Saturday 31 October 2009

Rohingyas facing brunt of Bangladesh-Myanmar border

On Myanmar's side of the Naf River that marks border with Bangladesh, labourers are hard at work building a fence that will prevent them fleeing persecution.

They will not be paid for their work. Instead the men, who come from the persecuted Rohingya ethnic group, have been coerced into erecting the 230km long fence by the threat of violence against their families.

The Rohingyas are a distinct ethnic group from Myanmar's Rakhine State. The authorities in Yangon have refused to recognise them as citizens and they have been persecuted for their cultural difference and practice of Islam.

For many, life in Myanmar has become so difficult that they have fled across the border to Bangladesh. Over the past year 12,000 Rohingyas have been caught crossing the border illegally.

Now they are being forced to build a fence to prevent such escapes.

"The Myanmar army have forced all of the men living in the villages on the border to work on the fence," a worker involved in the construction says. "Most of them are Rohingyas. If we don't do as they say they beat us and our families."

So far they have fenced off 70km of border in what experts believe is an attempt by Yangon to increase control of the lucrative smuggling trade that flourishes in the area.

"Illegal trade between Myanmar and Bangladesh has formerly been in favour of Bangladesh, but this will change now,"explains Professor Imtiaz Ahmed, from Dhaka University. "The country that controls the barriers between borders can also assert greater control over the illegal trade."

Bangladesh and Myanmar have never agreed on their borders, and an ongoing dispute over where their maritime frontiers lie has seen tension rise along the Naf river.

The contested maritime border involves a patch of sea believed to contain valuable oil and gas. Control of these waters could make either country very rich, and experts say that diplomatic relations between the two countries has deteriorated as a result of the dispute.

"The tension was heightened last November when the Myanmar Navy came in to put a rig in what Bangladesh claims, rightly, to be our own territorial water," says Retired Major General ANM Muniruzzaman, from the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies.

"Eventually the Bangladeshi diplomatic efforts diffused the situation, and the Myanmar navy rig went back, but the Myanmar government has consistently told Bangladesh that this is their water, and that they will come back. When that happens, perhaps the Myanmar government wants to put a dual pressure on Bangladesh, not only from the sea but also from the land border."

That process may have already started. Myanmar has deployed 50,000 men to the border with Bangladesh, and in the past month alone, Dhaka has responded by sending an additional 3000 troops to the area in a manoeuvre codenamed "Operation Fortress."

Officially, the Bangladeshi government denies there is tension along the border. The troops say they are there to monitor and stop the illegal trafficking of goods and people.

But the soldiers know that relations between the two countries are strained.

"We have a border through which we can observe the other side of the river. Our troops morale is very high, under any circumstances we are ready to protect the integrity and sovereignty of our country," says Lieutenant Colonel Mozammel, commanding officer of Border Guards Bangladesh in Teknaf.

Meanwhile, the horrific conditions faced by the Rohingyas in Myanmar are prompting thousands to flee to Bangladesh.

Malika is one of those who crossed the Naf river illegally. Her feet are swollen from the three-day walk to escape Yangon's soldiers.

She says she suffered horrific abuse there and had no choice but to leave.

"I couldn't stay there, the soldiers raped me over and over again," she says. "The Myanmar army do not consider us as humans."

But once in Bangladesh, the refugees face new problems. Of more than 400,000 Rohingyas believed to have slipped across the border into Bangladesh, just 26,000 have been offically recognised as refugees by the Bangladeshi government and the United Nations.

The authorities refuse to feed and house the rest.

Even the handful of NGOs working here are not allowed to provide food or medical aid or education facilities to unregistered Rohingyas because the government fears that this would spark tensions between poor local villagers and the new arrivals.

Fadlullah Wilmot, the director of Muslim Aid in Bangladesh, explains: "More than 44 per cent of the population in this area are ultra poor, that means that their daily income only provides their basic food needs. The literacy rate is about 10 per cent. The wage rate is low, so of course there are tensions."

In 1992, the Bangladeshi government, under the supervision of UNHCR, organised the forced repatration of 250,000 Rohingyas on the basis that the refugees would be given citizenship by the Myanmar authorities. That promise was never kept.

Professor Ahmad believes the refugees are trapped between a rock and a hard place.

"Myanmar's position is they do not recognise them as citizens, they are stateless within Myanmar, and they are also stateless when they come to Bangladesh," he says.

"If you build the fence now Myanmar will probably say it is ready to take the 26,000 legal refugees from the camp but not the unregistered because they don’t know who they are."

Trapped in limbo between two countries that don't want them, the Rohingyas have become a bargaining chip for both Bangladesh and Myanmar as they try to settle their border dispute.

In Bangladesh's refugee camps, frustration and anger are rife amongst the beleagured minority.

"We cannot work. Our children can't go to school. Our wives aren't allowed to see doctors," one man says. "We cannot receive any food aid. No one wants us. This is humiliating, we have no arms, but we are ready to fight and to blow ourselves up. People need to know that we exist."

Weired News: Somali man aged 112 marries girl of 17

A MAN claiming to be 112 married a 17-year-old at a ceremony in central Somalia, his sixth wedding in total but his first in three quarters of a century, he said Thursday.

"My wife is ten times younger than me but we love each other so much and I believe that I can give her the kind of love that not any young man can offer," Ahmed Mohamed Dhore told AFP.

"Married life is about love and passion rather than age and beauty," said the centenarian, whose wedding ceremony in the town of Guriel was attended by hundreds on Wednesday.

"The first time I got married was so long ago I cannot remember and the last time must have been about 75 years ago, I was still a young man," he said.

Dhore - who already has 13 children by five wives - said he would like to have more with his new wife, Safia Abdulleh.

"Today God helped me realise my dream," he said, after the wedding in the region of Galguduud.
The bride's family said she was "happy with her new husband", according to the BBC.

Dhore said he and his bride - who is young enough to be his great-great-grand-daughter - were from the same village in Somalia and that he had waited for her to grow up to propose.

"I didn't force her, but used my experience to convince her of my love; and then we agreed to marry," the groom said.

Dhore would have already been an adult when the nationalist leader "Mad Mullah," Mohammed Abdullah Hassan, who fought the British empire and created the Dervish state died in 1920.

He said the secret to a longevity spanning three different centuries was "healthy food when he was young".

"I'm 112 and can live the life of a youngster... The idea to get married again came from my children and grand-children," he said, explaining that his only other surviving wife was 90 and ailing.

