openly, so what right do you have to condemn us?" And the state's reply is basically "Bde patient, and don't rush too much. We are doing what you want, just in a more moderate and acceptable way."

The same story has been repeated since 1949: Israel accepts the peace conditions proposed by the international community, counting on the fact that the peace plan will not work. The illegal settlers sometimes sound like Brunhilde from the last act of Wagner's Walküre – reproaching Wotan and saying that, by counteracting his explicit order and protecting Siegmund, she was only realising Wotan's own true desire, which he was forced to renounce under external pressure. In the same way the settlers know they are realising their own state's true desire.

While condemning the violent excesses of "illegal" settlements, the state of Israel promotes new "legal" building on the West Bank, and continues to strangle the Palestinian economy. A look at the changing map of East Jerusalem, where the Palestinians are gradually encircled and their living area sliced, tells it all. The condemnation of anti-Palestinian violence not carried out by the state blurs the true problem of state violence; the condemnation of illegal settlements blurs the illegality of the legal ones.

Therein resides the two-facedness of the much-praised non-biased "honesty" of the Israeli supreme court: by occasionally passing judgment in favour of the dispossessed Palestinians, proclaiming their eviction illegal, it guarantees the legality of the remaining majority of cases.

Taking all this into account in no way implies sympathy for inexcusable terrorist acts. On the contrary, it provides the only ground from which one can condemn the terrorist attacks without hypocrisy.

The shrapnel holes in the wall behind her underline why Subheya Motawe, her husband and their 15 children were forced to escape from their four-room home in this central Gaza village last January. With no time to grab most of their possessions, Mrs Motawe, 52, had the presence of mind to at least take the most valuable one before fleeing: a pregnant female rabbit. After the family returned home at the end of the Israeli military's assault on Gaza, the doe gave birth to a healthy litter. Which was just as well since most of the family's other 24 rabbits were casualties of Operation Cast Lead – either directly because of bombardment or indirectly because Mrs Motawe hadn't been able to leave the house to get feed or clean water for them. With the new offspring, Mrs Motawe had the nucleus she needed to make a fresh start.

For rabbits have become an unlikely siege-beating lifeline for some of the poorest families in Gaza. Relatively cheap to feed and famously reproductive, the fluffy creatures are helping families like the Motawes to survive the desperate shortage of income – and nutritious food – imposed by the economic collapse of a Gaza under blockade.

A "steadily rising trend" of chronic malnutrition in Gaza since the beginning of the Israeli blockade imposed when Hamas seized full control of the territory in June 2007, was revealed in a report by the International Red Cross and Red Crescent in November. It pointed to an unhealthy shift towards "low cost, high energy" foods such as cereals, sugar and oil at the expense of dearer but more nutritious foods such as meat, fish, cheese, fruit and vegetables.

It was in this context that Care International began a pilot scheme to supply 70 "vulnerable" families with two hutches, four months' worth of feed and-at the ratio regarded by experts as optimal for breeding – four females and one male rabbit apiece. Mrs Motawe says she was "excited" to be among the first to benefit. Having been faced with debts and potentially crippling education costs for such a large household, she says: "It is a good way to provide income for the family."

Rabbits breed quickly and repeatedly – a single female can give multiple births up to six times a year. Mrs Motawe: "I like feeding them and caring for the soft little babies. Rabbits are so quiet and calm, when I come early in the morning to water them and clean the cages. No bad smell."

Read more about History of Jerusalem here.

Hadith: God protects the charitable

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "If anyone wears some new clothing and says, 'all praise and thanks be to God Who clothed me to cover my nakedness and made it a means of adornment for me,' and then takes his old garment and gives it in charity, (that person) will be under the protection of God and will be treated as if struggling in the cause of God, in life and after his death."

Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 4, Number 123

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Continuation of 3 parts of Ramadan

I received this information on Dua's for my post yesterday on 3 parts of Ramadan.