According to statistics by international aid and development agencies, the average life expectancy of a Somali male is 47.

Definition of 'terrorist'

From the QuranClub blog:Terrorist [ˈtɛrərɪst]: "the person with the smaller bomb".

Thursday 29 October 2009

Gender mixing in pursuit of knowledge permissible in Shariah

Some of the most noted scholars in the Islamic world have added their voices of support this week to those of senior sheikhs in the Kingdom for King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

Earlier this month the Secretary General of the Board of Senior Ulema in Saudi Arabia spoke of Kaust as a “beacon of science and welfare for the entire world”, following another member of the board, Sheikh Abdullah Suleiman Al-Mane’e, who had earlier described the university as a step toward “the Islamic World recovering its leading role in science”.

In the last few days the head of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, Yousef Al-Qaradawi, put forward his views, and now the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Jum’ah, has given his backing.

Speaking to Okaz newspaper in Cairo, Grand Mufti Juma’h said that King Abdullah’s determination to promote scientific development would “give a good impression of the Muslim Ummah, which is concerned to see scientific development” while also “protecting the fixed principles of religion”.

Scholars from both the Kingdom and abroad have been keen to make known their stances following controversy in the media concerning coeducation at KAUST, and the Grand Mufti is of firm conviction on the subject.

Coeducation permissible
“There is no harm in co-education between male and female students within Shariah rules and within a learning environment. This is permissible according to Shariah,” Al-Jum’ah told Okaz. “The university will unquestionably take into consideration the morals and rules of Shariah Law because the Kingdom is earnest in this area,” he said.

“In early Islamic practices and thereafter, the mere presence of men and women in the same place was not forbidden (haraam) in itself,” he continued.

“It is forbidden in a social setting if there are violations of the Shariah, such as women revealing parts that ought not to be seen according to Shariah, or if gatherings are conducted to practice a vice (munkar), or if there is illicit seclusion (khulwa). These conditions, however, do not apply to places of learning where the basic intention is to seek knowledge, following the saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him): ‘Seeking knowledge is an obligation for every Muslim.’”
When asked to cite further from the Prophet’s Sunnah, Jum’ah gave four instances from the Prophet’s time and the explanations of religious scholars like Al-Imam Al-Bukhari and Al-Qurtubi, such as permitting a wife to serve her husband and his associates.

“Explaining that Hadith from Al-Imam Al-Bukhari, Ibn Al-Battal said: ‘Separation of women from men in terms of place or in direct dealings is not obligatory for the women of the believers, but only applies to the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him),’” Al-Jum’ah said.
“It is also permissible for a man to speak to an unrelated woman to ask her about issues if they are of public benefit,” he said.

“The Muslim woman used to join men in public social life while abiding by Shariah Law in dress and keeping to Islamic rules and morals. Some females among the companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to enjoin virtue and prevent vice, such as Samra Bint Nuhaik, who wore thick clothes and a veil, and used to hold a whip, teach people morals, and promote virtue and prevent vice.”

“As to men receiving Shariah knowledge from women and from a knowledgeable woman, an example is found in the wives of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who used to spread religious knowledge and propagate the religion. Men and women mixing to seek knowledge while abiding by Islamic Shariah morals is permissible according to Shariah.”

“Nobody can deny the permissibility of coeducation to seek knowledge,” Al-Jum’ah concluded. “It is based on evidence from the Prophet’s Sunnah and Islamic history, and it is wrong to let inherited customs and traditions from a particular time and place govern religion and the Shariah. On the contrary, the Shariah should supersede them, and not the other way round.”
The Grand Mufti was effusive in his praise for King Abdullah’s initiatives, describing them as “courageous” and “steadfast and strong” in their support for “dialogue and interaction with others”.

“It follows the standpoint of Islam’s call for cooperation with others and not isolating or cocooning ourselves,” he said.
“Civilizations do not clash as some mistakenly claim, instead they cooperate and help one another for the wellbeing and benefit of all mankind. For this reason, everyone should follow the morals and ethics of dialogue, and no rational person would speak of the clash of civilizations since dialogue is the correct path. It should therefore be based on a humanitarian method.”

“Throughout the ages there has been an onslaught by the aggressors against Almighty Allah, His messengers and prophets, His revealed books and the Islamic Shariah since its emergence to this day,” Al-Jum’ah continued.

The reason for the aggression could be due to malice, or for political interest or the desire to hold to this worldly life that has blinded them from the truth and the Hereafter.”
“The latent goal of the continued insults against the Prophet (peace be upon him) and Islam is to keep Muslims preoccupied and distracted from their duty that Allah Almighty has delegated to them,” Al-Jum’ah said. “It is to keep them occupied with marginal battles and lead the Muslim Ummah from moderation to some kind of overstepping of all bounds and away from the call to Almighty Allah, which brings happiness in this world and the Hereafter, as well as the approach of the Prophet (pbuh) which he left behind for us to follow.”

Best method
“The best way for Muslims to defend their religion and the Prophet (peace be upon him) is to adhere to the way of Almighty Allah and adhere to His Book and the approach of the Prophet (pbuh) in all events, ordeals and crises. They should also acquaint people with Islam in a correct and continuous fashion so that all just people and seekers of truth may hear,” the Grand Mufti said.

Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradawi, head of the International Union for Muslim Scholars, spoke of Kaust and co-education in an interview with Al-Madina newspaper Thursday.

Describing the facility as an “edifice of science”, Al-Qaradawi said Kaust would contribute to the “renaissance of the Ummah and its advancement”. “Islam does not forbid the mixing of the sexes as long as it is conducted according to Shariah,” Al-Qaradawi said. “There must be shared contributions and cooperation in what’s good.”

Many of Al-Qaradawi’s observations reflected those of Grand Mufti Al-Jum’ah, but the sheikh made several observations on the situation of Muslim women in general.

“Muslim women have been treated unfairly by Westernized persons who want to force Western traditions on them like corruption and disintegration of values, and straying from the right path,” he told Al-Madina.

“They have also been wronged by those who want to impose on her other traditions, this time from the East, not the west, and which have often been portrayed as religious traditions.”
Al-Qaradawi added that the word “Ikhtilaat” – mixing (of the sexes) – was unknown in previous centuries to the Islamic lexicon, suggesting that it had perhaps arrived through “translation of a foreign word”.

u Sheikh Fahd Bin Sa’ad Al-Majed, Secretary General of the Board of Senior Ulema, described Kaust last week as a “beacon of science and welfare for the entire world”.

Speaking to Okaz, Al-Majed said King Abdullah had brought in “huge advances” by doubling of the number of universities in the Kingdom and encouraging “healthy competition”. “Kaust will serve to end the stereotypical propaganda and incorrect misconceptions about Islam by presenting the true image of Islam as a religion of knowledge and civilization,” Al-Majed said.
Al-Majed continued by describing the Islamic World as “suffering from cultural resistance in education, health and welfare, as well as different visions and motives”.

“Those following the efforts of the King can clearly see what he is doing to tackle these faults,” Al-Majed said.

“He has brought in moves to address the situation of Muslims in political, intellectual and social areas, as seen in his continued efforts to reform the judiciary and education, as well as the personal interest he takes in improving scientific research to serve Islam and Muslims.”

u Sheikh Abdullah Suleiman Al-Mane’e of the Board of Senior Ulema has also praised the Kaust venture in the last month, saying it would be a step towards “the Islamic World to recovering its leading role in science”. “King Abdullah,” Al-Mane’e said, was a “pioneer and great leader not only in the Islamic World but in the entire world.” – SG

Wednesday 28 October 2009

Parvez Rasool: Cricketer, not a terrorist

The superb innings he has played in Bangalore ensures that Parvez Rassol will have at least some happy memories of his trip to Karnataka.

The young Kashmiri cricketer arrived in Bangalore last weekend for an Under-22 cricket tournament, but was arrested by the Karnataka police who said traces of explosives were detected in his bag. Furious team-mates blamed the police for treating him like a terrorist, just because he's a Kashmiri. Parvez was released for lack of evidence.

And then he got down to business. 68 runs for Jammu and Kashmir's Under 22 team on the opening day of the match against Karnataka - putting his team in control.

Parvez explains how tough it was to block out what happened off the field. "What happened was wrong. I just want to say that this was an unfortunate incident. What happened was God's will - that is all. The first day when the police took me away, I felt pressure. The second day it was less. Then during the next two days, I began concentrating only on the game."

His team wore black bands during the match to express their anger. Coach Abdul Quayoom says cricket officials in Karnataka showed no team spirit. "I think they could at least have sent an official to the police station with me, but nobody came. Or at least they could have come and told the boys don't be frightened - we are with you. But nothing like that happened."

Parvez's bag was sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory for testing - and results are still awaited. Meanwhile, his team is doing well on the second day of its test match, exacting what they describe as their revenge.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Palestinian refugee waiting room

Two reports from Al-Jazeera and The Independant:

"We thought we would be here for a few months," says Huda al-Rukun, her red-rimmed eyes flicking around the tiny space she shares with her husband and five children. "No-one believed we would stay this long."

Twenty-three years after they were forced out of the nearby Shatila refugee camp during a particularly bloody phase of the Lebanese civil war known as the War of the Camps, the Palestinian al-Rukun family are one of hundreds still living in a disused hospital in south Beirut.

The conflict may have finished 19 years ago, but many of those who fled the fighting have not been allowed back. Rebuilding was only permitted on the original site of camp, so those who had lived in the unofficial settlements attached to Shatila found themselves homeless.

Instead of returning to the camp, those families have spent the past quarter of a century squatting in the hospital complex, known locally as the Gaza buildings. This "temporary" shelter has become a permanent slum, housing almost a thousand people.

It is just a short taxi ride from downtown Beirut, but the buildings' crumbling rooms make the city's bright lights and trendy beach clubs seem a distant memory. Some of its residents live without running water, others without regular electricity. All are desperately poor.

The community is known as a "gathering," the name given to any informal Palestinian settlement outside Lebanon's 12 official camps.

Officials say that almost half of the 400,000 Palestinians in Lebanon now live in gatherings, where they are particularly vulnerable to poverty and ill-health.

"Palestinians in Lebanon live with a very high unemployment rate, and have limited access to public services and to the job market. This makes them poorer than Palestinians living in other countries," says Hoda el Turk, a spokeswoman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Lebanon, which is tasked with providing services for Palestinian refugees.

She says those living outside the camps are not eligible for some of the essential services provided by the agency. "They cannot have their shelter rehabilitated by UNRWA because they are outside the camps, where UNRWA has no mandate to work," she explains.

As a result, living conditions in Palestinian gatherings are often dire. The EU recently paid for improvements to the Gaza buildings, but walking through the main entrance to the al-Rukuns' building, you would not know it.

Electricity cables loop from the ceiling in the corridors, dropping dangerously close to the puddles of stagnant water that gather on the bare concrete floors. Rubbish piles up in the disused lift shafts, infusing the place with a permanent stench of decay, and a trickle of foul-smelling liquid drips down the staircase from an unseen source.

Inside the family's two spartan rooms on the fourth floor, there have been efforts to brighten things up. A threadbare rug lies on the floor, and a carefully placed picture frame covers the worst of a crack in the wall. But it is hard to escape the squalor of the buildings; refuse is piled up on the flat roof outside the window, rotting in the late summer heat.

"The only good thing about this place is that we don't pay rent," Huda says, watching her youngest children playing together on the floor.


It is a cynical but time-honoured practice in Middle Eastern politics: the statesmen who decry the political and humanitarian crisis of the approximately 3.9 million Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and in Gaza ignore the plight of an estimated 4.6 million Palestinians who live in Arab countries. For decades, Arab governments have justified their decision to maintain millions of stateless Palestinians as refugees in squalid camps as a means of applying pressure to Israel. The refugee problem will be solved, they say, when Israel agrees to let the Palestinians have their own state.

Yet in the two decades since the end of the Cold War, after two Gulf wars, and the rise and fall of the Oslo peace process, not a single Palestinian refugee has returned to Israel – and only a handful of ageing political functionaries have returned from neighbouring Arab countries to the West Bank and Gaza. Instead, failed peace plans and shifting political priorities have resulted in a second Palestinian "Nakba", or catastrophe – this one at hands of the Arab governments. "Marginalised, deprived of basic political and economic rights, trapped in the camps, bereft of realistic prospects, heavily armed and standing atop multiple fault lines," a report by the International Crisis Group (ICG) in Lebanon recently observed, "the refugee population constitutes a time bomb."