FIRST ASHRA (first ten days [1-10]):

The first ten days of the Blessed Month of Ramadan are the days of Mercy. We should seek Allah's Mercy in these days.

Rab-bigh-fir war-ham wa Anta Khair-ur-Raahimeen. (Surah Al Muminun:118)
("My Lord! Forgive and have mercy, for You are the Best of those who show mercy!")

Ya Rabb, Allahumma arhamni Ya Arham-mar-Rahimeen.

Ya Hayyu Ya Qayyumu Birahmatika asta-ghee-thu

SECOND ASHRA (second ten days [11-20]):

The second ten days of Ramadan are the days of Forgiveness, Seek Allah's forgiveness and repent for all sins.

Allahum-magh-fir-li dhunoobi Ya Rabbal Alameen

Rabbana Fagh-fir-lana dhunoobana wa kaf-fir-'anna sayyi-aatina wa ta-waf-fana ma-'al abraar. - Surah Al-Imran:193
(Our Lord! Forgive us our sins and remit from us our evil deeds, and make us die in the state of righteousness along with Al-Abrâr (those who are obedient to Allâh and follow strictly His Orders).

THIRD /LAst ASHRA (last ten days [21-30]):

The last days of Ramadan are to seek Refuge in Allah from the Hellfire.

Allahumma Ajirna min-an-naar.
(O Allah, protect us from the fire.)

DUA for LAYLA-tul-QADR (to be read in the last ten days):

Allahumma innaka 'affuwan tuhibbul 'afwa fa'fu'-anni
(O Allah, You are Most Forgiving, and You love forgiveness; so forgive me)

YA Ghufooru Ya Ghafooru Ya Ghafoor
(O Forgiver, O Forgiver, O Forgiver)

Obama dates for Egyptians

In this photo taken Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2009, a sign in Arabic reading "Obama, 25 pounds", indicates the price of top-quality dates as 25 Egyptian pounds (US$ 4.5) per kilogram, at a spices shop in downtown Cairo, Egypt. Ahead of the holy month of Ramadan, fruit sellers in Egypt's sprawling capital have named their best dates this year after President Barack Obama, in a sweet tribute to the American leader and a gesture of appreciation for his outreach to the Muslim world. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Following President Barack Obama’s message to the Muslim world, Egyptian fruit sellers have taken on the friendly gesture to name their best dates of the year after the President.

"We love Obama and so we named our best dates for him…we put a sweet date in Mr. Obama's mouth and a message in his ear…please help to bring peace to the world. We have a lot of hope in you." (Aif Hashim, shop owner, Cairo).

Dates are a traditional food for Ramadan — which begins Saturday in most of the Islamic world — since the Prophet Muhammad is said to have used them to break the month's sunrise-to-sunset fast each evening.

In Egypt, shops have created a new tradition of naming their best and worst dates to catch attention and boost sales — giving a little reflection of the political mood.

Obama's vault to the top of the Egyptian date-scale comes after he delivered a landmark address in Cairo in June, saying he wants to improve American ties with Muslims around the world. Those ties were deeply strained under his predecessor, George W. Bush, who was widely resented in the Arab world — and whose name was given to the worst quality dates in Egypt in past Ramadans.

"We love Obama and so we named our best dates for him," said Atif Hashim at his busy shop in downtown Cairo.

Huge barrels in his shop were piled with "Obama" dates, selling for just under $2.50 a pound ($5 a kilogram). For an additional dollar, there is an even better date, labeled on a sign as "Super Obama."

"We put a sweet date in Mr. Obama's mouth and a message in his ear," Hashim said. "Please help to bring peace to the world. We have a lot of hope in you."

Hashim named his poorer dates after Israeli Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman, a hard-liner who is particularly disliked in Egypt for once saying its president, Hosni Mubarak, can "go to hell."

Other low-quality dates were named after Lieberman's predecessor, Tzipi Livni, and after Bush. They all go for about 17 cents a pound (36 cents a kilogram).

In 2006, many sellers in Egypt named their best dates after the leader of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, whose popularity soared among Arabs because his militants battled Israel in a devastating war that summer.

Hundreds of labourers are busy loading trucks with dates in the small town of Khairpur, 40km north of Karachi, to meet the growing demand during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

“Dates trading reaches at its zenith before and during Ramadan as every one wants to break fasting with dates in line with the saying of noble Prophet Muhammad (be and blessing be upon him),” Mohammad Bahsir Mahar, president of the dates market association, told

“We do not go to homes even at nights on the eve of Ramadan as trading continues day and night to met the higher demands.”

Pakistan is the world’s fourth largest dates producer after Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The south Asian Muslim giant is also the world’s second largest dates exporter.

Locally known as Khajji or Khajoor, dates see a heavy demand during the dawn-to-dusk fasting month.

This year, Pakistan has produced 600,000 tonnes of dates for local consumption and exports.

“We have got abundant crop (dates) this year, but still we are facing difficulties in meeting the demand for Ramadan,” said Mahar.

Pakistan’s south-eastern and north-eastern areas are the country’s best places for cultivating dates for their rich soil and abundant sunshine.

Long queues of dates trees are a normal scene across the road from Khairpur to northeast Pakistan.

Besides Khairpur, the coastal belt of south-western Balochistan province, Dera Ismail Khan, Multan, and Sukkur are also famous for dates production.

There are more than 300 varieties of dates in Pakistan, such as Karbalaee, Aseel, and Madni.

There are also Dokka (hard yellow date), Chohara (dried dates), and Dung (half date and half dokka), which see a high demand during the holy fasting month.

Ahead of the start of the fasting month, dates exhibitions become a normal scene across Pakistan.

“We receive most of the orders at these exhibitions,” said Mahar.

“Not only in Ramadan, but besides that, India is a major buyer of Pakistani dates. Not merely Muslims, but Hindus too use dates in their ritual ceremonies.

“It’s (India) a heavily populated country, with a huge Muslim population, and cannot meet the (dates) demand of its people during Ramadan and on the occasion of different Hindu festivals, wherein dates, and other by-products are essential items.”

The booming of dates trading during Ramadan provides an additional source of income for hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis.

Hundreds of female workers could be seen sprawling dates on huge straw mats as their male colleagues collect dates from the trees.

Hundreds of Pakistanis could be seen gathering around stalls and handcarts carrying dates parked outside mosques, offices, intersections and bus and railway stations.

“Every year (during Ramadan) I set up this stall to earn additional income to meet my `Eid expenses,” said Khushal Khan, a peon at a local company, who sells dates at a small stall outside a Mosque in Saddar, the downtown of southern port city of Karachi.

“By the grace of Allah, I earn a sufficient amount to meet expenses on `Eid-ul-fitr.”

Hadith: Do not hate one another

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Beware of suspicion…and do not look for the faults of others. Do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not (sever your relations with) one another, and do not hate one another.”

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Hadith 90

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Hadith: 3 Parts of Ramadan

In a Hadith reported by Salman Al-Farisi: "...The first third of the month of Ramadan is the time for mercy, the second third is for forgiveness, the third is for release from Hellfire…" (Ibn Khuzaymah)

Did you know that....?

  • Fasting is a forgiveness of sins.
  • Ramadan is when the Mercy and Blessings of Allah descend upon us continuously.
  • Fasting is purification and a way of feeling closer to Allah.
  • The Prophet, peace be upon him, said, “whosoever does not give up telling lies or acting in a false manner, Allah has no need for his giving up eating or drinking.”
  • There is blessing in sahur, the pre-dawn meal.
  • In Ramadan, the devils and rebellious jinn are chained up, the doors of Paradise are opened and the doors of Hell are closed.
  • Fasting is more than giving up food and drink; it is about improving behaviour and refraining from sin; so no lying, backbiting or being rude to others.