The fact that the divided Palestinian political leadership is silent about the mistreatment of the refugees by Arab states does not make such behaviour any less reprehensible – or less dangerous. Some 250,000 Palestinians were chased out of Kuwait and other Gulf States to punish the Palestinian political leadership for supporting Saddam Hussein. Tens of thousands of Palestinian residents of Iraq were similarly dispossessed after the second Gulf war.

In 2001, Palestinians in Lebanon were stripped of the right to own property, or to pass on the property that they already owned to their children – and banned from working as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists or in 20 other professions. Even the Palestinian refugee community in Jordan, historically the most welcoming Arab state, has reason to feel insecure in the face of official threats to revoke their citizenship. The systematic refusal of Arab governments to grant basic human rights to Palestinians who are born and die in their countries – combined with periodic mass expulsions of entire Palestinian communities – recalls the treatment of Jews in medieval Europe. Along with dispossession and marginalisation has come a new and frightening turn away from the traditional forms of nationalism that once dominated the refugee camps towards the radical pan-Islamic ideology of al-Qa'ida.

Daniel C Kurtzer, who has served as US ambassador to both Israel and Egypt and now advises the Obama administration, says that all American governments have resisted dealing with what he calls the most sensitive issue in the conflict – the normalisation of the status of the Palestinians – through a right of return to Palestine, or citizenship in other countries. "The refugees hold the key to this conflict's settlement," he says, "and nobody knows what to do with them."

In the unlikely event that President Obama's vision of a swift and final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict materialises, millions of Palestinians would still live in decaying refugee camps whose inhabitants are forbidden from owning land or participating in normal economic life. The only governing authority that Palestinians living in the camps have ever known is UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Established by the UN on 8 December 1949 to assist 650,000 impoverished Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war, UNRWA has been battling budget cuts and strikes among its employees as it struggles to provide subsidies and services to Palestinian refugees, who are defined as "persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948".

Monday 26 October 2009

Muslims prosper in Catholic Poland

Poland's Muslim community makes up only a tiny fraction of the country's population. But with immigration from places like Turkey and Pakistan on the rise, the numbers can only grow. And Muslims are intent on gaining understanding and respect, whether they've been there for centuries or just a few years.

An estimated 30,000 Muslims live in Poland – that’s less than 0.1 per cent of a population that is 96 per cent Catholic. But the Islamic community is a thriving religious minority in Poland.

The first Muslim settlements date back to the 14th century when Tatars settled in the eastern villages of Bohoniki and Kruszyniany.

Their communities once numbered about 17,000 people, and they were able to practice Islam freely in exchange for military service. But now only a few families remain.

A visitors’ book in Kruszyniany’s mosque – the oldest of the three in the country – contains messages from Israel, Bosnia and Afghanistan. But while Muslims from abroad are welcome there, there are some slight differences in the way Tatars and Muslims practice Islam.

Usuf, a Muslim Tatar, says there are “very strong religious connections between the Tatars and other Muslims living in Poland, but as for the ethnical issues – the attitude is quite different, because we have different traditions.”

In relation to gender, Usuf says “Muslim Tatar women do not have to wear the hijab, while Arab Muslim women cannot go outside unless they put a hijab on.”

Also it seems that the Tatars are the most active in terms of presenting Islam to the Polish Christians – and a traditional Tatar hotel and restaurant in Kruszyniany is a vivid example. It has been open for five years, offering villagers and tourists a taste of Tatar life.

Hotel owner Dzenneta Bogdanowicz said that when he moved to Poland he thought it was “such a pity that there was nothing to display the Tatar traditions. So I wanted to give people an opportunity to experience Tatar life,” she said.

And it proved successful, with the restaurant gaining national recognition for its service to Polish tourism.

But Poland remains largely homogenous, despite joining the EU in 2004. Its capital, Warsaw, doesn’t have the large immigrant communities seen in the likes of London or Paris. Foreigners remain something or a rarity on Polish streets.

Warsaw’s only mosque is a converted family home and attracts up to 300 people for Friday prayers.

The President of the Muslim League in Poland, Samir Ismail, says most of Warsaw’s 5,000 Muslims are academics who came to study in the 1980s and stayed.

And although they are a minority religion in the country, they ensure there is no conflict by working alongside Polish Catholics.

“We’re trying to explain to people that stereotypes about women, Islam and terrorism. We’re trying to do what we can and people need time and more information,” Samir Ismail says.

Sunday 25 October 2009

Tony Blair gets heckled during a visit to Ibraheemi mosque in Hebron

By the way, does anyone think that Tony Blair will be able to create any impact in the Israeli-Palestine conflict? Will he ever be able to stop Israel commit war crimes?

Its such a shame that war criminals are now feted by Muslim dignitaries and Imams in a mosque.

Saturday 24 October 2009

Another talented person lost due to Alcohol

She wasn't a big drinker and thought friends who got drunk were 'daft'.

And yet it was to be Rhona Tavener whose life was cruelly cut short at the age of 16 after she binged on alcohol at a party.

The straight-A pupil is thought to have drunk up to half a litre of vodka with friends before collapsing.

Yesterday a coroner listening to her tragic case implored teenagers not to risk their lives by binge drinking.

Rhona, who was awarded nine A* in her GCSEs, attended the party with her friend Ayran Kalipour on January 30 this year.

Although she started off drinking cola, she was later seen sipping from her friends' alcoholic drinks before downing neat vodka.

Partygoers realised how drunk she was when they saw her fall from a hammock hanging by the pool at the £1million country house.

Ayran and another friend Adam Rawlinson, both 17, decided to drive her home. But she stopped breathing on the way.


The first declaration made by the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) concerning this matter was that not only is Khamr (wine or alcohol) prohibited but that the definition of Khamr extends to any substance that intoxicates, in whatever form or under whatever name it may appear. Thus, beer and similar drinks are haram.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was once asked about certain drinks made from honey, corn, or barley by the process of fermenting them until they became alcoholic. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) succinctly replied, "Every intoxicant is Khamr, and every Khamr is haram." Reported by Muslim.)

And `Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) declared from the pulpit of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) that "Khamr is that which befogs the mind." (Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim.)

Islam takes an uncompromising stand in prohibiting intoxicants, regardless of whether the amount is little or much. If an individual is permitted to take but a single step along this road, other steps follow; he starts walking and then running, and does not stop at any stage. That is why the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "Of that which intoxicates in a large amount, a small amount is haram." (Reported by Ahmad Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi.) And again, "If a bucketful intoxicates, a sip of it is haram." (Reported by Ahmad, Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi.)