Ramadan in America

Like billions of Muslims worldwide, Mohammad Arshad is charging his battery to welcome the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

“The fast gives you inner strength and makes you think a moment before doing something,” Arshad told PennLive website on Friday, August 21.

“It's a time to overhaul our souls."

Arshad, a cook, is preparing to spend his time during Ramadan in worshipping and getting closer to Allah.

The American Muslim, who spends his days making fried chicken, hamburgers and other food, plans to shy away from taking part in any food while he is at work during the fasting month.

"Yes, you get hungry and thirsty especially when you work with food," Arshad said. "But after the first 10 days, you get used to it.”

Ramadan, the 9th month of Islamic calendar, is set to start in North America on Saturday, August 22.

In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

Most dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through self-restraint, good deeds and prayer.

Filled with the spirit of the holy fasting month, Fatima Nelson is curious to bring Ramadan flavor to her colleagues at Gloucester County College.

The US Muslim woman, of Moroccan origin, spent hours to prepare chabbakia, a traditional Moroccan dessert, which is a usual item on iftar in Ramadan, for her classmates.

The sticky dessert of fried dough flavored with orange blossom water and coated with sesame seeds and honey won cheers from her classmates.

"It's a new family," joyous Nelson told the CourierPost on Friday, August 21.

Many US Muslims find Ramadan as an opportunity to introduce their culture in the US.

Many host iftar banquets for non-Muslims to help them get a better knowledge of the Islamic faith.

"We see that so much more," said Afsheen Shamsi, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations-New Jersey (CAIR-NJ).

"Just about every major mosque hosts an interfaith iftar."

Ramadan, the 9th month of Islamic calendar, is set to start in North America and most Muslim countries on Saturday, August 22.

In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

Most dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through self-restraint, good deeds and prayer.

With mosques in the southern US state of Virginia are already bursting at the seams with worshippers, Muslims are turning to synagogues to perform prayers during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

"We say our prayers, and a few hours later they meet for Sabbath and they say their prayers," Rizwan Jaka, a leader at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) mosque in Sterling, told the Washington Post on Saturday, August 22.

Last year, ADAMS rented spaces at two synagogues to accommodate the growing numbers of Muslims worshippers during Ramadan.

"People may think it's strange or odd, but we are simply grateful for the space."

There are a few number of mosques in Virginia, leaving the already existent worship of places unable to accommodate the growing numbers of worshippers.

Several mosques have been built in Virginia suburbs such as Manassas and Ellicott City, but many have been full from the moment they opened.

To meet the overflow, Muslims started renting hotel ballrooms, office space and synagogues to handle the problem.

"We are a community with many people but not so much money," Mohammad Mehboob, a community leader, told the Post.

"But Allah has always provided for us."

Ramadan, the holiest month in Islamic calendar, started in the US, home to between six to seven million Muslims, on Saturday.

In Ramadan, adult Muslims, save the sick and those traveling, abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex between dawn and sunset.

Most dedicate their time during the holy month to become closer to Allah through self-restraint, good deeds and prayer.

Hadith: Fasting Atones for Past Sins

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan, obeying all of its limitations and guarding himself against what is forbidden, has in fact atoned for any previous sins."

Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 109

Monday 24 August 2009

Algeria ready for Ramadan

From Maghrebia:

Ramadan is coming to Algeria, and just like every year, special meals – and soaring costs – are on everyone's mind.

But before any meals can reach the table, Algerians must brave bustling markets. This year, they had the longest weekend in history for shopping: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, thanks to the transition to the new Friday-Saturday weekend last week. Prices are rocketing, despite efforts to rein in shopkeepers by the Ministry of Trade and the Algerian Traders' Union.

"It's like this every year; you have to stock up before Ramadan, no matter what the price," said Said, an elderly man shopping in the Bab El Oued market.