The Holy Quran, 2.219: They ask thee concerning wine and gambling. Say: "In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit." They ask thee how much they are to spend; Say: "What is beyond your needs." Thus doth Allah Make clear to you His Signs: In order that ye may consider.

The Holy Quran, 5.90: O ye who believe! Intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination,- of Satan's handwork: eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper.

The Holy Quran, 5.91: Satan's plan is (but) to excite enmity and hatred between you, with intoxicants and gambling, and hinder you from the remembrance of Allah, and from prayer: will ye not then abstain?

Friday 23 October 2009

Iraqis sell organs to survive

Raad Bader al-Muhssin, 41, worked as a gardener for more than 20 years, during which he used to make no more than $4 dollars per day.

After the 2003 US invasion and the ensuing violence, life became harder as the number of clients requesting his services nosedived.

Adding insult to the injury was the recent discovery that his wife had cancer.

Thus, when he was offered $12,000 dollars for one of his kidney he did not hesitate or have second thoughts.

"I never had more than $100 dollars in my pocket at the end of the month, even if I didn’t spend one cent from my salary," Muhssin told

"I lived my whole life a poor man and was afraid my children were going to have the same fate and my wife would die because we do not have money to help her," he added.

Five months ago when he was cleaning a garden in Baghdad, the owner started to speak with Muhssin about kidney transplantations and a friend who arranges them.

"I never imagined I would become a donor but when my wife’s condition got worse, I went to his house and asked for a way to find his friend who would guide me to the similar fate."

Muhssin called the friend who told him he had to take a blood test to check if he had any health problems.

"I borrowed some money and made it in a private lab. When I took the test results, the guy checked in a list he had in his pocket and came with the news that he had four patients with the same blood type and that they would pay good money for it."

Experts say organs donations, which are not illegal, have impressively increased in the past 18 months.

"It is a very complicated issue, especially because there isn’t any law that prevent donations," Abdel Haythem Abdel-Kareem, a health expert and member of the transplantation chamber, told IOL.

"Of course there are many cases of free donation but the majority are looking for money and even travelling to Jordan where prices are higher with patients coming from different countries willing to pay for it."

There isn’t an official number of how many transplantations are carried out in Iraq every year but local NGOs helping patients looking for organs donations say that one in 500 persons accept to donate without financial interest.

Al-Muhssin made the donation, got his money and opened a small shop to sell gums, cigarettes, cereals and beans.

"It is one chance in life," he suggested.

"I still have a healthy kidney and with the money I got I will never be humiliated again," he added.

"My sons returned to school and our life changed. If I was going to wait for the government to help my family, I would have died before getting it."

Salwa Ahmed (not her real name), is another victim of poverty in Iraq.

After her husband died in a car bomb attack in Diyala four years ago, she moved to Baghdad with her four kids to find a better job and better living conditions.

"I was already living as displaced, my kids were hungry all day because I couldn’t afford more than one meal," she said.

"When a woman in the camp said that there was someone who constantly pays them visits asking for kidney donation, I got excited and was prepared to sell one and give my children a better living condition," Ahmed added.

"At first he wanted to pay only US $3,000 but after two weeks of negotiations and my lab test, which should I had a rare blood type, the price went up to US $8,000," she said, noting that the sum equals 15 years of hard work.

"Today I feel healthy, my children have enough food and new clothes and I was able to get a job as seller in a clothes shop."

Ahmed has no regrets.

"I know it might look wrong but when a mother sees her children suffering from hunger, you realise that a kidney is nothing.

"I hope I will never have kidney problems but even if this happens I will be happy to know that at least I have saved the life of my loved ones and of a person who was in a dire need of an important organ that God blessed me with having two healthy ones."

Muhammad al-A’ani, an aid employee working with patients requesting organs transplantations, says some people are so desperate for the money they are willing to do anything.

"Recently we received a man who couldn’t donate his kidney because he had some renal problems," he noted.

"But he was asking of someone who would be interested in buying one of his corneas.

"I got surprised and tried to help him so that he would not fall prey to any gang in Iraq," said al-A’ani.

"I kept looking for information about him and two months ago I heard from a colleague that he did it for nearly US $20,000. We couldn’t find where or how but we will keep investigating it because it is too serious to leave behind."

He lamented that body transportations became like an industry controlled by a mafia.

"Unfortunately there are dozens of corrupted nurses, doctors and government employees who allow such disgusting situations to take place in exchange for money."

The Health Ministry says it is too complicated to find out who is donating for free and who is selling his body organs.

But in some cases donations, whether free or paid, are not done voluntarily.

Many children and youngsters have been reportedly kidnapped by gangs that sell their body parts for huge prices.

A 17-years-old victim, who requested anonymity, said he was drugged and abducted.

He woke up two days later in a dirty room with signs of a surgery. They gave him US $20 and drove him to the outskirts of Baghdad.

He later started to have health problems as a result of an infection he got during the procedure.

"It is unfair and I might die now because of the criminals who wanted to make money from selling my body," he cried.

"I don’t have a rich family and my father is now selling the house to raise money and find someone who is willing to sell his kidney and save my life.

"I was once a healthy person with two kidneys but now I’m a victim who wants to buy an organ that was stolen from me. Is not that ironic?"

Thursday 22 October 2009

Second Honeymoon for warring Malaysian Couples

A Malaysian state is offering free second honeymoons for couples on the brink of divorce, hoping that romantic getaways will help rekindle their marriages, an official said Monday.

Under the ambitious plan, feuding couples will spend three days and two nights on one of the tropical islands off Terengganu state, said government official Ashaari Idris.

"Newly-wed couples are facing numerous problems. Among them are financial issues and problems related to their in-laws," said Ashaari, the state's welfare, community development and women affairs committee chairman.

"Before marriage, all was good. But after marriage, some are unable to cope with the new challenges," he told AFP.

"I want to strengthen family ties. If a marriage breaks down, it will hurt the children and it will have serious implications on society."

Couples will have to make an application and then undergo an interview before being accepted for the package which is worth an estimated 1,500 ringgit (440 dollars).

Ashaari said the state had already carried out a successful pilot project involving some 25 couples who faced marital woes.

He said that divorce rates in the Muslim-majority northeastern state were among the lowest in the country.