"What can you do? People buy without counting the cost, and they all come looking for the same items at the same time," said vegetable vendor Kamel, who sat behind a vegetable stall in an alley adjacent to the so-called "Three Clocks" market.

The lure of profits has casual vendors busy selling everything from parsley to dioul (fine dough for pastries). So great is the opportunity that many people switch from trades like hairdressing and fixing cars to selling Ramadan zalabiya for the month. Closed sheds are opened and young people erect tents made of reeds everywhere to serve as small mahchachates (places where people can play games while enjoying snacks until morning).

"Each Ramadan I club together with two neighbours to hire a shed and set up a mahchacha," said Samir, a civil servant who had just gone on annual leave. "It's a way of making a bit of money and is a time that young people in the area take advantage of. With nothing to do, the young people come round my place every evening to play dominoes, listen to chaabi music and sample my cakes and kebabs."

The pocketbook pinch of Ramadan shopping is balanced with the pleasure of delicious meals.

"It's the only month when women put their culinary skills on display," said Farida, who prepares her family's meals. "During the rest of the year, people eat snacks or pizzas in fast-food joints or whatever else is convenient."

The fast is usually broken with an iftar of dates and ben ou rayeb (curdled milk). Algeria is home to one of the finest dates in the world, the deglet nour, and mosques raise money to buy enough dates that worshippers can break their fast before the Maghreb (twilight) prayers.

In eastern and central Algeria, what follows is usually chorba frik (a soup of crushed wheat and tomato sauce), or in the west of the country, h’rira (a vegetable soup).

In Algiers, the next course is usually boureks, while a larger version called a brik is served in western Algeria. These leaves of dough are filled with boiled potatoes, eggs, minced meat and even prawns.

Then comes the pièce de résistance, usually ham lahlou. This dish of lamb with prunes and dried apricots is only eaten on a few days during Ramadan.

The last dish before the next day's fast begins is s’hour, which is usually couscous with raisins and curdled milk. Some people, however, prefer white coffee with cake or another hot dish.

Many people prefer to partake in the pre-dawn hours, but not everyone rises that early.

"I'm a civil servant and I can't afford to get up at four in the morning to eat," said Salim. "I might not make it in to work."

Besides the pleasures of traditional dishes, Ramadan traditions are seen in the way day and night-time activities break down along gender roles. Alongside cooking meals and spending evenings enjoying boukalate (a riddle game), women are customarily visited by neighbours or relatives and savour mint tea and pastries.

Men tend to meet friends at cafés or the mahchachates, where the nights are filled with tea and a range of sweets, as well as chats with friends and music. Those who perform taraouih prayers are the last to join in the nightlife.

But even with all the socialising with friends and neighbours, Ramadan is a family affair. "It's the only month when the whole family sits around the iftar (fast-breaking) table," said Farida, a teacher and mother.

"I eagerly wait for this month so I can see my grandmother play boukalate with her neighbours," said Razika. "It's an ancestral treasure that they keep alive."

See also Algeria…Ramadan Food Packages for the Poor

Hadith: A man of Paradise

A man came to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and said: "Tell me of a deed that will make me enter Paradise if I carry it out." The Prophet replied: "Worship God, and worship none along with Him, offer the (five daily prayers) perfectly, pay the charity you owe (zakat), and fast (during) the month of Ramadan." The man then said: "I will not do more than this." When the man left, the Prophet said: "Whoever would like to see a man of Paradise, then he may look at that man."

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 480

Sunday 23 August 2009

Bilal: The real Indian Slumdog Millionaire

Sourav Sarangi recently won eight international awards for his documentary film Bilal, which tells the story of a five-year-old boy who looks after his blind parents in a cramped hut in a poor district of Kolkata. The film-maker describes the journey he and the family have taken with the documentary

I first met Bilal when he was only eight months old. His head was wrapped in bandages after an accident and he was lying on a cot next to my wife. His mother, who was blind, was clinging on to him. After attending to my wife, who had been hospitalised, I looked at the baby. He seemed to smile at me and seemed to nudge his mother as if, in a silent communion in a dark world, he was trying to tell her to talk to me. I was convinced about that. At that point in time, Bilal the film was born.

My friendship with the family grew. As I saw him grow up, what struck me about Bilal was his common sense. Even when he was three years old, the time when we launched the film, he was wise and that is the word I would like to use when describing this remarkable boy.

His Muslim father, Shamim, also blind, had married Jharna, a Hindu who changed her name to Humera Begum after the wedding. That in itself is quite unusual among the poorer communities in India – a Hindu woman marrying a Muslim man and then changing her religion.

Shamim himself is quite a man. He runs a portable phone call centre and, before this film was made, he used to carry a telephone to one of the busiest traffic intersections in Kolkata and sit on the pavement with a table. He has a photographic memory. Even now, he can rattle off 10-digit telephone numbers I told him six months back simply from memory. I am still amazed by this man.

Now in his mid-thirties, Shamim was overcome with joy when I told him two years ago that I would like to make a film about his son. At first, he seemed to think that I had offered him a role in a television soap but when I told him that it was Bilal's journey through life that I wanted to film, he was slightly disappointed. Nevertheless, he gave his permission.

All I have ever paid the family of four were lunch packets during shooting (Bilal has a younger brother, three-year-old Hameja). Shamim and Humera, who act out bit parts in Kolkata's Blind Opera, a drama institution for the visually impaired, have a great son in Bilal. I have seen how this kid has taken charge of the family and I have found it to be a great inspiration. My entire film has been shot in the family's 4x10ft shanty hut within their crowded and bustling neighbourhood, one of the poorest in Kolkata.

But unlike some other films about slums, I don't believe this film glamourises poverty. In India, poverty hurts and it hurts badly. Bilal's story is one of a five-year-old fighting against this poverty. It's a sort of missionary approach – I cannot help them directly in any way, but I can help their story to reach a wider audience around the world. That has been my mission.

Bilal is a clever and intelligent boy and has a street-smart knack about him. I have seen him help his mother cross the road and I have also watched how clear he is about his sense of purpose and direction. His parents follow his instructions on which shop to go to buy a certain item. Bilal is their guardian, he is the man of the family. This is what inspired my film. After all, at the age of five, you are expected to play but when you have a family to support, then childhood goes out of the window. Even so, Bilal has not lost the twinkle in his eye, his innocent charm is intact. I love him for that and for his courage.

His sharpness and intelligence are mind-boggling, and he likes to play with his blind mother. One day she was looking for him and he would remain out of reach. She somehow managed to corner him but quick-witted as he is, he immediately picked up a stick and threw it beside his mother. His mother, momentarily thinking it was Bilal, grabbed at the stick while the boy scampered away.

I have always been worried about Bilal's future. But while making the film, the professional actress, Anasuya Mazumdar met Bilal and wanted to do something for him. On her own she took the responsibility of getting the two children enrolled in a private school.

My film has not been released in India yet. In my homeland, all the distributors want Bollywood-type song and dance. Real stories of suffering and fortitude do not have many takers. In the West, they view poverty in India in a different way; I would say there is a demand for tales of Indian poverty there. That is why I have got easy buyers in the West.

A London-based documentary distributor took on the world rights for Bilal and we have travelled the world with the film, winning eight awards including a Silver Ace at the Las Vegas International Film Festival, the Silver Palm in Mexican Film Festival and a top award at the Munich DOK Fest. Significantly, in June it was shown to a very receptive audience at the Museum of Modern Arts in New York, a rare honour.

But I still do not have a buyer in India. The German Deputy Consulate in Kolkata has been most helpful in trying to get a screening organised in the city, but let's see how successful that is.

I hadn't seen Slumdog Millionaire until after it won the Oscar. I think it is a very well made film but our viewpoints are different. I have seen poverty through a different lens.