Picture Source: SkyScraperCity

Wednesday 21 October 2009

Makkah Super Hotel for Super Rich with Hajj Package

The pilgrimage to Mecca has always involved hardship and sacrifice, whether months spent travelling on foot through barren valleys and sleeping in the open with no shelter from the elements or stripping oneself of earthly trappings. But help is at hand for the pilgrim who cannot bear to be without comfort while executing the fifth pillar of Islam.

Raffles, which gave thirsty wanderers the Singapore Sling, is opening a luxury hotel in Mecca offering pilgrims a coffee sommelier, a chocolate room where chefs will prepare bespoke pralines and truffles, and a 24-hour butler service.

Undeterred by restrictions on beautifying oneself during the Hajj, the hotel will also have segregated gyms, beauty parlours, grooming salons and a spa.

There are strict rules regarding personal hygiene and behaviour during the hajj, and forbidden activities include sex, the cutting of hair and nails and the trimming of beards. These bars are lifted once certain rituals are complete, but Muslims are generally expected to forget worldly thoughts and activities and focus on the divine.

Mohammed Arkobi, the general manager of the new hotel, did not explain how a chocolate room and spa would help pilgrims achieve spiritual fulfilment. Nor was he able to comment on how the amenities complied with the ethos of the hajj, which is about simplicity and humility.

But he did say that the "comprehensive range of services" were designed to meet the needs of the "discerning" travellers they were targeting.

"Ultimately, the hotel's sophisticated ambience, our range of features and highly personalised service delivery such as those offered through our 24-hour butler service will help to ensure that our residents' overall experience will be enriching."

Arkobi said the hotel was a three-minute walk away from the Grand Mosque, the Masjid al-Haram, and that a "spacious outdoor dining terrace" would provide direct views of it.

It is being developed by the Saudi Binladin Company, one of the largest construction firms in the Arab world, which has also been responsible for overseeing the expansion of the holy mosques in Mecca and Medina. The company was set up by Mohammed bin Laden, father of Osama, although the family is now estranged from its most infamous son.

Around 4 million people visit Mecca for hajj, with millions more passing through the rest of the year to perform the lesser pilgrimage. Estimates for future numbers vary wildly – from 10 million to 20 million – and the landscape of Mecca has undergone a dramatic transformation over the decades to cope with demand. Homes have been bulldozed, mountains flattened and historic sites razed to provide more hotel rooms and amenities.

One development that will dominate the skyline and the Grand Mosque is the Makkah Royal Clock Tower, operated by international hoteliers Fairmont, which is majority owned by a company chaired by HRH Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, the Saudi king's nephew.

The tower will be among the tallest in the world, 577 metres (1,893ft) high on completion, and its dimensions, including a clockface measuring 40 metres across that will be visible 10 miles away, make it five times larger than Big Ben.

In addition to 1,005 guest rooms, the tower will also house a lunar observation centre and Islamic museum. It lies in the massive Abraj Al Bait complex, part of the King Abdul Aziz endowment project aimed at upgrading the precincts of Mecca and Medina.

Mecca's makeover is alarming international activists, such as Ali al-Ahmed, the director of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs, a thinktank analysing events and issues in the region. Ahmed, an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime, said many factors were driving the changes.

"The al-Sauds want to make Mecca like Dubai, it is a money-making operation. They destroy ancient buildings because they do not want any history other than their own, they see it as competition. They destroy and dispose of artefacts."

He also expressed concern that the arrival of luxury brands would increase the price of a pilgrimage. A 2009 platinum Hajj package from a UK tour operator costs £6,400 for 16 nights full board, based on double occupancy.

"By developing Mecca in this way they are making it inaccessible and unaffordable for the majority of Muslims. It will only be for the elite," Ahmed said.

The city's increasing westernisation was a "perversion of the religion", encouraging activities that were at odds with the spirit of the hajj, he said.

"The Saudis may come across as austere but members of the ruling class have billions of dollars between them – even the muftis live in palaces with chandeliers."

Development of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina should not come at the expense of religious practice, he said, before turning his attention to the lack of protest from Muslims around the world.

"Let's take Jerusalem as an example. Muslims are outraged when Israelis do something in the Old City, but in Mecca things are being systematically destroyed and nobody is raising an eyebrow. It is a catastrophe."

Raffles Mecca is due to open in April 2010.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

Muslim Marriage Crisis in France

When a French court annulled a marriage last April because of a virginity lie, nobody really felt concerned with the case. From April to September the media didn't mention the verdict. Both parties agreed on the divorce and the case was closed.

When the lobby of French islamophobia jumped into the debate, the focus became on the religion of the couple: Islam! From a judicial debate, we reached the classic socio-political conflict between Islam and French democratic values. Thus the debate was turned from too legal into too Islamic and therefore became interesting. This time, the French Muslims unanimously refused such polemic. In fact, the virginity thing is far, very far, away from the daily life of Muslims in France.

Basically, the average of French women's age on their first sexual relationship is dropping since the fifties. According to the National Institute Demographic Studies (INED), this age remains around 17 years-old since the year 2000, where as in the fifties it was 20 years old.

Meanwhile, the age of the couples, with or without marriage, has passed from 27 to 29 years old for the women and from 29 to 31 years old for the men. For many different reasons, the number of marriages diminishes from year to year. As an example, a study conducted by INED shows that between 1996 and 2006, the number of marriages decreased by 4.6 percent. This decrease started in the Seventies and still continues up until today.

As a solution to this crisis of traditional marriages, the government proposed the Civil Pact of Solidarity (PACS). It appears like the traditional marriage contract but it is easier to dissolve. In 1999, the PACS law was adopted by the parliament, in spite of opposition from Christian movements. It was highly supported by the gay organizations which made it look like a first step towards a law on "homosexuals' marriage." During its first years, 40 percent of the PACS's contracts were signed by people of the same gender. But this situation has gradually changed. Today, only seven percent of the PACS are still signed between gays and lesbians. So the large majority of the PACS couples are young people who prefer this free civil union to the traditional marriage.

How do French Muslims behave under this national evolution of marriage in their country? Specially, how do the young generations of Muslim work it out? There is no official study on this aspect of the question; because religious statistics are not legal in France. However, within the Muslim community, some indices show that marriage is not yet an up-to-date fashionable tradition.

On one hand, more and more French born Muslims are reaching the age of marriage, thirty years and more. On the other hand, the first "exposition of oriental weeding" was held in Paris in 2007 with a great success. This year, the second edition took place in Paris as well as in the city of Nimes with a visible Islamic back ground. Under the denomination of "oriental weeding" one can understand the real meaning of the Islamic marriage. That's why the program of the exposition included a public conference on "Marriage in Islam". The subject is highly appreciated by the new generations of French Muslims.