When shooting began, the Shamim family was subsisting on a meagre income of £30 a month that came from the couple's bit-part stage roles for Blind Opera and Shamim's phone call centre. The four family members were barely managing to hold on.

I had started filming with my own money but I soon realised that private financing would not help the film see the light of day. It was then that I sent applications to the Dutch IDFA Jan Vrijman Fund which happily accepted it. This film would not have been possible without them. The film has subtitles in English, Spanish and Finnish and the original is in our native Bengali tongue.

The family has now received funding worth £4,200 from the IDFA which, as per the requirement, are in my custody to ensure the Bilal family's upkeep. I am trying to ensure better education for the two kids and organise a small office set-up for Shamim where he can run his telephone pay booth.

Hadith: Ramadan is a month of Generosity

Ibn 'Abbas said: "The Prophet (Muhammad) was the most generous of people, but he would be his most generous during Ramadan. . ."

Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Hadith 5

Saturday 22 August 2009

Palestinians killed for their organs by Israelis

Sweden’s leading daily Aftonbladet published a report that said Israeli troops killed Palestinians and harvested their organs. The article headlined “Our sons are plundered for their organs,” said Israeli soldiers harvested the organs of Palestinians after seizing them from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

The report detailed how Israeli soldiers detained young men and after they died in custody returned their bodies with organs missing. The newspaper quoted several Palestinians as saying Israeli soldiers kidnapped their sons and stole their organs.

Interviewed by the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, on Wednesday, journalist Donald Bostrom said he wrote the article to push for an international investigation into the allegations. His editors said they backed the call for an inquiry.

In his article Bostrom discussed the case of Bilal Ahmed Ghanan, 19, who was accused of throwing stones at Israeli soldiers during the first intifada against the Israeli occupation. The article says Ghanan was hiding in the mountains around the West Bank city of Nablus, fearing arrest. When he came down soldiers shot Ghanan in the chest, legs and stomach, then took him to their camp on a military helicopter.

Bostrom said he witnessed Israeli soldiers return the body to his family wrapped in green hospital sheets five days later. Bilal’s chest had been cut open and organs removed.

The article also carried a photograph of a dead Palestinian man with a line of surgical stitches running the length of his torso, apparently taken after an autopsy, as well as pictures of stone-throwing youths and Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, a New York resident arrested in an FBI sting last month and charged with plotting to buy a kidney from an Israeli and sell it to an American patient for $160,000.

Bostrom based his story on testimony from Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza whom he identified only by their first names. It quotes an Israeli military spokesman denying the charges and saying that Palestinians killed by Israeli forces are routinely subjected to autopsies.

Bostrom writes of a shortage of organs for transplant in Israel and mentions a 1992 government campaign to recruit new donors.

“At the same time that this organ campaign was going on, young Palestinian men were disappearing and being delivered back to their villages five days later at night, dead and cut open,” he writes.

“‘Our sons are used as involuntary organ donors,’ relatives of Khaled from Nablus said to me, as did the mother of Ra’ed from Jenin as well as the uncles of Mahmoud and Nafez from Gaza, who all had disappeared for a few days and returned by night, dead and autopsied,” Bostrom wrote.

Israeli and Swedish officials responded furiously on Wednesday to the Swedish newspaper article.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon filed a formal protest with the Swedish government on Wednesday.

The story made headlines in Israel, where some commentators compared it to medieval accusations that Jews killed Christian children for their blood.

Daniel Seaman, who heads Israel’s government press office, said the article played on “vile anti-Semitic themes.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the Swedish Embassy in Tel Aviv said the article was “as shocking and appalling to us Swedes as it is to Israeli citizens.”

“We share the dismay expressed by Israeli government representatives, media and the Israeli public,” the embassy said.

In Sweden, the article drew a critical editorial from a rival daily, Sydsvenskan, which said it followed the “usual template of a conspiracy theory.”

Ramadan Photos from around the world

More about Ramdan at The Islam Awareness Homepage.