Omar K, a 40 year-old government agent is very interested in chatting to young couples who visit his mosque in La Courneuve, a commune in the northeastern suburbs of Paris. He points out many problems when it comes to marriage in France. But two of them, he says, are very urgent, “How do young Muslims live before getting married? And how do new married young Muslims solve their problems in their daily life? Even if the problem is related to their vision of the so called "Islamic couple," mosques offer no opportunity to talk about this issue."

Two marriages and two divorces have deeply hurt Omar. "It took me not less than ten years to recover from my disillusions with Islamic couples," he explains. "Before I came back to Islam I was like many misguided boys; I had friends and we used to go to places that fit with that kind of life. But when I started praying and began attending the mosque, my life drastically changed. This made me idealize Islam and idealize Muslims in general and the Muslim girls in particular."

Omar met his first wife in a mosque. "It was really cutting for me to see my ex-wife, who is a French born Arab like me, a young pretty girl wearing the Islamic headscarf. I was new to the religion, I had no experience of Islam in my family. So, in my opinion, wearing the hijab was the highest degree of faith I could imagine."

The divorce occurred two years later. Depression followed after the loss of dreams. After one year of therapy, Omar discovered that "In hijab, there is always a woman. It's stupid to say that. But to be honest, I had married the hijab, and I was mentally not prepared to accept the woman I discovered inside. You can call it ignorance or innocence but I found nobody to advise me at the time. I am not an Imam, but with Allah's will and my experience I may be able to help some people save their relationships."

Rania, a 28 year-old, has a different case. She got married two years ago and is expecting her first baby soon. Rania's father is a respected Imam in France. "During my adolescence, I travelled with my father all around France. Believe it or not, I knew all the big cities by their conference halls and their mosques too." She is the type of girl who admires her father. "My father has always been able to listen to me. As far as I can remember, I never had troubles with him until the marriage affair."

Rania was 21 years-old when she met "him" during a conference. "He was about thirty. He was handsome, kind, clever and honest. He was a full-time Muslim who is always trying to do his best according to the situation. I saw him as a faithful Muslim. For me he was the perfect man."

Disillusionment came from her father. "He simply said no. He looked disorientated. He gave no reason to explain his decision. My father is known as a moderate imam. I personally think he is open-minded. He has a scientific education, he loves logic. But he gave no reason for the refusal of my marriage. I did not understand his decision."

It took about six months for Rania to understood that "the perfect man" was a son of Harki, Harkis are Algerian Arabs who joined the French Colonial Army in Algeria, during the civil war.

"Being Harki is not really the case of many people from my generation. But for my father and for all my uncles, it is a crucial point." After one year of waiting and expecting, Rania gave up. She finished her studies, got a job in a hospital and then got married to a young doctor. In a couple of months she will be a mother, God Willing.

When she was asked about her marriage, she evaluated it as "a family spiritual test." When asked if she had any regrets about her choice, her answers sounded fatalistic: "Your marriage is your destiny. You cannot stop time and go back. But if I had not changed my mind and if I had stood up to my family, I am sure I would have lost my father. I think what happened was just a lesson from Allah saying that my father had personal limits. He also had his life story, I can accept and understand that but I cannot share with him all his thoughts and that's it."

The rate of divorce is one of the major concerns for French Muslims. No official statistics exist on the subject. But the facts worry all the leaders of mosques who dare to open the subject. Their approaches are different but one point seems to make unanimity; the problem has no solution.

The rate of divorce is a national matter in France like in many other European countries. While the number of marriages is decreasing, the number of divorces remains steady. About 120,000 divorces are pronounced every year in France. Statistics of the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) show that more than 30 percent of married couples get a divorce during the first four years of their marriage. Muslims aren't an exception to this statistic. Many imams are in panic. They wonder about their role as imams when it comes to the catastrophic number of French Muslims' divorce rate.

The general principal of French law is to consider religion as a private matter. Religious baptism or religious wedding have no official value for official institutions. A French citizen can ask for a "republican baptism." He can celebrate a civil wedding as well. So cultural tradition or religious conviction are the only reasons why Muslims decide to celebrate their marriage in the mosque. But more and more French imams refuse to marry Muslims before they get a civil marriage contract signed by a mayor.

"The imams have had enough of celebrating marriages without spiritual basis. The families trust us and we fear Almighty Allah," explains an African imam in Paris, who asks for anonymity. "It is a dramatic situation, but what do you propose? We can neither close the door of the mosque in the face of the families who wish to marry their children, nor can we guarantee the reasonless divorces we witness in our mosques. Sure it's a dilemma and we had to find a balanced solution. Believe me, the marriage in the town hall does not discourage those who really want to marry, it can only dissuade the jokers."

In June 2008, for the first time, a French court, located in Orleans, condemned an imam who used to marry Muslims without a civil marriage contract. This judgment was perceived as a threat to freedom of religion. But the media did not cover the issue at the time, including the Muslim media. However, in September, the divorce over the non virginity of the wife attracted the headlines of many media outlets. But this debate interested very few people. Perhaps it was too judicial or simply it was just of no interest to them.

Monday 19 October 2009

Bangladesh's madrassa equality

The authorities have been offering incentives - providing cash to cover 80 per cent of scholastic costs - to see their reforms through.

This is proving to be hugely successful, bringing most madrassas under state supervision; religious schools that are largely funded by the government now follow both the state and religious curricula.

Zainul Abedine, the headmaster of the country's largest Islamic school, says: "In order to access government funds, many madrassas have opened their syllabus to other subjects like teaching languages such as English or Bengali. The number of madrassas have multiplied and so have the [numbers of] students".

With more then six million students currently enrolled, the madrassa system in Bangladesh is the second-largest in the world and is likely to get even larger as religious institutions open their doors to female students for the first time.

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, a senior Islamic scholar, has welcomed the move to educate girls in madrassas.

"Girls are thriving – they tend to perform better than male students," he said.

A recent study by Nazmul Chaudhury, of the World Bank, found that young people's attitudes were interlinked with that of their teachers and that the presence of female instructors leads to increased openness in both female and male students.

In stark contrast to the allegations that madrassas cultivate intolerance, this study found that in Bangladesh "modernised religious education is associated with attitudes that are conducive to democracy".

The World Bank study goes further in asserting that the country's madrassas have helped Bangladesh accomplish some of the UN's Millennium Development Goals, particularly in achieving parity between boys and girls in schools.

"Fifty per cent of the students are female and particularly in rural areas, madrassas play an important role in [providing] girls with access to education," says Robert Floyd, the World Bank's country director in Bangladesh.

The acceptance of girls into a religious education system traditionally reserved only for boys has had a positive impact, leading to a wider understanding of the importance of female education.

Parents who may not have enrolled their daughters in secular schools are encouraged by the example set by equality in madrassas.

While many of the girls do not actively seek employment once they graduate, an increasing number go on to pursue higher education or take up careers in Islamic banking, a sector in which services are catering exclusively to women.

Nurul Islam Nahid, the education minister, believes the public perception of female education has started to change.

"In Muslim societies, when we were students of primary schools, girls going to school was very rare. Now it is a big achievement; the main challenge is that we want to bring all children to school," he said.

According to UN figures, some 48 per cent of the population is illiterate, and this - rather than militancy - is the main challenge that the country faces.

For the time being, the country's 20,000 madrassas appear to be the best equipped to fight this battle.

Sunday 18 October 2009

Muslim Mafia in American Congress

This week, four Republican members of Congress, Rep. Sue Myrick, Rep. John Shadegg, Rep. Paul Broun, and Rep. Trent Franks, called on the U.S. House of Representatives’ Sergeant-at-Arms to investigate a national Muslim American civil rights organization, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), for encouraging young Muslim Americans to intern in Congressional offices. By encouraging community members to engage in the civic process and engage in advocacy like most other major Washington, DC organizations, CAIR is being accused by these right-wing lawmakers of trying to plant “spies” into Congressional offices.

In a bizarre McCarthy-era like press conference, the four lawmakers quoted various excerpts from a yet-to-be released Islamophobic publication entitled, "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America." The publication is co-authored by Dave Gaubatz, an individual who has repeatedly attacked members of Congress and the President for trying to implement sharia (Islamic law) in the United States.

It is unfortunate that four members of Congress from the party of Abraham Lincoln have used their official government capacity to characterize Muslims’ civic engagement as evidence of espionage and subversion. This accusation goes beyond the work of one organization; it is an affront to the countless number of patriotic Muslim Americans serving at all levels of government and civil society. This type of reckless behavior casts a phony net of suspicion on young Muslim Americans serving in various government offices.

MPAC calls on the House Leadership, specifically the Republican House leadership, to follow in the footsteps of Rep. John Conyers, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and Rep. Loretta Sanchez to condemn this vicious and unfounded attack, and prevent a climate of Islamophobia from spreading on Capitol Hill. In a clear statement yesterday, Rep. Conyers addressed the issue by saying:

"It shouldn't need to be said in 2009, and after the historic election of our first African-American president, but let me remind all my colleagues that patriotic Americans of all races, religions, and beliefs have the right - and the responsibility - to participate in our political process, including by volunteering to work in Congressional offices, Numerous Muslim-American interns have served the House ably and they deserve our appreciation and respect, not attacks on their character or patriotism,"

This type of behavior by four House Republicans will only embolden the extremists. The lawmakers are making a mockery out of our legislative process with empty and hollow conspiracy theories. It is hypocritical of them to accuse Muslim organizations of subversion on America, while they themselves apparently sent a spy to infiltrate the national office of CAIR so they could get a copy of an internal memo.

The four members of Congress should be reminded of the words of President John Adams when he addressed America’s relationship to Islam, "The United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims." Muslim Americans will continue to engage in the civic process and serve their country at all levels.

Those who insist on choosing fear as a tool of exclusion will not hinder our country and the sacred involvement of its citizens in the civic process.

[Haris Tarin, Community Development Director, 202.547.7701,]

Saturday 17 October 2009

Hadith: In Allah we Trust

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) once took the hand of a man who was suffering from leprosy and placed it, along with his own hand, in a dish of food and said: "Eat with confidence in God and trust in Him." - Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 1799

"If God helps you, then there is none who can overcome you. If He forsakes you, then who else is there other than Him who can help you? Therefore, in God let the believers put their trust." - The Holy Quran, 3:160

Friday 16 October 2009

Dont Be Sad: Say [O’ Muhammad]: Travel in the land...

{Say [O’ Muhammad]: Travel in the land...} (Qur’an 6:11)

There is one activity worthy of mention here, because it both gives pleasure and removes dark clouds that may hang over you; namely, for you to travel through the lands, observe the open book of creation, and appreciate all of its wonders. During your journeys, you can see gardens of splendor and beautiful green meadows. Leave your home and contemplate that which surrounds you. Climb mountains, traverse valleys, ascend trees, and drink sweet, pure spring water. Thereupon, you will find your soul to be free like the bird that sings and swims in the sky in perfect rapture. Leave your home and remove the black blindfold from your eyes, and then travel through the spacious lands of Allah, remembering and glorifying Him.

To isolate yourself to the confines of your own room, while passing the hours away with lethal idleness, is a certain path to self-destruction. Your room is not the only place in the world, and you are not the sole inhabitant of it. Then why do you surrender yourself to misery and solitude? Call out with your eyes, ears, and heart:

{March forth, whether you are light [being healthy, young and wealthy] or heavy [being ill, old and poor].} (Qur’an 9: 41)

Come, recite the Qur’an beside a mountain brook or among the birds as they sing.

Traveling to different lands is an activity which doctors recommend, especially for those who are feeling downcast, constricted by the narrowness of their own rooms. Therefore go forth and find delight in traveling.

{And they think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth, [saying]: ‘Our Lord! You have not created [all] this without purpose, glory to You!’} (Qur’an 3:191)

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

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Call to ban 'fake virginity' device

Egyptian MPs have backed calls to ban the importation of a device which can help a woman to fake virginity.

The Artificial Virginity Hymen kit, distributed by a Chinese company, costs about £20. It is intended to help new brides fool their husbands into believing they are virgins, which is culturally important in conservative Arab countries like Egypt.

The device releases liquid that looks like blood, allowing a newlywed woman to feign virginity on her wedding night. The contraption is seen as a cheap and simple alternative to hymen repair surgery, which is carried out in secret by some clinics in the Middle East.

Sheik Sayed Askar, a member of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood who is on the parliamentary religious affairs committee, said the kit would make it easier for Egyptian women to give in to temptation. He demanded the government take responsibility for fighting the product to uphold Arab values.